By Aila Boyd

Abrina Schnurman-Crook from the Batten Leadership Institute at Hollins University spoke about decisions, change, and conflict to members of the Botetourt Chamber of Commerce last Thursday during a Lunch and Learn event at Virginia Mountain Vineyards.

Andrea Milliron from Member One noted that Schnurman-Crook, who holds a doctorate degree from Virginia Tech, joined the Batten Leadership Institute in 2004 after spending a decade working in crisis management. Her research interests include growing capacities for feedback, conflict, teams, and decision-making.

The speech focused on how decisions should be made when change needs to happen in workplaces and how to specifically manage any possible resistance.

“Leadership happens in-depth,” Schnurman-Crook said, noting that it doesn’t occur sporadically. “You have to go and dig down and figure out how the system is operating and how you are operating.”

She noted that there’s a difference between being a manager and displaying genuine leadership by noting that leadership involves change. “If you’re in a leadership capacity, your job is to distribute loss at a rate that people can bear,” she said.

She explained that the key to introducing change is to do so at a rate that people can tolerate without disorienting people and causing them to be resentful. Realistically, she said, not everyone will accept and embrace change, which will result in “casualties.” “People are influx,” she said, adding that leaders should be astute at observing and responding to people’s reactions to change.

Two of the ways that individuals react to change include shutting down or speeding up, Schnurman-Crook said. “Both at the extreme are absolutely going to be your undoing,” she said.

She referred to regulating the two extremes as “temperature control.” Authorities, she said, can intervene and set guardrails in order to regulate distress that might be caused by change.

Leaders, she said, should observe, interpret, and intervene to facilitate change. She noted that one of the tough questions that leaders face is knowing how to lead people through change with compassion while not shying away from the tough truth. Authenticity is also helpful when addressing possible changes, she said.

Before introducing change, she said, it can be helpful to audition new ideas in order to gauge reactions from the people that will be affected by it. By doing so, leaders will be able to collect data. Additionally, she said, it is helpful when leaders acknowledge any possible loss that will occur as the result of change.

In order to head off any potential resistance to change in the future, she advised the chamber members consider investing time in growing their team’s capacities for tolerating ambiguity and conflictual interpretations.

Before Schnurman-Crook’s speech, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the remodeling of the tasting room at the vineyard. Jacqui Sobieski and Brian Weber assumed ownership of the vineyard, which was established in 1998, last fall.

“This is a big, big life shift for us,” Sobieski said of taking over the ownership and operation of the vineyard. “When we came down here, we weren’t sure what to expect. It was a whole new community for us. We’ve been astounded by just how welcoming the business community is.”

As the couple continues to get settled in, they have plans to expand the vineyard. In the near future, they would like to increase their wine output, plant more vines, and possibly even build several cabins on the property in order to make the vineyard more of a destination venue.

The event was sponsored by Gentry Locke and was catered by Tizzone.