Friday, September 13, 2013

Leading Challenge before Change

Everyone talks about change. They say change is coming or change is here. Change agents preach we must change in order to improve. Well if that's the case, then why do so many people avoid it?

Change is not the problem. The fact of the matter is that before we can change, we must first accept the challenge to change. In order to make change, we must challenge the status quo. Literally speaking, change is embedded in the challenge 

So How do We Challenge?

First, we must have the courage to stand against the tyranny of tepid growth. Being the first person to make a stand is difficult; therefore, courage is the gatekeeper to change. 

People don't follow a person, but they will join a cause if they believe the change will make their environment a better place. Challenges that fail are often the result of a person's decision to make the challenge more about themselves than the necessity to adapt. Humility is required to make change. 

Arouse Interest
Generating support for change can be difficult. Successful change agents define how the world could be better if we all pulled together. In order for change to be initiated, leaders must peak the interest of others. 

Live with the Pain
Starting to make change hurts. It is uncomfortable and makes those implementing change want to stop. Change agents understand that pain is a challenge in and of itself, and that no change can occur without first enduring the pain.


Listen to Barriers
There is always something standing in the way. Barriers abound. People are frustrated. Look for them, and listen to what's being said. These obstacles are opportunities to turn risk into reward, and listening is the only way to make it happen. 

Engage Critics
Critics are at every turn. Do not turn them away. At first sight, they can be seen as negative naysayers, but by engaging them, leaders use their feedback to identify what parts of the change are difficult to comprehend. Critics often can't see the vision of the change, and the leader must translate his vision. 

Negate Naysayers
Naysayers and critics are two different creatures. Naysayers don't want to change while critics critique your steps throughout the change. Once you determine that a person complains for the sake of complaining and they offer no real solutions, drop them and move on. They're wasting your time. 

Goal Setting
No change occurs with a wish or a whim. Short term and long term goals are critical to ensure that leaders meet the challenge of making change. Change takes time and without goals sustained change never occurs. 

Evaluate Progress
Once goals are set, they must be monitored. Remember, what gets measured gets done. Checking progress helps leaders gauge the effectiveness of their change and the leader's own leadership in making it happen. 

I leave you with this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that sums up the challenge within change better than anything I've said. I hope you accept the challenge before the change. 


  1. I like this, John...

    I think that people who are driving change efforts see challenge as an inherently bad thing. They rarely have stamina for pushing through the inevitable challenges that come along with change -- which is why change efforts fail so frequently. We give up as soon as the change effort proves to be harder than we thought it would be.

    Here's a writing challenge for you: You talk about the difference between naysayers and critics. Write about that more. Help school leaders to see the difference.

    I think most school leaders see anyone who questions as a naysayer immediately simply because they have so much invested in the change efforts that they have planned. Rather than being ready to listen to potential criticism, they want to downplay it and/or demonize the critics because they don't want to believe that their plans might be flawed.

    That creates an unhealthy environment in schools.

    Hope you're well,

    1. Bill,

      Thank you for your comment, and the challenge is accepted. This is been a challenge for me to know the difference between naysayers and critics.

      I also think that team leaders need help with knowing the difference as well, otherwise they will miss their real opportunity to make an impact on instruction or whatever they are trying to accomplish.

      I hope all is well with you, and I hope you have a great day