As the ball dropped in Times Square and we said good bye to 2020, the ‘new year’ felt hopeful and full of possibilities. With renewed energy and enthusiasm, we embrace 2021. We talk excitedly about resolutions and set intentions. Common sense and realism keep us grounded; we acknowledge that we are living through a pandemic. Times are still difficult; our worries, struggles and frustrations did not end with the the flip of the calendar however, there is room for optimism and renewed sense of purpose. This week felt good for many reasons. Here are a few…
In my role as a school improvement coach, I have learned to respond and adjust my work as needed. It is about figuring out what the current reality is and doing all I can to provide timely support. For most of 2020, adjustments included only being able to provide virtual coaching rather than face to face and not having the opportunity to work side by side with others. I have missed the personal school and district visits; seeing first hand the transformation that takes place when continuous, targeted improvement strategies are implemented. I have missed working with other coaches, shoulder to shoulder, to support a school. And, by the middle of December, I was honestly worried about the principals and district leaders who I have the privilege to work with. Leading through this pandemic was more than any of them signed up for. They had not received a course at college titled “Here is how to keep a school safe and healthy and make sure learning takes place during a pandemic.” By December, the wind was out of their sails. it wasn’t their intention to run out of energy- it just happened.
As I reconnected with leaders the past two weeks, I was so pleased to see personal energy and enthusiasm return. I heard about goals and we developed plans. Intentions were set and school improvement continues. They are still adjusting as needed; spending hours doing contract tracing, reminding students and staff to wear masks, monitoring health and safety protocols and following other public health practices. This has not gone away; these leaders are just not allowing a pandemic to be in the way of focusing as much time and attention as they can on student learning.
I was asked a great question this week- “In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to successful leadership?” I love being asked that question. It doesn’t seem to matter how many years I work at leadership coaching; my answer remains the same. In my opinion, the biggest obstacle to being a successful leader is struggling to commit to intentions ( or, perhaps, truly knowing what your intentions are). I am confident that I learned this the hard way (in fact, I still can make a mess of this at the best of times). Distractions come and go in our lives and it is what we do with them that creates (or doesn’t create) obstacles to successful leadership. It is about understanding what you intend to accomplish and how you must go about your business to get there. It is about positively impacting others to do the same.
Sometimes it is the “aha” moment when you, the leader, has clarity about what you envision your school or district to become. This vision becomes the foundation for establishing collective commitments of how you (and others) will work. It might mean that you establish “tight” expectations- the non-negotiable actions that align to vision. It is an opportunity to revisit how we actually know if we are staying intentional -what will we use for artifacts and evidence to progress check our own goals? It means celebrating our small and big wins.
But first, it has to start with an intent. “This term, I intend to spend more time doing___________________” “Next week, I will intentionally_do this -_______________________________to improve student achievement.” During several coaching calls this week I felt the intention of school and district leaders to take specific actions to improve the academic lives of their students. I heard commitment to students and I felt strong support for the professional development of teachers.
Challenge yourself to have intention in 2021. Take time to consider what is really important to you. If I check in with you a few months from now, what evidence of your intentions will you share? How will we know that you have kept distractors away and stayed the course? If you are leading a school, know that your intentions will make the difference in the lives of your students. If you are leading a district, never underestimate your impact on student success. Use this complimentary book study to motivate you: https://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention-book-study.html. And, if I can help in any way, please reach out. You’ve got this.