MeriTalk - Where America Talks Government
Heidi Spann

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Posted: 1/14/2009 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

The new administration must reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act and increase resources for learning, not just in colleges and universities, but also in local communities that serve populations of all ages and skill levels. If the Obama administration can meet its goal of creating a nationwide broadband system then opportunities will open up for people with technology skills to take advantage of the Internet at anytime. Without access to training, many people who lack technology skills will miss the chance to make use of this system and the jobs it creates. Educated citizens benefit everyone.

Posted: 1/12/2009 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

We are headed into the perfect transitional storm. 2009 ushers in a new President, a new governing party, and a recession. This brings both obstacles and opportunity. And let’s not forget the New Year’s resolutions we make to reshape, reform or change our lives for the better. All of this culminates at a time of great expectation when people are looking to leaders and managers for guidance, encouragement and motivation. Below are just a few ways to approach this oncoming transition to ease the burden of change.

Resistance is Futile. You’ve heard the old adage that change is the only constant. Well even though change is on the horizon, there is no consistency to how people deal with it. Adapting to a transitional atmosphere may trigger coping mechanisms from grieving for the way things were to initiating even more change to create a chaotic atmosphere. 
Denial and avoidance are two of the most common reactions to change. Behaviors indicating denial and avoidance may include withdrawing from the workplace, feeling frustrated with new approaches, and the tendency to keep doing things the old way even when it is no longer accepted.
Making an effort to recognize and name how each person and work function is affected by a transition will reveal that everyone is impacted by change. By engaging in dialogue with co-workers you can learn what they require to succeed in a new environment. Sharing will also uncover a range of reactions showing that change isn’t easy for everyone after all.
March to a different beat. Surrounding yourself with the familiar and known during times of change can provide comfort and solace. It can also lead to “group think” and a lack of diversity in opinion that results in unilateral decisions and narrow thinking. Whether you make the hiring decisions or volunteer for work groups, make an effort to work with and learn from those who don’t look, act, think or sound like you. Healthy arguments and feisty debate can create commitment to the ultimate decision and respect for others’ values— and others’ respect for yours.
Define the vision. Whether you are leading the transition or just holding on for dear life, know where the ride is taking you. To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland: If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will do. Instead of leading your employees or yourself through a series of U-turns, take some time up front to create a vision.
An effective vision conjures up an image, communicates passion. And yet it should be concise enough to fit on a T-shirt. People are more likely to buy into the vision if they helped create it. Simply put, the vision should state what you ultimately envision the agency to be, in terms of growth, values, employees, and contribution to public service.
Smile Through It. Appreciative Inquiry, or AI, was developed by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in the 1970s. Richard Seel from New Paradigm Consulting describes the AI approach as based on this premise: Organizations change in the direction in which they inquire. So an organization that inquires into problems will keep finding problems, while an organization that attempts to appreciate what is best in itself will discover more that is good. It can then use these discoveries to build a new future where the best becomes more common.
Appreciative Inquiry can be used at any level in an organization. It’s an effective way for new teams and work groups to get off on the right foot. Some appreciative inquiry questions you might want to pose during transitional times are: What are we good at? When do we function at our best? What do we do well? What do we want look like in the future?
Navigating this perfect transitional storm will be easier with a positive and open approach to change and a commitment to communicating. And remember, “Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become. ”

Relax, dream big and hold on!