Blasting Through Employee Anxiety – A Leadership Role in Times of Change

Managing Change Great amounts of change in organizations, such as downsizing, reengineering, restructuring and reorganization, have occurred in recent years. These changes bring about anxiety for employees, although over the years they have become as comfortable as possible with these changes and their anxieties. Change is very much a part of our everyday lives; therefore, change leadership needs to be part of any leader’s essential skills. The ability to manage a successful change initiative stems from the leader’s personal ability to handle change. In an effective leader, personal experience is the best foundation for any attempt to lead others through change. The manner in which leaders handle change within themselves will shape how they handle change in their leadership role and therefore in their employees. Since the number of changes will only increase leaders must prepare their followers and organizations to adapt to the new economic environment This paper seeks to identify the characteristics of leaders who initiate, guide, and provoke change.


The most important factor for leaders to consider in times of change for an organization is that they must deal with cultural (norms) and behavioral (emotions) obstacles to change. They must also consider Schein’s (2004) three key features of organizational life: the firm’s culture (basic assumptions, values and artifacts), the leadership of the change effort, and the existing network of power. Leaders must identify and understand the current culture in order to bring about any real change. Rather than trying to change the culture which may take years, the leadership should work with and through the current culture to transform the organization. The first step is that they need to foster what Kotter (1996) advises as a sense of urgency within the organization. Kotter states that “a higher rate of urgency does not imply ever present panic, anxiety, or fear; it means a state in which complacency is virtually absent” (p. 43). Once a sense of urgency is established, Kotter continues with the thought that only the leadership can blast through the resistance with motivation actions and alter the culture and behaviors with support from every level within the organization. Andrews et al (2008) argue that assumptions and practice norms can thwart the conception, adoption, and implementation of critical actions such as change because the problems of implementing change reflect long-standing distinctive organizational cultures.

Useem (2009), Wharton management professor and director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management, on the other hand argues that a key criterion for leadership is boldness in taking on the most challenging problems. Being pragmatic is another example of an important leadership trait. The possibility of being able to acquire and use these characteristics represents a positive perspective for organizations, employees and leaders alike. Leaders who lead and guide employees in organizational changes take risks but not carelessly or without planning. Furthermore, they encourage others to be risk takers by providing an environment that makes it safe for employees reluctant to change. Being an effective communicator and listener are also key components to being a proactive, risks taking leader who can manage a change leadership initiative.

We see this type of leadership in Fritz Henderson at General Motors. Effective leaders are proactive and confront rather than avoid, anticipate rather than react to situations and circumstances in their industries. GM has had to take a long look internally at the barriers to success and its emergence from bankruptcy. In the October 19, 2009, Workforce Management Journal, Henderson admits to a complete overhaul of General Motors, especially a cultural change in order to sustain the organization for an additional 100 years. This proactive cultural change initiative includes risk-taking, accountability, speed of decision making and customer and product focus. Henderson believes that a leader’s values have an impact on employee successes; he and his leadership team share the belief that employee learning, mentoring and coaching are of primary importance. This common ground appears to facilitate the development of a new clear and compelling vision for GM.

Schein and Kotter, as quoted by Flatt and Kowalczyk (2009) reveal that individuals within an organization such as GM share a common value. The common value is an advantage that Henderson (2009) can use to demonstrate the characteristic of valuing human resources; this manifests in three dimensions: valuing the contributions and efforts of co-workers, relating effectively with others, and fostering collaboration. This characteristic of effective leaders of change connects with a leader’s ability to listen, evaluate and communicate with employees. Henderson’s communicating and listening skills are the basis for his ability to articulate a vision, develop a shared mission, and express the belief that the human capital in GM is valued.


Contemporary leadership as mentioned by the Wharton Center for Leadership and Change Management (2009) includes individuals who are prepared to lead multinational organizations in today’s economic environment with diverse workforces, and a demand for high performance which make it imperative for organizations to become more flexible, results-oriented, and have faster decision-making processes. Organizations are finding that leaders must be capable of not only understand the environment, but also the level of anxiety and resistance to employees brought about by change.

