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Pause to Consider

Consider these two scenarios and how you would manage them.

·       You are hired as the new Executive Director for a medium size human services agency in a small city adjacent to a large metropolitan area. You have no prior experience with or specific knowledge of either the agency or the local community. The previous Executive Director resigned, in part due to significantly deteriorated agency relationships with some primary authorizers and with other human services agencies in the community. There is serious dissension within the agency and a high level of negativity and interpersonal hostility. There is also a high level of mistrust of management and very low staff morale. It is difficult for you to tell who is contributing to the negativity and turmoil and who is just reacting to it. The agency environment is characterized by substantial chaos and unproductive office politics. Similarly, the agency’s external relationships with stakeholders are confused and tentative. It would be nice to have a few weeks to get to know everyone and to familiarize yourself with the environment but there are serious pressures both internally and from external stakeholders, including important authorizers, to straighten out this mess. You need to quickly pick people for your Leadership Team and get started. Who do you select for your Leadership Team and how do you decide who to select?

·       Five small human services agencies are being merged into one multi-service agency. The five small agencies have served the community for many years and each has a solid reputation for service quality and community involvement. None of the agencies or their staffs are happy about the merger but at least their Boards know it is necessary due to current economic realities. The clients of the separate agencies are very unhappy and there have been a couple of community gatherings to vocally protest the merger. The theme has generally been, It’s okay for them but not for our agency! This sentiment is shared by most of the staff members of the five agencies and by many of the stakeholders of those agencies. You are hired as a consultant to the steering committee charged to oversee the merger. The committee is made up of the five Chairs of the separate agencies. They want to form a Leadership Team to focus on improving the internal environments of each of the five agencies, increase acceptance of the merger within the agencies and in the wider community, consolidate the support of the various authorizing entities currently supporting the five agencies, and reassure the community about the uninterrupted availability of all current services. How will you recommend they go about forming this Team; who should they select for the Team; and what criteria should they use when selecting particular people? – As an aside, how do you think the Team should go about choosing its leadership once the Team is formed?

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