Marge Littrell, Field Administrator, Washington State Department of Corrections, Wenatchee, Wa.

Approximately one year prior to my planned retirement I found myself with one office I was responsible for in extreme dysfunction. The issues had been building for a few years with some prior attempts to address them, but without lasting results. I was feeling things were falling apart and I did not know how to address them. I also felt a real urgency to get the issues resolved prior to my departure. And, I did not know where to begin.

I contacted consultants who were on contract with the State Department of Personnel to hire someone to assist in addressing the situation in this office, to help me with my role in the problem. Through this endeavor I was put in contact with Rob.

There were two things specifically about Rob during the first conversation that sold me on him. The first was he asked how I was doing, not just about the problem as I explained it to him. Since I was feeling responsible for the dysfunction of the office, that meant a great deal to me. He also stressed that he needed to start with me, not the staff in the office, as I was the leader and what I did would impact the success of the transformation of this office.

The process he used was to first assist me, through thoughtful questioning and exploration, to clarify the issues and my desired outcomes. He also helped me remove the emotionality of the issues. He got me to address the facts, not the emotions. That assisted in lessening the stress that I was feeling.

Through clarifying my expectations for the office I also clarified my expectations for the two supervisors responsible for the office. I was able to clearly provide those expectations to them, and get their commitment to work with me in the change initiative to transform the office into a more cohesive, well functioning work unit. This resulted in the two of them working more closely together than they had, and becoming the “agents of change” they needed to be to make this successful.

Rob also facilitated two meetings with the staffs in the office to address some of their specific issues, helping me introduce new expectations for the office that were developed by the supervisors. His non-judgmental approach assisted the staffs to ask pertinent questions, and gain acceptance of the changes being asked of them.

The outcome for me really was an understanding of the need for clarity in communication, removing emotions from the equation, insisting on adherence to agreements and in the end less stress. The outcome for the office was increased cooperation and less conflict. The process also assisted one of the supervisors in re-evaluating the role of supervisor for herself and making the decision to move on to a different challenge in the Department.

Marge Littrell, Field Administrator, Washington State Department of Corrections, Wenatchee, Wa.