Ep 101: Managing the Tension of Change (with Michael DePass)

by Joan Garry

while change can lead to growth, sometimes leaders fail to manage the tensions that growth brings, and this can cripple an organization’s impact.


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Managing change is hard. But change is inevitable

And while change can lead to growth, sometimes leaders fail to manage the tensions that growth brings, and this can cripple an organization’s impact.

My guest today, Michael DePass, an expert on managing change, teaches that thinking in an either/or way about a problem that has multiple sides/variables/perspectives limits our effectiveness. That kind of thinking won’t help us solve complex problems, can lead to “stuck” thinking and stalemate, arguing and conflict, and compounds misunderstandings (potentially leading to irreconcilable differences).

Michael, who leads the K-12 education sector efforts at the Center for Creative Leadership, discusses with me polarity thinking and managing change. He contends that finding the multiple sides of an issue, focusing on and instead of adopting an either/or mentality can make all the difference.

But what does that mean in practice? I was dying to find out.

Change brings discomfort. The question becomes how to manage change in a way that builds relationships that truly create more capacity and avoids undermining growth.

About Michael DePass

Michael has spent fifteen years working in the education and nonprofit sectors in roles including starting new schools, being a site-based school leader, and overseeing a network of schools. In these roles he has lead a school turnaround, lead the design of new principal and teacher evaluation processes, evaluated principals, lead principal and teacher recruiting, overseen curriculum development, site acquisition and development, managed authorizer and board relationships, and developed strategic plans.

Michael’s work in nonprofit organizations includes being a founding leader of a faith-based community development organization, being on the research staff and leading youth programming for a Ford foundation funded Africa-focused advocacy and policy intuitive, and being in a senior leadership role of an international development firm.

In addition to these roles, Michael has been an advisor for the education division of a Fortune 500 consumer packaged goods company, served as an expert witness on school economics, and co-lead professional development for high performing principals in a pioneering school district in the educational reform movement. Michael has also worked for the strategy-consulting firm McKinsey and Company, where he specialized in large-scale transformations serving firms including state utilities, aluminum manufacturing, and global textile and packaging firms.

As part of the Center’s Societal Advancement Group, Michael leads the Center’s work with clients in the K-12 Education sector. Michael also serves as a faculty member designing and delivering transformational leadership development experiences. As a former school leader and school network leader, Michael has particular expertise in designing and delivering leadership programs for educational leaders. Michael brings twenty years of experience leading change, designing and delivering professional development, and coaching and mentoring leaders.

In this podcast

  • Consequences of moving too fast
  • Warning signs that you are not managing change/tensions around change
  • What’s at the heart of the tensions around managing change?
  • What is Polarity Thinking?
  • How does our own passions and personal preferences inform our current focus?
  • How does feeling voiceless affect managing change?
  • Maintaining the core components of a culture as you engage differently
  • How does growth and diversity affect the core culture of an organization?
  • Is avoiding tension ever a good practice?