‘Change’ is often met with mixed feelings in education. Leaders and decision makers at schools, universities and colleges are constantly needing to re-adjust, re-evaluate, re-plan to keep up with change – new budgets, policies, technology, legislation, staffing structures, grading systems, accountability measures, cultural and social variations – the list goes on. With changes on the horizon, making a resolution to adopt a positive mindset and develop solid coping mechanisms are key to managing change effectively and getting your team on board.
Here are our top six tips:
- Let learning be the focus of your leadership
Leaders who focus on the core purpose of education – teaching and learning – are better equipped to deal with change. Holding on firmly to this central aim enables you to view proposed changes as a small part of your overall goal and helps to keep things in perspective. Education by its very nature must evolve, and keeping up with developments can be one of the most interesting and invigorating aspects of the job in a leadership role.
- Have faith in your team
One of the most effective strategies of dealing with change is to ensure that the right people are in the right jobs – strong leaders entrust jobs to the skilled professionals in their team and play to their fortes. A challenge that may seem insurmountable to one person may be relished by another. Taking a step back and carefully reviewing organisational structure as a whole can really revitalise leadership teams.
- Manage the ‘control’ element
Encourage fellow team members to give their input wherever possible – this really helps to provide the element of ‘control’ that people naturally seek when faced with change. Research shows that a greater sense of ownership is more likely to lead to successful outcomes when change is introduced. Within an education environment it is vital to consider all stakeholders – teachers, administrators, board members, non-teaching staff, communities – and allow them to have their say in how (or even if) change is introduced.
- Build positivity
When teachers and other educational staff can look back on transitions and challenges their school, college or university has successfully navigated in the past, they can start to build a picture of positivity associated with change. Begin with small but visible changes that will make a positive difference – this will encourage openness to change and trying new things. By focusing on achievements and celebrating the impact these have had, you will embed a culture that empowers you and staff to meet what lies ahead. And remember that we can’t expect every change to succeed – failure is also a learning experience.
- Share and collaborate
Instead of looking to the government or local authority for solutions to problems, turn to your neighbouring schools, universities or colleges and make the most of opportunities to work together to drive up standards locally or regionally. This can provide educational leaders with one of the most useful strategies for managing change – not only will you open up opportunities for managing budgets more efficiently, but, crucially, you will also be fostering trust and support. Pooling ideas and sharing best practice in leadership is an excellent way to ride the current of change. The old adage “a problem shared is a problem halved” rings true.
- Look for the silver lining…but don’t forget the whole picture
Cup half full or cup half empty? Whether you’re naturally an optimist or not, being able to see the positives in situations is an excellent strategy for managing change – especially when faced with unwelcome mandatory change. However don’t forget to balance this with a good dose of reality – listen to your team and recognise that those who appear negative or resistant to change must be given a platform to voice their opinion. If someone raises a valid point then this will affect how you approach implementing the change and will help ensure all your support team are on board.
- Be inspired
Education is rooted in the idea of growth, development and change. Strong leadership teams are resilient, flexible, able to ‘think outside the box’ and use change to their advantage to achieve wider aims. As the legendary jazz musician Miles Davis – a master of improvisation – said, “It’s not about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.”