Dealing With Change, Part 2: UCG Leadership Responsibilities

Reminder: This blog is my personal opinion, hopefully informed by Scripture and the Holy Spirit, and is not affiliated with nor endorsed by any particular Church of God (COG).

Change. It is inevitable, but it is never easy. Sometimes change is proactive. You change because you want something to occur. Sometimes change is reactive. Something happens, and so you either change or become marginalized, or worse.

Yesterday, I explored how change can affect the UCG member and what the UCG Member Responsibilities are as part of an organization. However, an organization has leaders, and they have responsibilities as well.

Corporate change is particularly difficult. You have to get a certain amount of buy-in at all levels. Some companies I have worked in believed it could force a change of attitude and a change of culture from the top-down. The result almost destroyed the business.

There is a lesson in that. In fact, most problems in a business that are not the result of greed and corruption can usually be traced to a vast gulf between the “higher ups” and the “front line”. Sometimes the front line knew what it was supposed to do, but they did not know why. In really bad situations, the front line didn’t even know what it was supposed to do, let alone why. Sometimes, the top didn’t have any idea what was going on until they lost a customer. Of course, it was always someone else’s fault.

That’s sad. One thing the military teaches, and is quite correct about, is that you can delegate authority but you cannot delegate responsibility. A leader is responsible for not just his or her self. A leader is responsible for everyone he or she exercises authority over. If an employee messes up, the leader ensures the problem is taken care of. A leader ensures that those within his or her control are well-informed. They know when, where, how and why they are doing their tasks.

You begin to see why transparency is so important. An ill-informed employee doesn’t know what to do, when to do it or why. They will not be very effective at what they are supposed to do. When an employee feels lost and doesn’t feel grounded, then morale suffers. When communication improves, morale begins to improve. When communication wavers, morale beings to waver.

You see this effect at its greatest, in my opinion, when organizational change occurs. Employee fears are heightened. Who’s next? Will they get extra duties dumped on them? Why were these people let go? Could they be next? Should they update their resume? It can be particularly bothersome if their boss was let go. It can be worse if they are the ones who had to decide who to let go.

So, what do companies do? They make an active effort to increase communication. They go the extra mile to have discussions in groups both large and small. They let employees vent first, and then they explain why they are doing what they are doing. They have to ensure privacy issues aren’t being created in their statements, but they do have to have valid explanations as to what is going on.

Do these same rules apply to other groups? I believe to some extent they do. While the purpose of a non-profit, sporting, recreational or activist group might be totally different than that of a business, it is still an “organization”. It is still a collection of individuals who organize themselves so that a particular purpose can be met.

The only difference is the amount and type of control the leadership can impose upon its membership. While the military and corporate world can get away with being more dictatorial, even there it has its limits. If problems are allowed to fester and boil, they will.

So, let’s try to objectively look at the recent UCG changes. Are there leadership lessons to be drawn from them? I believe that there are.

First of all, what was handled correctly?

1. The entire membership was notified much at the same time (or, it apparently was planned that way). It is when people learn of events at different times that the truth gets corrupted, much like in a game of telephone.

2. A public announcement was made. The unofficial UCG blog posted the letters from Roy Holladay.

3. No criticism of individuals “on the other side” was made. In fact, praise and thanks for their work was included.

4. Reassurance that the work will continue on, that replacement plans are being put into place and the implication that all will continue onward.

OK, so what didn’t go so well?

1. There was nothing at all concrete in the announcement as to why. You would think that after months of things brewing, you would at least have something you could hang your hat on. At least in the corporate world, you get some line about someone wanting to spend more time with their family.

2. As there was no concrete reason as to why, there is no concrete new direction being pointed out. What is going to be different, and how is it better?

3. Transition of power to one that previously held the post of president. Frankly, I don’t remember anything negative when Mr Holladay was president before. He’s given some fine messages in the past, and he seems like he has a genuine concern for the church. Maybe Mr Holladay is the best choice, but you have to admit that it seems questionable on the surface. There is no explanation as to why he was chosen given the circumstances.

4. Shutting down a blog article after it had already been posted. Given the size of UCG, this actually might have been the best way for the membership to vent. It could have been used as a way to defray hurt feelings as well, but that opportunity was lost. In the end, shutting it down is probably worse than if it had not been posted in the first place.

No matter how you slice it and dice it, the end result makes it look opaque, not transparent. It does not engender trust as a result. An organization can make all sorts of excuses for various miscommunications during a reorg, but the bottom line is that it erodes trust.

Compare the UCG “press release”, if you will, with one that Yahoo issued in 2006 when “Yahoo COO Rosenweig Resigns; Company Reorganization Announced”. While it might be full of a lot of PR, there are some essential reassurances within the press release: What has changed, what is the reason for the changes, what direction they are now going to take, who is moving and what their new roles will be.

All in all, though what one thing could have they done differently to achieve a very different outcome? What different approach could they have taken that said, “You know what? We don’t have all the answers right now, but you can trust what we are doing”? What one thing, in spite of any other mistake, could have been done that would have reassured the membership?

How about a joint letter? I mean, if everyone’s really hunky-dory in Cincinnati, then why not have Clyde Kilough and Roy Holladay draft a joint announcement about the changes and why they are needed?

I mean, just think of it! If not transparency, then at least it will clear the fog. Only the most cynical of folks would be inclined to fault a voluntary joint statement. And, if Mr Kilough stresses the need for unity …?

Jesus said to be harmless as doves, but He also said to be as wise as serpents. You know, this is The Serpent’s world, and the world sometimes handles things better than the Church.

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