One thing people in The Salvation Army are familiar with is change. Army officers expect to move on average every five years. This means change not only for the officers and their family, but for the corps family as well. Given this historical perspective, you might think that people in The Salvation Army would be experts when it comes to change. This is not always the case.
Today, we live in an environment of rapid and continuous change. Some people handle change better than others, but no one escapes change. There are many obstacles to deal with in change and continuous change can create what is known as “change burn-out”. This is especially true if past changes have failed or resulted in minimal success.
Thankfully, there are change tips and techniques that can help. The tips shown here are offered as helpful advice for officers who are On The Move.
Tips For Receiving New Leaders
1. Throw a welcome party/picnic. Your new officers need fellowship with their corps people and community leaders. It will give them the opportunity to begin forming relationships, and this will strengthen their influence.
2. Avoid the “fix-it list” approach that we can get caught up in whenever new leaders arrive. While some problems may get resolved just because of the change, let’s be realistic in our expectations and give new leaders the time they need to observe us and strategize about how to best lead us.
3. (This one is for corps leaders) Make sure the quarters is clean and in good repair. If you want to make the officer’s family feel welcomed right off the bat, then make sure it is a nice place to live. If there’s a yard, have it mowed and in good shape. Take care of your officers as you expect them to care for you.
4. Receive the officer as one whom the Lord has sent to be His spokesman. As St. Paul says, “Here is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. 4:1).
5. Receive the officer with understanding and charity. If he is just out of college, cut him some slack. Allow him time to settle into his new role. If it seems appropriate, ask how he likes being in charge and if it is what he expected. Help him learn as he goes and forgive his mistakes, even as the Lord forgives yours.
6. Avoid playing the “Captain, people are saying” game. Also, avoid letting someone tell you “people are saying…” as they encourage you to tell the officer. Instead, encourage that person to go speak to the officer.
7. Remember your officer is not a mind-reader. She will not simply know when somebody is sick or hospitalized unless you, or a member of your family, lets her know.
8. Be open to some change. Your new officer may come with suggestions and new ideas. And if, in his enthusiasm, he fails adequately to explain the ideas, speak gently to him and let him know your feelings. Do consider that sometimes changes are good and even necessary. Because his ideas are different doesn’t mean he’s wrong.
9. Learn your new officers. Every leader has specific likes, dislikes, preferences, quirks, and hot buttons. Have coffee with them, check out the grapevine, observe carefully. Modify your own behavior accordingly.
10. If you and your new officer “have a history”, take the high road. Try to have an honest discussion, practice some attitude adjustment if necessary, and ask how you might help support the ministry.
Tips For Officers Leaving An Appointment
1. Talk with a few key people privately before public announcement. They deserve process time.
2. Say it in a sentence. When you make the announcement, say it in the first sentence, and then explain later. Long build-ups that lead to a statement create apprehension and tension, and then do not leave time for internal processing afterwards.
3. Be straightforward with your explanations. Assure folks you are following God’s leading as best you understand it.
4. Maximize your remaining moments. As far as possible, finish well the projects you have started, or smooth the way for others to keep momentum going. This is a period of consolidation.
5. Don’t offer to come back for weddings and special events. Those sensitive moments are important for bonding to your successor. Don’t short-circuit the future.
6. Don’t abdicate-consolidate. Keep your ministry positive, based on your trust in God that He will provide for the corps.
7. Keep to a minimum any references to your new appointment. Keep the corps focused on its future with new officers, not on your future.
8. Be fair to your successor. Don’t stack the deck by making last-minute decisions in your favor. Trust the process and allow it to work. Stay out of the way.
9. Don’t criticize your critics. Let your record stand and leave the reckoning with God.
10. Be positive about your successor. Affirm the new officer no matter whom headquarters appoints. This will give them a better chance of succeeding together.
Tips For Officers In A New Appointment
1. Enjoy the honeymoon benefits. Make the most of the early going by having an initial 90 day plan. This is the best time to lay the foundations of productive relationships by getting to know your people. Remember that the corps family is going through a big change as well. Be a good listener, positive and encouraging.
2. Resist the temptation of making yourself look good at the expense of your predecessor with phrases like “before I came”, “when I came”, after I came”. Your predecessor likely has good friends in the corps and they will be greatly affected by your words. Try not to compare your new corps to previous corps appointments or make constant reference to what happened in those appointments.
3. Avoid a Messiah complex. It’s okay not to have all the answers about all the corps business. Get used to saying, “I don’t know” (because you don’t!) and be diligent to find answers whenever possible.
4. Affirm your predecessor’s ministry. Minimizing another’s hard work will lead to questions of your own authenticity. Don’t criticize the previous officer. You don’t know all the details, so you can exercise grace.
5. Be Yourself. Make the most of the unique gifts, abilities and insights God has given you for His glory. Share your story, your convictions about ministry so that the corps people can begin to know you and understand where your priorities will lie.
6. Unless necessary, avoid making changes until you can conduct a change audit to determine the history of change in the corps. Identify obstacles and pockets of resistance and begin building a guiding coalition to help guide any change process. When possible look for opportunities to build on the positive and effective things already in place.
7. Remember the people entrusted to your ministry are the Army in that location. As you assume leadership involve them in discussions about the vision and direction of the corps. Teach them how to take ownership and responsibility by setting the example yourself.
8. Be patient during the initial culture shock. Your family will likely be under great stress as you find new doctors, piano teachers, sports programs, etc. Take time to establish these connections in the days following a move.
9. Be committed to an extended learning curve. Don’t be over-anxious. There may be a sense of urgency over many things, but rushing is a different matter.
10. Remember that communication, conflict and change all go hand in hand. Read and learn as much as you can about transitioning well.