Resistance can build because of poor communication which fails to legitimize the change, misrepresents the chances of success and fails to call people to action. Leaders need to be able to adapt their leadership style to the level of resistance within their organization when it comes to organizational changes. Dover in his article in April 16, 2007’s Managing Organizational and Social Change states that researchers argue that resistance is a convenient label, something which change agents or leaders can use to make sense of reactions to their initiatives, absolving them of their responsibilities if the project fails. Dover concludes, however, that the danger is that this label can divert attention away from the change initiative, even contributing to the level of resistance by failing to recognize that change often breaks an understood and expected pattern of cooperation.


Chris Argyris (1993) in his book Knowledge for Action: A Guide to Overcoming Barriers to Organizational Change in chapter 2 outlines the steps for leaders to facilitate change within an organization:

(1) Interview and observe the players,
(2) Organize the findings for learning and action,
(3) Conduct meaningful feedback sessions,
(4) Facilitate the change seminar with live cases, and
(5) Manage the clash of expectations and needs to build new team leadership, getting feedback from below, and discussing and correcting out-of-control routines
The steps laid out by Argyris (1993) account for communication as a last step because “people under stress, that is, those who feel threatened or put at risk by some force beyond their control, experience ‘mental noise’ that can cause them to lose up to 80 percent of their ability to process information” states Wojtecki & Peters, 2000, p. 3). The level of anxiety associated with change makes it necessary to have a plan and a strategy in place prior to communicating the actions to the organization. Leaders need to filter the communication to disseminate the right information to the right people at the right time. Thus, Miller and Monge (1986) suggest that information or too much information prior to a strong change plan can assure resistance from employees.

Markus Amanto (2009) in his change leadership model website discusses the Sense of Coherence model (SOC) by Aaron Antonovsky. SOC deals with the manner in which employees handle change. The higher and stronger the level of an individual’s Sense of Coherence, the better the individual’s ability to cope with change. SOC consists of three different parts: meaningfulness, manageability and comprehensiveness.
1. Meaningfulness – The degree the individual finds a meaning in what is happening.
2. Comprehensiveness – Can I understand what is going on? Am I getting the kind of information I need to understand what is happening? And is it delivered in such a way to fit my preference of communication?
3. Manageability – Do I feel I have the tools, internal and external, do deal with the change? Do I feel I have access to the resources needed?


As leaders begin to think of what changes their people and organizations need, they must be aware of the factors that require managing in order for change to occur. According to Glaser (2004), leaders’ biggest challenge is leading the change. Hence, in order for leaders to succeed in the form of loyalty, respect and engagement from employees, they have to reshape themselves first, then their organization. Leaders need to acclimatize their employees slowly to the new change environment instead of leading with the same old autocratic style and expect change to succeed. In the words of Glaser (2004), groups have the potential for mistrust, doubt, and animosity; effective leadership would engage employees by developing behaviors that recognize, guide, and work through change anxiety in order to maximize the potential for acceptance, regardless of roles and titles.

Leaders need to be able to recognize shifts in the environment and steer their organization to take the initiative rather than be responsive to those changes. They are aware of the realities of their environment and thus guide the organization to rethink the vision and mission to coincide with the new realities. Henderson (2009) has taken the initiative to change the focus of General Motors away from maintaining the status quo to exploring various options by asking his leadership team to assess the present, identify gaps and determine a course of action.


Being a good listener is one of the foremost skills of a leader, especially when dealing with change. The ability to understand different individuals’ needs, to make them feel both seen and heard is also critical. Keeping employees informed of factors that affect not only their positions but also their lives is essential during a time of high anxiety and uncertainty. Successful change leadership begins prior to the time it is put into effect; by building trust and respectful relationships with employees, leaders are much more able to manage change initiatives with those they lead.

Author: R. Kenny Leblanc
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Interrogative Negotiating Strategy

Once upon a time… A tale.

