by Rosabeth Moss Kanter | Source: Harvard Business Review
The best tool for leaders of change is to understand the predictable, universal sources of resistance in each situation and then strategize around them. Here are the ten I’ve found to be the most common.
1. Loss of control. Change interferes with autonomy and can make people feel that they’ve lost control over their territory. Smart leaders leave room for those affected by change to make choices. They invite others into the planning, giving them ownership.
2. Excess uncertainty. People will often prefer to remain mired in misery than to head toward an unknown. As the saying goes, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” To overcome inertia requires a sense of safety as well as an inspiring vision. Leaders should create certainty of process, with clear, simple steps and timetables.
3. Surprise, surprise! Decisions imposed on people suddenly, with no time to get used to the idea or prepare for the consequences, are generally resisted. It’s better to sprinkle hints of what might be coming and seek input.
4. Everything seems different. Too many differences can be distracting or confusing. Leaders should try to minimize the number of unrelated differences introduced by a central change. Remain focused on the important things; avoid change for the sake of change.
5. Loss of face. By definition, change is a departure from the past. When change involves a big shift of strategic direction, the people responsible for the previous direction dread the perception that they must have been wrong. Leaders can help people maintain dignity by celebrating those elements of the past that are worth honoring, and making it clear that the world has changed. That makes it easier to let go and move on.
6. Concerns about competence. Can I do it? Leaders should over-invest in structural reassurance, providing abundant information, education, training, mentors, and support systems. A period of overlap, running two systems simultaneously, helps ease transitions.
7. More work. Change is indeed more work. Those closest to the change in terms of designing and testing it are often overloaded, in part because of the inevitable unanticipated glitches in the middle of change, per “Kanter’s Law” that “everything can look like a failure in the middle.” Leaders should acknowledge the hard work of change by allowing some people to focus exclusively on it, or adding extra perqs for participants. They should reward and recognize participants.
8. Ripple effects. Like tossing a pebble into a pond, change creates ripples, reaching distant spots in ever-widening circles. The ripples disrupt other departments, important customers, people well outside the venture or neighborhood, and they start to push back, rebelling against changes they had nothing to do with that interfere with their own activities. Leaders should enlarge the circle of stakeholders. They must consider all affected parties, however distant, and work with them to minimize disruption.
9. Past resentments. The ghosts of the past are always lying in wait to haunt us. As long as everything is steady state, they remain out of sight. But the minute you need cooperation for something new or different, the ghosts spring into action. Leaders should consider gestures to heal the past before sailing into the future.
10. Sometimes the threat is real. Change is resisted because it can hurt. When new technologies displace old ones, jobs can be lost; prices can be cut; investments can be wiped out. The best thing leaders can do when the changes they seek pose significant threat is to be honest, transparent, fast, and fair. For example, one big layoff with strong transition assistance is better than successive waves of cuts.
Although leaders can’t always make people feel comfortable with change, they can minimize discomfort. Diagnosing the sources of resistance is the first step toward good solutions. And feedback from resistors can even be helpful in improving the process of gaining acceptance for change.
by Jena McGregor | Source: The Washington Post
A post from last week’s Harvard Business Review blog got me thinking: can speaking a foreign language make you a better leader?
The HBR piece reports on a recent conference on global leadership, and notes findings that “sensitivity to culture” or “cultural empathy” ranks first among all of the critical soft skills that make great global leaders. And the best way to achieve this is to learn other languages, which far fewer Americans than Europeans do. “Since every business professional around the world has been taught to communicate well in English, American business students simply — and arrogantly — assume that they don’t need to bother with learning” a second language, writes HBR’s Bronwyn Fryer.
Beyond cultural sensitivity, however, or the ability to impress foreign officials or executives, how else might a second language help leaders? I went looking for evidence.
