Featuring Anne Reilly, Professor of Management
Description Professor Anne Reilly shares with us her expertise in organizational change management as she reflects on what the future might hold. The bottom line is that change is hard and in our conversation she offers a few suggestions for coping with and facilitating the changes that may be necessary moving forward.     
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Season Season 6: Hopes for the Future


Speaker 1: Welcome to the Q Talks podcast from Loyola University's Quinlan School of Business this season as we prepare to enter post-pandemic life. We are faced with the opportunity to examine ourselves and our society to decide what we want to keep, what we want to discard and what we want to remake. Join us as we discuss both our individual and collective hopes for the future. 

Rick Sindt: Welcome to Q Talks this week. Professor of Management Anne Reilly shares with us her expertise in organizational change management as she reflects on what the future might hold. The bottom line is that change is hard and in our conversation Anne offers a few suggestions for coping with and facilitating the changes that may be necessary moving forward. Anne, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. I'm excited to have you on the podcast for the first time. 

Anne Reilly: Well, thank you for having me, Rick. This is really a great opportunity for us to chat a little bit about what's been going on in the world and as we move towards in-person teaching and fall twenty twenty-one. It's been a really good time for me to think about this a little bit and pull my thoughts together 

Rick Sindt: As you think back on the past 15, 18 months. What are some of the things that you've been paying attention to as the pandemic went on? 

Anne Reilly: Great question, Rick. I think something that comes up a lot in my mind and something that I talk about in the classroom as well as when as just chatting with friends is the fact that there is no one generic pandemic experience. That each individual has had unique experiences going through the past 15 to 18 months. Some people have lost loved ones. Some people have not been affected at all. I think we forget sometimes that our experience is not the same as the experience of people that we interact with regularly, even though we interact with them. So, for example, I go to the grocery store, I get what I need, and sometimes I forget that these are frontline workers and that their life has been very, very different from my life during this time. Something that I see a lot with our older students is how difficult it has been to juggle the homeschooling that has been required during the pandemic. That it's hard enough to balance work and family, but if you're all in the same place, it's even more challenging. And I've heard a lot of stories ranging from one colleague who was literally trying to teach in the foyer of her apartment because there were so many people around and that was the only space that seemed to be available to other people who asked if they could go into the office, even though the building was closed, because they had to do their job and focus on it. So I think we have to remember that in addition to personality traits like extrovert, introvert, we've all gone through different experiences. 

Rick Sindt: I think for me, something that I've been like balancing is the consideration of everything you just said, we're all experiencing this differently. While it's also a collective thing that we're all going through, this is the first time I can think of in my life that the entire world is facing the same thing at the same time and grappling with it in their own ways. 

Anne Reilly: Yeah, that also is an excellent comment. I'm older than you, so I've been through some different experiences. But this is really the pandemic has really been a defining moment for an entire generation as well as all of us living through this. And I remember quite distinctly what happened with 9/11 and how that affected me personally. But also, as you say, the broader collective something that came to mind as I was preparing my notes for our talk today was it was very common after World War Two for people to ask, "How was your war?" And it's the same thing that people went through different experiences. I'm sure they did that at other wars, too, but that that happened to be the war where this was a common theme and depending on if you were a soldier, not a soldier, if you were whatever branch of the military, were you not deployed, were you the Rosie Riveter, you know, working from home? And so that was like how the conversations might start and how people would have an understanding of what somebody else experienced during this challenging time. So I agree with you one hundred percent that this has been a defining experience. I talk about that with my students because particularly the undergraduates who are missing so much, missing their college time and feeling like they are never going to get that back. But then we also talk about this is a shared experience that five years, 10 years down the line, you will know instantly when you connect with somebody from that same age range how it felt and what you share. 

Rick Sindt: So as we're emerging from this time, what are some of the things you're hoping for our future, maybe personally or on a larger scale? 

Anne Reilly: I think that you can read, whatever your source is, whether it's print or digital or social media or whatever, you can read lots of people's opinions on this. And again, that will be affected by your individual personality as well as your own experiences. But here are some of the general things that, in my view, we can look for. The new normal will not be a repeat of what was normal before. Okay? We lost a lot; that needs to be accepted. A lot of people are grieving and we don't go through the grief process in the same way and we certainly don't have a timetable. Change is hard. I teach a class regularly several sections of a class on organizational change, and we start the class with that "change is hard," and we end the class with that "change is hard." And years later, when I run into students, they say change is still hard and it is. So one message I would like to say looking ahead to the future is a message of reassurance. This, too, shall pass. It feels overwhelming right now. There's a lot of anxiety, there's a lot of uncertainty. But this, too, shall pass. I have a little story to share. I went to the building, Schreiber building, where Quinlan is located, as you know. For the first time a week or so ago since, oh, perhaps last winter, and there were new protocols to get in the building, which I fully expected and think about it I've been in this building for years and done this drill for years, and I got to the mailroom and I couldn't get in. 