There were two sisters and one orange. Each wanted the orange for herself. After much bickering and unpleasantness, they decided the only fair resolution was a 50-50 compromise. They cut the orange in half. One sister made orange juice and threw away the rind. The other sister made orange bread from the rind and threw away the pulp. Each sister half-won and half-lost. The orange was half-wasted. What could have happened if they’d tried to negotiate?

What is negotiating? It is an interactive decision making process where both negotiating partners meet their interests. It is a type of presentation that requires particularly careful preparation because we anticipate differences of perspective or opinion, perhaps even conflict. An effective negotiating process, in fact, helps prevent conflict. The desired outcome is a meeting of the minds with a mutually agreed-upon plan of action.

The benefits of good negotiating are:

Increased trust and respect. Both negotiation partners openly exchange thoughts without judgment, accusation or hidden agendas. Best mutual outcome. Both negotiation partners win. Solutions are well thought out and meet the interests of both.

Excellent long term customer relations. We are most comfortable with people, personally and professionally, when we are confident that we can work out our differences. Customers stay with businesses that have their best interests at heart.

The Interrogative Negotiating Strategy is a system for planning and conducting all types of negotiations. Family members have different ideas about where to travel together this year. People we work with have different ideas about what is best.

Why interrogative? James Thurber said “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” We negotiate because there is no mutually obvious answer. We have to examine a scope of considerations to arrive at the best solution. We have to ask the right questions and generate creative possibilities. This four step strategy asks questions to get to the heart of negotiating quickly, positively, creatively and decisively.

Step 1: What is your interest? What is your negotiation partner’s interest?

The most successful negotiations consider the interests versus the positions of the negotiating partners. “Position” means what you want. “Interest” means why this is important to you. Negotiating from “position” is a good way to start conflict immediately. Witness the Orange Sisters − “I want that orange!” “No! I want it more than you do!” Had they asked “Why?” there would have been an instantly obvious solution and two completely happy sisters.

Step 2: What are the matches? What are the gaps?

It seems intuitive to begin a negotiation with points of disagreement, or “gaps”. After all, the gaps are what we are negotiating about. We tend to assume the similarities need no discussion. Therefore our stance with our negotiating partner is off to a contentious start. When we examine “matches” first, we are likely to discover that we have many shared interests. We are largely on the same side of the fence. Now we are partners who can examine the gaps from a base of commonality.

Step 3: What are the possibilities? What are the limitations?

When we move from gaps to solutions, we limit our thinking to the obvious. In this step, brainstorm without solution. Again, start with the positive − possibilities. Build on the matches. Be clear about limitations. Do not set the stage for unrealistic expectations.

Step 4: What are the action options? What are the criteria for choosing? What actions to take?

Still brainstorming, what are all possible actions? Evaluate those actions in light of your and your negotiating partner’s interests, i.e. your criteria for choosing a solution. A selection grid with your interest criteria across the top and actions down the side gives you a clear visual to narrow and select your actions. Prioritize the criteria. Now you can select the action items that satisfy the most important criteria.

At the end of this process, you and your negotiation partner have mutually decided on a solution satisfying both of your interests. All you have to do is take the actions you have selected. You may want to set a time to follow up with each other, to make sure all is going according to plan and to tweak your solution as needed.

Susan deGrandpre is the owner and principal consultant of Collaboration Consulting. Her website is She can be reached at She is the author of the forthcoming book “Common-Sense Workplace Mentoring.” The world and the workplace are way too complex for business people to go it alone. For over 25 years, Susan has shown leaders and employees how to boost their organizations and their careers by systematically merging their knowledge and expertise with each other’s.

Susan teaches business people to collaborate for success. Her clients learn to:
*Anticipate and exceed customer expectations.
*Spend fewer training dollars by using the talent already within the organization.
*Solve problems seamlessly.
*Maintain intellectual capital.
*Improve productivity.
*Install great collaboration as a primary strategy to thrive in a challenging economy.

