To infinity and beyond!
With Covid-19 disrupting the usual order of things, we are finally on the journey back to a new normal, leaders can’t settle for just dealing with what’s in front of them today. I hear some Principals say they can’t worry about level 2 or beyond until all the detail arrives. Other Principals are being more proactive and trying to anticipate moves ahead of time. Which approach is best? Well…. both to some extent. It’s no use wasting time worrying about bus routes for their 70 plus driver until they have a clear indication from the ministry about what they can and can't insist on. However, they need to immediately begin looking ahead and planning for the future to make sure they’re prepared for what comes next—even if they have no idea what shape it will take.
It may feel like a time to sit and wait, but in fact, it’s a time to be proactive about the future—yours, your team’s, and your school’s. This is what I’ve been advocating for the Principals I’ve been working with during this time.
Brainstorm. Gather the sharpest minds and most insightful thinkers in your school (This may include senior management, teachers, BOT members etc) discuss what the next months and years may look like. Spend time together exploring a range of scenarios and tracking for each of them how you can move the school and its people beyond Covid-19.
Do a SWOT and discover opportunities and threats. In the discussion of each possible scenario, include a big-picture assessment of possible opportunities and threats, grounded in the awareness that the pandemic is changing not only your school but also your teachers, parents and the education system as a whole.
Create certainty about priorities. You can empower people through uncertainty if you hold true to the values and priorities that drive your team’s mission and communicate your school’s vision. The mission and vision and priorities need to be communicated clearly and often. When everything is changing, people need certainty to grasp on to and feel safe.
Lead with speed and agility. In unpredictable times you don’t have the luxury of playing wait and see—you must be proactive and able to move quickly and confidently in a new direction, with the willingness to pivot and make adjustments as events unfold. Many Principals talked about how they had to take a more autocratic approach initially now you have some time to discuss but don’t be indecisive. Be bold.
Learn from the present while planning for the future. As this has unfolded, you and your teaching team have learnt something new every day. Make sure these new ways of doing things are reflected in your future strategic planning.
Gain commitment from your staff, parents and community. Especially if you’re wanting to move in a new direction, your people need to fully commit to the vision and plan. That means it can’t be a top-down initiative—their voice and involvement are an important part of the process. Leadership based on collaboration and not control—trusting that people are smart and know what to do—fosters the commitment and energy your team needs to tackle the crisis and to continue a journey of growth when it’s over.
Ensure your vision for your school still connects to the future you and your community want. Any new vision must meet two criteria: it must be aspirational and it must be tightly aligned with your school’s purpose. Good strategic planning is one thing that has never changed.
Finally, don’t get bogged down in the day to day allow yourself time to reflect and not lose sight of a possible future.
The following is a slide show that should help. SWOT