Anne Reilly: And I thought, What is the matter? My key didn't work. I was just like, if they changed everything this is, this is so wrong. And then I realized I'd completely forgotten, you have to scan your ID to get in the mailroom. It was like such a minor thing and it made me laugh, but I thought, "Oh God, Anne if you can't remember how to get in the mailroom, what is going to happen when there's really a change?" And I guess this is where we have the reassurance that we are all going to be doing things like this. And it's not all Zoom brain. It just has to do with going through change. What else do I hope the future will look like? What else do I hope the future will hold? Well, I would like to think both for myself and for all of us, that we can spend some time, in introspection, before we get crazy again and have millions of things going on, although many of us have that right now, but what can we bring with us that we've learned from the pandemic or what new changes have we made in our own routines? What can we bring with us? That is a positive thing because I think when we focus on the uncertainty, we get anxious. Anyway, that's the normal, not everybody, of course, the golden retriever extroverts among us are like, "I can't wait to be with people again. Hi, I'm your friend. Hi. Let's let's let's run. Let's play." But a lot of people, myself included, are kind of worried how what's going to come down here? How was this going to work out? I've been working from home, so I only wear a mask when I go places. What's it going to be like wearing a mask all the time? A million. We all have a million questions, but if we can reframe it from, "oh my gosh, it's going to be so stressful," accept that it's going to be so stressful. And then look at the positives. What's going to be better? So instead of worrying about, am I going to forget my colleagues' names? Think about the positives of interacting with people who you enjoy working with and just being together with people and talking about this shared experience and as helpful as Zoom was for teaching. And here's another example from my world "Teaching Land." When we started the Zoom classroom, it was like, complain, complain, complain. This is awful. We hate this and all. Well, now a lot of our grad students don't want to go back to real life because it's so much easier. It's so much more flexible. We don't have the commute time, so it's astounding how things can shift. 

Anne Reilly: But some of these specifics that I jotted down in preparation for our discussion today. So one thing when I couldn't go to the health club, you know, and even after I got vaccinated, it was like, Oh, I don't really want to be all these through all these people's germs and all. I've been taking daily walks. Rain, shine, snow. The only time I have it is when it's icy because nobody wants to fall. And you know, that's been great. That has been really, really awesome. And sometimes I go with whoever might be around my house if my husband's around or one of our adult children has popped in for a while and sometimes I just go by myself. And I think and I clear my mind and I look around and I wave at a neighbor and, you know, I'd like to keep that part of my life. This whole "sweat the small stuff" that those of us who are hard working type A's live with. Well, a lot of that sort of falls away when you know that somebody is in the hospital on a ventilator or somebody has lost a family member. And so it has really put some things into perspective about what's important and what's not. Even the trivial things, Rick. Even the things like, well, so I've been wearing alternating the same couple of shirts for the last 15 months. And hey, but that's OK, you know, that's not a big deal anymore. So hopefully I will up my game a little bit before I go into the classroom. But you know that that's not as much of an issue for many people as it was before. 

Anne Reilly: Something that became clear to me in the Zoom classroom was how important it was for me as the kind of the leader, the instructor of the class, to be empathetic to specifically and proactively and repeatedly let my students know that this was a tough situation for all of us. So the boundary between teacher and student became more permeable. It became more open. You and I are talking today over Zoom and I can see your house and you can see my house. And that would never happen in the classroom. And so I think there was this, this amazing relationship that could develop when I became more open and even when what I was seeing were little boxes on the Zoom screen, I realized that a lot of that might have been because who knew what was happening to these people who knew where they were going to school from? You know, they didn't all have necessarily the resources that others did. And I had students, I had students logging in from different countries from all over the United States. I had students, I could see them sometimes if they had their cameras on, they were in a car. They were going to work. And we became much more integrated into each other's lives. And I think people became very empathetic. Of course, some did not. And not everybody's the same, but that's something I would like to see for the future, and I would like to think we can build on that. 

Rick Sindt: Yeah, absolutely. Is there anything you hope we leave behind from our pre-pandemic world? 

Anne Reilly: Yeah, it's a great question. Well, I would like to think that we have all become improved versions of ourselves. But I don't think that's the reality. I am an optimistic person, but I'm also a practical person. And even though we have gone through this immense shared experience and it has affected us in many, many different ways. The reality usually is that we kind of fall back into what we were before. So, the person in your office who was a jerk pre-pandemic is probably still a jerk. So, I don't think that will change. I do think though, for those of us that perhaps interact with lots of folks like people in the teaching profession, other people who spend time working directly with people, I think there... We can leave behind some of the not willing to understand that the other person's perspective is different. You know, I think we all got into some really bad habits of thinking everybody was like us and everybody experienced the same thing we did, and I would like to leave that behind. That would be a good thing to leave behind. I would like to, well, I would like to think that people are going to be more tolerant and more accepting. I don't know if that's a possibility in this current very polarized political environment, so I would love to leave that behind. That's going to probably take some time. 