She consults, designs programs, facilitates, trains and coaches in the areas of:
*Structuring Delegation
*Building Workplace Mentoring Systems
*Developing Strong Teams
*Teaching Productive Communication Skills
*Customer Service

Author: Susan DeGrandpre

Check out our Negotiating – The Quest for Success workshops.


How to Negotiate When the Other Person Tells You that They Don’t Have the Authority to Decide

One of the most frustrating situations you can run into is trying to negotiate with the person who claims that he or she doesn’t have the authority to make a final decision. Unless you realize that this is simply a negotiating tactic that’s being used on you, you have the feeling that you’ll never get to talk to the real decision-maker.

When I was president of the real estate company in California, I used to have salespeople coming in to sell me things all the time: advertising, photocopy machines, computer equipment, and so on. I would always negotiate the very lowest price that I could, and then I would say to them, “This looks fine. I do just have to run it by my board of directors, but I’ll get back to you tomorrow with the final okay.”

The next day I could get back to them and say, “Boy, are they tough to deal with right now. I felt sure I could sell it to them, but they just won’t go along with it unless you can shave another couple of hundred dollars off the price.” And I would get it. There was no approval needed by the board of directors, and it never occurred to me that this deception was underhanded. I and the people with whom you deal see it as well within the rules by which one plays the game of negotiating.

So when the other person says to you that they have to take it to the committee, or the legal department, it’s probably not true, but it is a very effective negotiating tactic that they’re using on you. Fortunately, Power Negotiators know how to handle this challenge smoothly and effectively.

Your first approach should be trying to remove the other person’s resort to higher authority before the negotiations even start, by getting him to admit that he could make a decision if the proposal was irresistible. This is exactly the same thing that I taught my real estate agents to say to the buyers before putting them in the car, “Let me be sure I understand, if we find exactly the right property for you today, is there any reason why you wouldn’t make a decision today?” It’s exactly the same thing that the car dealer will do to you when, before he lets you take it for a test drive, he says, “Let me be sure I understand, if you like this car as much as I know you’re going to like it, is there any reason why you wouldn’t make a decision today?” Because they know that if they don’t remove the resort to higher authority up front, then there’s a danger that under the pressure of asking for a decision, the other person will invent a higher authority as a delaying tactic. Such as, “Look, I’d love to give you a decision today, but I can’t because my father-in-law has to look at the property (or the car), or Uncle Joe is helping us with the down payment and we need to talk to him first.”

One of the most frustrating things that you encounter is taking your proposal to the other person and having her say to you, “Well, that’s fine. Thanks for bringing me the proposal. I’ll talk to our committee (or our attorney or the owners) about it and if it interests us we’ll get back to you.” Where do you go from there? If you’re smart enough to counter the Higher Authority Gambit before you start, you can remove yourself from that dangerous situation.

So before you present your proposal to the other person, before you even get it out of your briefcase, you should casually say, “Let me be sure I understand. If this proposal meets all of your needs (That’s as broad as any statement can be, isn’t it?), is there any reason why you wouldn’t give me a decision today?”

It’s a harmless thing for the other person to agree to because the other person is thinking, “If it meets all of my needs? No problem, there’s loads of wriggle room there.” However, look at what you’ve accomplished if you can get them to respond with, “Well, sure if it meets all of my needs, I’ll give you an okay right now.” Look at what you’ve accomplished:

1. You’ve eliminated their right to tell you that they want to want to think it over. If they say that, you say, “Well, let me go over it one more time. There must be something I didn’t cover clearly enough because you did indicate to me earlier that you were willing to make a decision today.”

2. You’ve eliminated their right to refer it to a higher authority. You’ve eliminated their right to say, “I want our legal department to see it, or the purchasing committee to take a look at it.”

What if you’re not able to remove their resort to higher authority? I’m sure that many times you’ll say, “If this proposal meets all of your needs is there any reason why you wouldn’t give me a decision today?” and the other person will reply, “I’m sorry, but on a project of this size, everything has to get approved by the specifications committee. I’ll have to refer it to them for a final decision.”

