We are limited not by our abilities but by our vision.
Change is inevitable. In fact, it’s probably one of the only constant aspects of our lives. Despite this truth, we face two predominant challenges with change. One, we don’t like it. As much as we tout that we embrace change, recognize its importance, and work to accept it within our lives, we instinctively fight against it. Human beings, for the most part, enjoy predictability, assuredness, and comfort.
Although there isn’t anything inherently wrong with those desires, they can unintentionally limit our growth and, therefore, that of our school and district. This brings us to our second challenge with change–it’s often out of our control. Change comes in so many different untidy and unwelcomed ways, which are often outside of our grasp. Granted, effective leaders initiate change; albeit true, the negative impacts of change can hit the best of us without warning.
Our human psychology warrants mantras–personal statements that remind us how to think and be. Imagine a change-mantra such as this one: “I am ready and capable for the change and challenges that I will face today.” It may seem simple or silly, but when we hope for an easy day or for everything to go smoothly in any given circumstance, we are really unconsciously telling ourselves that we’re not ready or that we’re not equipped for the uncertainty that we know is a reality in life and work.
When we embrace mantras such as the one above, it’s likely because we have a clear vision and core values for ourselves and those who we lead. This marriage between our vision and values is central to success. Their symbiotic relationship helps to eclipse everything that is going on all around us, drawing our attention away from the efforts that we would otherwise extend to achieve our goals.
Vision and Values
Our vision and values allow us to fight the cognitive dissonance that is often associated with change, especially change that is unwantedly thrust upon us. Yes, things may be in absolute disarray, but our predefined vision and values provide clarity. The best way to reconcile change within ourselves or our organization is to ensure that the vision is bigger than any challenge we may face and that our core values indicate the behaviors that will supersede any outside forces.
Clear Vision — This is a statement about what the future should look and feel like if our goals are met.
Core Values — These are our 3-5 guiding principles that ground the work. They should be inspirational, recitable, and action oriented.
One quick google search about “vision” will reveal countless ways to develop a vision statement. They’ve become incredibly common throughout organizations and are typically found on walls, screensavers, and, if done really well, even on magnets and other cool work-bling.
#1. Reflect: Does your school or district have a compelling, yet simple, vision statement that clearly paints a picture of where the organization is heading? Are the organization’s core values aligned to the vision? Do people in the organization know the vision and the values? If the answer is no, focus your attention here. If your answer is yes, move to #2.
#2. Identify: What are some current change initiatives that your school or district is enacting? These may be geared toward equipping teachers to effectively teach remotely or the purchase and implementation of an online reading series. Make a list.
#3. Do: Once you identify the change initiatives at hand, write a special vision statement and core values for each. Be sure that they align to the school and district vision and core values. These statements are what will propel the work forward, faster than you imagined would be the case.
Pro Tip: Vision statements are only effective if they are compelling. We have to be mindful to move consciously past our cerebral understanding of what we want to achieve, digging deeper into the visceral side of our work. Doing so provides the needed balance between the head and the heart. The 5 Why Technique is a compelling and proven way to go beyond the surface, delving into the core of an issue before moving forward. You can find additional information here.
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