Solving Problems, Making Change

I get hired for difficult jobs.  Only once in my library career was I hired to fill a position with no obvious problems; that was my first position out of graduate school.  Otherwise, I’ve had where people were struggling with technological change or where major personnel work needed to be done, or the where external situation had been corrosive and the organization needed to be restored to health. 

I thrive in such situations. Once, on becoming an AUL relatively early in my career, I was asked by a staff member (in a mildly hostile tone), “To what do you attribute your meteoric rise?”  I don’t remember having a good response for her then.  But I did ponder the question.  Technology experience (in years when it was still scarce) did help, but the real answer was that I had solved problems or made good things happen in all of my previous positions.  

However, even when you come into a position where there is thirst for change, you should not expect everyone to be happy about the changes you make.  People may be chafing under a controlling and tyrannical supervisor.  But those same people don’t want to see that person face the consequences of such behavior.  They want you to transform that person into someone different.  You will of course try mightily to encourage and engender more effective and less offensive behavior.  Sometimes it works.  But sometimes it doesn’t, and the only option is to make consequences  felt.  The consequences might be transfer to a position more fitting to the person’s inclinations and desires.  Moving a leader who won’t lead to a non-leadership position is one solution.  Or, if there is nothing that needs doing that the person is willing to do, then separation may be the only solution.   

Be prepared for people to be disappointed if you can’t “reform” problem staff.   You can work hard at giving a problem staff member the coaching, training, and support needed but if that person is confirmed in the wisdom of his or her actions and positions, there is not much you can do.  Really good people can be wounded by even the mildest constructive criticism, but they hear it and act on it.  But some are oblivious and dead certain you are wrong in wanting them to do things differently or do different things.  But, as long as you are not asking them to so something illegal or immoral, they are obliged to do what you and the organization needs.

You may also discover that, if a bad situation has been long-standing, some staff may have trouble adjusting to the new day.  Habits formed to compensate for bad environments can be hard to shake off.  Mending an organization may take a long time and some people who had “managed” under the old regime may not adjust to the new one.  This is a sad situation but sometimes inevitable.

One thought on “Solving Problems, Making Change

  1. Interesting how applicable much of this is to running a church music program! That’s a very different situation, in which most are volunteers – but many of the same problems arise, and manipulative/bold solutions are often called for.

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