Here are the three steps that Power Negotiators take when they’re not able to remove the other side’s resort to higher authority:

Step number one-appeal to their ego. With a smile on your face you say, “But they always follow your recommendations, don’t they?” With some personality styles that’s enough of an appeal to his ego, that he’ll say, “Well, I guess you’re right. If I like it, then you can count on it.” But often they’ll still say, “Yes, they usually follow my recommendations but I can’t give you a decision until I’ve taken it to the committee.”

If you realize that you’re dealing with egotistical people, try preempting their resort to higher authority early in your presentation, by saying, “Do you think that if you took this to your supervisor, she’d approve it?” Often an ego-driven person will make the mistake of proudly telling you that he doesn’t have to get any body’s approval.

The second step is to get their commitment that they’ll take it to the committee with a positive recommendation. So you say, “But you will recommend it to them-won’t you?” There are only two things that can happen at this point. Either she’ll say, yes, she will recommend it to them, or she’ll say, no she won’t-because . . . Either way you’ve won. Hopefully, you’ll get a response similar to, “Yes, it looks good to me, I’ll go to bat for you with them.” But if that doesn’t happen, and instead they tell you that they won’t recommend it because, you’re still ahead, because any time you can draw out an objection you should say, “Hallelujah” because objections are buying signals. For example, nobody will object to your price unless buying from you interests them. If buying from you doesn’t interest them, they don’t care how high you price your product or service.
For a while I dated a woman who was really into interior decorating. One day she excitedly dragged me down to the Orange County Design Center to show me a couch covered in kidskin. The leather was as soft and as supple as anything I’d ever felt. As I sat there, she said, “Isn’t that a wonderful couch?”

I said, “No question about it, this is a wonderful couch.”

She said, “And it’s only $12,000.”

I said, “Isn’t that amazing? How can they do it for only $12,000?”

She said, “You don’t have a problem with the price?”

“I don’t have a problem with the price at all.”

Why didn’t I have a problem with the price? Right. Because I had absolutely no intention of paying $12,000 for a couch, regardless of what they covered it with. Let me ask you this: If buying the couch interested me, would I have a problem with the price? Oh, you had better believe I’d have a problem with the price!

Objections are buying signals. We knew in real estate that if we were showing property, and the people were “Ooooing and aaahing” all over the place, if they loved everything about the property, they weren’t going to buy. The serious buyers were the ones who were saying, “Well the kitchen’s not as big as we like. Hate that wallpaper. We’d probably end up knocking out that wall.” Those were the ones who would buy.

If you’re in sales, think about it. Have you ever in your life made a big sale where the person loved your price up front? Of course not. All serious buyers complain about the price.

Your biggest problem is not an objection, it’s indifference. I would rather they said to you, “I wouldn’t buy widgets from your company, if you were the last widget vendor in the world, because . . .” than have them say to you, “I’ve been using the same source on widgets for 10 years, and he does fine. I’m just not interested in taking the time to talk about making a change.” Indifference is your problem, not objections.

Let me prove this to you. Give me the opposite of the word love. If you said hate, think again. As long as they’re throwing plates at you, you have something there you can work with. It’s indifference that’s the opposite of love. When they’re saying to you, like Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, “Quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” -that’s when you know the movie is about over. Indifference is your problem, not objections. Objections are buying signals.

So when you say to them, “You will recommend it to them, won’t you?” they can either say, yes they will, or no they won’t. Either way you’ve won. Then you can move to step three:

Step Three: The qualified “subject to” close. The “subject to” close is the same one that your life insurance agent uses on you when he or she says, “Quite frankly, I don’t know if we can get this much insurance on someone your age. It would be “subject to” you passing the physical anyway, so why don’t we just write up the paper work “subject to” you passing the physical?” The life insurance agent knows that if you can fog a mirror during that physical, he or she can get you that insurance. But it doesn’t sound as though you’re making as important a decision as you really are.
The qualified “subject to” close in this instance would be: “Let’s just write up the paper work ‘subject to’ the right of your specifications committee to reject the proposal within a 24-hour period for any specifications reason.” Or, “Let’s just write up the paper work ‘subject to’ the right of your legal department to reject the proposal within a 24-hour period for any legal reason.”

