Sarah Nilsson, JD, PhD, MAS
Sarah Nilsson, JD, PhD, MAS


Personality Type Dichotomies



Focus of energy



Information gathering (perceiving)



Decision making



Lives in the outer world



Managing change


 4 consistent findings in dealing with people going through change

  • Every change causes losses
  • As long as it breaks the old pattern, it will cause someone to lose something
  • The sense of loss is present even when the change is obviously for the better
  • Planned change is just as disruptive as unplanned change


6 losses people experience with change

  • Loss of attachments: especially disruptive to those who identify with the relationships around them
  • Loss of turf: thus refers to one’s space, territory, and/or areas of responsibility
  • Loss of structure: this may be physical, interpersonal, functional, and/or procedural
  • Loss of future: Is most disturbing when it’s perceived that dreams may not be realized
  • Loss of meaning: if people do not understand or even know about the forces driving change, they have no sense of why things are happening
  • Loss of control: most people like to be in control which is typically lost, if it ever really existed, when change occurs


Dealing with loss… thoughts for consideration

People who are experiencing losses are frequently experiencing pain from those losses. The first step is to acknowledge that the change is creating a sense of loss.

Allow people to speak about the impact of the change without faulting or blaming them. There is great value letting people express what they are thinking and feeling, i.e. getting it “off one’s chest”

Establishing opportunities for people to “grieve” can be very helpful. Effectively leading people through change requires finding ways to let people express their grief. The process of grieving is a natural process that allows people to work through their feelings of loss and to move forward to the next stage.


Change dynamics

  • People will feel awkward, ill at ease, and self-conscious
  • People will think about what they have to give up
  • People will feel alone even if everyone else is going through the change
  • People can handle only so much change
  • People are at different levels of readiness for change
  • People will be concerned that they don’t have enough resources
  • If you take the pressure off, people will revert back to old behavior


B – bitching
M – moaning
W – whining


Moving though change: Stages, emotions, and behaviors


Stages of change



No way




Yes, but




People often respond to change in 4 stages:

  • Initially people tend to be in DENIAL – they are either unaware of the change, or believe it won’t happen here – it’s a way of protecting our self from becoming overwhelmed
  • Once people become aware that the change will occur, they move into RESISTANCE – people will often be upset and negative as there’s a natural desire to maintain the status quo, no matter how good or bad
  • Next, people begin to EXPLORE options, learn more about the change and the potential for what’s in it for them
  • Individuals may then move to COMMITMENT – the cycle will begin again when a new change is introduced


Overcoming: DENIAL

  • Provide information
  • Clarify expectations
  • Reinforce reality
  • Provide time for thought, venting
  • Develop new communication channels
  • Talk to people in person
  • Create individual ownership of the change
  • Clarify the relationship of the group to the whole organization and/or change


Moving through: RESISTANCE

  • Listen, listen, listen (remember: understand ≠agree)
  • Acknowledge feelings
  • Question to clarify real concerns and respond to those
  • Act as a lightning rod and actively surface the resistance
  • Help people recognize what they cannot control and encourage a shift in focus
  • Question to clarify assumptions
  • Do not try to talk people out of their perceptions
  • Communicate consistently and often
  • Tell the truth
  • Accept hostility (within reason) as part of the natural process
  • Develop good-bye rituals
  • Facilitate discussion
  • Help employees differentiate among resistance based on: helplessness, loss, risk, or anger
  • Help employees differentiate among resistance based on: misunderstanding, organizational inertia, appears unethical, inter-team antagonism, problems with change initiators
  • Express your own feelings



  • Major task: Goal Setting and Problem Solving
  • Clarify and stay focused on priorities
  • Provide needed training
  • Set short-term goals
  • Support task completion
  • Brainstorm around vision and planning
  • Express your own feelings
  • Allow space/time to rest and consider
  • Encourage willingness to search for action
  • Channel, without controlling, energy and creativity
  • Remain balanced while defining the new way
  • Help people focus on the things they can control


Relishing in: COMMITMENT

  • Major Task: Create new team
  • Celebrate, reinforce those in this stage
  • Set long-term goals
  • Team build
  • Create a shared vision
  • Encourage risk taking
  • Process learnings (rather than blame)
  • Encourage openness to continuous change

10 Leadership Theories (in 5 minutes)

  1. The Great Man Theory
  2. The Trait Theory of Leadership
  3. The Skills Theory of Leadership
  4. The Style Theory of Leadership
  5. The Situational Leadership Theory
  6. The Contingency Theory
  7. Transactional Leadership
  8. Transformational Leadership
  9. Leader-Member Exchange Theory
  10. Servant Leadership

What is the responsibility is also a challenge

“The price of greatness is responsibility” – Winston Churchill

Difference between ruling and leading






- Excellent technical or production skills

- Acceptable skills in dealing with fellow employees

- Minimal requirements for planning/looking ahead


First-line supervisor


- Less technical/production skills required

- Human relations skills are most important

- Planning skills increased significantly


Middle Manager


- Most technical/production skills are delegated to others

- Must communicate effectively up, down and across the organization

- Anticipating problems and evaluating options is critical


Top Management/Executive


- Technical/production skills needed least

- Must set climate for effective interpersonal relationships

- Planning for the future is the top priority



“He who thinks he leads but has no followers is only taking a walk” – Chinese Proverb



