Posts Tagged ‘tony marchese’

Doug Walters and I continue our six-part televised conversation. Poet David Whyte offers a complementary reflection on personal identity and function. See the poem and then the video below.

Sweet Darkness

By David Whyte

When your eyes are tired the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own.

There you can be sure you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb tonight.

The night will give you a horizon further than you can see.

You must learn one thing: the world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.



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The conversation continues. Greater self-awareness of our distinctiveness can be harnessed to help us make choices that resonate with our “Birthright Gifts”. The result- increased engagement, happiness, and creativity.

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 From the West Virginia Executive

By Christi Smith

Full sun, partial sun, full shade, moist soil, well drained area, deer resistant. These are all examples of instructions found on tags for how to care for and in what environment a gardener should place his plants.

Just as environment and care are essential to the growth of healthy plants, the same can be said for the workplace. As professionals, it’s important for each of us to understand the conditions and environments in which we—and our coworkers—are most successful. In a recent session of Leadership Kanawha Valley, I learned two important steps toward achieving this goal: first, know what you and your coworkers need to flourish. Second, place yourself, as well as others, in that appropriate environment.

As members of the Leadership Kanawha Valley 2013-14 class, we were encouraged to think about these steps in a class led by Doug Walters and Tony Marchese. The session focused on learning about strengths, social styles and “job fit” of individuals in an organization—whether it is a business, church, government, nonprofit or volunteer team—as well as discovering and understanding these things about yourself and those around you. Taking the time to realize what people need is the greatest transformation that can take place within an organization and can catapult it to its greatest potentials and successes.

Discovering my own needs was the first step for me, as I believe that transformation must take place in the leader before it can take place in the culture of an organization. In this journey of self-awareness, I asked Doug Walters to be my coach to aid with discovering my strengths, social styles, emotional intelligence and professional fit.

Through surveys answered by myself and others, he analyzed the information that revealed some answers and raised new questions about my leadership ability. I was not surprised to discover that my social style is a driver with strengths like achievement, positivity and strategy. After that, we focused on the new questions: what do those strengths mean; how can I use them and where will it be most beneficial for myself and my organization to grow? As a leader, it was refreshing to learn that my strengths are not something that can be classified as right or wrong and that in the right environment and circumstances, one can be very successful.

This journey has been—and continues to be—about understanding how to maximize these new self-discoveries while at the same time revealing personal areas of leadership concern. To clarify, being aware of weaknesses isn’t about making them into strengths but being aware so that they do not trip me up along the way. Like the information that comes with a plant, if you are aware that a plant will die in the shade, you transplant it to an area where it will receive direct sunlight.

Walters suggested that the key leaders I engage with daily also participate in the survey in order to learn their social styles. This discovery has helped me know what they need from me and understand where they are coming from when we communicate and begin projects together. Sharing our social styles with each other, along with an explanation about each one’s value, has provided a better understanding of each other as a whole. Several a-ha moments throughout my coaching sessions have given me positive affirmations about my uniqueness and what I bring to the table with an added appreciation for what others bring with them, as their strengths may be my weaknesses. A group of individuals working together gives a team or organization leadership balance while enhancing success.

My experience with the leadership class has brought a new understanding into our company, Royal Automotive. Royal Automotive is a family owned and operated business, opened in 1969, and has seen many transitions in the automotive industry, the local economy and within itself. The second generation owners have been blessed with an abundance of long-term employees, but many are beginning to consider retirement. This means there will be an organizational change, new team players, new possibilities and a need for discovery and understanding among the entire Royal Automotive team. Our company will continue to work with Walters as he helps us discover the key components for our leadership and the areas where these components have the most positive impact in our strategic planning and vision as we make this transition.

About the Author

Christi Smith has a degree in marketing from David Lipscomb University and now works for Royal Chrysler Jeep Subaru. She is married to Kelly Smith, who is also the owner of Royal Automotive, and they have one son, Casey. Smith is constantly pursuing education in leadership as an effort to grow in business and continue to be a positive influence both at work and at home.





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Anthony Marchese, Ph.D

Sharon Harsh, Ed.D.


Traditional organizations have existed for dozens of years; in fact, have survived numerous societal changes and accountability demands relatively intact. The vast majority of these organizations have not only survived, but most of the original job requirements, tasks, and structures are still in place. While numerous enhancements in technology and facilities have been implemented over the years, the core processes of most institutions remain the same. So why change? Why should an organization modify its structures and processes? How do organization operations impact change efforts?

For years, these questions have been at the center of countless articles, books and conference agendas and the answers are remarkably similar. Change is not only inevitable, it is essential to meet new challenges and unilateral solutions used to address traditional issues are generally ineffective when applied to the complex, rapidly emerging challenges facing institutions today (Brinkerhoff & Morgan, 2010). While organizations have remained relatively intact, many institutions are not responsive to environmental demands and do not meet the performance expectations held by governing agencies and stakeholders. Why should an organization modify its structures and processes?  Over time, the consistent use of outdated structures and processes can lead to organization inertia and ossification (Chubb & Moe, 1990; Hess & Leal, 2003; Kelly & Amburgey, 1991), a condition that occurs when procedures and structures become rigid and limit the ability to effectively respond to diverse situations. Additionally, organization operations have a large impact on change efforts. Outdated and ineffective structures and processes limit organization agility and flexibility to differentiate responses to emerging issues, constrain the organization’s ability to implement new strategies, and often cause the organization to repeat inadequate actions. While answers to the questions are similar, the proposed approaches to change are as varied as the issues and challenges that arise. Approaches and solutions range from sophisticated multistep processes to sweeping, comprehensive transformations, and all hold great promise in helping institutions meet new performance expectations. Ironically, the proposed solutions often fail to achieve the desired results because organizational structures and processes block or interfere with implementation of the very changes being instituted.  In these situations, organizations can use a process of organization design to identify the ineffective architecture or infrastructure and replace or refine the cumbersome structures.

 This paper examines the role of design in organization development, looks at the structures and elements of the organization that should be examined and considered for modification, and posits that organization design is essential for building the capacity of low performing institutions to fully implement and sustain change and support continued organization growth. Finally, the paper presents a process for implementing organization design and reconfiguring structures to support change. 

The Need for Design

Many leaders within a variety of domains are finding themselves at a critical juncture. Both the internal and external environments within which an organization operates are experiencing immense changes. The human infrastructure within today’s organization places increased demands upon the leader to be attentive to employee satisfaction and engagement, an increased propensity for burnout, and the effectiveness of traditional incentives due to an influx of a multigenerational workforce. Add to these challenges a rapidly changing external landscape and it becomes obvious that traditional approaches to organizational leadership and development are insufficient. More than ever before, leaders must understand, meet, and often exceed stakeholder expectations by maintaining a competitive advantage. Global economic uncertainties are forcing organizations to do much more with much less.  The old adage that leaders are “born, not made” is becoming increasingly irrelevant as internal and external realities reinforce the fact that we exist in a “post-heroic era of leadership” due to the impossibility of a single person to resolve all of the challenges facing the 21st Century organization.

An organization comprised of diverse individuals who maintain a growth-oriented mindset (Dweck, 2006) and possess the capacity to establish systems, structures, and policies that analyze what is, anticipate what may be, and adapt accordingly while maintaining a clear focus of identity and purpose will not only survive but thrive. Organizations that sustain a “fixed mindset” (Dweck, 2006) distinguished by an uncompromising conformity to long-held policies and procedures, top-down decision-making, and a self-indulgent, aloof attitude towards what is happening on the “outside” will likely find themselves gradually moving towards obsolescence. Ironically, educational organizations are often steeped in beliefs and practices that constrict innovation, evolution, and learning. The concept of “lifelong learner” is not only applicable to the student, but to the organization as well.