The Economist and Wired highlighted a recent study from the journal Psychological Science, which found that thinking in a foreign language helps people to avoid common cognitive traps. In a series of studies, a group of psychologists found that thinking in another language reduced the misleading biases people hold that influence how we weigh the risks and benefits in a decision. Given how critical decision-making is in every leadership job, and how easy it is for anyone to fall into the trap of letting biases lead their thinking, perhaps a second language should be more of a resume booster than just the potential for an executive to win business overseas.
Another recent study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that Northwestern University researchers had, for the first time, discovered differences in how bilingual thinkers process the sounds of speech. That seems to improve attention and working memory among foreign-language speakers: “because you have two languages going on in your head, you become very good at determining what is and is not relevant,” said Northwestern professor Dr. Nina Kraus. “You are a mental juggler.” Few would argue that a more focused brain able to juggle multiple demands is a great leadership trait.
And earlier this year, the New York Times summarized the evidence that bilingualism makes one smarter. In a nutshell, wrote Science staff writer Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, “the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.” If a second language improves the executive function of the brain, wouldn’t it also enhance the executive qualities in a leader?
With all that evidence, why do we knock a foreign language skill in a presidential candidate? Is it simply because the language is French? Or are we skeptical of leaders or potential leaders who boast they can speak another language? Neither really matters. What’s important is not whether a president or executive can conduct foreign relations or lead meetings in another tongue, but how knowing that second language improves their decision-making, mental acuity and problem-solving skills.
by Allan Koay | Source: AsiaOne News
Can Kuala Lumpur ever become an arts hub? The city certainly has a vibrant arts scene as major arts events are held there every week. And although our arts community is relatively small, the practitioners are nevertheless a busy bunch. But how ready is Kuala Lumpur to become an arts city that never sleeps?
The Malaysian Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) recently held a panel discussion on Arts and the city with members of the arts community, on how to empower the arts community, how much money matters in artistic endeavours, and what’s on the arts community’s wish list. It is the ETP’s belief that arts and culture will play a major role in turning Kuala Lumpur into “an iconic and vibrant city”, from both a social and an economic perspective. Thus the panellists explored the economic value of the arts, the impact of policies and incentives, and what can be done to help the city move in that direction.
On the panel were Low Ngai Yuen, head of Kakiseni, the arts portal that organises the annual Boh Cameronian Awards; Bilqis Hijjas, president of MyDance Alliance; Lee Weng Choy, co-director of The Substation Arts Centre, Singapore; dance choreographer, writer and educator Dr Zulkifli Mohamad; and Nor Asmah Mohd Noor, senior manager of communication, content and infrastructure of Pemandu (the Performance Management and Delivery Unit). Zulkifli felt that transparency in fund giving is of top priority, and there should also be more spaces for different types of performances.
“Thirdly, we should have platforms. For instance, if we have a Kuala Lumpur arts festival, then we should also have a fringe section for the more experimental works,” he said.
The panellists wanted the government to lead the way, although everyone should be proactive in making things happen. ”The government should have a little bit more courage and vision in its funding,” said Lee. “It can identify a few key projects and key individuals that deserve long-term investment.”
He believes this will lead to the development of leadership in the arts community, which will then be empowered to speak for itself. On whether there are models to emulate, Bilqis said: “If you look at any country or city now - Seoul, Singapore, Melbourne, Berlin - they all have enabling policies in place. But we also have to remove the disenablers, the disincentives.
“Obviously, censorship is a big issue here.” Zulkifli added that dance also has problems with censorship, citing the recent case of Singapore Dance Theatre’s (SDT) permit being denied because, reportedly, the dancers had to wear tutus. Lee cited the government-commissioned censorship review committees in Singapore as an example of how the arts community was mobilised to take a stand for a more regulatory position instead of censorship, even though the community had initially accepted that censorship is necessary.
On whether an arts council is needed, Low said: “A few years ago, we tried to have an arts council but it didn’t happen. We are putting together something almost similar and will be moving towards a proper structure soon.” Lee said the arts needs a public figure in a high position who thinks the arts is important and will “defend” it.
