Two Ways to Tackle Unexpected Change as a School Leader

Author: Beth Mohler
October 24, 2020

achieving goals
I have been learning and growing in the 7 Habits and the core paradigms of Leader in Me for about six years now. Through the process, I’ve found that truly living the Habits every day and working to shift my paradigms to stay centered on the things that are within my circle of control have been essential to navigating the change that’s been thrust upon us in 2020.  
“Change” is one of those words that makes some people really happy, but makes many cringe. I think that response may be an invitation to think about your paradigms. You either choose to view change as a major disruptor and cause of stress, or you view change as an exciting way to grow and accomplish your goals and your mission. Some may be resistant to change because it requires taking a leap of faith. They wonder if the effort will be worth the final result.  It can be really hard. 
That leap of faith right now is especially tough because we are dealing with massive changes to our system – changes that we did not choose. So, how do we tackle change when much of it is outside our circle of control? When many decisions are not up to us, how do we nonetheless choose our paradigm and believe that we can make the change we want to see happen in the world? 

Find what you can choose

One thing that is incredibly important to me when tackling a change that I did not choose is to find what I can choose – what is in my circle of control. Our schools converting to virtual or socially distanced learning is not in my circle of control. But how we make that conversion amazing for kids…that is very much something I can take charge of. I can begin to feel empowered and even excited when I get to start talking with teachers and families about how to make learning great. That’s my jam! I just had to give that paradigm a tiny shift, to go from the dread of change to excitement about some of the opportunities that exist to really make a difference in the world of education.

Make an action plan toward your goal

The next element of tackling change is really staying focused on the goal. In times of change it is super important to identify your wildly important goal (“WIG”) and make an action plan toward it. It’s also crucial to be sure you check in along the way to see how you are doing. It can be really easy to get lost in the middle of change and lose your path. When you have those milestones along the way, you stay on track. Knowing what you want and tackling the actions to make that happen is incredibly empowering. It makes it easier to say “no” to those things that don’t help you get to your goal, and to say “yes” to those things that do. 
In change, the to-do list can get overwhelming. It can get really hard to distinguish the big rocks from the little rocks when all the rocks feel like they are pounding on your head. But the focus on that WIG can be what allows you to get out from under all the rocks and begin creating the path to success. 
I truly credit the 7 Habits and the belief system that encompasses them with the success we are finding in the midst of this whirlwind of change in 2020. The goal at our school is to ensure that everyone feels safe, supported, and valued to lead and learn. With that as our driving force, all else will fall into place. 


About the author:
Beth Mohler is in her seventh year as Principal of Rutledge Elementary School, part of Leander ISD in Austin, Texas. She was selected as a Leader in Me Community Champion in recognition of her outstanding work as an education leader. 
The thing that keeps Beth coming back to her mission is that spark of learning when a student is really “getting it.” She explains what she loves most as “when you can look at a kid and see that ‘magic moment’ when learning is happening.” Beth adds that Leader in Me gives kids the tools to take that moment of learning and turn it into the start of something even bigger. 

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