Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Leading Change

Whether you're a school based administrator, a teacher leader, or part of a district senior management team, leading in times of change is different. Leading change is significantly different than navigating change. Or simply surviving it.  The reality is that leading while maintaining the status quo doesn't involve the same complexities and challenges that are associated with moving into uncharted territory. As Captain Kirk would say, leading change means going boldly where no one has gone before... As such, I would argue that it requires a unique set of skills and abilities.

Reflecting on my own experiences and through my ongoing conversations with colleagues, the following are attributes that I believe are necessary to lead change.

1. Passion. Enthusiasm and conviction is infectious. The ability to inspire and motivate others, especially when change can involve difficult decisions, is essential. Although we need those around us to ultimately take ownership of any new direction or path, a leader's passion can spark the initial movement and momentum.

2. Transparency. Trust and open communication is integral to any organization. Individuals need to understand why change is necessary, what the intended outcome is, and how we're going to get there. They need to be partners in the process, not simply passive participants. As well, the reality is that not every initiative is successful. Leading change means admitting that we don't have all of the answers, that we make mistakes. If we have worked to foster trusting relationships with those around us, individuals will continue to support us during more difficult times.

3. Resilience. There will never be a scenario where change is embraced wholeheartedly by an entire organization. Leading change means being able to shoulder dissenting opinions and sometimes outright hostility. Sometimes described as a "thick skin", the ability to not take "personal attacks" personally is key. Leaders need to be able to maintain a calm and consistent demeanour.

4. Empathy. Change can be unsettling. It can be a time of uncertainty and flux. Even when the changes that are being implemented are leading to something better, leaders need to understand that leaving behind familiar routines and expectations can lead to anxiety, even anger in some individuals. Leaders also need to be empathetic towards those individuals who are simple unable to accept change. They can't let that halt their progress, but they can treat these individuals with patience and compassion.

5. Courage. Even with the knowledge that change is necessary to move our schools and districts forward, it can be overwhelming to face the prospect of leading during transformative times. For those of us who have experienced significant change, we know that it can be "messy". Leaders may feel the same anxiety and ambivalence as those around them. But they have the confidence and courage to embrace those feelings of uncertainty with the understanding that it means they are moving forward into new learning and growth.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

One More Thing

We all get a little lost sometimes. We lose sight of our purpose, our goals. We get bogged down in the minutia of our busy days and frustrated by seemingly unending demands on our time and energy.

In education, there is always "one more thing". The latest trend, technology or curriculum change. These pressures explain why as "back to school" approaches, my teacher friends are sharing posts filled with a mixture of excitement-tinged anticipation... and anxious dread. And why at the end of June, one of my admin colleagues shared that his goal for the school year had simply been "to survive". Disheartening, perhaps. But understandable. This job can be overwhelming at times. And sometimes we can lose our way...

So as the school year begins, how can we balance our responsibility (yes, responsibility) to facilitate and embrace innovation and change, and the very real sense of fatigue and frustration that is often voiced by educators? As someone who wants to continue to support and facilitate growth in my school community and district, how can I justify adding "one more thing"?

Here's how...

Such a gift.
I ran into one of my old students today. This is a rarity for me, as I've changed schools and districts. More often than not, I send a student on their way at the end of grade 12 and I never see them again. So today was a gift. Not only because I got to see this particular student, who gave me a huge smile and an even bigger hug. But because sometimes I lose my way a little bit too. I get bogged down in the minutia of my day. I feel overwhelmed and anxious.

So with the school year about to begin, today's chance encounter was an incredible reminder of why I continue to push myself to do more. To do better. And why I continue to encourage and support my staff to take on "one more thing". Today I was reminded that I helped shape who this young man had become...

You see, every single day, we make a difference. We impact the lives of children. We help shape the future. What an incredible privilege. But with that privilege comes a responsibility. The responsibility and willingness to take on "one more thing", to embrace change, to move forward with intentionality and purpose. It can be overwhelming. And exhausting. But take a look at that young man's smile...
It is so worth it. 

So if you discover at some point this year that you have lost your way, I hope, like me, you are given this gift. This reminder of why we do what we do. And I hope that helps you to find your way back. Because our students need us. And for that reason, I will continue to do one more thing.