Organizational design challenges leaders to cultivate an evolutionary culture of analysis, synthesis, and strategic adaptation. Design efforts are based upon a desire to establish coherence between beliefs and behaviors within the organization. In other words, the identity and function (actual behavior) of the organization are tightly aligned. If it is determined that an organization that functions less like a machine and more like a living organism will improve performance and increase identification of and adaptability to both internal and external elements, several steps can be taken to move toward coherence. Margaret Wheatley explains the predicament in which organizations may find themselves as they stand at the cusp of a change effort.“  Frequently, as we look into the organization, we see multiple selves-messages, goals, and behaviors that tell conflicting stories. How do we know what is important to the organization? Which identity should we honor? Which should we ignore? Organizations with multiple personality disorder confuse us with their incoherence…In the presence of such schizophrenia, an opportunity to choose among different selves feels to much like Russian roulette…We can’t resolve organizational incoherence with training programs about values, or with beautiful reports that explain the company’s way, or by the charisma of any leader. We can resolve it only with coherence- fundamental integrity about who we are. With coherence, comes the capacity to create organizations that are both free and effective. They are effective because they support people’s abilities to self-organize. They are free because they know who they are. Coherent organizations experience the world with less threat and more freedom. They don’t create boundaries to defend and preserve themselves. They don’t have to keep others out. Clear at their core, they become less and less concerned about where they stop. Inner clarity gives them expansionary range” (Wheatley, 1999, pp. 59-61).  Attentiveness to the ontology of organizational design requires leaders to intentionally encapsulate and communicate the identity and purpose of the organization and construct systems, structures and the right team to enable the organization to perform according to design. Coherence between being and doing is reinforced through the utilization of a capacity-building approach to developing human capital. Individuals are infused with the knowledge, skills, and processes to perpetuate the evolution of the organization. It becomes a living organism, highly attuned to its surroundings, clear in its identity and purpose, and able to anticipate and respond to unfamiliar variables. In summation, design is imperative for growth.

Preliminary Considerations: Design and Organizational Development and Change

Organizational Design can be a messy process. Systems impacted by design can include: information systems, training systems, organizational structure, decision-making system, tasks and technologies, and planning and forecasting (makeadentleadership.com).  Understanding the propensity for change is a prerequisite to action. Since change is highly contextual in nature, leaders must be prepared to engage in a series of experimental activities that may introduce new concepts and behaviors to the organization. For some, this process may prove to be a bit unsettling initially. According to Wheatley, “Many of us have created lives and organizations that give very little support for experimentation. We believe that answers already exist out there, independent of us. We don’t need to experiment to find what works, we just need to find the answer. So we look to other organizations, or to experts, or to reports. We are dedicated detectives, tracking down solutions, attempting to pin them on ourselves and our organizations. (Wheatley, 1999, pp. 21). She continues, “Every act of organizing is an experiment. We begin with desire, with a sense of purpose and direction. But we enter the experience vulnerable, unprotected by the illusory cloak of prediction. We acknowledge that we don’t know how this work will actually unfold. We discover what we are capable of as we go along. We engage with others for the experiment. We are willing to commit to a system whose effectiveness cannot be seen until it is in motion. Every act of organizing is an act of faith. We hope for things unseen which are true” (Wheatley, 1999, pp. 74).

Philology is the “branch of knowledge that deals with the structure, historical development, and relationships of a language or languages: (oxforddictionaries.com).  Even though an organization may be an educational institution by nature and portends to cultivate a love of learning Gk. Philogia among all members of its community, it does not mean that it is functioning as a learning organization or as an organism which is both alive and adaptable. Organizational philology provides provocative insight into the lexicon of an organization thus enabling the observer to discern what is ultimately meaningful to its members through their day-to-day language.  Repetitious words or phrases and those used with great inflection can reveal a substantial amount of information about what an organization values or thinks it values. In many cases, an organizational lexicon filled with synonyms for innovation does not necessarily mean that it is poised for design. Analyzing the language and then seeking coherence between belief and behavior can help a leader determine the propensity for change or design. Additionally, introducing new vocabulary into the lexicon can serve as an effective means for preparing a community for change. What does the vocabulary reveal about members orientation towards change? What do frequently used words and phrases say about the level of trust members feel towards leadership? Does the lexicon contain words or phrases that imply a sense of ownership for the success and long-term sustainability of the organization among members?

Meaning-making and Design

Many change initiatives fail due to an incongruity of meaning between leaders and followers. Positive design requires that leaders and followers share in the meaning-making process. Ladkin (2010) emphasizes, “…A crucial aspect of a successful vision is the extent to which it aligns meaning for those involved in a common activity.” Ladkin (2010) describes meaning-making as a negotiated activity between a leader and followers. Gadamer (1975) suggests that, “Understanding is not reconstruction, but mediation (from Truth and Method as quoted by Ladkin, 2010). In other words, a leader cannot make a change initiative meaningful for followers. Consequently, unless followers share in the negotiated or mediated meaning-making activities with the leader, the chances of a successful implantation of a design initiative occurring are minimal. Followers wish to be co-creators of the design rather than feel as though they are merely recipients of its consequences. “The perspective of leadership is that often followers are conceptualized as the ‘things’ to be influenced and directed in a way determined by the leader…In order for meaning to be truly forged between people, both must be open to the other. Such openness necessarily recognizes that leaders take into account their followers perspectives and meanings as well as for followers to consider the perspectives of their leader. Meaning-making can then be a jointly negotiated activity. The ‘follower’ does not just incorporate meanings of the leader as indicated by much of the leadership literature. Instead, the dialogic process enables co-created meaning to emerge from authentic engagement between leaders and followers. Meaning created in such a way would serve as a robust touchstone from which aligned organizational action could take place” (Ladkin, 2010, pp. 113-114). Ladkin reminds leaders not to take the process of meaning-making lightly. It requires much from both leaders and followers. Worthwhile design efforts include discussion, debate, compromise, experimentation, uncertainty, ambiguity, and giving up long held beliefs and establishing new ones. Leaders and followers alike have a stake in the outcome of the design. 

Four Benefits of Incorporating Meaning-making into Organizational Design:

  1. Meaning-making as a preliminary design activity promotes ontological coherence between being and doing (identity and function) and shared understanding between leaders and followers.
  2. Meaning-making as a preliminary design activity extends ownership for the outcome of the design process to the followers thus increasing personal commitment.
  3. Meaning-making as a preliminary design activity generates psychological control over the destiny of the organization. Members increase their capacity to make sense of and adapt to an externally changing landscape.
  4. Meaning-making as a preliminary design activity cultivates increased creativity due to a positive reorientation toward work by helping to shift members’ orientation from transactional (expending effort in exchange for a reward) to transformational (finding intrinsic value in the activities). Creativity is critical for organizational evolution.    

 Enhancing Organization Architecture and Capacity for Change

The architecture of an organization is a structural framework for implementing the mission and vision and is composed of infrastructure and procedural elements that shape the way work is conducted. The architectural elements create consistent boundaries and channels for conducting the work and establish meaningful differences in the nature of the work at each level of the organization. In the current environment, the volume and velocity of change requires an organization to not only conduct its work in concert with the established mission, but to simultaneously address an array of ever-changing challenges (Lawler & Worley, 2006). To do this, organizations need to become increasingly agile (Silverman, 1997); however, few organizations have a fully developed an architectural framework that can be used to successfully respond to a myriad of challenges. As a result, organizations often operate in a crisis mode, use ineffective work processes, and attempt to apply solutions that cannot be fully implemented.

 An organization without agile and flexible structures can enhance its ability to respond to emerging challenges by engaging in a process of organization design. Organization design includes assessing and reengineering all formal and informal architectural components such as information, tasks, structures and processes (Silverman, 1997; Lunenburg, 2012) and the actual design process involves a series of distinct steps depending on the type of change process and theoretical foundation used to reshape the work of the organization (Lunenburg, 2012; Silverman, 1997; Denham et.al., 1995). The resultant structural changes should be carefully selected and organization leaders must fully institute the targeted modifications so that the changes allow the organization to function more effectively. Silverman (1997) recommends leaders should be educated on the change process and because a theoretical framework must guide the redesign work in order for the changes to be meaningful and coherent, further recommends that the design process not be implemented if leaders decide to skip over the education requirement.

