4 Ways Organizations Avoid the Work of Change

Adaptive leadership centers on the idea that leaders create lasting change in the organizations they lead. To do this, they are changing individuals and organizations at their very core.

They are asking for people to re-align their values and purpose, in essence, they have to change their very self.

In ministry, we ask people to make adaptive changes all the time.

>>Adding a new worship service

>>moving from a small church to a medium-sized church or moving from a medium-sized church to a large church

>>the retirement of a long-serving staff person

>>shifting away from a Sunday School model

>>an influx of people who are ‘different’ from the current membership

All these changes may be healthy, but they create discomfort in the organization. And people who feel that discomfort will work hard to regain some equilibrium.

Adaptive leadership expert Ronald Heifetz calls this ‘work avoidance,’ meaning that the people in the organization will follow many strategies to avoid making the internal change that needs to happen.

Some common ways people practice ‘work avoidance’ are:

>>Finding a distracting issue –individuals will bring another issue to the forefront in hopes of changing the focus

>>Scapegoating – individuals will blame the change on a person or persons noting they are the real reason for the change

>>Making it personal – individuals will attack the leader on a personal level to reduce their trust and authority

>>Denying the problem – some individuals may deny that a problem exists despite contrary evidence

Some of these actions are deliberate attacks on the adaptive change taking place, others are an unconscious result of the disequilibrium they are feeling.

As a leader, it is essential to:

>>remain focus on the adaptive challenge and change you are creating and

>>not take the ‘work avoidance’ personally.

Effectively dealing with ‘work avoidance’ is one of the most challenging parts of organizational leadership.

How do you deal with the uncomfortable feelings that change brings?

Erin ReibelComment