3 Tools to Assess and Guide Your Deliberate Leadership

So, you’re working on your school’s big change. Maybe it’s getting instruction shaped up for the introduction of the Common Core. Or maybe all your students and teachers are getting laptops or tablets. Or maybe you’re making the move to customized learning, or project-based learning, or…

And if you’re reading this blog, then you’ve probably found this model for school change to use when it’s a biggie, such as when it requires a paradigm shift for educators (and perhaps the community) because it’s different than when they were a student and maybe they have never taught this way or been trained to teach this way.

And maybe, like a lot of schools, you had a good start and you paid attention to all the Key and Supporting components of the model, but as the year went on, and the initiative went on, and the day to day running of the school/district loomed big, you have begun to wonder, how do I know we’re still paying attention to all the moving parts of our initiative? How can you get a little check to make sure you’re still on track?

The three tools described below are designed to do exactly that. The three work in concert to help you or your team identify what you’re doing in the initiative, where there may be gaps in providing leadership for the initiative, and what can be done to make the initiative more complete.

This process can be done individually by an initiative leader, or with a leadership team, or with a larger group of stakeholders. I’m partial to using a team effort. Over and over and over again, I’m surprised about the things that are captured and dealt with because team members have perspectives and strengths different than my own. These were always things that would have fallen through the cracks, if it hadn’t been for the diverse perspectives of team members. When working with a group, decide if it is most appropriate to work through each component as a whole group or to divide up into smaller groups, each working on a different component.

A group can work through all three of these tools in 2-3 hours.

The Lead4Change Check-In Tool
The Lead4Change Check-In tool has one sheet for each of the 7 components of the Lead4Change Model. The intent is to reflect on what work is currently underway in each category. It’s a way to gather your list of efforts toward your initiative. The intent is to determine what is going on right now, in preparation of asking the question, are we dealing with all the parts we should be dealing with?

As each effort is listed on the form, the note taker can check which piece(s) of the Component the effort relates to. Some efforts will not only relate to more than one piece of a Component, but to more than one Component. There is no problem with listing an effort on more than one sheet. In fact, you want to make sure that all your efforts toward each Component are recorded.

I’ve done this work with a leadership team through a modified Carousel Activity. I broke the large team into smaller groups. Each small group worked on a different Component for a certain amount of time, then passed the individual Component sheet to the next group. The next group would add to the sheet, passing it to the next group when time was up. Each Component sheet would eventually visit each group. One advantage is that this kind of small group work is more likely to engage every member of the large group than when the same work is done in a “whole group” approach.

The Where Are The Holes? Tool
The Where Are The Holes? tool let’s the same group of reflective practitioners to then look back over the Check-In documents and think about each piece of each Component. They would decide if that piece is “covered” or a “hole.”

Why not skip the Check-In and jump right to here? I think that sometimes, when presented with a checklist, it is too easy just to look at an item and say “Yup! Doing that!” without really stopping to think about “how are you doing that?” Using the the Check-In tool forces you to provide the evidence of if you have covered it or not.

Is it always a problem when there is a hole? No. Large-scale school change initiatives take time and have lots of pieces to pay attention to. There are times when you will look at a hole and say something like, “It is okay that that is a hole right now, because it isn’t time yet to do that. We will be addressing that next semester/year/etc.” But finding the holes insures that any current hole is a hole on purpose, for a good reason, and not just because the team has overlooked it.

The What Could We Do? Tool
So now you know what is going on, and where you have holes and need to pay attention. Now is the time to capture some ideas of what the initiative could do, especially to fill those “overlooked” holes in implementation.

The What Could We Do? Tool helps with this. Groups fill in their ideas of what could be done, recording whose idea it was, who could be a contact person, as well as, what Component and piece it relates to. Special attention should be paid, of course, to those pieces that you identified as holes.

The ideas listed on the sheet are brief and sometimes the sheet sits for a while before the leadership team gets back to it. Capturing whose idea it was allows the leadership team to go back later and find out more about the idea if they have clarifying questions.

Listing a contact person allows the group to get in touch either with who would be responsible for getting the suggested idea going, or with an outside contact person who has implemented similar work.

 

Having your leadership team work through these three tools, could be a useful approach to revisiting the Lead4Change Model as a piece of your continuous improvement plan.

About Mike Muir

I'm an educator interested in collaborating with other educators on engaging all learners, proficiency-based learning, technology's role in learning, and leadership for school change.
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