 Structures for Change and Growth

 Any modification to the architecture of an organization should enhance the ability to fulfill and be accountable to a mission, attain a desired future status, permit adaptability when responding to change, and support on-going organization growth (Brickley, et.al, 2002). For each of these conditions to occur, the organization needs to have structures and processes that will allow the desired state to be attained.  Core structures for all organizations include a framework of activities that guide the completion of basic work, cross-functional activities that coordinate the overall functions of the system (Silverman, 1997), a training structure that allows staff to grow and the organization to continually update and systematically redesign its processes, and written guidelines or policies on the roles and responsibilities of leaders and work teams (Denham et.al.,1995; Hall & Tolbert, 2009). These core structures are embedded into the design of every organization and must be included in any architectural analysis and change; otherwise, the organization would become fragmented. The core structures also provide a foundation for classifying the overall structure of an organization (Lunenburg, 2012). Using the Mintzberg framework (Mintzberg, 1992, 2009), the extent to which an organization develops and utilizes the core structures determines whether it operates under one of five types of organization structure (Greenberg, 2011; Lunenburg, 2012):

  • Simple Structure – the organization is small, operations are informal and maintained through direct supervision; can adapt to changes rapidly; limited resources require innovative organization redesign efforts.  
  • Machine Bureaucracy – uses standardized work processes; high degree of formal work specialization; decisions are centralized; the goal of organization design is usually to achieve internal efficiency.
  • Professional Bureaucracy – standardizes skills;  gives autonomy to professionals; provides complex services through highly trained professionals; organization design efforts focus on coordination problems
  • Divisionalized Form – decision making is decentralized at the divisional level; organization design efforts focus on ability to function independently
  • Adhocracy – uses technical specialists to operate the organization; operates informally; the goal of organization design is usually to maintain flexible and informal operations

 While organization design can focus on refining structures that improve operations and maintain the overall architecture or structure, organizations that engage in design work in order to promote growth, need to focus on building new processes, systems and operational structures (Mohrman, 2007).  The new structures should expand the capability to perform additional functions, manage enlarged services, clients and resources, and respond effectively to increased numbers of diverse challenges. Mohrman found two types of growth to be especially responsive to organization design: life-cycle growth and developing new capabilities. Life-cycle growth occurs during the early years of an organization’s existence. As an organization grows, it encounters various challenges that signal the need for expanded structures. Often, the management structures need to be modified to address increasingly complex activities, leadership structures must be updated to handle the increased complexity of the work, and coordination functions need to be upgraded to ensure the growing sectors of the organization have sufficient resources and support. When organizations experience surges of unexpected growth, the expansion of clients and demand for services often require the development of new capabilities and new methods of operation. In these situations, organization design must focus on innovative design solutions that will enable on-going growth and effectively coordinate advanced operations. When the organization needs expanded capabilities, design work should include a high level understanding of organizational design and design options, diagnosis and design of appropriate modifications, skill in restructuring processes and frameworks to meet challenges at all levels, and design teams with the expertise necessary to support the design processes.

Building Capacity for Change

Organizations that respond effectively to rapid change have flexible and reconfigurable organizational structures (Worley & Lawler, 2006). During the design process, Worley and Lawler recommend modifying structures to maximize the surface area of the organization by connecting employees with the external environment. Design structures include cross-functional teams and interagency work groups are used to increase the external focus of staff and import information about trends, opportunities and issues into the system.

 When organizations design effective change management enhancements to the operating structures, emphasis should also be placed on building the capacity to effectively use the modified structures and processes (Harsh, 2013). In particular, organizations need the capacity to identify and respond to emerging challenges, maintain high performance levels, and institute continuous architectural improvements. The set of capacities needed for this work include agility in incorporating change, absorbing and using new information, forecasting the most important emerging changes, finding effective solutions to a range of challenges, and employing multiple leadership approaches tailored to the targeted situation. Together, the capacities should enlarge the organization’s ability to absorb and implement targeted change and to proactively implement strategies that will help move the organization to a new operational state (Harsh 2010; April, 2012).

Ambidexterity.  Birkinshaw and Gibson (2004) suggest that an organization with ambidexterity has the ability to simultaneously execute current strategy while developing tomorrow’s projected strategy. Ambidexterity capacity gives organizations maximum agility to remain effective in unpredictable and uncharted future contexts. For organizations to gain maximum agility, key organizational infrastructures must be continuously assessed, redesigned, aligned, and implemented (Banathy 1996; Barney 1997; Wright, McMahan, and McWilliams 1994). This multistep process of redesigning existing infrastructures is known as self-organization. In a fully adaptive and ambidextrous organization, all employees learn how to choose and to adapt, modify, and operate separate structures for different types of activities (Birkinshaw and Gibson 2004; Greenwood and Hinings 1998, 1993; Tushman and O’Reilly, 1996).

Absorptive.  Absorptive capacity is a set of routines and processes that an organization can use to acquire, assimilate, transform, and exploit knowledge and apply it to the work of the organization (Zahra and George 2002; Cohen and Levinthal, 1990). To increase its absorptive capacity, an organization must boost its ability to transform, implement, and use external knowledge to enhance its core competencies (Daghfous 2004). Absorptive capacity is composed of four dimensions: acquisition, assimilation, transformation, and exploitation.

Forecasting and Solution Finding.  Forecasting and solution finding are capacities that place an organization in a position to shape and guide the impact of upcoming events. Forecasting is conducted by maintaining longitudinal data on lagging indicators and regularly analyzing leading indicators of organization performance, upcoming trends, and regulatory concerns that would lead to statutory, policy, or programmatic change (Rohrbeck 2010; De Geus 1997). Solution finding is a proactive higher order capacity that an organization can use to develop and implement refined operations. A critical component of the decision making process, solution finding occurs in four steps: fully defining the problem so that the essential issue is identified, generating viable solutions that address the targeted issue, identifying an alternative from the pool of potential solutions, and selecting and implementing the optimal problem solution (de Bono 1992).

Presencing.  Presencing is a term that combines the concepts of presence and sensing and is the methodology used in Theory U to lead profound change (Jaworski 2011). To lead significant change, presencing  is used in conjunction with two additional processes: sensing (understanding the current reality of the system) and realizing (acting swiftly to bring forth a new reality). Presencing helps individuals attend to situations more effectively by identifying and using future possibilities to address current problems. The U-Process creates shared learning spaces where teams of highly diverse individuals and leaders from different parts of a poorly performing system work together to generate breakthrough solutions.

Multifaceted Leadership.  The type of leadership most suited to a specific change initiative is determined by the organizational context and the nature of the changes to be implemented (Tannenbaum and Schmidt 1973; Higgs and Rowland 2005; Maxwell 2005). Strategic leadership is especially effective for infrastructure development, capacity building, and attaining equity (Heck and Weiss 2005; Allen and Cherrey 2000) and transformational leadership, especially when manifested as distributed leadership, is especially effective for large-scale change efforts (Leithwood et al. 2004). Leaders who can employ various leadership styles are able to facilitate change as a structural issue, a training issue, a power issue, and an identity issue. They can create change by helping employees view the organization through different lenses and by reframing issues so employees understand and embrace the change (Bolman & Deal, 1991; Jaworski 2011).

 Ambidexterity allows an organization to initiate change at any point in the system and to design and implement multiple complementary changes while simultaneously maintaining effective core operations. Absorptive capacity helps an organization continuously assimilate new information and strategies and to incorporate promising practices into existing structures. Forecasting and Solution Finding assists an organization in identifying, creating and using customized interventions that will move the system forward.  Presencing expands the organization’s ability to design and attain a future desired state and the capacity to exercise multifaceted leadership allows the organization to differentiate leadership approaches according to the specific characteristics of an emerging challenge.


Implementing Organization Design

Organization Design is a planned, purposeful activity that results in refinement or replacement of structures that limit or block an organization’s ability to respond to change (Sargent and McConnell, 2008). Additionally, organization design is structured around three key processes used in most organization development work:

  1. Diagnose Organization Needs
  2. Implement Selected Interventions
  3. Modify or Reconfigure Targeted Structures

During the design process, organization structures such as tasks, workflow, responsibilities, and lines of authority, are examined to ensure the work conducted supports the mission and objective of the organization (Nadler and Tushman, 1980) and the structures can be effectively deployed in response to emerging challenges. Interventions to improve organization functioning are identified and weak or ineffective areas are targeted for intervention and modification.

 Diagnose Organization Needs

Organization diagnosis involves assessing or diagnosing the level of functioning and effectiveness of the architecture and determining needed revisions and modifications in the framework of structures and processes (Cummings & Worley, 1993; Rothwell & Sredl, 1992). Diagnostic models, often used to conduct the assessment, can involve a quick narrow scan of trouble spots in the organization (Tichy, 1983) or a broad scan of the entire system (French & Bell, 1995). Two diagnostic models are particularly useful in assessing the effectiveness of organization structures and identifying underlying problems (Faletta, 2008): Nelson and Burns’ High-Performance Programming and The Burke-Litwin Causal Model.

