Director’s Blog 8/03/19

Director’s Blog August 3, 2019

By Ian Billick, PhD

A great deal of my job is managing change.

I am empathetic to how dismaying change can be.  The crazy numbers of people passing through combined with a toxic mix of tourist entitlement and befuddlement is not what Jennie and I signed up for decades ago.  But our love of RMBL has passed from the ardor of the early years to something deeper.  While RMBL is not what we fell in love, neither are we the same people.  Hopefully we are growing into something more!

Rarely do I dictate change.  Instead, I identify what outcome RMBL wants (and I don’t think there is much confusion over this), and figure out how to focus efforts on meaningful leverage points.  Usually the leverage points are beyond RMBL’s control.  So I spend a great deal of time figuring out how to influence others (e.g., forest service, county, towns, ranchers, funders, general public).

Managing the emotional response to change is a big part of what RMBL’s leadership does.  If we fail to manage the emotional response to change, we will get overwhelmed.  The only way RMBL moves forward is if our community holds together through thick and thin (including the inevitable mistakes and misunderstandings) and inspires others beyond our community to join us.

Being associated with change in a role of responsibility can be hard.

Often, there is an assumption that I make more choices, or have more influence, than I do.  I’ve also been around long enough that my list of mistakes is long (and continues to grow).  But I do my best to learn from my mistakes, articulate the reality of a situation, and try not to be the messenger that gets killed.

The reward of making great things happen more than makes up for the messiness.  I will always take joy in the students and scientists we’ve touched, the land conservation we’ve accomplished, and how the USFS has come to appreciate the importance of RMBL.

As I’ve approached working with others to influence change, I’ve found that I have to give up on “being right”.  It’s easy to think that if I make the “right” argument and others don’t agree, it’s because they aren’t smart enough, are lazy, or are evil.  But, in my world, being right is irrelevant.

If I don’t bring people along, I don’t have the luxury of blaming them.  My job for RMBL is to drive outcomes.  Rather than on focus on the shortcomings of the other stakeholders, I have to figure out how I can be more effective.

For RMBL to thrive, we’ll need lots of leaders-people who can help RMBL navigate a changing world.  We’ll also need leaders who can help us become internally stronger and more diverse.  I encourage people to take a look at Kotter <> ‘s change model.  Among other things it includes vision, urgency, coalitions, and momentum.

If you get a chance to check it out, let me know what you think!  And if you have questions about either the outcomes we are trying to drive, and our perceived leverage points, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Thanks to Kailen, Dan, Bruce, and the rest of the Board.  They’ve done an amazing job this summer of reaching out to the larger community to help RMBL move forward!