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Leadership In Times of Change
By: Dan Bobinski


Four Key Ingredients for Implementing Change
When managing and leading any organization into an era of change, it is best to be alert and remain focused. The four main ingredients in a focused leadership recipe are planning, developing, managing, and evaluating. Therefore, it is expedient for leaders to incorporate these skills into their own operating principles, as well as those of their organizations. 

Planning

Because of the rate at which the corporate and educational worlds are changing, proper planning is a vital responsibility for a leader. With the increasing rate of change, planning is more important than ever. A leader must be ever vigilant, keeping current with changes as they occur as well as with changes being predicted by market forces. Therefore, operational and training programs will be influenced at least in some degree by future expectations of change.




"A leader must be ever vigilant, keeping current with changes as they occur as well as with changes being predicted by market forces."

- Dan Bobinski






Program planning includes analysis of needs, an accounting of current and future resources, and the projected methodology needed for any given program of training (Curtis R. Finch & Robert L. McGough, 1982). Therefore, any and all planning efforts must take into account predicted changes.

Along with program planning, facility planning is also necessary. This takes into account the needs of both the labor force and the management in terms of equipment and other training tools. An environment conducive to professional development is essential to optimizing productivity. None of this, however, can escape the need for financial planning, as an organization must always function within its means.

Proper planning is usually the first step in any training program, but it is vital to ensure that an organization's short-term goals are in line with its long-term goals. Therefore, all planning efforts should be in alignment with an organization's core objectives: its long-term or master plans (Finch and McGough, 1982).

Developing

To stay current with a rapidly changing corporate culture, another vital ingredient for effective leadership is the skill of developing the people and the environment in and around the organization.

Proper program development can only occur if the people doing the planning are adequately prepared themselves. The best way to accomplish this is though a focused effort of personnel development for the entire staff. One benefit of ongoing staff development is reiteration of the organization's overarching objectives. With the vision always before the people, motivation toward shorter goals and objectives is easier to maintain.

The other side of the development focus is the environment in and around the organization. This ingredient often entails a good public relations development process by regular and thoughtfully considered actions designed to foster good community relations.

Both the personnel and community relations development are usually best served with the use of a business advisory committee. No matter what the structure of an organization, public or private, concerned citizens serving on advisory committees play an important role in providing balance and focus to the development process (Finch and McGough, 1982).

Committee development should be a carefully considered activity for any leader. Ensuring no one private or political interest overshadows another protects the committee from becoming unbalanced, as well as provides the organization with a well-rounded outside perspective to assist with decision-making.

Managing

Amidst all the planning and developing, an effective leader must also be an adept manager of the systems and structure within and affecting the organization. This usually means managing personnel, fiscal policy, support services, and labor relations, in addition to managing the ongoing operations and the change surrounding them (Finch and McGough, 1982). Of the four main ingredients in effective leadership, the managing aspect is perhaps the most comprehensive.

Personnel management is perhaps the most important aspect of leading any organization, and the first step in this ingredient is proper recruitment, selection, and hiring. Mistakes in the hiring process can cost an organization up to five times the salary of the position, so errors in judgement can be costly.

Along with selecting the right people also comes treating the people right. The needs and concerns of employees need to be addressed, for a staff will perform well as long as it feels its needs are being reasonably addressed. This usually involves effective communication processes both up and down the chain of command.

In the era of having to do more with less, an ever-increasing demand is appearing for accountability in fiscal management. Budgeting and accounting skills are needed to be effective, as are skills in understanding a myriad of reports (Finch and McGough, 1982).

Just as fiscal management requires much planning, so does the area of managing support services. An effective leader must spend considerable time in planning and instituting policy and procedures surrounding the day-to-day functioning of the organization's operational structure. According to Finch and McGough, "A well-thought-out scheme for the implementation of supportive services greatly decreases the reactive mode of management" (1982). Although not usually the most visible or "urgent" activities, support services are vitally important because if they are not addressed, they can quickly cause an leader some undesired visibility.

Another management requirement that can cause unwanted visibility if not properly addressed is labor relations. By maintaining good personnel management, a leader is likely to avoid conflict with labor relations. However, a wise leader will do well to gain an understanding of collective bargaining strategies that are used by both management and labor.

An effective leader must be able to manage the strategy for change and all that surrounds it. This includes being able to discern the appropriateness and value of training materials or equipment to be acquired, and establishing standards within the organization to maintain both quality and cost-effectiveness.

Additionally, when instituting training programs to adapt to change, it is vital to choose programs that are "user-friendly" for the employees, creating convenient training schedules and locations. Effective feedback systems provide useful information to maximize instructional efforts for the human resources being trained and developed. This will also help with gauging return on investment.

Finally, to avoid criticism in any of these management areas, a sage leader establishes firm principles and operating standards and adheres to these principles and standards without fail.

Evaluating

Evaluation is a necessary ingredient for every leader, as it provides feedback to the entire change process. As with the other ingredients, evaluation is useful in several areas. Aspects of this ingredient include evaluating personnel development programs, evaluating communication effectiveness, and evaluating the policies surrounding the operational systems. Such feedback allows for pertinent input to assess strengths and blindspots in the overall organization. Purpose and applicability need to be considered on a regular basis, as do whether or not implentation efforts have achieved the desired objectives (Finch and McGough, 1982). A good leader funnels this information back into the planning process to effect modifications and improvement of the overall change program.

Final Thoughts

These four ingredients of effective leadership have proven themselves in all styles of organizations. One of the best ways for any leader to implement and apply these ingredients is to maintain accountability with a critical but non-criticizing peer. Such an associate should not be directly involved with or in the organization, as the danger of biased and incomplete input is then present. A true accountability partner is one who holds a high level of leadership and management understanding, a high degree of honesty, and a high level of confidentiality and integrity.

By communicating the planning, developing, managing, and evaluating responsibilities to an accountability partner and conducting regular accountability meetings, a leader can receive unfiltered feedback plus have an unbiased sounding board off whom to bounce thoughts, ideas, and concerns.

Change is inevitable. An effective leader dealing with change recognizes that planning, developing, managing, and evaluating are key requirements of the job.

References
Finch, Curtis R., & McCough, Robert L. (1982).
Administering and supervising occupational education. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.
     
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