 The Nelson and Burns’ High-performance Programming Framework assesses the performance level of an organization and identifies the interventions needed to transform the organization into a high performing system (Nelson & Burns, 1984; Fuqua & Kurpius, 1993). The Nelson and Burns Framework describes four organizational systems (Nelson & Burns, 1984): a high-performing organization (level 4); a proactive organization (level 3);  a responsive organization (level 2), and a reactive organization (level 1). The characteristics of each type of organization is shown in Figure 2.


                          Figure 2. Nelson and Burns’ High-performance Programming Framework

Level 4

High-Performing Organization

Leaders empower organization staff and focus on organizational excellence. Communication is not restricted. The organization is in a constant state of evolution and staff are afforded opportunities for self- actualization.

Level 3

Proactive Organization

The organization focuses on the future, leaders focus on developing purpose and staff focus on the quality of their contribution to organizational successes. The organization is actively involved in planning and development.

Level 2

Responsive Organization

The responsive organization is more functional, having achieved some clarity of purpose and goals. The organization has some capability to adapt to changing environmental circumstances. Leaders actively coach members in the direction of organizational goals, and some cohesion has developed among work teams.

Level 1

Reactive Organization

The organization is in need of renewal and lacks shared focus. Staff are blamed for poor outcomes and spend considerable time trying to avoid aversive consequences, and leaders spend time enforcing policies that often lack relevance to any common purpose.

 The Burke-Litwin Causal Model of Organizational Performance and Change (Burke & Litwin, 1992) examines twelve organizational variables:  external environment, mission and strategy, leadership, organizational culture, structure, management practices, systems, work unit climate, task requirements and individual skills, motivation, individual needs and values, and individual and organizational performance.  Five variables (external environment, mission and strategy, leadership, organizational culture and performance) can be used to assess the extent to which the organization can initiate transformational change and eight variables (structure, management practices, systems, work unit climate, task requirements and individual skills, motivation, individual needs and values, and individual and organizational performance) can be used to assess the extent to which the organization can effectively use operational and  management structures to implement transactional changes.

 Data collected from a diagnostic assessment are used to pinpoint structures and processes that need to be modified or reconfigured so the organization can effectively respond to emerging challenges. Additionally, the assessments yield a descriptive profile that identifies areas to be considered when selecting improvement interventions. 

 Implement selected interventions

After the diagnostics are completed and targeted areas identified, organizations can initiate the second design process of selecting and implementing interventions. Organization Development (OD) interventions are plans or programs containing specific activities designed to change or improve some part of an organization (Sandhu, Mann & kaur Virk, 2012). OD interventions are generally classified according to activity, group, or process and include areas such as:

  • Structural interventions – changes in the division of work, reporting structures, methods of control, work flow arrangements and communications and authority
  • Technostructural interventions focus on improving technology,  task methods and job design
  • Design-based Interventionsactivities that change the structure, business units, reporting relationships, work processes, jobs, and tasks
  • Large scale interventions – involve a group of stakeholders who define a future organization  and involve all levels of the organization, to analyze, plan, and define the intervention’s outcomes
  • Strategic interventions – align the organization with changing conditions in its environment
  • Team/group interventions – improve interpersonal relations and interdependency among team members
  • Individual/interpersonal interventions – focus on developing specific skills of individuals
  • Information-based Interventions –  activities that clarify or communicate goals and objectives
  • Consequences-based Interventions – activities and systems that focus on metrics and benchmarks to monitor and evaluate performance
  • Process Interventions – focus on activities to improve working relationships, communication, decision-making, leadership and team building (Sandhu, Mann & kaur Virk, 2012; Cummings & Worley, 2009; Hale, 2007; Illback & Zins, 1995).

  Structural and technostructional interventions are particularly useful for making changes to the components of an organization’s architecture that guide the work of the organization. These interventions can include measuring and modifying job tasks and behaviors to increase flexibility and responsiveness to emerging challenges. Modify or reconfigure targeted structures

The trigger point for engaging in design work can occur in multiple places. An organization with high levels of forecasting and solution finding capacity may want to engage in continuous appraisal and restructuring in order to be prepared for ensuing change. Likewise, an organization with the capacity to use presencing and scenario planning may designate specific timelines or cycles to examine performance data and implement structural adjustments that will maximize flexibility and preparedness for projected change.  In most cases, organizations will initiate the design process after experiencing difficulty responding to high impact or priority change demands. In these cases, organizations can use the design process to examine and modify, refine or replace structures that blocked or created difficulty responding effectively.  In addition, the design process may be triggered by sluggish or cumbersome structures that require protracted timelines or excessive effort.

The design process may be used to change one part of the organization architecture or to replace multiple structures throughout the system. Regardless of the number of structures involved, design team members must ensure that structural changes in one part of the system are counterbalanced with adjustments to other portions of the system to ensure essential functions are operational. Where components of the organization operate independently, the design work can track upgrades and


changes, and where changes are made to structures with reciprocal or sequential interdependency (Worren, 2011), the design work will need to include charting and accounting for each step of major tasks to ensure the work is embedded into the revised structures.

 The process presented here provides organizations flexibility in analyzing and choosing the structures to be modified or reconfigured.  The diagnostic process can involve analysis of core operations or as shown in Figure 5, include multiple analyses, each contributing to a fuller understanding of which structures should be modified to maximize organization functioning and effective response to change.


Organization design is a process that can be used to modify or reconfigure structures that keep an organization from responding effectively to emerging challenges. The process is sufficiently flexible to address the breadth and depth needed to design effective structures and allows an organization to be proactive in implementing and modifying structures on a continuous basis. The design process requires careful attention to task components to ensure the functions of the organizationare maintained and operate in a coherent fashion. Ultimately, the design process creates the opportunity for congruence in organization functions by allowing leaders and followers to share in a meaning-making process that guides the design and function of the organization- thus creating a dynamic, organic, and congruent entity.

 Sources of Information

 Bjorkman, C. & Olofsson, A. (2009). Qualitative Descriptions of Pre-conditions for Capacity-building in Schools. International Studies in Educational Administration. 37(2), 25-40.


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Anthony J. Marchese, Ph.D.

Kimberly Hambrick, Ph.D.

 The following is material (from PowerPoint slides) from a workshop delivered yesterday at the Faces of Leadership Service Learning Conference in Charleston, West Virginia. The goal of the two-part session was to acquaint participants with the concept of change and provide a mechanism to connect the new concepts directly to real initiatives under consideration wtihin their respective organizations. 


The Goal

Analyze popular conceptions of and rationales for change in light of recent developments within the field of change-management/leadership.  With this foundation, begin developing a strategy to develop and implement a change process within your organization.

Introduction and Overview

Meet your Presenters



“If we don’t change our direction, we’re likely to end up where we’re headed.” Chinese Proverb

“Innovation requires a good idea, initiative, and a few good friends.“ Herb Shepard



  • Understand the problematic ambiguity of “change”
  • Develop an awareness of popular models of change
  • Apply principles of change to a real organizational issue/need
  • Through group process provide feedback and support to fellow participants about their approach


Overview of Topic

  • Change

–      Societal infatuation with change

–      Change as a double-edged sword

–      Ambiguous nature of “change”- specificity important

–      Effective change initiatives require careful research, planning, buy-in, assessment, and humility.

Considering Change as Renewal
(John Gardner)

  • To renew and reinterpret values that have been encrusted with hypocrisy, corroded by cynicism or simply abandoned; and to generate new values when needed
  • To liberate energies that have been imprisoned by outmoded procedures and habits of thought
  • To reenergize forgotten goals or to generate new goals appropriate to new circumstances
  • To achieve, through science and other modes of exploration, new understandings leading to new solutions
  • To foster the release of human possibilities, through education and lifelong growth


Propensity for Change

  • Understanding Cognitive Maps (De Wit)

A shared understanding of the world by interacting with each other within a group over an extended period of time.

The shared cognitive map of a group is literally ‘common sense’- sense shared by a common group of people…Different behaviors, based on different cognitive maps, will often lead to the identification and codification of beliefs, either to protect them or to engage in debate with people of other views.

