Guest post by Joël McLean, @jprofnb
As school principal, it is my responsibility to facilitate change initiatives based on goals and action steps chosen by my teams. As a connected leader, I have access to resources (people, information) that can help my organization implement change. But this isn’t always easy. Public education is a static organization: change is slow and often complicated. All the more reason to be proactive (anticipate), and to seek out any and all opportunities to collaborate with team members.
Translate Ideas and Vision Into Action
Being able to facilitate doesn’t come automatically. As leaders, we must continuously grow and improve our skills. By adding value to ourselves, we are then able to add value to others.
There is a quote from John Maxwell that has always rang true for me:
“Successful leaders have the courage to take action, while others hesitate.”
A change leader must be equipped to be able to translate ideas and vision into action. Actions always speak louder than words. A leader must possess the necessary skills, training, and support to answer this call to action. I learned very early in my career as a leader that action is a key factor in gaining people’s trust, and without trust, people will not follow.
Getting People Moving
A great leader understands the need to grow others in their organization. They can’t do it alone. The 3 most important elements to develop are relationships, relationships, and relationships. A leader must discover what drives each and every person on their team. What are their passions, and how can that be leveraged? What is their zone of proximal development? As a leader, if I want to get people moving, I have to invest in them, and walk the path with them. I have to provide opportunities for them to step up as leaders. I have to celebrate their successes, but also allow them to make mistakes. This helps to build trust, and trust helps to get people moving.
Maintaining Forward Momentum
Being able to sustain change and make it a reality takes patience, faith, resilience, skill, humility, and a growth mindset. Throughout the years these have been key elements of my growth plan. Being intentional with my growth has given me the tools and the understanding that are necessary to implement and sustain change initiatives. It is what helps me to keep moving things forward.
Creating The Right Environment For Change to Work
I often make the time to stop and “zoom out” to see the big picture of where my schools are regarding change. This allows me to identify the areas we need to “unfreeze”, and target change initiatives with a laser like focus. I then identify key players within these areas and start having conversations to seed ideas and ask questions. But before having these conversations, I have to be clear about how we can improve this area, and the reasons why it is important to bring change. I offer different forms of data to help support the change initiative. Once unfrozen, I provide whatever support I can to facilitate the change.
Spreading Ideas and Challenge Positions
As a leader, I have to be ready and willing to have the courageous conversations needed to implement and sustain change. Although I can plant the seeds of change, I believe that once people are motivated, the best ideas will come from them. Intrinsic motivation can move mountains, and collaboration is the vehicle that drives positive and healthy cultures.
The culture that I want to develop as a leader is one in which we are constantly challenging positions. We need to be comfortable doing this. That is how we manage to unfreeze processes or habits in order to improve or change them. We should always ask ourselves the question: “How can I make this even better?”.
Once change has been achieved, I like to leave a little bit of “wiggle room”. We know that we are implementing change for the better, but we also know that eventually, we most likely will improve it again. Always looking to improve is the “wiggle room” that we have to allow ourselves. Therefore we can fully support a change initiative by refreezing, however I believe that we need to also provide that “wiggle room” to honour the continuous change process.
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