I began researching the process of change many years ago when I was actively engaged in Health Education and learning how to assist people to find their way out of risky health-related situations from smoking to driving without seatbelts. Later, while working on my doctorate I did a great deal of work on the process of change and how the theoretical components of change could be translated into something more concrete and practical. Much of this was related to my work in Counseling Psychology and more specifically to trauma and how people learn to manage the consequences of trauma. All of these experiences and everything I had learned motivated me to create an approach based on sound theory, that is practical, and supports a solution-focused approach to change. This process is designed specifically for professionals and most especially for nonprofit CEO/Executive Directors.
The process uses three theoretical approaches that I was able to effectively incorporate into a counseling approach and subsequently into a coaching approach, which I call the ReSET model or Reflective Solutions Executive Training.
What I have learned is that three things need to happen in order for change to be effective. First, you must be willing to be self-reflective and practice the skill of self-reflection to gain the most relevant information about your experiences. Secondly, you have to be able to articulate the situation or to “tell the story,” of the situation. This storytelling is based on self-reflection and how you plan to manage the experience, and what you plan to change in your process. Lastly, you have to commit to focusing on the solution and not on the problem. This is about creating intention and taking concrete action towards exploring solutions. The following narrative provides a short overview of the theory and the related processes.
Reflection-in-Action-This is a learning theory and is described, in the most basic terms, as having a conversation with the situation. This is most especially true for situations that are complex, fragile, challenging, etc. This perspective provides guidance on how to explore your current situation with intention and a solid process. It also creates an expectation of identifying the problem well and exploring solutions. In addition, reflection-in-action provides for direct engagement with those creating or solving the problem in question, which is so critical to nonprofit culture.
Narrative Inquiry and Response-This is about the stories we tell. This is a way to explore how we express our challenges and how we listen to the unspoken elements that actively motivate or inhibit us. It is here that we attempt to describe the situation or challenge and where we explore self-reflection working to bring what is unconscious to the conscious.
Solution Focused-This is a simple yet effective approach to finding a solution to your situation. The solution can be developmental in nature but the problem is no longer the focus of the work; the solution is what you focus on. Much of this is based on a Solution Focused Brief Intervention. This approach is flexible and based on practicing and implementing self-reflection activities.
I have found that it is extremely important to actively engage in a change process for your most pressing issue and to teach yourself how to do this effectively. The most powerful outcome of this experience is learning to do this consistently over time with almost any situation.
Part of this approach is working with the intention to actively engage whatever challenges you professionally. The peer support model is one of the most important elements of this process. In essence, we cannot do this well alone. The collective knowledge of our peers is so important to our own learning and growth. In teaching, we learn differently. In sharing, we change the story.
I have effectively supported executives using this change process who:
Have decided to leave their current position
Are struggling with a challenging executive task that is outside of their skills set (financial management, fundraising, or personnel management)
Struggling with challenging internal situations (staffing, board members, volunteers, etc.)
Are struggling to manage the impact of personal life experiences on work (mental health, physical health, emotional health, or spiritual health
Want to learn how to implement change management processes in their organization
In the end, the work of change is a complicated and dynamic process that has to be nurtured and nourished. Over time, being an effective change agent will become second nature and will give you the opportunity to support others in learning this precious skill.
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Kreutzer, K. (2009). Nonprofit governance during organizational transition in voluntary associations. Nonprofit management and leadership. (20,1). DOI: 10.1002/nml.244.
Saltzburg, S. (2007). Narrative Therapy Pathways for Re-authoring with parents of adolescents coming out as lesbian, gay, and bisexual. Contemporary Family Therapy. (29) DOI: 10.1007/s10591-007-9035-1
McKergow, M., Korman, H. (2009). Inbetween-neither inside nor outside: The radical simplicity of solution-focused brief therapy. Journal of Systemic Therapies. (28,2). Retrieved from Proquest Psychology Journals.