Notice that you’re not saying subject to their acceptance. You’re saying subject to their right to decline it for a specific reason. If they were going to refer it to an attorney, it would be a legal reason. If they were going to refer it to their CPA, it would be a tax reason and so on. But try to get it nailed down to a specific reason.

So the three steps to take if you’re not able to get the other person to waive his or her resort to higher authority are:

1. Appeal to the other person’s ego.

2. Get the other person’s commitment that he’ll recommend it to the higher authority.

3. Use the qualified subject-to close.

Being able to use and handle the resort to higher authority is critical to you when you’re Power Negotiating. Always maintain your own resort to higher authority. Always try to remove the other person’s resort to a higher authority.

Key points to remember:

  • Attempt to get the other person to admit that he could approve your proposal if it meets all of his needs. If that fails, go through the three counter gambits:

  • Appeal to his ego.

  • Get his commitment that he’ll recommend to his higher authority.

  • Go to a qualified subject-to close.

  • If they are forcing you to make a decision before you’re ready to do so, offer to decide but let them know that the answer will be no, unless they give you time to check with your people.

  • If they’re using escalating authority on you, revert to your opening position at each level and introduce your own levels of escalating authority.
  • Roger Dawson
    Founder of the Power Negotiating Institute

    Roger Dawson is the author of two of Nightingale-Conant’s best selling audiocassette programs, Secrets of Power Negotiating and Secrets of Power Negotiating for Salespeople. This article is excerpted in part from Roger Dawson’s new book – “Secrets of Power Negotiating”, published by Career Press and on sale in bookstores everywhere for $24.99.

    Author: Roger Dawson

    Check out our Negotiating – The Quest for Success workshops.

    Organizational Culture – 4 Effective Tips to Business Succession

    The real secret to succession planning is to think beyond a person as successor and think of the business transforming. Evolution is a better framework to think of an organization. We know humans die…organizations can live…if they chose to evolve. A great way to focus on succession planning is to think beyond the individual and frame the discussion on the organization. Here are 4 tips to begin succession planning.

    1. Decide what the organization stands for. If it’s not clear, then you’ve discovered one of the first issues to work on. Today all sorts of words are used to formalize this, but the simple and honest answer is what in the world your purpose is. What difference do you make in the lives of customers? What difference do you make in the lives of employees? Search for why the business exists. You may be lucky to still have the founder of the business. Founders are a treasure of soulful purposes why the business started and exists. If you’re talking about profit, sales and customers. Try again. A powerful example we share is words from our founders…”to provide, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Search for the words which make you shudder.

    2. Make clear what you wish to protect. Succession planning is about choice. If the company were to lose all the assets today…no brick and mortar. What is left? People, values, purpose. Of course the easy and no brain-er is protect assets, protect money. But is that really the answer? You should quake a bit when you’ve discovered what you wish to protect. Is it honesty, courage, integrity, responsibility? Move over to the soulful side and you’ll protect the most important.

    3. Assess what’s missing now. Before beginning with the job posting, stop and think what is missing? Go deeper and think about what it feels to work in the organization. If you’ve honestly answered the first two questions, it is very clear what is missing. Beware, profits, sales, efficiency measures are economic measures and only lagging indicators of how the job is getting done. If people are engaged, energized, honest and creative…the economics follow. If economics are struggling. It’s the organizational culture.

    If you’d like more information about Organizational culture download your free book Organizational Culture.

    Wiff and Krutza are leadership coaches specializing in organizational culture. They have been involved in just about every important phase of business.

    Author: Mike Krutza
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