Should the government should be a leader or a partner? ”The government can’t be leading in everything,” Nor Asmah said. “The right role for the government is that of a facilitator. Of course it would like to see the arts scene united and provide constructive feedback. We need a list of projects on a long-term basis, but this has to come from the arts scene itself. The government can’t be expected to fund the projects in 100%. We need to come up with more reliable business models. Matching grants would be good. At least, you can see the commitment from the private sector to make it happen. And we can tell the public, ‘Look, the government is very serious about making this city a lively arts centre.’”
But is the arts community united? Bilqis replied: “Is there a community? Yes. Is there a single voice? No.” Zulkifli thought it is difficult to get everyone together. “I think that’s why we have MyDance, the ballet society - all dance people but in different societies. I suppose, for the good of the arts and its future, people should get together.”
According to Lee, “You have so many great individuals moving in different directions. Occasionally, you get very strong leadership at a particular time, because there’s an issue, opportunity or occasion. It’s like history. Who knows why things happen?”
Finally, on what the focus should be to make Kuala Lumpur a vibrant arts city, Low said discussions should be encouraged and everyone should act on whatever plans that result from that. ”This country is still in its infancy in terms of the growth of the performing arts,” she added. “The growth is minimal and it needs a little push from all sectors.”
Zulkifli felt the capacity of those who work behind the scenes should also be built up. “The leaders in the arts scene are not just the artists themselves but also the producers, fundraisers, managers and technical people.”
Bilqis called for greater transparency, more discussions, and more information from the government about what it is trying to do. ”Sometimes there are opportunities that no one knows about, and the government doesn’t get any response to what it’s trying to promote,” she said.
Nor Asmah said come November, the government will hold a Kuala Lumpur Creative Content and Information Mart. “We’re trying to get all the players in the creative scene to participate and promote what they do. We hope to have people from the performing arts, music, film and other genres. There have been a series of discussions. I hope those in the arts community will take proactive steps to be involved.”
Terrance Shanahan felt as if he were “running to the sound of gunfire” when he joined dozens of concerned supporters of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art and Design at a hastily arranged public forum at the gallery last month. Gallery leaders realised that, for the third time in 23 years, they faced a community relations crisis on top of a financial emergency. Shanahan wanted to help.
Corcoran Director Fred Bollerer offered reasons for the board of trustees’ controversial decision to consider selling the historic building near the White House and possibly moving to the suburbs. Basically, Bollerer said, the gallery was verging on broke. The Corcoran was about to post its second US$7 million deficit in a row, and it would cost at least US$130 million to renovate the building. Where could so much money come from?
Shanahan had become a member of the Corcoran earlier in the year. When he heard news of the possible move, he said, he bumped up his membership from “supporting” ($160) to “contributing” ($500), to help the Corcoran stay put — though he was never solicited by the Corcoran. On the day of the forum, Shanahan did receive a fundraising appeal — from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where he had also been a member. “Why am I not getting the same e-mail from the Corcoran?” Shanahan asked himself. “Why don’t they ask every member to upgrade their membership one level?”
The Corcoran’s woes are deep, complicated and decades old, but Shanahan’s experience distils the essence of the problem: at critical moments, the gallery has repeatedly failed to make its own best case to even its best friends.
Unable to present a consistently clear pitch for itself, the Corcoran has made it too easy for major donors to drift to more predictable — and prestigious — art charities, such as the Smithsonian and the National Gallery.
Now, with the Corcoran’s annual fundraising, membership and attendance at their lowest ebb in decades, it’s not just the $500 givers who have felt curiously ignored. “I haven’t gotten a phone call from anyone at the Corcoran in five years,” said Tony Podesta, a lobbyist who, with his wife, Heather, is a leading art collector. He estimates that the couple has donated 150 works to the Corcoran over the years. “We still occasionally give them works of art, although it’s a little bit nerve-racking not to know what the future holds.”
“Years ago, we went to the Corcoran Ball,” the gallery’s key annual fundraiser, said Wayne Reynolds, former chairman of Ford’s Theatre and husband of millionaire philanthropist Catherine Reynolds. “I’ve never been asked back that I know of. I haven’t really been approached. It’s not really on my radar screen.”