People tend to significantly overestimate the value of information that confirms their cognitive map, underestimate disconfirming information, and they actively seek out evidence that supports their current beliefs

Once an interpretive filter is in place, seeing is not believing, but believing is seeing. People might have the impression that they are constantly learning, but they are largely learning within the bounds of a paradigm.

When an individual’s map is supported by similar beliefs shared within a firm, industry or country, the ability to question key aspects of a paradigm will usually be rather limited.

Not only does that individual have no ‘intellectual sounding board’, for teasing out new ideas, but deviation from the dominant logic might also have adverse social and political ramifications within the group…Strategists must have the ability to challenge current beliefs and change their own mind. They must be able to come up with innovative but feasible, new strategies that will fit with the unfolding reality.

  • Dangers of Organizational Solipsism (see article, “Leading Naked: The Costly Consequences of Organizational Solipsism)

–      The Emperors New Clothes

–      Need for accountability/confirmation

“In their work on human cognition, Maturana and Varela explain that, at any moment, what we see is most influenced by who we have decided to be. Our eyes do not simply pick up information from an outside world and relay it to our brains. Information relayed from the outside through the eye accounts for only 20 percent of what we use to create a perception. At least 80 percent of the information that the brain works with is information already in the brain. We each create our own worlds by what we choose to notice, creating a world of distinctions that make sense to us. We then “see” the world through this self we have created. Information from the external world is a minor influence. We connect who we are with selected amounts of new information to enact our particular version of reality.” (Wheatley)

What does the cognitive map of my workplace look like? To what extent does the map resonate with my own? Who, within or outside of the organization, helps us ensure that we are not perpetuating cognitive rigidity- an inability to overcome the limitations of our own cognitive maps.

Who helps us make sure that our cognitive map is grounded in truth?

Consider the relevance of understanding cognitive maps to the implementation of change.

Propensity for Change

To what extent is my organization’s culture conducive to change?

                Two Popular Organizational Frameworks:

1. The Organization as a Machine

2. The Organization as an Organism

                                -Complex Adaptive Systems



When you think about your own organization, does it function more like a machine or an organism?  What evidence exists to support your theory?


Operational vs. Strategic Change

  • Operational Change: Fine-tuning, updating practices, policies, positional reassignment, etc within an existing system (maintaining).
  • Strategic Change: New fit or alignment between organization and  environment (renewal)


Going Deeper: Two Common Types of Change

  • Revolutionary Change
  • Evolutionary Change

Revolutionary Change

  • Seismic Shift (Organization-wide, altering cognitive maps)
  • Short Term Results
  • “Shock Therapy”
  • Episodic
  • “Creative Destruction”

Evolutionary Change

  • Continuous stream of small, incremental adjustments
  • Emphasizes stability
  • Long-term emphasis
  • Continuous improvement, focus on long-term learning
  • Often follows period of revolutionary change


Important Qualities for Change (Senge)

  • They are connected with real work goals and processes
  • They are connected with improving performance
  • They involve people who have the power to take action regarding these goals
  • They seek to balance action and reflection, connecting inquiry and experimentation
  • They afford people an increased amount of ‘white space’- opportunities for people to think and reflect without pressure to make decisions
  • They are intended to increase people’s capacity, individually and collectively
  • They focus on learning about learning, in settings that matter

Approaches to Change

  • Action Research (Problem/Issue Based)
  • Appreciative Inquiry (Emphasis upon preferred future, strengths, past successes)

–      The Four D Cycle

  • Discover
  • Dream
  • Design
  • Destiny

Strategies for a “Pilot Group” to Lead Change Effort (Senge)

  • Pay attention to your boundaries and be strategic when crossing them
  • Articulate the case for change in terms of business results
  • Make executive leaders’ priorities part of your team’s creative thinking
  • Experiment with cross-functional, cross-boundary teams, if you can get them sponsored by the hierarchy
  • Begin at the beginning: with governing ideas
  • Develop specific structures that guard against “authoritarian drift”
  • Deploy new rules and regulations judiciously
  • Never underestimate the power of small changes in complex situations- if they are the “right” changes
  • Be prepared for a long journey and don’t embark alone

Review and Discussion

Part Two: Formulating an Action Plan

  • Exploration: Identification of desired change
  • Rationale: Why change is needed/important
  • Readiness for Change: Extent to which organization is responsive to change (machine/organism)
  • Analysis: Examining the cognitive map(s) of the organization
  • Type of Change: Operational/Strategic, Revolutionary/Evolutionary
  • Support: Identification of allies and strategy to increase buy-in
  • Threats: Identification of resistors and strategy to mitigate resistance
  • Approach: Problem-based vs. Appreciative Inquiry
  • Implementation: Pilot group,etc.

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By Anthony J. Marchese, Ph.D. & Kim Cook

White Paper Published by ICF International

(Tables modified due to formatting limitations)

 Bookshelves are increasingly populated with tomes challenging those committed to improving job performance not to neglect the strong relationship between “soft skills” and success. Psychologist Daniel Goleman (1998) explains that, in a study involving 15 global businesses, 90 percent of the difference between average and exceptional leaders can be explained by emotional competencies such as self-confidence, empathy, adaptability, and conflict management. Similarly, research conducted by the Weatherhead School of Management of Case Western Reserve University (Bilimoria, 2009) indicates that what is called emotional intelligence is two times as important as intelligence quotient (IQ) and technical expertise combined and four times as important as IQ for overall success. As Bradberry and Greaves (2009, p. 17) explain, emotional intelligence is the “ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.

 One characteristic distinguishing emotional intelligence from conventional perspectives of IQ is that most observers agree that emotional intelligence is not static; rather, it can be developed over the course of one’s life. Individuals can experience growth in two broad categories of emotional intelligence: personal and social competencies. The components of each competency are presented below:

 Personal Competencies:

  • Self-Awareness
  • The ability to recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior, know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence.
  •  Self-Management
  • The ability to understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people; pick up on emotional cues; feel comfortable socially; and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization

 Social Competencies

  • Social Awareness
  • The ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances
  • Relationship Management
  • The ability to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.

 Categories of Emotional Intelligence (Segal & Smith, 2010)          

 Emotional Intelligence and K–12 Outcomes

 While the self-improvement and leadership development sections of bookstores are replete with texts advocating for the integral relationship that emotional intelligence plays in the development of an effective workforce, what evidence suggests that these soft skills should become a greater learning priority for K–12 educators across the nation? More specifically, what are schools within the Appalachian region doing to introduce social and emotional learning (SEL) as a tool to increase student engagement and academic performance? Is there an advantage to developing emotional intelligence prior to entering the workforce.

 In this era of high-stakes accountability, educators are increasingly interested in exploring, developing, and applying emotional intelligence as a tool to increase student engagement and academic performance. In fact, educators and researchers have found that integrating emotional intelligence into broader SEL initiatives helps reduce adverse behaviors, including poor attendance and disciplinary infractions such as bullying. In one study cited by Goleman (2008), students who received social and emotional skills instruction scored higher on every administered assessment of prosocial behavior and lower on assessments of antisocial behavior. In addition, fewer students reported being depressed, anxious, or alienated. “What’s more,” says Goleman, “the study showed that the positive gains were biggest among ‘at-risk’ kids, who are most likely to fail in their education. In the era of No Child Left Behind, where schools are rated on how well students score on standardized tests, that’s a huge advantage for individual students and schools alike” (2008).

 Likewise, a meta-analysis of research on the effects of SEL initiatives reveals that students receiving such instruction earn higher grades and perform better on standardized tests (11 percentile points higher than students in control groups). Furthermore, students in the treatment groups also demonstrated improvement in five key nonacademic measures, including increased social skills, diminished emotional stress, improved attitudes toward learning, fewer antisocial behaviors, and more positive behaviors such as cooperation. The study also indicated that the effects of the intervention were still observed six months later.

The existing evidence is not conclusive, but it does suggest that SEL initiatives may be used to combat the high student dropout rate in Appalachian states. As the table below reveals, nearly 51,000 students in the region dropped out of high school during the 2008–2009 school year.