Leadership and Power

There are various theories of how power influences leadership

Theories agree on several items:

  • Power is generally defined as the ability to influence others
  • All members of an organization have power
  • All types of power have appropriate/inappropriate times to use them


There are three general sources of leadership power:

  • Personality – 50%
  • Knowledge – 40%
  • Position/Title – 10%


Power bases

Position power – legitimate, coercive, reward

Personal power – referent, expert, information


“Being in power is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” – Margaret Thatcher



Roles and Characteristics



Leads people

Manages things



Vision, direction

Methods, policies, procedures

Eye on the horizon

Eye on the bottom line







Bring together

Take apart

Relationships and people

Programs and effects



What’s right

What’s wrong



Inspires trust

Relies on control

Does the right thing

Does things right


Managing and Valuing Diversity


Managing Diversity

  • Having structures and policies in place to eliminate barriers that prevent people from reaching their potential
  • Providing equal and/or appropriate opportunities related to job and career
  • Supporting appropriate equal opportunity laws and guidance
  • Ensuring that all employees abide by equal opportunity laws and guidelines


Valuing Diversity

  • Treating people as individuals
  • Recognizing people have differing needs, beliefs, and values and will require different kinds of help and support
  • Seeing the benefits to the organization of diverse backgrounds, experience and values
  • Changing awareness, appreciating differences, refraining from pre-judging, avoiding stereotyping


Both managing and valuing diversity are important for achieving an inclusive workplace that maximizes the talents of each person and ensures that all individuals are able to participate and contribute to their full potential.


Generational differences are one source of diversity.


Generational Differences Grid



Seniors or traditionalists

Aka the greatest generation





Baby boomers






37% workforce

Generation X








Generation Y or









Defining events

World War II

Great Depression

New Deal

Rise of labor unions

Emergence of the silver screen

Cold War

Vietnam War

Cuban Missile Crisis

Civil Rights



Space Travel


Women’s Lib Movement

Berlin Wall


Persian Gulf War

Challenger Disaster


First PCs


Single Parenthood



School Shootings

OK City Bombing


Computers and games

Digital Age (internet, wireless, IM, cell phones)

Core values



Hard work

Law and order


Respect for authority


Delayed reward

Duty before pleasure

Adherence to rules




Team orientation

Personal gratification

Health and fitness

Personal growth

Hard work




Global thinking









Civic duty





Street smarts



Work ethic





Work style

By the book

How is as important as what gets done


Get it done

Whatever it takes (including nights and weekends)


Take fastest route to results

Protocol is secondary

Work to deadlines and goals

Not necessarily to schedules

View of authority


Especially of command and control

Rarely question authority


Sometimes a love/hate relationship

Respect for power and accomplishment

Unimpressed egalitarian

Rules are flexible

Collaboration is important



Relaxed and polite

Value autonomy and freedom

Not inclined to pursue leadership

But some ambition


Leadership by




Pulling together



Formal yet personal

Through proper channels


Somewhat formal through structured network

Mix of electronic and face-to-face



Direct and electronic

Sometime skeptical





Eager to please



Personal acknowledgement and satisfaction for work done well


Public acknowledgement and career advancement

A balance of fair compensation and ample time off

Individual and public praise (exposure)

Opportunities for broadening skills


Work and family

Work and family should be kept separate


Work comes first

Value a work/life balance

Value blending personal life into work


Personal sacrifice

Personal gratification


Reluctance to commit


Loyalty to the


Meaning of and importance of


To individual career goals

To the people involved with the project



Challenging and complex

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it


Necessary for progress and achievement

Practical tools for getting things done

What else is there?


Strategies for working across the generations

Initiate conversations with your team about the generations to help clear up any misconceptions and get any issues or concerns out in the open.

  • Do not assume others share your perspective or values
  • Do not make sweeping generalizations or assumptions about any one generation or tolerate others doing so

Get to know your coworkers as individuals. Learn about each person’s needs and preferences. For example:

  • What energizes and excites this person?
  • What are this person’s strengths and natural talents?
  • What contributions has this person made to the department/organization?
  • How does this person prefer to interact with others?
  • What does this person do that I and/or others appreciate and value?
  • What opportunities for learning, growth, and development have others or I provided (or might be provided) to this person?
  • What are some meaningful ways to recognize this person’s contributions?


Be flexible with your own style and approaches in working with others.

Build on your team’s strengths.

Recognize and take advantage of everyone’s unique capabilities and characteristics.

Make it a point to seek out different perspectives.

Intentionally choose people with varied backgrounds and perspectives to work on projects and issues together.




“Every conflict we face in life is rich with positive and negative potential… The choice is not up to our opponents, but to us, and our willingness to face and work through them.” – Kenneth Cloke


When conflict is managed constructively, issues are resolved satisfactorily to the involved parties, resources are used efficiently, and relationships are enhanced through respectful, professional, and responsible interactions.


