The learning curve: a new managers survival guide (Proceedings)


It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success,nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things."

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success,nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things."

Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

New Managers

     • How are they picked?

     • What skill sets are necessary?

     • Are there specific criteria for the job and is there an exhaustive and complete job description?


     • What happens when new managers come in and try to change things?

     • What happens when new initiatives are suggested?

     • What happens when the team is frustrated and we come up with solutions in staff meetings?

Diagnosing Resistance

     • Organizational change WILL run into resistance.

     • Your job is to diagnose it, not resent it or wish it would go away.

     • Experienced managers know this but still tend to apply a simple set of beliefs about change and generalize:

           o "Technicians will never do it that way!"

           o "Our receptionists job is to handle change- they won't mind!"

           o "Forget trying to ask the doctors to change anything, they won't- especially the owner!"

Diagnosing Resistance

     • ALL people who are affected by change experience some degree of emotional turmoil associated with the change.

     • Even positive changes (eustress) involve loss and uncertainty.

     • New managers have to be aware of what forms the resistance might take.

Feelings First!

     • "I will lose something of value."

     • "I don't understand what is changing and how it will affect me."

     • "I don't think this change makes sense for our practice."

     • "I have a low tolerance for change and this makes me nervous."


     • Losing something of value.

           o People will focus on their own best interests.

           o Resistance is often of a "political" nature.

           o How are "politics" expressed in a veterinary practice?

           o "It will change my job description."

           o Development of me vs. you or us vs. them culture.

           o "That won't work..."

Lack of Trust (Misunderstanding)

     • Failure to understand the implications of the change.

     • Perception that the change will cost more than it actually will.

     • Trust issues are almost always between the person implementing the change and their employees.

     • How is lack of trust exhibited in a veterinary practice?

           o Rumor mill increases.

     • Managers have to be quick to remedy rumors by clarifying them and holding employees accountable for the truth.

Different Assessment

     • Another reason people resist change is they perceive that the change will create more cost than revenue or more hassle than value.

     • Managers who initiate change make incorrect assumptions about how changes will affect staff or the practice/clients. (We are not on the same page).

     • If the analysis made by those NOT initiating the change is more accurate than that of management, then resistance can be a good thing.

           o Sometimes new managers categorize all resistance to change as bad and might not give it credibility.

Low Change Tolerance

     • People can be fearful that they will not be able to develop the new skills and behavior required of them to make the change.

     • Change initiatives fail because people are unable to adapt their attitudes and behavior as fast as the practice needs them to.

     • If the change is significant and the persons tolerance for change is low they may not even know why they are resisting the change!

Dealing With Resistance

     • The good news is that many new managers also underestimate the ways they can positively influence change.

     • Your tools are:

           o Education and Communication

           o Participation and Involvement

           o Facilitation and Support

           o Negotiation and Agreement

           o Manipulation and Co-optation

           o Explicit and Implicit Coercion

Educate and Communicate

     • One on one

     • Staff Meeting

     • Memos

     • Presentations

     • Reports

     • Requires that the change initiators (management) and implementers (staff) have a good relationship.

Participation & Involvement

If we involve the team in some aspect of the change we can forestall or eliminate resistance.

Facilitation & Support

     • Provide new training.

     • Give employees time off after a demanding period.

     • Simply listening and providing emotional support.

     • Most helpful when fear and anxiety lie at the heart of the resistance.

     • Tough managers often overlook this form of resistance (DVM) as well as the efficacy.


     • The selective use of information to covertly influence people.

     • Conscious structuring of events (selective memory).

     • Co-optation usually involves giving an individual a key role in the design or implementation of the change...we are essentially looking for an endorsement of the idea.

     • This is risky.

Explicit & Implicit Coercion

     • People are "forced" to accept a change by implicitly or explicitly threatening them (with loss of job, promotion possibilities, etc.).

     • Almost always risky but sometimes the only tool available when speed is essential and the change is unpopular.

Methods for Managing

Education & Communication

     • Where there is lack of information or inaccurate information and analysis


     • Once persuaded the team will often help with the implementation.

     • Can be VERY time consuming if lots of people are involved.

Methods for Managing

Participation and Involvement

     • Use this method when the people in charge of change do not have the information they need to make the change or where others have considerable power to resist.

     • People who participate will be committed to implementation process.

     • They will share relevant information that might not have been shared in other settings.

     • Again; this can be time consuming.

Methods for Managing

Facilitation & Support

     • Use this method when people are resisting because of adjustment problems.


     • No other approach works as well with adjustment problems.

     • Can be time consuming, expensive and it can still fail.

Methods for Managing

Negotiation & Agreement

     • Where someone or some group will clearly lose out in the change.

     • Where resistance power is considerable.


     • Relatively easy way to avoid major resistance.

     • Can be a threat to the culture if negotiations and agreements are not honored.


     • Used when other tactics don't work .

     • When other tactics are too expensive.


     • Quick and inexpensive solution.

     • Can lead to future problems if people feel manipulated.

Methods for Managing


     • Where speed is essential and where the resistance is likely to be powerful.


     • It is speedy and can overcome any resistance.

     • Backfires if it leaves employees mad at the initiators of change.

Common Errors of Managers

     • Using only one of these approaches instead of a variety...

           o The hard headed boss who intimidates and coerce.

           o The people who oriented manager who tries to involve the staff in everything.

           o The cynical boss who manipulates & co-opts others.

           o The lawyer-like manager who tries to negotiate everything.

     • Second common error is to not connect a strategic thrust to the change.

Strategic Continuum

Fast Change

     • Clearly planned.

     • Little involvement of others.

     • Mow over any kind of resistance.

Slow Change

     • Not clearly planned at the beginning.

     • Lots of involvement of others.

     • Attempt to minimize resistance.

Strategic Variables

     • The amount and type of resistance that is anticipated.

     • The position of the initiators vis'-a-vis the resistors (power, trust).

     • The availability of relevant data for designing the change and the needed energy for implementing it.

     • The stakes involved (extent of crisis, consequences of failure to change).

New Managers

     • Can improve the chances of change success by:

           o Conducting an organizational analysis that identifies the current state of things.

           o Conduct an analysis of who might resist the change and why?

           o How much will they resist?

           o Select a change strategy that incorporates these variables.

           o Monitor the plan.

           o Interpersonal skills are the key to success.

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