Table 1: Number of Public High School Dropouts in the Appalachian Region during the 2008–2009 School Year


# of dropouts

Enrollment grades 9–12




North Carolina









West Virginia



                         Source: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2011/2011312.pdf


In the report, Current Distribution of Early Warning Indicators Analysis, Robert Balfanz and Vaughan Byrnes (2010) overview the indicators signaling that middle school students may be at risk of dropping out in West Virginia. Among these are attendance below 85-90%, suspensions or serious disciplinary infractions, semester course failures, and failing mathematics and/or English language arts courses. As the research cited earlier indicates, SEL initiatives impact precisely these indicators, improving student achievement—decreasing disciplinary infractions, and alleviating student stress.

 Taking Action: CASEL’s Commitment to Cultivating Success in School and Life

 One organization offers some promising strategies for how SEL can be scaled up to help diminish the likelihood that students will drop out. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “social and emotional competence is the ability to understand, manage, and express the social and emotional aspects of one’s life in ways that enable the successful management of life tasks such as learning, forming relationships, solving everyday problems, and adapting to the complex demands of growth and development” (Elias et al., 1997, p. 2). CASEL is the nation’s premier center for SEL research and education, and its organizational vision expresses a commitment to ensuring that SEL is identified as a vital component of education. Interestingly, CASEL presents a vision that is inclusive of both children and adults:

 To promote children’s success in school and life.

We envision a world where families, schools, and communities work together to promote children’s success in school and life and to support the healthy development of all children. In this vision, children and adults are engaged lifelong learners who are self-aware, caring, and connected to others and responsible in their decision making. Children and adults achieve to their fullest potential and participate constructively in a democratic society.

Source: http://casel.org/about-us/mission-vision/


Social and Emotional Learning

The 5 Competency Areas of SEL

Defined by CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning



Relationship skills

Forming positive relationships, working in teams, dealing effectively with conflict

Social awareness

Showing understanding
and empathy for others

Responsible decision making

Making ethical, constructive choices about personal and social behavior


Recognizing one’s emotions and values as well as one’s strengths and limitations


Managing emotions and behaviors to achieve one’s goals

How SEL Creates Greater Success in School and Life

Defined by CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning


Positive School Environment

  • Safe and supportive environment
  • Challenging curriculum
  • High expectations
  • Respectful, caring relationships


Social and Emotional Skills Training

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills
  • Responsible decision making


Student Outcomes

  • Academic success
  • Good relationships
  • Good health
  • Engaged citizens

Among the key findings linking SEL to academics, SEL:

  • Improves academic performance and education outcomes
  • Promotes deeper understanding of subject matter
  • Helps students learn well from others
  • Increases student engagement in school
  • Decreases behaviors that interfere with learning

 Source: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (www.casel.org)

 SEL in the Appalachian Region

  Despite growing evidence of the positive relationship among SEL, improved academic performance, and increased prosocial behaviors, the establishment of explicit SEL learning goals appears focused primarily on students at the pre–K level. Little evidence suggests that SEL programs have been brought to scale and introduced to students at all learning levels from pre–K to postsecondary.

 States in the Appalachian region are among 48 states with SEL learning standards in place at the pre–K level. 

  • Kentucky:standards include concepts such as “shows social cooperation, applies problem-solving skills, and demonstrates understanding of the relationships within family and community.”
  • Tennessee:standards address social and emotional development and learning through documentation of pre–K students’ approaches to learning (self-concept, self-control, cooperation).
  • North Carolina: standards are organized around a student’s sense of self and others.
  • Virginia: SEL standards are organized around pre–K students’ self-concepts, self-control, approaches to learning, interaction with others, and social problem solving.
  • West Virginia: standards are based on development of self-concept, prosocial behaviors, cooperation skills in social relationships, and independence/intrinsic motivation to learn.

 Source: http://casel.org/policy-advocacy/sel-in-your-state/

 In the Appalachian region, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia have state-level pre–K standards but none for elementary or secondary students (CASEL, n.d.). However, several districts in the region are pursuing SEL initiatives. In Kentucky, for example, Jefferson County Public Schools, which serves more than 99,000 students, began implementing the CARE for Kids program for all pre–K, elementary, and middle school students during the 2008–2009 academic year. CARE, an acronym for Creating A Respectful Environment, includes the following components (CASEL, 2010):

  •  Morning meetings—community building time to set the climate for the classroom
  • Implementation of high-quality SEL curricula
  • Home-to-school activities that stimulate conversations and strengthen the link between the classroom and students’ families
  • Engaging students in service projects
  • Continual focused assessment

  At all grade levels, the CARE program is designed to help students develop social responsibility and positive relationships with both adults and classmates. Proactive SEL strategies are integrated throughout the day in all classes. Sheldon Berman, former superintendent of Jefferson County Schools, remarked, “As I see it, the social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum….An elementary teacher wouldn’t say, ‘I don’t teach math.’ And a teacher shouldn’t be able to say, ‘I don’t teach social development’ because we all teach social development (CASEL, 2010).” Alicia Averette, Principal of Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary School emphasizes the connection between SEL and teaching and learning. “By taking a proactive approach and meeting the social and emotional needs of our students, we lose less instructional time because students are able to solve their own conflicts if they arise” (Jefferson County Public Schools, n.d.).

  In another example of an SEL initiative in the Appalachian region, Tennessee’s Metro Nashville Public Schools held the district’s first Social and Emotional Learning Conference in partnership with Alignment Nashville in 2011. Alignment Nashville is a local group working to bring community organizations and resources into alignment so that their coordinated support of Nashville’s youth has a positive impact on public school success, children’s health, and the success of the community (Alignment Nashville, 2011). Denise Rollins, Metro Nashville’s SEL Director, led development of the conference; her goal was to help educators gain an improved understanding of SEL, a common language of SEL, and an understanding of how SEL impacts school climate. During the same year, Alignment Nashville published Social Emotional Learning: A Resource Guide to Behavioral Health, a comprehensive handbook including descriptions of SEL, along with a list of behavioral health resources available to local staff and their students.

 Emotional Intelligence and Increased Postsecondary Possibilities

 Reflecting its core mission, CASEL explains that SEL does much more than help students succeed in their pre–K–12 academic experiences—it prepares them for life. “SEL helps students become good communicators, cooperative members of a team, effective leaders, and caring, concerned members of their communities. It teaches them how to set and achieve goals and how to persist in the face of challenges. These are precisely the skills that today’s employers consider important for the workforce of the future” (CASEL, n.d.).

  As such, SEL may have value beyond the secondary level, with applications for postsecondary efforts and work environments. A casual review of several mission statements of postsecondary institutions in Appalachia suggests that the collegiate experience offers rich resources for preparing students for meaningful lives and work. However, there is little evidence that SEL is being implemented and studied as extensively at the postsecondary level as it is at the pre–K to secondary levels (Sherman, 2011).

 Of course, there are some examples of postsecondary SEL efforts. Funded by a Title V grant to improve the academic success of first year students, the Javelina EI Program was developed and implemented at Texas A&M University–Kingsville, receiving national recognition in 2003 by the American College Personnel Association. Based on the Emotional Learning System created by Nelson and Low, the Javelina EI Program integrated the academic and student development sectors of the university to help improve academic achievement and retention of freshmen. Table 2 provides an overview of the five steps of the Emotional Learning System (Low & Nelson, 2006), which served as the theoretical foundation of the program.

Table 2: Emotional Learning System (Nelson & Low, 1999, 2003)
  1. 1.    EXPLORE
Person-centered assessment as a foundational discovery process for the learning system
  1. 2.    IDENTIFY
Identification of strengths and weaknesses from personal assessment; an action plan is developed
  1. 3.    UNDERSTAND
Reflect on assessment and action plan; develop an understanding of how
EL can help guide self-directed experiential learning, goal setting, personal responsibility and goal achievement
  1. 4.    LEARN
Completion of lessons and practice sessions to develop and strengthen
  1. 5.    APPLY
EI skills become embedded in daily activities/routines of students such as everyday decision making

 Evaluation of the program revealed that 73 percent who participated earned GPAs above 2.0 compared to 62 percent of students in the control group (Low & Nelson, 2006, p. 5). In addition to higher academic achievement, freshmen participating in the EI curriculum as part of their first year experience (FYE) also were more likely to remain in school compared to those not exposed to the program. For example, 59 percent of the students participating in the EI program were retained versus 53 percent of those in the control group.

