By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
This special ATSI Convention issue represents something new for Connections Magazine. We took a step back and asked ourselves, what can we do to better serve the industry? Helping to promote the ATSI Convention was top on the list.
Long-time readers of Connections Magazine will notice how it has changed. Over the years, there has been a steady migration of improvements and adjustments. During my tenure as Publisher, I have sought to build upon the magazine’s history and past success by making incremental improvements and stylistic enhancements with each issue. Some of these changes have been methodically planned and mapped out well ahead of time, while others have been the result of creative inspiration during the layout and design phase by veteran graphic artist Dave Margolis. This philosophy is seen in our website as well, where every page as witnessed a makeover. Additionally, there has been a 30% increase in Web content in the past six months.
Connections Magazine has a mindset for change. In fact, as we begin each issue, I share with the team (although not always as effectively as I would like) what will be new, exciting, and different about that issue. The reality is, that no matter how good an issue is, how pleased we are with it, or the number of accolades we receive, there is always room for improvement and an opportunity to be better.
ATSI, too, is in the midst of change. They have listened to members and responded; they have sought out former members and brought them back; and they have cultivated a positive, can-do attitude to support members and advance the industry. This year’s convention should be no exception.
I think that in today’s business environment, a culture of change is essential for every organization. In my younger days, I would recommend change for the sheer fun of it. Now, older and wiser, I only advocate change when there is a compelling, necessary, or justifiable reason to do so. The key reason for this is that for most people, change is difficult. Change takes something familiar and replaces it with something unknown. Each organization has people who are change resistant. And each leader, manager, and supervisor knows exactly who these people are. With such folk, their level of aversion to change varies from unspoken trepidation to being overtly confrontational. Regardless of the manifestation, we need to be compassionate, realizing that these reactions are merely their way of responding to fear – fear of the unknown.
To establish a change-oriented culture in your organization, the first step is to minimize employee fears towards change. Employees can accept change if: 1) the change is incremental or small, 2) they have a degree of input or control over the change, and 3) the change is clearly understood by all.
The key to this is communication. Address change head on. For every change, each employee wonders how it will affect him or her. Could they lose their job? Might their hours be cut or changed? Will they be asked to work harder than they already are? Will they be made to do something that is unpleasant or distasteful? What will happen if they can’t learn the new skills? These are all worries, worries about the unknown. As with most worries, the majority will never happen. But with a lack of reliable information and top-down assurances, these irrational worries take on a life all their own.
Successfully orchestrating change requires effective communication. Not once, but ongoing; not to key staff, but to all staff; not by one method, but by several: group meetings, written correspondence, and one-on-one discussions. A true and effective open door policy helps, too. Also, it is critical that a positive attitude is set, at the beginning, from the top of the organization, which never waivers. Celebrate milestones, generously thank staff along the way, and provide reasonable rewards at the end.
Successfully taking these steps will send a strong signal to staff. Even though the change may still concern them, they will be comforted knowing they have accurate information and the assurance that they are safe and will be protected. And for each successful change, the next one becomes easier to bring about.
You will know that you have successfully created a change-friendly organization when your employees – all of them – get bored with the status quo and begin seeking change. They will ask for larger or more challenging accounts, long for the next acquisition, or want to embark on a major equipment upgrade. At this point, the potential of your organization becomes unlimited; the personal growth of your staff, unshackled; and the future, inviting. You don’t know what that future will entail, only that things will change for the better. So, sit back and enjoy the ride, fully confident that the only constant is change.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.
[From Connection Magazine – April 2002]