One arts patron with millions to dispose of said, “I haven’t been asked to give.” And, when the patron’s organisation has rented the Corcoran for elegant gatherings, unlike at other venues that take the opportunity to market themselves, “I’ve never met anybody from the Corcoran. Nobody is there to tell me how great they are. I don’t think they’re really in fundraising mode.”
The reason has to do with erratic leadership, poor timing and bad luck over the years. More fundamental has been the lack of a clear sense of identity and mission.
Washington’s oldest private art museum, founded in 1869, has been trying to figure out its niche in the capital’s cultural eco-system ever since its primacy was upended in 1937, when Andrew Mellon and Congress launched the National Gallery of Art as a well-endowed, taxpayer-subsidised model. The Corcoran has never enjoyed a huge cash endowment. Financier William Wilson Corcoran’s principal gifts to the museum were its original building — now the Smithsonian Renwick Gallery — and the founding collection of American Art. By the time he died in 1888, Corcoran had also given $1.6 million, according to press accounts then. The Corcoran used some of its money to purchase land and commission the 1897 construction of its current home, the beaux-arts landmark on 17th Street NW. A benefactor underwrote an expansion in the 1920s, and, in 1925, the endowment stood at US$1 million (US$13 million in current dollars). The gallery established itself as an important national venue. Its biennial survey of Contemporary American Art was a vital happening on the national art scene for much of the 20th century.
From the earliest days, to help with operating expenses, the Corcoran charged admission. In 1910, it was 25 cents. That common practice loomed as a handicap as Washington filled with free museums. For several years starting in 1979, oil tycoon Armand Hammer, a trustee, underwrote free admission. But entry fees returned and now are US$8 to US$10. By 1959, money woes at the Corcoran were a regular topic of cultural conversation in Washington. “Right now, the gallery is just holding its own,” The Washington Post reported in November of that year. “It doesn’t have a money cushion to acquire new works and expand its program.” The endowment was melting under the strain of covering half the operating budget of US$241,000 (US$1.9 million in current dollars).
Red ink flowed year after year in the early 1970s, as directors came and went. There was speculation that the Corcoran might not survive independently. And the Hirshhorn opened as yet another publicly funded competitor. Yet after cost-cutting and fundraising, the Corcoran was back in the black by the mid-1970s. During an ensuing period of relative stability, the institution wrestled with unresolved questions of how the gallery fit into the growing menu of cultural options; the proper relationship between the gallery and the college; the balance between national and local identities; how to expand physically; and how to pay the bills for maintaining a lovely, historic space.
Marshalling itself to tackle all those questions, in the mid- to late 1980s, the gallery launched its most ambitious capital campaign: US$10 million for the endowment, US$2.5 million for renovations. It resolved to enhance community education and pursue “ground-breaking” exhibits. And it planned an office building on an adjacent lot to expand the college and provide rental income.
In June 1989, one of those ground-breaking exhibits turned out to be a show of Robert Mapplethorpe’s homoerotic photos. In a vain attempt to side-step a national political battle over federal funding of supposedly offensive art, the Corcoran cancelled the show before it opened. The gallery had received no federal money for the exhibit but had enjoyed nearly US$300,000 in federal support the year before. This epic cave-in prompted street protests and artist boycotts. The gallery’s late-1980s aspiration for a financial and artistic leap forward was sabotaged by a setback from which it would be hard to recover.
Membership renewals dropped by 50% for several months, at a time when membership stood at 6,000. “We had been recruiting these people by saying, ‘We’re an independent museum, not subject to any government pressure’… We violated the very spirit we used to recruit people,” said Brigitte Savage, who ran the membership department. Painter Lowell Nesbitt withdrew a planned bequest of more than US$1 million. The uproar squashed the latter part of the capital campaign, which still managed to raise at least US$6.7 million. But the real estate recession of the time killed the expansion plan and hoped-for rent stream.
