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Teaching Leaders to Manage Resistance to Change

October 29, 2015

PHI is currently conducting a leadership development series for Jewish Association Serving the Aging (JASA) and Sunnyside Community Services (SCS) in New York City as part of a larger scope of work that has been generously funded by an anonymous donor.

The overall goals of PHI’s engagement with these agencies are to:

  • Support each agency’s home care division in providing excellent customer service;
  • Provide supervisory training to supervisors in each home care division;
  • Strengthen relationships and problem-solving throughout each agency by providing communication skills training to staff at all levels and across all divisions; and
  • Develop leadership through a series of customized seminars in The Coaching Approach to Leading Change.

The most recent seminar, held on October 21st, focused on “Managing Resistance to Change.” This topic was chosen because home care agencies in New York City are undergoing a period of unprecedented change with the transition to Managed Long-Term Care (MLTC). This transition has presented unique challenges, even for those agencies like JASA and SCS that have continued to thrive in the new MLTC marketplace.

However, for any home care agency to continue to succeed with the new business model, its leadership will need to have the full “buy-in” of staff. That’s because staff resistance can lower productivity, undermine innovation and devastate morale. Being able to effectively identify and address resistance is therefore essential to a home care agency’s survival in the current high-stakes environment.

The topics of the seminar included:

  • Appreciative Interviews: Successes with Leading Change — Leaders shared their “peak experiences” with leading change initiatives in the past. This raised the group’s awareness about its existing strengths and wisdom related to managing change.
  • Working with Resistance to Change— In this segment, leaders explored their personal experiences with resistance, and were introduced to a framework for understanding resistance and addressing it as a leader.
  • Managing Reactivity in Yourself and Others— Self-awareness and self-management are essential coaching skills; we explored how these skills support leaders in managing reactivity in themselves and others during the change process.
  • Understanding Polarities— We introduced the concept of “polarities” and used it to explore some of the common dynamics that occur in organizations undergoing change. We ended the day by offering practical tips for identifying polarities and for communicating about them.

Feedback from the seminar was overwhelmingly positive.

“A leader’s role is really about managing complexity,” JASA CEO Kathryn Haslanger said. “When it comes to why staff resist change, it would be so much easier if things were black and white instead of gray. This seminar really made it clear just how much gray there is — but it also gave us tools for dealing with it.

“Ultimately, I think these will help us manage change even more effectively in the future,” Haslanger said.

— by Renya Larson, PHI Organizational Change Consultant

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