 An example of postsecondary SEL programming in the Appalachian region was an aggressive effort to combat the high rate of freshmen attrition; the effort was led by Doug Walters, former dean of students at the University of Charleston in West Virginia, in the early 2000s. At the core of the initiative were assessments of the emotional intelligence of new students to identify those who might be at risk of dropping out of the university and integration of SEL into the FYE. The effort also included seminars and support classes to help students improve their social and emotional skills. Prior to the incorporation of the SEL initiative, the fall to fall retention rate was 70 percent. After six years, freshmen were retained at a rate of 89 percent. Walters attributes much of the increase in student retention to SEL. Walters explains, “The areas of greatest success were in the areas of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. Once the student or employee had those areas identified as challenges for them, they were able to seek assistance from within each organization. The confidence level became higher, and the student and/or employee felt they had been empowered by the system. This enhanced their personal adaptability, which brought greater consistency into their understanding of role and function in a more deliberate manner. I am convinced that those students exposed to SEL over the course of their collegiate experience performed better in and out of the classroom. Those students exposed to SEL reported feeling more aware of personal strengths and areas in need of attention and confident in their ability to perform well in their new careers.”

 Moving Forward

 Recommendations for K12 Educators

 Evidence of the positive contribution of social and emotional skills to academic success is promising. Although most SEL research and practice has focused on young children, there are increasing incentives to explore how SEL can strengthen graduation rates among high school and college students. For instance, CASEL is “leading efforts to significantly scale SEL in school districts across the United States. This new strategy involves identifying and involving superintendents ready to mount school districtwide SEL programming, bringing evidence-based SEL to students somewhat seamlessly in grades Pre–K–12” (Sherman, 2011, p. 5).

 States in the Appalachian region have established pre–K standards for SEL. Some districts in the Appalachian region are also implementing SEL initiatives to address SEL of older students as well as strategies to identify gaps in services and resources.

 Given this momentum and promising evidence that SEL can improve a variety of outcomes for students and adults alike, expansion of SEL for all learners could be established as a significant regional and national priority. In line with this thinking, a 2009 conference—Social and Emotional Learning: Ready! Creating a National Initiative—convened by CASEL brought together small working groups charged with developing recommendations for working with districts, developing partnerships with stakeholders, and bringing SEL practices to scale. Key recommendations included:

 K–12: (CASEL Report)

  • Building an effective districtwide SEL initiative requires an investment of the district’s own resources and a long-term commitment of time and money.
  • The message that SEL will enhance academic achievement should be central to communications about SEL throughout the district.
  • Districtwide standards and assessment methods should be built into the plan.
  • SEL should be implemented districtwide and at all grades, pre–K–12.
  • Districtwide implementation of SEL should be planned as a sustained effort over a minimum of three years, preferably at least five years.
  • To sustain a successful districtwide initiative, support for SEL is needed from a broad-based communitywide coalition that understands the importance of SEL and wants effective SEL programming for all children.
  • The SEL initiative is more likely to succeed if it starts in several schools—not just one school—and if those schools are highly receptive to SEL.

 Recommendations for Postsecondary Educators

 While some evidence suggests that SEL initiatives implemented within the postsecondary context can improve academic and retention outcomes, further research is needed to better understand how emotional intelligence can be used as part of larger student engagement and retention initiatives. This could be accomplished through randomized control trials (RCTs) at public and private four-year institutions as well as community colleges and vocational training centers. Both the Javelina EI Program at Texas A&M University–Kingsville and the FYE at the University of Charleston share some common components that postsecondary educators may want to consider as they explore the benefits of implementing an SEL program at their institution.

  •  The Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQI) provides useful information about student strengths and vulnerabilities. This information can help faculty and student services personnel (Residence Directors, Career/Behavioral Counselors, First Year Experience Coordinator) better target assistance and support to students.
  • Universitywide commitment to SEL and agreement on common terminology are key.
  • Connectedness between SEL and academic success and career readiness/success should be made explicit to the university community. In other words, the abundance of research describing the close correlation between strong SEL competencies, academic achievement, and workplace effectiveness should be articulated to the entire campus community to generate interest and momentum for SEL initiatives.
  • Early identification of at-risk students and timely intervention are necessary to minimize student attrition. 

 Sources of Information

 Alignment Nashville. (2011). Social emotional learning: A resource guide to behavioral health. Nashville, TN: Author.

 Balfanz, R., & Byrnes, V. (2010). Current Distribution of Early Warning Indicators Analysis: West Virginia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools.

 Bilimoria, D. (2009 October 27). Introduction to emotional intelligence. PowerPoint lecture presented at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.

 Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional intelligence 2.0. San Diego: Talent Smart.

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Published in Growth, Spring 2012

By Anthony J. Marchese, Ph.D.


In one of the most acclaimed children’s stories of all time, Hans Christian Anderson (1873) reveals the personal and corporate consequences of leaders becoming so inebriated by the effects of power and position that they become oblivious to the intricacies of the world around them as they exist within a realm of adulterated self-contrivance, devoid of truth. In The Emperor’s New Clothes, we become acquainted with an indulgent, narcissistic leader who possesses an insatiable drive to elevate himself before his people. His raison d’être is being the object of admiration. His disposition contributes to an impairment of the highest order. His appetites perpetuate the law of diminishing returns as he foolishly employs two “tailors” to fashion him a magnificent garment to provide yet another opportunity to garner the approval and affection of the masses. The con artists indicate that the cloth is, “invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality” (Anderson, 1). Despite the inability of the emperor to view his new garment, he acknowledges its grandeur and concedes to the wishes of the courtiers who encourage him to place himself on display as the centerpiece of a public processional. The emperor, his courtiers, and nearly all of the onlookers reinforce the emperor’s psychosis by acknowledging the exquisiteness of a fabric that does not exist. This manufactured reality is contested by the ignorance of a small child who curiously inquires why the emperor is naked. Soon after, the absurdity of the situation is heard throughout the kingdom as the crowd responds, “The boy is right! The emperor is naked! It’s true” (Anderson, 9).

Truth? How do we know?

In an era that elevates individuals in the public eye to a frightening place of incalculable importance, it is incumbent upon both leaders and followers to ensure that systems of accountability are instituted to minimize the likelihood of a maligned perception of reality infiltrating the kingdom or organization. How can leaders or followers prevent themselves from succumbing to the intoxicating effects of status either by position or association? Attempts to understand what is as we contemplate the world around us renders a reality that is unmistakably altered by the pigmentation of our personalities, preferences, and presuppositions. In other words, that which deviates from our self-construal of normality may be overlooked or altered in order to maintain an order within our contemplative universe.

In their work on human cognition, Maturana and Varela explain that, at any moment, what we see is most influenced by who we have decided to be. Our eyes do not simply pick up information from an outside world and relay it to our brains. Information relayed from the outside through the eye accounts for only 20 percent of what we use to create a perception. At least 80 percent of the information that the brain works with is information already in the brain. We each create our own worlds by what we choose to notice, creating a world of distinctions that make sense to us. We then “see” the world through this self we have created. Information from the external world is a minor influence. We connect who we are with selected amounts of new information to enact our particular version of reality. (Wheatley, 1998, p. 49)

For most of my life, I have heard individuals including parents, teachers, and pastors talk about the truth. Many, especially within the ecclesiastical context, often speak extremely authoritatively and passionately about the matter. All truth claims appeal to an epistemological system by which information is processed, compared to some standard which authenticates its veracity, and then transmitted through behavior that should conform to its tenets. While I am strongly compelled to embrace the existence of objective reality, I am also aware of the impossibility of gauging reality free from personal baggage or those subjective elements which color our perspective. For example, one’s race, religion, gender, socio-economic status, education, geographical origin, and personal tragedies all shape one’s worldview. It is impossible to bifurcate our baggage from our inquiry. When we make truth claims, especially within the presence of others, it is important that we consider how our worldview impacts our process of acquiring and disseminating knowledge.