Yet within several years, the Corcoran was back with grand designs to reinvent and right itself. The shelved office project morphed into a stunning proposed Frank Gehry-designed expansion. Instead of providing rental space, it would be devoted to allowing the college to grow. The architectural showpiece would lure tourists, and the fundraising campaign would cover renovation of the historic gallery.
By 2005, the dream was doomed when initial cost estimates of US$60 million shot to US$200 million. Meanwhile, the dot-com bubble had burst, erasing millions the Corcoran had been counting on from a new local wealthy class. The campaign raised a fraction of the money and the project was killed. Director David Levy resigned, board members quit, donors withdrew pledges. When the dust settled, the Corcoran could keep only about US$28 million. More than half went to pay Gehry for unused drawings. The rest evaporated into operations that were once again in the red.
John T. “Til” Hazel Jr., the board chairman at the time, said he was dismayed to discover how little financial support the Corcoran could muster. “It wasn’t as if we didn’t try,” Hazel said. “I talked to a number of people who had the potential, and they just were not interested in the Corcoran.” Hazel also engaged a museum development expert to study the donor market. The consultant reported back, Hazel recalled: “You have almost zero potential for raising money.”
The reason was the pool of major donors was smaller in Washington than in, say, in New York, and those funders could choose from “a lot more glamorous things to give to,” Hazel said. “You’re talking about the Smithsonian, the National Gallery, the Kennedy Centre.” In the shadow of those institutions, the mid-sized Corcoran must fund expenses that are more than double those at a more focused, smaller private museum such as the Phillips Collection, and five times those at the private National Museum of Women in the Arts.
A former trustee, now associated with another arts institution, said the Corcoran’s persistent inability to fund its wavering ambitions is because “we never had the fundraising machine that I have experienced with other arts institutions, and I think we haven’t had the fundraising base. Large donors have migrated to parts of the Smithsonian that reflect more directly their individual interests,” said the former trustee. “And there is also within those institutions a national platform and a national reach. The Corcoran has been hampered by its lack of focus.”
Much of the leadership is new. Thirteen of the 15 trustees joined the board after the Gehry flop. Bollerer is the second gallery director since Levy left, and, at 70, he plans to retire this year.
The new crowd is contemplating the most dramatic — sceptics say self-destructive — solution of all to the riddle of rethinking the Corcoran. “The destiny of the Corcoran should not turn on the building it sits in, but on what it does,” said Harry Hopper, chairman of the trustees.
To Hopper, a venture capitalist and contemporary art collector who joined the board in 2005, the Corcoran’s identity crisis dates to 1937 and the founding of the National Gallery, while its credibility crisis has been compounded by the misadventures of 1989 and 2005. “I would say the Corcoran’s life changed when Paul Mellon agreed to fund and drive the National Gallery to a different level and the Corcoran didn’t really respond to or understand that for decades,” Hopper said. “It hasn’t presented a crisp and clear position in the cultural marketplace. We’re working hard to change that.”
The board voted simply to consider selling the building and relocating, but Hopper says preliminary estimates suggest it would be significantly cheaper to go rather than stay. However, he would not disclose the estimated profit on selling the building nor the potential cost of developing new space elsewhere. The Corcoran has received multiple offers, according to gallery officials who would not identify the buyers. The gallery is hiring brokers to sift the offers and scout relocation options. “And at the same time, we’re open to other alternatives,” Hopper said. “For example, we have had partnership and joint venture discussions, and we remain open to those.” He declined to say what other institutions participated in those discussions. He added: “If a funding alternative reveals itself that takes us on a path to stay in the building, we would love that.”
Weighing relocation is just one piece of the puzzle. The board’s contemplated solution to the Corcoran’s identity crisis is to focus the mission more emphatically on education. What this means in practice remains to be seen, but Hopper said it could be accomplished more easily in a larger, more flexible space. Tuition payments to the art college now account for nearly 80% of the Corcoran’s annual revenue of US$24 million — a dramatic increase from about 30% in the late 1990s. It shows that the college already is central to the gallery’s balance sheet. Hopper has said the financial strain would be eased if the student population, now capped at about 600 because of space constraints, could rise to more than 800.