Rick Sindt: Once again, underneath everything you just said, it seems like the unsaid thing was change is hard. 

Anne Reilly: Yeah. I told you that would be your new mantra, right? 

Rick Sindt: Yeah. We hope for the change that we can leave it behind. But change is hard and there might be some relapses, or we might fall back on it, it might take a little while longer for us to shed what we want to not have anymore. 

Anne Reilly: Yeah, but you know. That's OK. And I think the big issue here is not so much that we probably will fall back a little bit or pick up some of those habits that we got rid of. But as long as we're looking out for that, as long as we are now aware of the danger of that creeping in, we can reassess. Companies do this all the time. They bring in consultants, or they could be internal change agents, and they make changes and everything is ticking along. And then they'll circle back in six months or a year or whatever and see, "Well, how are we doing now?" and that's good. That's a good thing to do that. And so we can certainly do that in our personal lives as well. Something else that I think can be very positive, looking ahead for what the future will hold is a reminder of how powerful recognition and appreciation are in affecting people's response to anything. So recognition in terms of things like "Rick, thank you for putting together these podcasts. I think they are really important and I think they're important, not just because, oh, at Loyola, we like to do things for our students and our alums and all that, but also important because we need to think about important topics." 

Anne Reilly: And sometimes we don't take the time or we don't realize that there's an opportunity here to do that. So recognition, appreciation. Something that I would like to leave behind is the flip side of that. It's so easy to fall into this critical mode. You know, you're doing it wrong. You've got to fix it. And that's something we have to be careful as we go forward into post-pandemic land. We have to be careful that we're not telling people what they're doing wrong all the time. And here's another positive is just remind yourself and your family, people close to you, your colleagues. Look what we coped with. Look what we got through. And speaking for myself, I feel like I called on reserves of strength I did not even know I had. And I think that experience might be true for just about everybody. But you might not think about it. So again, this is something that we can do to support all of ourselves, individually and also at a broader level as we move into this, this new time. This new normal, that's going to be different from the old normal. 

Rick Sindt: Yeah, it seems to me that a big thing you want to carry into the future is a greater capacity for empathy. I wonder if there are there other things that you hope we can take with us and make better. 

Anne Reilly: So empathy begins in the home, so to speak, begins at the individual level. Yes, but it also can expand dramatically to a much broader scale if we let it do so. I think that for a lot of us, we have feelings of trying to walk the fine line between respecting someone's privacy and individuality or right to privacy and so forth, and reaching out to help. Well, that's fine, that's appropriate, but someone has to take the first step. So I guess I would view that as don't be afraid to be proactive in reaching out. You know, I don't know if it was–I've heard lots of sources for this citation–I think it might have been Wayne Gretzky, but the quote about "you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take." Well, if you never reach out to anybody, if you don't say hello, if you don't say welcome, if you don't say come in, if you don't say it's nice to meet you or I'm glad you're on board or thanks for being in my class or whatever it is for your workplace. If you don't start it, who if not me, who? If not now, when? So there's that aspect of it. There is the aspect, and this has become one of my favorite quotes, it's from the work of Maya Angelou, and it's the quotation about "people may forget what you said. They may forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel" and tied into that increase empathy, I would like us to have a clearer understanding of how what we do impacts other people. How we ourselves are a direct reflection of what goes on around us. 

Rick Sindt: Yeah, I think what you just said is very important, not only the reflection part, but having the courage to be the first one to do something like by checking in, by saying come in, it creates a permission structure for everyone else to do the same. And then it, yeah, it grows and scales from there. But yeah, if one person, if the first person doesn't do it, it won't happen. 

Anne Reilly: Right? If nobody does it, if there is no first person, it's not going to, it's not going to happen. And that's the same thing with a change if somebody doesn't take the first step, if somebody doesn't get out of their comfort zone. You know, this is one thing that the pandemic has done is we have... First, we were pushed way out of our comfort zone and now we've developed new comfort zones and then we're going to be asked and are already being asked to be pushed out of those comfort zones. And hey, everybody could use a hand. Everybody could use a little support. Everybody could use a little reassurance. Getting back to our discussion a few minutes ago: this, too, shall pass. This feeling of it's uncomfortable. It doesn't feel right. It's going to take me a while to hit my stride again. Yes, it will. And that's OK. And other people are feeling exactly the same way. So instead of perhaps drawing in and isolating yourself, perhaps take a risk and reach out. So that might be something to consider going forward into the future and what it will look like 

Rick Sindt: Being a change management person, I feel like you have a very useful skill set for what's about to happen, and I wonder if you have any advice or lessons that you would give to just everyday people or managers who are managing or returning to the office? Yeah. What are some tools you think they might need? 

