As we move forward with the search for a new Superintendent/President as well as with the upcoming changes in the academic year, reduction of staff, and new mandates from the state, many more issues are arising in all areas of the campus. Serving as CSEA President, unfortunately, reveals many of these issues. These are issues that we try to address as a team (of job stewards, executive board members, and negotiation team members).
However, I have to say that two issues stand as extremely important in both our search for a new leader and as well as for the health of the college and ultimately our students.
The first of these is more of a structural issue. Over the last six years, we have gone through many changes and have somehow survived. This is a testament to our strength as a college. Perhaps because of the short tenure of the two recent Superintendent/Presidents, there has not been a concerted effort to manage change. I do not know if this was a lack of the ability of these individuals or simple neglect of the fact that change, in any organization, needs to be managed. I know it’s easy to say this and people usually ask me “what do you mean by managing change?”
Most of the research on change management states that four basic conditions have to be met before employees embrace change. According to Denise P. Federer* these include:
1. A compelling story – People must see the point of change.
2. Role modeling – Employees must also see colleagues they admire modeling the desired behavior.
3. Reinforcement systems – Surrounding structures, systems, processes and incentives must be in tune with the new behavior.
4. The skills required for change – Individuals need to have the skills to do what is required of them.
Other than saying that indeed, managing change is perhaps the ultimate test of leadership, I will leave it up to you as the reader to assess whether these things are taking place (or will take place) in our campus community. But also remember, change not only requires leadership but also requires the followers to not resist and cooperate when things are done properly. We need to keep this in mind as we participate in the process of choosing the next Superintendent/President.
The second issue is more interpersonal in nature. When I first started working at GCC, I was fortunate enough to have two mentors who were both faculty members (Sharon Scull and Jo Van Dam) and were my immediate supervisors. Both of these individuals helped shape who I am. The one thing that they reinforced – almost daily –in their supervision of me, was a deep concern for me as an individual, not just as an employee.
They encouraged me to take chances and try new things; they taught me skills; they cared for my education and encouraged me to finish my education until I did; they encouraged me to stop smoking and gave me information and tools to do so; they modeled leadership for me and helped me develop skills; they taught me ethical behavior; they inspired me when I was down; and most of all, I always knew they genuinely cared for me as a person. This gave me the sense that I belonged to a community that was larger than simply our small office/department; that this was a place that cared for who I was and that I could thrive here (and I did) and in return care for it. I was/am perhaps extremely lucky that I felt this on campus. I know there are still managers who provide this type of support and growth for their employees, but I wonder if this was more of an exception to the rule? I base this not on emotions or nostalgia but on what I hear daily from my fellow coworkers. Again, I will leave it up to the reader to assess whether these condition currently exist on campus.
Maybe I’m naïve, but maybe we can once again (as a community of learners/teachers) get to this point. I don’t know how to achieve this but I sure can tell when I experience it.
Until next time…
*Source: Managing Organizational Change: The Ultimate Test of Leadership. Denise Federer, August 31, 2012.
“All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you.” -Octavia Butler
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