Much of the impetus behind my initial desire to study Organizational Leadership at the doctoral level came from my need to make sense out of some fascinating behaviors that I observed of some leaders. My observations led to a continuing process of questioning. What qualities are essential for one to be identified by others as a promising leader? To what extent does one’s personal disposition inform leadership decisions? Within the context of religion, what is the relationship of one’s personality to one’s overall conception of the Almighty? As a college student, I was curious about the degree to which the message of a religious leader was influenced by the disposition of the messenger. While I agree with the tenets of organic inspiration, it seems that one’s personality can strongly inform one’s epistemological framework for understanding the will of God. In order to more closely align ourselves with truth, we must be aware of the impossibility of considering truth free from subjective constraints, i.e., personality, human relationships, experiences, etc. We must acknowledge the presence of these factors; consider the manner in which they influence our thinking, and move forward in our inquiry. One of the most important tools that one can use to help expose the subjective elements that shape our viewpoints is the dialectical process, or human interaction. It is within the presence of community that we are able to work together to unravel the complexities of the world in which we live and form some conclusions.

Within the context of leadership, however, some individuals choose to restrict engagement with others that could potentially call to question the perspective of the leader. That is, the leader surrounds herself with people who do nothing but affirm her own viewpoints. While A is occurring in the organization, the universe within which the leader chooses to reside prefers to embrace B as reality. This alternate universe, which closely resembles that found within Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, is primarily self-referential. I have chosen to refer to this common phenomenon as Organizational Solipsism. Solipsism is a philosophical term that is used to describe a detached, self-centered worldview or, more specifically, one in which the self or one’s existence operates as the only thing of which one can be certain. Miller (1996) defines solipsism as, “…the belief in one reality, the solipsist himself, upon whose thoughts and perceptions all other things depend for their existence” (Miller, 147). More simply, the American Heritage Dictionary posits that solipsism is, “the theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified. The theory or view that the self is the only reality” (Solipsism, n.d.). Upon first exposure to this concept, one might immediately recall television portrayals of schizophrenic individuals such as John Nash in A Beautiful Mind or be transported back to an undergraduate psychology course in which the DSM was introduced. For our purposes, organizational solipsism is a condition with varying degrees of severity characterized by a self-generated, self-moderated, insular worldview maintained by a person in authority. Like Anderson’s emperor (1873), this condition may be externally fueled by other stakeholders within the organization who may believe that by seeking favor with the leader, their own agendas may be advanced. Furthermore, this form of solipsism can also act as a fast-spreading contagion within an organization as individuals acquiesce to the perspective of the leader and ultimately placing the health of the organization in jeopardy. Anderson alludes to this in his fairy tale as he describes the inner struggles of the messenger who must make a decision about whether or not to abdicate what he clearly perceives to be the emperor’s nakedness for what the ambassadors call magnificent. Anderson writes, “… and accordingly, he praised the stuff he could not see, and declared that he was delighted with both colors and patterns

The consequences are costly.

Several years ago my scholarly interests in leadership studies were piqued while working at a college wherein the president persistently offered public praise for the fact that the organization was on the move as a result of a spike in attendance and the expansion of the physical campus. While brick and mortar were transformed into numerous buildings, many lives were adversely effected – both students and faculty. The alternate universe in which the president resided did not acknowledge the alarmingly low faculty morale or high rate of student attrition. Divergent viewpoints offered in the spirit of sincerity and collegiality were quickly extinguished and categorized as insubordination. Decisions were made on a regular basis that diminished the value of human capital and perpetuated a crippling cynicism and blatant distrust within the culture. Students and staff members were reluctant to express concerns for fear of losing scholarships or jobs. In this story, the emperor and his courtiers sought frequent opportunities to utilize impression management with the public outside of the campus by emphasizing the growth of the kingdom and the remarkable satisfaction espoused by its inhabitants.

Every leader is capable of succumbing to the temptation of organizational solipsism. The unhealthy synergy of ambition, personal insecurities, mental illness for some, and the blind loyalty of followers, can lead individuals, who may have the best of intentions, down a path of untruth. History is replete with examples of leaders who achieved remarkable success but at a cost. The extermination of human populations, the loss of billions of dollars through dubious financial practices, and countless other incidents reveal emperors and courtiers inhabiting a lie. Though the allure of creating an alternate universe in which the self reigns supreme is compelling, the casualties that may be incurred along the way make it a deplorable course of action. Regardless of our skills, intelligence, or records of success, we must ALWAYS be aware that the baggage that we carry can have a marked impact, for better or for worse upon those whom we serve in our organizations.  Leaders, regardless of their intelligence, successful history, or ethical prowess must be cognizant of their humanness and establish practices that reinforce accountability and the pursuit of what is real.

 Considerations for Leaders

Self Awareness

Since ancient times, understanding the complexity of the self has been lauded as a worthwhile and necessary aspiration. In his Phaedrus, Plato writes, “I must first know myself, as the Delphian inscription says. To be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self, would be ridiculous. . . . Am I a monster more complicated and swollen with passion than the serpent Typhon, or a creature of a gentler and simpler sort, to whom nature has given a diviner and lowlier destiny?” (Plato,trans.2009).

Much harmful leadership behavior has its origin on the playground when an unkind word was spoken or a classmate refused to play. Old wounds unattended fester over time and can cause irreparable harm to others. Effective leaders understand their vulnerabilities. Remember: hurting people hurt others.

Honest Feedback

Leaders who receive consistent, truthful feedback from a diverse representation of followers are less likely to practice organizational solipsism. Dotlich and Cairo urge leaders to “find the truth-tellers in your organization and ask them to level with you” (2003, 9). This can be facilitated via the Cross the Line Test presented in the table below.

Table 1

 Dotlich and Cairo’s Cross the Line Test


You’re willing to fight for what you believe in. You’re unwilling to give up a fight no matter what.
You believe that your perspective is the correct one You believe that your perspective is the correct one   before evaluating others’ ideas.
You hold yourself accountable when your strategy or   idea doesn’t work. You refuse to take responsibility when your strategy or   idea doesn’t work.
You adapt your strongly held viewpoint to jibe with new   information or developments. You reinterpret events to fit your point of view.
You possess a powerful ego that allows you to make an   impact on others. You possess a powerful ego that causes you to dominate   others.

Formal and informal feedback mechanisms that include individuals occupying positions at various levels, intergenerational perspectives, and gender and racial diversity can provide the leader with valuable breadth and depth of what is occurring. Also, identify an individual outside of the organization who will not hesitate to hold up the mirror and provide truthful insight. Be wary of those who do not offer alternative ideas. This is a red flag.

Take a Risk

Consider spending some time with a harsh critic or two. Invite them to coffee or to lunch. Though a bit unconventional, ask them to spend some time sharing their viewpoints without fear of reprisal. Maintain a posture of humility and openness. What is this person saying? What factors contribute to their position? What of value can be taken from this exchange?

Unlike the emperor in Anderson’s story, leaders who focus on serving their followers and other constituencies rather than their own aggrandizement are less prone to indulge in practices that can lead to the public nakedness experienced by the emperor and the harming of other members of the organization. Leaders who commit themselves to increasing their self-awareness are more adept at identifying and confronting past injuries and personal idiosyncrasies before they negatively manifest themselves in the organization. What is truth? How is it verified? Is it selective and situational? To whom do we listen? To what extent does our understanding of reality correspond to that of others? Are we aware of how our past influences our present behaviors?  Have we engaged in organizational solipsism?


Anderson, H.C. (1837). The Emperor’s New Clothes. Tales from the Brothers Grim. Retrieved February 9, 2012, from http://www.yankeeweb.com/library/storytime/grimmbros/grimmbros_17.html  Dotlich,

D.L. & Cairo, P.C. (2003). Why CEO’s fail: The eleven behaviors that can derail your climb to the top and how to manage them. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Miller, E.L. (1996). Idealism. In E.L. Miller (Ed.)., Questions that matter (pp. 147-148). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Plato. (2009). Phaedrus (H. Yunis, Trans.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Solipsism. (n.d.). In American Heritage online dictionary. Retrieved February 9, 2012, from   http://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=solipsism

Wheatley, M. J. (1998). A simpler way. San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler.

Anthony J. Marchese holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from Regent University and a Master of Liberal Arts in Philosophy from Lee University. He completed advanced graduate studies in law at West Virginia University and earned executive certifications in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at the University of Notre Dame and Change Leadership at Cornell University. Marchese serves as Senior Manager of Educational Leadership and Development for an international consulting firm and is an adjunct professor of leadership at a local university.

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