Navigating the Waters of Change

NavigatingChange 1


Last year I was introduced to the Assistant Superintendent Leadership Seminar put on by MASS. Last Friday was our first meeting of the school year. These sessions are rich with discussion and give all of us time to reflect on the work that we are doing in our schools and help us push our thinking to better ourselves and our districts.

For the last hour we watched a Tedx Talk by Rosebeth Moss Kanter entitled Six keys to leading positive change.” The description of the talk was as follows:

From the power of presence to the power of voice, leadership expert and Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter discusses the process of making a difference in the world. Kanter uses the stories of great leaders and ordinary people to reveal the six success factors that are the keys to positive change, including lining up partnerships, managing the miserable middles of change, and sharing success with others. This uplifting talk from TEDxBeaconStreet will inspire you to lead and take action. (Tedx Talks)

Short, sweet, and caught our attention. Six simple factors that will help us lead change in our schools. As we know change can be tricky, scary, and very rarely desired. As Robin Sharma stated, “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.” All of us as leaders know the importance of change, but also fully realize the fear associated with it. Heifetz and Linsky in their book Leadership on the Line do a wonderful job explaining what occurs when change happens in schools. They write, “when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear-their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking-with nothing more to offer perhaps than a possibility. People push back when you disturb the personal and institutional equilibrium they know.” With this knowledge and what I have seen throughout the years, I was curious to hear about her six steps. Oddly enough they were very straight forward:

Show Up

Speak Up

Look Up

Team Up

Never Give Up

Lift Others Up

Simple, powerful, effective and all critical in leading change. As leaders, we must show up. We must be present and visible in leading a change initiative; regardless of the negative reaction it may cause. We must speak up and share with everyone why we are doing this; communication is the key. We must look up and listen to people. We need to hear their fears and apprehensions and validate them while also explaining why this change is for the better. As we know in leading initiatives nothing is done alone, we must collaborate and team up. Change takes time, it does not happen overnight. In education we want immediate results, but we must learn to never give up regardless of the time table or opposition received. Finally, it is important to lift others up. People need to be heard, listened to, and recognized.

After the video, we had a great discussion on these steps. All six are critical parts of leading change and you can’t have one without the other. Now, if only leading change was as easy as following these six steps our lives would be much easier. As you think about a change initiative that was successful in your school, did you include all six of these steps? On the other hand, as you think about an initiative that failed, were there any steps that you missed? In the end, as leaders, we must always be willing to change in order to grow. As Tony Robbins said, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always gotten.”