A Time for Reflection: Understanding Yourself in Times of Change


Personal Reflection – Is My Iceberg Melting?

American author and journalist, Ernest Hemingway, once wrote, “Courage is grace under pressure.”

As government employees, leaders or managers, we often are called to negotiate conflict, motivate and lead people and inspire innovation in spite of institutional barriers. As we close out for what many of us might have felt was a tumultuous year of government downsizing and outsourcing, I wanted to share my personal reflections and offer our readers some advice to move forward in 2018 with courage, grace and inspiration.

This year, I’ve witnessed a shutdown of open communication, fear of leading because of uncertainty and a lack of motivation to press on because the “iceberg is melting.” Throughout the year, I have observed quick fixes and immediate reactions to external forces. Yet, like Fred in Kotter and Rathbeber’s “Our Iceberg is Melting,” sometimes I have felt alone and isolated, wondering, “What do I do now?”

When we’re not in the center of a storm, it is easier to see the cracks or distresses. At the same time, we feel removed and unable to make a difference. Throughout 2017, I was not “at the table” to make changes or add to solutions as Fred was in his colony of penguins. However, I had the opportunity to make my own personal plan to stave off panic, worry and even distrust. I created my own strategy to make a difference, learn and grow. I also continued to reflect on my leadership style as I shared ideas in previous blogs that leadership behavior affects organizational cultures and environments.

My point to this blog is that personal change may be part of institutional change. I am a 2012 graduate of the Partnership for Public Service Excellence in Government Program (EIG). This program was the catalyst for me. It helped me figure out who I am as an employee. It gave me the tools and mindset to create professional and personal goals that led to me obtaining Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) and entering a doctoral program.

As I worked through the EIG program and subsequent leadership courses for my program of study, self-awareness and evolution of my true self appeared to be foundational to my personal leadership philosophy. I value institutional knowledge, professional expertise and social responsiveness. As an employee, I respect leaders who work their way to the top. Rather, I admire leaders who climb the ladder of success rung by rung with both experience and education. As a woman professional who must balance family and career, I appreciate clear goals and priorities. I also understand that to rise to a leadership role, I must optimize situations and remain flexible. Finally, I believe as many strategists do, that a leader must act with good behavior, be fair and just and demonstrate moral character. A solid leader lays a foundation for employees to observe, accept and then model that behavior.

Back to the Iceberg

People who lead with humility, know and understand their blind spots; they openly communicate and entrust others to make the transition, or notice that change is not a one-person showcase. The first step, however, may be to self-assess using the Psychodynamic Approach. I conducted a personal values timeline, developed my vision statement and outlined tenets that served as guideposts for my leadership journey – and I often refer to these tenets today.

Understanding  yourself and what motivates you individually may be the first step to understanding why and how you think and feel the way you do about change and, ultimately, challenge you to deal with the crisis or dismiss change. So if you feel that you are on a melting iceberg, trapped with nowhere to go, I suggest that you make a plan. We’re at the cusp of a brand new year; it’s time to set the stage for your next act. Following is the authors’ 8-step remedy for both organizational and personal change that may help you get started:

  1. Set the stage. What’s the urgency?
  2. Find your support team or others who will guide the change.
  3. Decide on the actions . Clarify your main goal, vision and strategy to change.
  4. Make it happen. Share the information and communicate, don’t isolate.
  5. Empower others to act. Remove barriers
  6. Create short-term wins.
  7. Keep at it. Stick to your strategy and keep the momentum.
  8. Make it stick. Remember that change takes time.

As you approach 2018, remember that you can remove roadblocks and find your niche – even in the midst of change. Consider seeking professional certifications, volunteering to do work outside of your normal operations or applying for a Partnership for Public Service leadership or training program. Happiest of the holiday season and a healthy, productive new year!


Stacie Rivera ipart of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Brady Smithsund

Great work Stacie! Love how you tied the main points into “Our Iceberg is Melting.” Will definitely be thinking about these as 2018 approaches.

Joe Antoshak

Completely agree with Brady here. Great points! We would all do well to remember that a bit of self reflection goes a long way.


Great article. As a mid level manager it’s often hard to let go, especially when you worry that the staff you have are sometimes incapable of making sustainable decisions.
Prior to the end of the year I took a couple of days off. During that time I reflected on this past year and realized that I spent more time reacting to situations rather than taking the time to connect the reactive situations to my planning process.
This article was a revelation to me to stop getting caught up in the here and now, and stay focused on my overall goals and plans.

Stacie M. Rivera

Tina – So great to hear that this article helped you. I have found that taking a step back is not easy, but certainly a benefit to self and those you serve and guide.