Recently, I was visiting with an assistant superintendent friend, and he was telling me how difficult it is to move a district of educators toward a common vision of trust and innovation. As #TheRookieAdmin, desiring to learn from this man with much experience, I asked, What have you tried thus far? I know this is a tough topic, and I’m eager to learn.
He went on to tell me how he had a vision and an execution plan. He explained the rollout, flowcharts, and systemic information that he presented to his staff. He went on to share the accountability protocols his team had put in place to ensure the district understood the importance of their vision.
I immediately asked, How’s that working out for you?
To which he replied, “Not very well.”
I guess he saw the look on my face, (my facial expressions are typically undeniable) because he asked, “What are you thinking?”
I’m just thinking trust and innovation are adaptive changes and it seems as if you’re using technical fixes to create your vision. I see this a lot, but I honestly can’t imagine that will truly move a district. However, I’m so new at this system-way of thinking. In fact, I’m not used to turning pirate ships; I’d much prefer to create waves with a speedboat.
But for real, I have noticed when leaders demand compliance, it doesn’t work for long. I feel like if we want to create adaptive change, we have to move those we lead.
He replied, “What do you mean by move?”
Like share with me what you say and your approach, your actions. How do you move those you lead?
He said assuredly, “You give them the research. Show examples of how it is working in the neighboring districts.”
He shared more details; as he finished his concluding statement, I looked down at the bar, then back up at him,
Sorry, but I’m not moved.
As much as I love research and studying the science of “why”… I think the “Research says…” tactic to move others is incredibly unsuccessful. In fact, when leaders begin their profound declaration with, “Research says,” it kinda makes me throw-up in my mouth a little. In all honesty, you can find research to prove any point you’d like.
For me, I want to ask them, What’s your research? Who are these trustworthy researchers of which you speak? Point being, simply saying, “Research says…” before your proclamation means nothing to me. If this is true for me, the REAL-science-nerd, how might this approach “move” our educators?
I could see his face getting red, but he said, “Then, what do suppose we do?” (I interpreted that with my southern background to mean, “Then, Sassy Britches, tell me what you think we should do.“)
I’m the audience at your next all-staff meeting, and you are sharing the “why” for your vision.
Make your words become a hand with fingers outstretched, reaching in desperation, that forces its way through my ribcage and squeezes my heart a few times.
Make me believe in this vision.
Are your students worth your district embracing this vision of trust and innovation? Oh my gosh, YES!
It’s Getting REAL Up In Here
He then looked at me with a smirk and said, “You’re a mess!” But, that grin quickly turned serious.
Then, he painted a beautiful picture with his words expressing the large population of their students who are literally fighting for their lives in their current home-situations. The stories were incredibly moving and surprisingly brief. I was fighting back the tears, and my heart was certainly gently squeezed as he spoke. He shared one story after another and challenged the “crowd” with, “We MUST be their safe place.” He went on to explain how it’s vital we model trust because our students deserve it. “We can’t change the life they live, but we can reshape their experience when they are here.”
No “you will” or “you will get written up”–none of that.
I looked at him, nodded slowly with glassy eyes and smiled.
You moved me.
He said, “Now after I move them, we can move into strategies that will help us achieve our systemic vision. Wow. Such a small shift yet so powerful.”
To which I replied, BAM! And, I’m #TheRookieAdmin!
I’m no expert, but I certainly think this seems to be a better approach to setting the stage and actually moving a pirate ship aka a district toward adaptive change.
George Couros once said,
“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”
If we want this “opportunity to do something amazing” for those we lead, we must be REAL with our why.
It’s the heartbeat of what we do. In my mind, it goes back to building relationships. Relatable. REAL.
Move those you lead. (Students, teachers, school community members, etc.–no one excluded)
George says it best,
“Compliance does not foster innovation.”
Don’t shove them.
Don’t scare them.
Don’t intimidate them.
My “Move Me” thoughts were inspired by one of my favorite songs by Kelly Clarkson, Move You. If the lyrics of this song doesn’t move you, please check your pulse.