Monday, 25 July 2011

Building a Shared Vision

Vision.  What is your reaction to this word?

Is it negative?  Perhaps you have been involved in vision-building activities that never really made a difference in how your organization functioned or in your results.  Perhaps your organization, like many others, failed to live by its vision once it was created.

Effective leaders engage people throughout the organization in building commitment toward the shared vision that becomes the guiding force for all action.  A great example of this is schools that have established a vision of an unyielding commitment to ensure that all students meet local standards.  The vision drives all behaviours and informs all of the school's operations, structures, and allocation of resources.  Another example is schools that envision themselves as providing the best quality instruction, without exception.  Again, the vision shapes what the staff does, including making sure every teacher is supported to learn and carry out best practice and use ongoing analysis of data and results to find out what is working and what needs to be changed. 

Many organizations have vision and mission statements.  Most visions, however, are not shared visions.  They are imposed on others by the head of the organization or a group of people at the top.  These visions are not effective long term because they "command compliance - not commitment" (Senge, 1990).  A shared vision is different.  A shared vision incorporates individual visions, engenders commitment, and focuses energy.  As Senge (1990) says, "When people truly share a vision, they are connected, bound together by a common aspiration.  Shared visions derive their power from a common caring".

Kouzes and Posner (2002) suggest that leaders inspire people to come to a shared vision that is appropriate for them based on carefully considering how future trends will affect them and what reputable people are predicting about their business in the next 10 years.  As leaders, you must look at this future and help to build a shared vision based on that.  Schools that have visions based on old trends and data from prior decades are going to be locked in the past. 

Don't confuse vision and mission.  Vision is knowing where you want to be or what you want to become.  It includes tangibles, as well as intangibles, such as virtues and the culture you that you want to surround you.  Mission is your reason for being and the work you pursue to realize your vision.  Your mission guides your actions to achieve what you envision for yourself and your organization. 

From:  Leading Every Day by Joyce Kaser, Susan Mundry, Katherine E. Stiles, & Susan Loucks-Horsley
Published by: Corwin Press

Monday, 18 July 2011

Change as a Process

Change is a process, not an event.
                                    - Gene Hall & Shirley Hord

What is the difference between an event and a process?  An event is a one-time occurrence.  It happens, and it is over and done with.  In contrast, a process is ongoing.  It takes place over time and evolves.

How do people treat change as a one-time event?  The following are some typical illustrations:
  • Send out a memo saying that from this point on, this is how things will be done.
  • Invest in a new program and expect that people will automatically be able to use it.
  • Send people off for training and expect them to immediately behave differently.
  • Enact a new policy or practice and then announce it to the staff.
  • Offer people professional development with the expectation that they will successfully help others.
  • Involve only a small number of people in making the change instead of a more broadly based group of stakeholders.
  • Expect to see immediate results from a change initiative. 

When people treat change as an event, it is doomed to fail.  Unless the change is one of minimal consequence, it simply won't happen.  What is different when people see change as a process?  They do the following:
  • Involve the people affected by the change in planning for and leading the change.
  • Account for the impact of change on the people involved.
  • Know that any significant change takes time and plan accordingly.
  • Employ professional development over time to ensure that people acquire the right knowledge and skills to implement the change.
  • Set realistic expectations for implementation.
  • Build a culture of support for the change that avoids blaming people for past mistakes.
  • Apply a monitoring procedure to track key benchmark events.
Viewing change as a process increases the likelihood of obtaining desired results.

From:  Leading Every Day by Joyce Kaser, Susan Mundry, Katherine E. Stiles, & Susan Loucks-Horsley
Published by: Corwin Press

Monday, 11 July 2011

Balancing Leadership and Management

What is leadership and what is management?

Both are very important in organizational life and shouldn't be confused. 

Leadership is doing the right thing; management is doing things right.  Managers direct the hacking of a new path through the jungle; leaders make sure that they are in the right jungle.

One of the major contributions that a leader can make is to always be able to distinguish between these two important functions.  We often become so focused on the day-to-day realities of what we do that we lose sight of whether we are doing the right thing.

Leaders often have to ask the hard questions: Are we getting the best results possible?  Where can we improve?  Who is not learning and what can we do about it?  Are there ethical issues involved?  What knowlwedge and skills do our staff need, and how will they get them?  Will the proposed staff development give us what we need?  Is our strategic planning effective?  These queries will help you challenge the status quo that is often accepted without question.

Think about the leadership role you play and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why are you doing what you are doing?
  2. What data do you have to show that you are addressing the right problems and doing the right work?
  3. How are you spending your time? What percentage of your day is spent on managing tasks?  What percentage of your day is focused on setting the course, engaging with others and providing leadership?
  4. Are you sure you are "doing the right things" before you set up procedures to "do things right"?

From:  Leading Every Day by Joyce Kaser, Susan Mundry, Katherine E. Stiles, & Susan Loucks-Horsley
Published by: Corwin Press

Monday, 4 July 2011

Leading For Results

Current leaders can learn so much from the leaders that have come before us.  We all benefit from knowing what has worked for other leaders and getting insights into the question, "If you can only use a few leadership practices, what is likely to have the greatest results?"  For example, what leaders do in schools can have a significant impact (positive or negative) on student learning.  In a meta-analysis of 30 years of research on leadership, Waters, Marzano, and McNulty (2002) identified 21 leadership practices that enhance student achievement.  Savvy leaders actively seek to use these practices:

  1. Building culture by fostering shared beliefs and a sense of community and cooperation.
  2. Maintaining order by establishing a set of operating procedures and routines.
  3. Protecting teachers from distractions that will take away from their teaching time or focus.
  4. Providing resources such as professional development and materials to support staff to do their jobs.
  5. Directly involving themselves in the design and implementation of curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices.
  6. Establishing clear goals and keeping the focus on meeting them.
  7. Being knowledgeable about curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices.
  8. Having quality interactions with staff and students and being visible.
  9. Recognizing and rewarding individual accomplishments.
  10. Communicating effectively with staff and students.
  11. Reaching out to stakeholders and being a strong advocate for the school.
  12. Seeking input and involving staff in decisions and policy making.
  13. Recognizing school accomplishments and acknowledging failures.
  14. Building strong relationships with staff.
  15. Being change agents willing to challenge the status quo.
  16. Providing leadership and inspiration for new and challenging innovations.
  17. Taking action based on strong ideals and beliefs about education.
  18. Monitoring and evaluating effects on student learning.
  19. Adapting leadership style to the situation and being tolerant of dissent.
  20. Knowing the school context and using your understanding of people and situations in your context to solve problems.
  21. Ensuring that staff have opportunities for intellectual stimulation around the work of teaching and learning. 

From:  Leading Every Day by Joyce Kaser, Susan Mundry, Katherine E. Stiles, & Susan Loucks-Horsley
Published by: Corwin Press