Over the years I have administered a number of training sessions at the Ohio Library Council (OLC) in Columbus including Facilitator Training and Designing Communication for Difficult Situations.
In May of 2007 I received a frantic call from the director of OLC. A speaker had canceled a week before a scheduled session. The topic was Risk Management, one with which I dealt in my "Enabler of Change" sessions many times over the years. I adapted my material, my wife, Carol, created and produced the manuals, and I was ready on the appointed day.
We began the session by defining the expectations of the 20 librarians in attendance. The needs were to learn how to increase appropriate risk taking among staff, help staff safely step out of their comfort zones, be able to lead through ambiguity, deal effectively with fear, and to be able to measure risk.
Risk management was defined as pushing our comfort zone toward a defined goal, taking a chance for a different outcome, a leap of faith, and effective management of fear.
Next, we discussed the value of risk taking, the danger of not taking risk, and the danger of taking risks. The benefits of taking risks are that people's horizons are broadened to see more possibilities, new skills are gained, self-confidence is increased, and new efficiencies are developed.
The dangers of not taking risks are potential stagnation, loss of opportunity, and lack of advancement. The dangers of taking risks are failure, lack of clear expectations, inability to sustain success, and losing face. I suggest that if you are not comfortable with taking a risk, you should gather more data from knowledgeable or experienced people, brainstorm with others, and/or research the issue.
We described the face or demonstrated behaviors of resistance and how resistance can be of different levels or intensity with prescribed different responses. Then we used my change model to examine several real-life situations the participants were presently addressing.
My change model involves identifying the GAP behaviors, which are new behaviors needed in the future but are not presently owned by staff members. The GAP behaviors are the focus of the rest of the model. People need to know why the change is important to the organization and to each staff member. People need to be given an opportunity to learn and practice the GAP behaviors. They need to be given feedback on how well the GAP behaviors are being demonstrated over time. Also people need to be rewarded for successfully using GAP behaviors.
With the speed of work today, risk management and change are ever-present parts of work life. Although chaotic at times, we should look at risk management and change as a process. When I worked as a supervisor in the coal mine, we had regular fire drills, which involved practicing designated assignments and physically rolling out fire hoses. As a result, during the four actual fires I experienced, most people very quickly accomplished their required tasks. Leaders and employees in all organizations could benefit from drills on change so everyone knows what to do and when to do it. We should all remember - it is not if change will occur; it is when change will occur.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.