ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - March 2001


Issue Highlight — Someone To Watch Over Me
- Peter Block discusses how technology and aggressive measuring can damage learning behaviors and the importance of human connection to the education of a child.

 In This Issue...
With A Little Bit Of Luck
Using Both Eyes
In The Face Of Change
Answering A Big "What If?" In Chicago

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Heard on the Street

Return to NFC Index

Views For A Change

Consultant Q&A

John Runyan Responds:

The crucial question I have to ask you is: “Keep your employees motivated and positive around change for what purpose?” I need to ask this because the range of possibilities for your (and others’) intentions in this situation is so wide.

  At one end of that range, you (and the other owner/leaders) may simply want your employees to keep working hard right up to the moment when they may be abruptly laid off with no options and little or no shared rewards for their efforts. If this is the case, I would rather not help you move toward this end. Unfortunately, over the past few months I have seen and heard about too many other owner/employers in the new economy who have knowingly manipulated their workers to maximize the value of their businesses right up to the moment of their acquisition or merger. Then they have dumped these people with little or no concern for their human or financial well being. As a correspondent to AQP, I hope and trust you are not one of these leaders.

  At the other end of the scale, you and your management colleagues may want your employees to stay motivated and positive about change in order to better sustain some form of their current work and/or to ensure that they can better shape their future jobs in a merged business.

  First and foremost, I encourage you to treat your employees as intelligent, mature adults. Beginning right now, the best way to combat the anxiety and reactivity that demoralize workers in this situation is to provide them with a steady flow of clear, timely, accurate information about the current state and future of your business. I suggest that your CEO and managers/supervisors communicate in person with your employees on a regular basis (perhaps every week or two) about the entrepreneurial situation, financial realities and immediate prospects and plans for the business.

  If you choose not to share this data and perspective, you are inviting your employees to fill the inevitable information void with their own uncertainty, fears and speculation. Left in the dark or with mere glimpses of reality and scraps of information, your workers are much more likely to waste their time and energy in guessing, worrying and complaining.
Second, I suggest that your CEO, managerial colleagues and you take the time to sit with your employees in small groups to discuss all of your reactions to the impending changes in your business. In these debrief sessions you can listen to your workers and hear their fears and concerns. You can share your own thoughts and feelings, perhaps finding some common ground with your employees who have helped bring your business to this point. You can offer perspective, advice and support to those who genuinely need help in making sense of the wrenching changes ahead. And you can stand up personally for the values of working with each other that matter most to you in this crunch.

  Finally, in these sessions I believe that you can spell out exactly what your employees can do to improve their chances for weathering any of the changes you outline. If having your employees prove their competence and commitment could lead to new positions in a merged enterprise, tell them that. Give them your best read of the situation and the odds of overall success. Then let them decide what they want to do—giving them more choices about how to help the business and how to look out for themselves. These are a few of the ways you can truly join your employees in facing these uncertain times with integrity and maturity.

JOHN RUNYAN is a Senior Consultant, now affiliated with Leadership Everywhere, LLC, in Seattle. An educator and consultant for 25 years, he specializes in coaching leaders and helping to create "learning organizations." His e-mail address is John's colleagues, Elaine Sullivan, Leopoldo Seguel, Rhonda Gordon, Rene Pino, Catherine Johnson and Merrilee Runyan, inspire and help him to think carefully and write clearly in response to these questions.

W. Pearl Maxwell Responds

March 2001 News for a Change Homepage


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