One of the most difficult challenges for any institution, as it strives for excellence, is the need to make decisions that focus on the well-being of the organization and at the same time balance the personal impact such change may have on an individual or a group—both within and outside of the organization. These types of decisions must be done thoughtfully and have to be approached with integrity, honesty, and genuine care. When creating a forum to work through the change process, the best approach in shaping the conversation is realizing “change creates opportunities.”
It is interesting how this phrase can redirect a conversation from being reactionary to responsive, from judgment to understanding, and from problem-focused to solution-seeking. Fear of change is so often the result of imagined consequences and the uncertainty of what the future might look like, including pushing us outside of our comfort level, changing expectations with regards to the roles or contributions individuals will be expected to provide in a new context or environment, and finally, people’s personal beliefs in their ability to make the changes required of them. For some individuals, who may not see themselves as part of this new reality, the challenge becomes finding a new sense of purpose and direction whether it be within the organization or somewhere else AND managing the feelings of leaving a spot that felt comfortable and moving towards a new beginning. In addition, how we respond to change is often affected by our own experiences and those turning points in our past when we have had to undergo significant changes in our own lives (e.g. moving cities, studying abroad away from our families, changes in family structure, changing schools or job and so on). Yet the ability to manage change is a life skill that needs to be explored, practised, and embraced.
As we look around us, the world is changing at an exponential rate driven by globalization, environmental/economic realities, technology and social trends. Some of these changes can be perceived as opportunities, some as barriers. As John Kotter states in his book entitled Leading Change, “As human beings, we never stop changing, but how we react to change determines whether we feel good or bad about it, and whether we see such change as an opportunity or a challenge.” The important thing is to realize that many of those changes are being driven by outside forces not within our control. Even so, we need to have the ability to adapt, prepare for new realities, or even embrace new possibilities. Hence, the importance of a growth mindset and the ability to work past the discomfort of doing things differently, taking on new roles or just working in a new context with new people and new surroundings, are critical to future success.
At St. Margaret’s, we try to demonstrate that growth mindset by:
As our students are confronted with a future that will definitely require them to be ready for change, we need to ensure that our girls are not only engaged in their learning now, but also empowered to shape how they learn in the future. This is the essence and the imperative of creating a growth mindset and the importance of leading change not just managing it. This is also an important lesson for the adults as we need to lead by example and, in this case, lead from the front!
“Never stop exploring, challenging, hypothesizing, experimenting and learning. It is those people who are open-minded and curious who will love and best lead change.”
“People will try to tell you that all the great opportunities have been snapped up. In reality, the world changes every second, blowing new opportunities in all directions. The trick is to know when to act, when to endure, and when to accept.”
Kegan, Robert. Immunity to Change. 2009.
Kotter, John P. Leading Change. 2012.