Facilitating Positive Change at Florida SouthWestern

By Dr. Geri McArdle

During Professional Development Week at Florida SouthWestern State College, I conducted a change management short course titled: Change Can Happen to Anyone at Any Time. Change was the focus of the short course.

The session started with participants sharing what the word change meant to them.  The word evoked responses such as challenging, opportunity, and movement from the participants. Surprisingly, these all we regarded as positive responses to the word.

In previous sessions that I have facilitated in community organizations, participants shared words such as: difficult, messy, dictates, drastic or reorganization. These I would consider as all negative feelings towards the word change. These responses usually came with negative side effects and changed the various discussions that were held.

So why were the responses positive during the Professional Development day at Florida SouthWestern State College?  I began the session with a word association exercise.  I asked the audience to write down the word that first came to them when I said the word “change”. What usually happens is that most audiences share words that are associated most closely with negative ideas. Not this FSW audience.  The words were positive, such as opportunity, challenge, or a new way to execute tasks.

Next on the agenda, was a discussion about how the organization and staff handled change in different situations. I did this to focus on how to provide the audience with an opportunity to discover a simplistic tool that was easy to use so that each participant could utilize it affectively to monitor their own their individual self-change. A number of participants made changes in their goals and created a report back system using a contract.  The contract worked like this, each participant was assigned a “buddy” in the class where the two members worked together throughout the class time to create goals. They finished up with signing a contract in order to agree to complete to “check-ins” with their buddy in order to motivate them to achieve their goal.

According to the recent feedback I received, a number of session participants kept in touch with their support colleagues and met their goals. Some of those goals included registering for a class, losing weight, organizing their desk, and or washing their car for the New Year 2017. This was a success for the session by promoting change.

At this point you may be asking what it was that was different about those included in the Florida South Western State College staff?  The truth is that the group reflected on today’s typical employee.

According to a recent study conducted by Accenture which was published in the book, Big Change, Best Path*, the main theme stated that “…one of the biggest misconceptions about change is that it can derail an organization” while the Accenture research data documented that “…for high performing organizations, performance actually increases from the start of a change to initiative to its end.”

The article further detailed that in was the data that was collected from high performing organizations that showed that performance actually increases from the start of a change initiative to its end in based on the employee emotions and how they are one of the key determinants of a successful change. 

From my experience, the participants in our Professional Development Week which focused specifically on change during the session suggests that all participants indicated a willingness to contribute to the success of their departments and staff, self as a staff professional, and the university.

I’d say that this one-hour learning session was a success for all.

*Reference: Undercurrents of Change, Stephanie Castellano, (p. 18), TD Magazine, Alexandra, Virginia, January 2016.

About the Author

Geri McArdle has been a practitioner in the human resource field for 25 years. She has published nine books on human productivity and numerous juried research articles in professional journals... a founding member of our Chapter, an international trainer and consultant, she now spends her time in Fort Myers. 

You can read more by Dr. McArdle in our monthly chapter newsletters.

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