Leading with Grace & Ease Through a Time of Uncertainty

In my last blog (Pre-Covid19), I addressed one of my most frequently asked questions, “How do I obtain staff buy in?

I addressed that question in part by asking readers to shift their mindsets as we examined the essence of that very question. Is the time and energy spent fretting over whether or not we are going to achieve staff buy in paying off in terms of leader effectiveness, efficiency and the modeling of change leadership? Or are we spinning our wheels and squandering precious time by approaching this question from the wrong perspective?

What I discovered over my years as principal is that there is something inherently limiting with the question. The question I should have been asking was, how do I, as a leader, or we, as a leadership team, establish the conditions that allow an innovation to be introduced, reflected upon, experimented with, and refined through an iterative cycle, with multiple entry points for different staff team members at different points in the journey.

A I previously wrote, this is a question that requires us to move beyond the presenting issue itself to examine the relationships we have fostered and our school culture as a whole. This was true pre-Covid19 and remains more so today. We must still intentionally and mindfully set the stage for change to flourish but be evermore aware of leading with grace and ease in response to the unexpected.

Leading with grace and ease through a time of uncertainty means that we do not abandon our processes and structures but that we amplify them by moving through our work with a heightened presence, thoughtfulness, and humility. This enables us to recognize the beauty inherent in knowing that regardless of the uncharted waters ahead of us, our teams will continue to collaborate as we unlock answers together.

How Might I Lead With Heightened Presence, Thoughtfulness & Humility?

Considerations for leaders

  1. I believe that there is a collective fear that many leaders share … is only one chance to get this right for our learning communities. Although this may in large part be true, we must take into account that if we approach this unprecedented time with a collective compassion for the work we do, the children we serve and the staff who support teaching and learning, we will find the answers together.
  2. Be tuned into the fears and uncertainties of your staff while at the same time being open with them about your own.
  3. Continue to collectively determine our students needs through discussion, failing forward and learning by doing is critical.
  4. Honor the gift of time between stimulus and response. We do not need to have all of the answers all of the time. Nor do we need to have an immediate response to all matters. Experience has taught me that when I’m pressured into responding according to someone else’s passion for an immediate response, I am sure to make ill informed and regretful decisions. It is better that we respond in a way that recognizes an individual’s need for a response yet honors the fact that they have brought forth an issue worthy of thoughtful reflection.
  5. It is important for us to acknowledge that while there may be chaos around us, it is critical that we not allow this chaos to thrive within us. Our teams are looking to us for direction more than ever so let’s be vigilant about protecting our cultures. Take the time to do the things that fill your emotional, physical, and spiritual bank accounts so you can achieve clarity and direction for yourself and others who depend on you for your thoughtful and humble leadership.

How Can I Lead My Staff to Unlock the Answers Together?

Considerations for leaders

  1. Let’s embrace the mistakes we are going to make and the resulting, valuable lessons we are about to learn. Give one another the space, permission and support to make these invaluable mistakes as a team.
  2. Continue to welcome and encourage thought provoking discussions. Create the formalized times for these to emerge, as well as promote the continued need for unformalized conversations.
  3. Maintain your meeting schedules and set times to connect online. Determining the supporting structures and frameworks throughout this process is key in establishing an online learning culture
  4. Make asking questions that challenge our way of thinking and performing a part of your practice. Continually infuse questions for consideration and discussion to normalize the practice of reflection and debate. This is especially important now.
  5. Tie in a professional learning component with guiding questions into your meetings with staff
  6. Revisit cultural expectations as a staff and ensure that culture remains in tact during this time of isolation
  7. Continue to communicate the level of urgency surrounding student needs remain high especially in this time of challenge

Wishing you all the best as you navigate your days ahead together as a team. Remember to take the time to triage your needs as a school community through a lense of grace, ease and collective compassion and your teams will achieve incredible things for our students. Imagine the beautiful impact our efforts will have!

Author: Marilyn Schmitke