By Ven. Perry Chuipka
I wonder if you have asked some of the questions I have asked during this pandemic. Am I doing enough? What should be the focus for our congregation? What should our congregation be doing? What can we do?
These are only a few questions of the many that I have asked myself and my wardens throughout this pandemic. At our coaches meeting we have been asking similar questions. How can we help congregations, their leaders and their priests deal with all this change coming at them?
In tackling some of these questions, our coaches were asked to reflect on the book, “Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions,” by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber.
This book begins with a simple story about a group of emperor penguins living on an iceberg near the coast of Antarctica. They have lived on this iceberg for years, having everything they needed to live a comfortable life. Then one curious penguin discovers that there is a crack in their iceberg which will eventually get bigger and destroy their home. When he tells people what he has discovered nobody believes him.
The various characters in the book reflect the different attitudes that people have which is very similar to the attitudes people have in any organization. The importance of the story shows us how to overcome resistance to change and the many obstacles people face. It offers us a powerful example in how to adapt to changing times. The book concludes with John Kotter outlining eight valuable steps that can help any organization work through change and transition.
Our coaches found the penguin’s story along with the eight steps extremely helpful in our conversations about helping congregations deal with change and adapting to new circumstances. I highly recommend this book which can be read in two or three sittings.
I also had the opportunity to follow up this book with a webinar entitled, Leading Rapid Change, by Russel Raath, who is President of Kotter International. Russel has twenty-six years of experience in behavioural science helping organizations in different countries around the world. Let me highlight four principles that he spoke about that you may find helpful to use in your organization during this pandemic.
He called them tactics for leading rapid change.
A) Make it a routine to provide your organization information. For example, you could provide an update on the how your organization is doing every week. Let people know the day you will be doing this. Then be consistent in ensuring that the update happens every week on that same day. This will lower the anxiety and the fear of the people in your organization along with making them feel a part of what is going on.
B) Let people know what will be different. Be decisive. When people in your organization are prepared for what is coming, especially when it has changed from before they will be better equipped to deal with the change.
C) When you make progress no matter how small celebrate it. As humans, we like to know we are gaining progress so even if it is a small accomplishment make a big deal about it. Every achievement moves us forward and encourages everyone to continue the journey forward.
Take control of what you can control, and name what you cannot control. When you name what you can control you energize not only yourself, but everyone else in your organization. Then follow through with what you can control. Make the changes fast so that everyone can participate in them. The faster you make the change the faster you can get people to come along-side you. In the same way, name what you can’t control so that you and others do not spend energy on talking about those things.
Everyone in your organization needs to know why you are making these changes. What is the end result? A wise person once said, “to mobilize massive action on a grand scale you need a grand ambition”. Ask the questions what drives you? What drives others?
Finally, decisions about change need to include people who are on the ground floor.
I remember the example I heard at Business College many years ago. The automotive company BMW was very successful because it included even the people who were picking up the garbage in the various offices. They were asked by the management what the company needed to change in order to be successful. These cleaning people saw their organization from a different perspective.
In sharing this perspective, the organization gained knowledge that they would not have had before. For example some churches have secretaries that may not be members of their church. They need to be asked how they see things going in the church. You may be surprised by the information they may give you about your organization that you never saw before.
So, let me go back to the questions I started with. All our churches are asking different questions during this Pandemic. You are probably doing a great job fielding questions. However, maybe a coach can help you and your congregation by facilitating a zoom meeting to have a conversation about helping them deal with change and adapting to new circumstances.
Please feel free to call myself, Perry, 519-534-2607 or Paul 519- 433-5406. You may also want to check out our website https://coaching.diohuron.org.
Ven. Perry Chuipka is the Archdeacon of Congregational Development in the Diocese of Huron.