Anne Reilly: That's such a good question, Rick, and this is what I really strive to do whenever I'm asked to talk about change and organizations. A very important first step, particularly if you are in–if you're the manager, if you're in the position of control here is make sure you're addressing how decisions will affect individuals, how changes that are at a group level or an organizational level will trickle down to individuals because the reality of change is whether we actually verbalize this or even think of this ourselves. What we're really thinking is how is this going to affect me? Somebody tells you now that, well, we got a notice about when is the building open, how many days a week, what are your hours? All this and it's just human nature to think, how is this going to affect me? So when you consider these decisions and these broader scale changes, know and recognize that that's what everyone is thinking and try to address those concerns as much as you can. So that's one tool. Another tool is getting back to one of the topics we talked about at the very beginning. People are coming at this from very different places. There is no one best way. If there was a best way, I would tell it to you, Rick, and then you and I would leave, and now that we can get on airplanes again, we would be rich and we would go far away because we would have the solution to all of this. But there is no one best way. There are lots of different ways corresponding to all the differences among individuals, so we have to allow for giving people space to process it in their own way. 

Anne Reilly: There is the very important issue of treating people with respect. Respect, compassion, empathy. We can again look at that from all different directions. But the idea that very important concept that, yeah, we're all human, we are all human here, and maybe we're going to have to rework our performance criteria because we're starting again in a different format. We are going to have to ask different things from our students, in my world, as well as ourselves. And in your world, they're going to be things that are going to be different and we have to accept that. And then overall, as much as possible within the constraints of our own personality, let's try to be positive. Let us try to be positive. It is so easy to fall into that Debbie Downer trap. In fact, when you asked me to participate in this, I thought, I'm going to have to be really careful that I don't go down the road of, "Oh, this is going to be bad and this is going to be bad" because there are a lot of things that are going to be hard. 

Anne Reilly: Change is hard and we are in for a lot more change. But this positivity thing is so important, and I've been working on a paper that has required me to take a look at some different dimensions in the field of psychology. And there's an entire area called positive psychology. And it draws on the overarching concept that a lot of the times we are looking for problems, in people, in their behavior, and instead flips it to let's start with strengths. Let's start looking at what people do well. And so if we take that positive attitude and focus on that instead of focusing all our time on what could go wrong or what are the negatives. It's a lot easier to move into that and there's corresponding research in the change domain. 

Anne Reilly: I read a very interesting study. It's not new. It's been out there for a while that looked at patients who had experienced severe coronary artery disease so that they had to have bypass surgery, which of course, is a giant surgery, and they were supposed to work with their doctors to make lifestyle changes, diet, exercise and so forth. And it was horrifying how many of these people who went through this terrible surgery went back to the same old bad habits. So what the research found was if you instead of scaring people that if you don't do this, you're going to die, which people just block out because it's too negative. If, instead, you reframe that as you know, what's going to be so much better if you make these changes? You are going to have more energy. You are going to sleep better. You are going to, you know, whatever it is for these people, be able to play with your grandchildren. You are going to be able to go back to school. You're going to be able to travel again. All the exciting things to look forward to instead of all the negative things that we are running from. And I thought, yeah, that is really powerful information. That's a really good thing to remember is how we all have a very different approach to things if we look at how is this going to benefit me instead of, I'm scared to death of what's coming down the pike. 

Rick Sindt: I think that's a very nice place to close. But I also do want to give you the opportunity to maybe have a few more last words if there is anything you wanted to touch on that we haven't been able to talk about today. 

Anne Reilly: It's one hundred percent human nature to want what the psychologists call agency and agency means having control over one's own actions, and we lost that with the pandemic. And I know people are concerned with losing that as we move into the future. So if we keep that in mind, that it is part of an element of being a grown-up adult is to have that agency to have that control over your own life, that that will help people moving forward. 

Speaker1: This has been an episode of the Q Talks podcast where we seek to marry the wisdom of the queenly community with the issues of today. Special thanks to our guests, as well as Marczak NOAC, interim dean of the Quinlan School of Business, for his continued support of this podcast. Matt Shealy, our student producer for editing this episode, as well as Loyola's School of Communication and WW for the continued collaboration. Before you leave. Take a minute to support us by sharing with friends or reading and reviewing our episodes to help expand our reach. Thanks for listening, and we hope you join us next time.