From the magazine: The power of wanderlust

In the June/July edition of ‘A light-hearted view from the Engine Room’ WORKING SBM shared the travel analogy she adopts when change is afoot – and offers five steps to help you approach that change with confidence

The free spirit in me loves to travel. I’ve learned over the years that, whether it be by car, boat, train, aeroplane, horseback, bicycle – or even walking – I’m happiest when I’m on the move. Between you and me, I’m the sort who enjoys going up and down in a lift! It doesn’t really matter where I’m going – home or away – it’s the forward momentum that thrills me.

So, inevitably, alongside this is a love of change. New experiences, new people, new ways of working, new ideas – they all add to the variety of life as a school business leader, and I’ve always been determined not to stand still for too long. I could never understand the, ‘I’ll work here until I retire’ mentality; I want to keep growing, learning, contributing until someone says, ‘Ok, it’s time to stop now’. You won’t be surprised to hear that, when that day comes, I plan to pack up a pannier and cycle around Europe!

I’m fortunate in that I currently work with like-minded colleagues and we’ve had some amazing experiences together due to our desire to embrace change, accept risk and work hard to be pioneers – as well as bring everyone with us if we can. It’s not always easy, and not everyone has the same appetite or energy for the ride, but it’s certainly fun!

Avoiding Alice’s rabbit hole

The education landscape is changing so rapidly at the moment that the view from my engine room can feel like Alice’s rabbit hole – the metaphorical unknown – and I sometimes wonder if I will ever get to the bottom! So, I like to remember my travel analogy when change is happening around me, and remind myself of these steps.

  1. Why are you travelling? Sometimes the answer to that question is easy. You’re going to work, or on holiday, or nipping to the local shop for ketchup before your teenager goes into meltdown. Sometimes the answer is less obvious. Maybe the change will bring about more efficient processes, or improved outcomes for students. It is easy to be negative about the ‘why’ of travel, especially if you don’t trust the reasons, but it is worth remembering that you can usually return home or go on to somewhere new if you don’t like the destination.
  2. Where are you are going? I don’t think anyone would embark on a journey without some idea of where they are going, at least on the first leg! So, if you are not the one with the change vision, or implementation responsibilities, ask to be informed. A big part of successful change management is to bring everyone with you; offer to help communicate the destination to your teams and focus on understanding where you are going.

  3. How are you going to get there? Obviously, if the plan is to walk miles, you’ll need some decent boots. If you’re flying you are likely to need your passport. What is the change journey going to be like – long, short, bumpy? You need to know what will be required of you so that you can plan your time, prepare the resources and be ready for turbulence!

  4. Have you booked accommodation? In schools, change can often mean reallocation of classrooms or office space. We inevitably get attached to our own workspaces, so you may need to support colleagues through a move or get used to a different space yourself. The earlier you know about a move, the more prepared you will be, and the more time you will have available to clear out the accumulated paper!

  5. What are you going to do when you get there? A journey rarely involves arriving at a destination and then staying in one place. In the same way, a change process is never going to be the last change. Is it a step on the way? Will it build towards something bigger?

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Smooth the path

Change, like travel, is never straightforward. There are delays, diversions, heavy bags, language barriers and a child who needs a toilet…NOW! But it is never dull, and the school business leader’s skills and influence can smooth the path, solve problems as they appear and support others along the way.

So, the next time you meet a change initiative, approach it as you would your annual summer holiday – with excited anticipation for all you are about to contribute, learn and experience, and use your positivity to enthuse everyone around you.

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