  1. Remain open and non-defensive.

When resolving conflict, it is estimated that people spend 90% of their time trying to get around the defensiveness rather than dealing with the true issue.

Avoid becoming defensive or getting the other person defensive. Your defensiveness inadvertently encourages the other person to attack more and sets up a vicious cycle.

The following guidelines will help deter defensive reactions and encourage understanding.

  1. Describe using facts vs. evaluate expressing opinions.

Describe situations using specific, observable, behavioral facts. When behaviors are described accurately, they are easier for people to comprehend and digest, especially if they are objective. People can talk more easily when discussing what actually occurred rather than someone’s evaluation, perception or opinion. These latter items are based on our filters, values, experiences, etc. When evaluated, we feel a natural human tendency to defend ourselves, especially if we feel the allegation is untrue. Unfortunately, opinions often creep into our speech and writing. Learning to separate facts from opinions can help build a deeper understanding of the problem and prevent overly defensive reactions.

  1. Legitimize the other person’s point of view.

Legitimizing the other person’s point of view is not an admission of wrongdoing on your part. It just says, “If the situation happened to me the way you currently perceive it, I’d probably feel the same way you do.”

  1. Focus on the future.

When the past is gone, people get defensive when we bring it up and keep drumming on it. You can’t change the past, but you can change the future.

  1. Assume positive intent.

Assuming positive intent does not mean being blindly optimistic. It is a consciously chosen attitude that offers positive possibilities so we can clearly focus on issues. This allows us to deal in the realm of facts and specific behaviors versus accusations and assertions. It allows us to look with fresh eyes the “story” we created about the other party.

  1. Be aware of differing approaches.
    1. Direct or indirect communication.

Two basic communication styles are “direct” and “indirect”

Direct communicators clearly indicate exactly what they want. Truthfulness and efficiency in communication are highly valued, more than personal or political sensitivities. Direct communicators believe problems are solved more productively with open, frank discussions.

Indirect communicators make statements they believe imply an action they want another person to take. Direct communication, especially involving negative information is seen as impolite and crude. Indirect communicators believe problems are solved more productively if they are handled with tact and discretion.

There is no problem when people communicate using the same style. Conflict occurs when the people communicate using different styles. Unless one person flexes to the communication style of the other person, it’s likely the parties will either miss or misinterpret what is said.

  1. Is it a content, pattern, or relationship issue?

Content is the essence of the issue, the bad behavior exhibited, or the impact and consequences of the action or behavior.

Pattern is repeated occurrences of the action or bad behavior, as well as the impact and consequences.

Relationship issues can arise when content and pattern issues continue to exist. When others continue to disappointment and disrespect, this can lead to distrust, dissatisfaction and a whole host of negative consequences.

  1. Is it a skill (ability – can’t do) or motivation (will – won’t do) issue?

Determining the cause will help with strategies to resolve the situation in the future.

  • Does the person have the skill and ability to do what is expected?
  • Is the person motivated to do what is expected?

Know it can be a combination of the two.

  1. Use effective communication skills.
    1. Speak responsibly.

You can say anything; its how you say it. When discussing topics that are sensitive or liable to cause a defensive reaction, as in a conflict, how you say something is as important as what you say. Express your thoughts in an honest, professional, respectful, and appropriate way. Consider what it is you want to say and convey your message in a way that others can hear it without being offended. It’s helpful to use “I” statements. Speak for yourself and not others. Don’t exaggerate and avoid using words like “never” and “always” as they are seldom entirely true.

  1. Use effective inquiry.

The more information we have, the greater the potential for discovering an option/solution that works for both parties. Asking open-ended questions is one of the most effective ways of gathering information and actively involve the other person. Open-ended questions encourage people to share information while closed-ended questions limit the amount of information received.

Effective inquiry is helpful in a conflict situation, as it is a process designed to facilitate the examination of ideas and opinion. The intent is to achieve a more complete understanding without motive to prove or disprove.

  1. Listen actively.

Listening closely to what the other person is saying will help you understand how the conflict situation looks from their perspective. The skills involved in active listening are:

  • Focus on the speaker
  • Be open (seek first to understand, then to be understood)
  • Use attentive body language (including body posture, proximity, facial expressions, eye contact, gestures)
  • Use appropriate verbal prompts and non-verbal prompts
  • Respond respectfully after the other person has finished talking
  • Paraphrase what you think was said
  • Ask clarifying questions, when needed
  • Summarize when appropriate
  • Acknowledge the speaker’s feelings
    1. Prepare for the confrontation with safety in mind.

In order for people to fully engage, they must feel safe. Some ways to achieve this are:

  • Share your good intentions with the other party
  • Seek common ground
  • Tentatively share your story
  • Distill the issue into a succinct sentence that describes the situation in specific, observable, objective terms
  • Describe the impact or unintended consequences of the current behavior




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Sarah Nilsson, JD, PhD, MAS


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Legal disclaimer 

The information on this website is for educational purposes only and DOES NOT constitute legal advice. While the author of this website is an attorney, she is not your attorney, nor are you her client, until you enter into a written agreement with Nilsson Law, PLLC to provide legal services.

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