Whenever there is a change in the governance arrangement, there will typically be those who feel that they are losing out. Perhaps it is determined that a board of 35 is much too big and that the organization is going to downsize to only 15 on the board. Perhaps the outcome of the process is that the whole congregation will no longer vote on the annual budget; it will be handled by the church council or the elders’ board. Or perhaps a small organization has been led by the founder but now it is time to put a real board in place and it will mean that the founder will have to share authority, influence and leadership. Whatever the case, from the beginning iof the change process it is important to identify who it is that might provide opposition or push back or who it is that will experience loss as an outcome of the process. Or, in the worst case scenario, perhaps go so far as to sabotage the process and any potential change.
The ideal of course is that those who might have the most to lose – at least so it would appear – would take the lead and fully support the changes. That is the ideal. It would mean that believing in the mission and the effectiveness of the organization matters more to them than their own personal influence or authority. That would be the ideal. And when it happens it is a sign of grace, honour and magnanimity. Someone took the high road and saw the big picture and recognized that they were not there to preserve self-interest but the well-being of the organization as a whole.
But, unfortunately, that is the exception. Even well-meaning people will get defensive and push back resist needed change. And thus part of moderating change is recognizing and responding appropriately to the resistance.
Our response, first, is to recognize it will come and not be surprised. Identify who it will be or what group or entity will likely provide the pushback. And then ask why this will be the case. What will they feel they are losing. What fears are playing into this response?
Second, if at all possible, meet with them and separately and let them air their concerns and see what values they have that can then, in turn, inform the process and the way that the change is framed – that is, the case for the change needs to include reference to these core values that they have.
Third, in the case of a group that might be feeling that they are losing influence, is there someone who is within that group that can speak for them and to them – someone who is trusted who is not one of the those who is bringing about the change. I think of a congregational member who can stand at an annual general meeting – someone with history and political influence – who will support the changes. That is, in the case of the board that is going to downsize from 35 to 15, one of those who will be affected by this change actually speaks to why this change is needed even though it means that she/he will no longer be on the board.
And finally, always remember a working rule: change is needed and this movement towards change is not about making everyone happy. It is about getting to the right structural arrangement so that we can get on with the mission. This does not mean that we ignore concerns or discount opinions or feelings; but it does mean that those will have the authority to make this decision can make it. And will make it. And more than likely you will not have unanimous support for the changes. And that is fine. Make the decision An then, as much as possible, stay in relationship with those who were opposed and were fearful and now feel that they have not been heard because they were out-voted.