Despite the refocus on education, the sale of the Corcoran’s 16,000 artworks is not under consideration, Hopper said. The gallery has a leading collection of 19th century and early 20th century American painting, and a major photography collection, among other highlights. “The Corcoran can’t be the National Gallery, and the Corcoran can’t be a little boutique gallery located in a part of town that’s more convenient to the Northwest community like the Phillips,” Hopper said. “Our differentiator is that we’ve got a collection that has unique strengths, and we’re uniquely differentiated by having a degree-granting art college.”
Bold plans are one thing, but whether the Corcoran stays or goes, it still must figure out how to raise money. The recent record is dismal. The total fundraising for the last two fiscal years available (US$3.2 million in the year ending June 2011; US$4.4 million, June 2010) is the lowest since before 1995, the earliest year for which the gallery’s tax filings are readily accessible. The Corcoran has had budget deficits in 7 of the last 10 years. The endowment has dwindled from US$28 four years ago to US$19 million because of investment losses during the recession, deficit spending and recalculating some lost pledges tied to the Gehry campaign. Membership is down to 3,800, after topping 9,000 late in the Gehry campaign. The number of visitors to the gallery has sunk below 100,000 for the first time in memory, dropping to 69,442 for the year ending June 30.
Hopper said this “quiet period” when fundraising and public engagement have faltered — and supporters such as Shanahan haven’t been solicited — “has been an unfortunate consequence of taking the time to put together a credible plan.” The hit to the Corcoran’s credibility after the Gehry failure was paralysing, he said. It was hard to start asking for money again. Internal operations had to be rebuilt.
Hopper said he hasn’t solicited major donations during this period, though he and his wife, Maria, have given US$250,000 to US$499,999, according to the Corcoran’s fundraising honour roll. “If you’re going to go to serious people and serious foundations for serious amounts of money, 7-digit figures, you have to make your case for the cultural position of the institution, but you also have to show how in the bigger picture the viability question is answered,” Hopper said.
“That feels like a cop-out,” said Podesta, who said the Corcoran could have used the time better to reach out to the public for support and ideas.
To help make ends meet, the Corcoran recently sold the adjacent parcel — the one that was first to have been a rental property, then the Gehry expansion — for US$20.5 million to an office developer.
Boards of trustees are critical fundraising engines for arts organisations. Most of the Corcoran’s trustees are relatively obscure to members of Washington’s more established social and philanthropic circles. “I don’t know them,” said more than one patron around town. Trustees Carolyn Alper, Sarah Chapoton, Anne Edwards and Eleanor Hedden are recognised as arts advocates and long-time Corcoran supporters. Franco Nuschese is known as the owner of Cafe Milano. The rest include business and non-profit types with a range professional and cultural connections that will enable them to raise and donate money, Hopper said. “The board will step up as we go out to get sponsorship for this plan,” Hopper said. “We’re getting close to being able to distil out our strengths and communicate them more clearly.”
The wisdom of selling the building is hotly disputed around town on aesthetic, historic, sentimental and patrimonial grounds. The financial case for and against won’t be clear until a buyer’s money is publicly on the table and the price of relocating is known. The Save the Corcoran group of artists and advocates for staying has collected more than 2,900 signatures on a petition “to halt this misguided effort to sell the Corcoran.”
Stay or go, the future will depend on the generosity of donors such as artist George Andreas, who with his family and foundation, has given more than US$1 million to the Corcoran over the years. “The present location, if they can do it, is best,” Andreas said. Still, he added, “I am very pleased with this new regime. They are practical; they want to be realistic.” And it will depend on art patrons like Podesta, who noted: “The Whitney has moved. The Guggenheim moved. The Barnes has moved. Museums move all the time. I think the real question is: is there a sustainable model going forward that could take advantage of the collection and the role that the museum plays in the community?”
A good question — one that has been asked and not answered for too long.