Coaching & Leadership Development
April 17, 2020

Coronavirus – How to Manage Change as a School Leader

Coronavirus – How to Manage Change as a School Leader

Change is inevitable. Growth is optional” – John Maxwell

Change is all around us. It happens every second, every minute of our lives. Yet in spite of this, change is not something many of us are comfortable with. As a result, we so often miss the inherent opportunities for growth that accompany any change process.


Within the context of school leadership, my belief is that the reason for this, is because very little if anything is done to prepare individuals for the emotional and psychological consequences of change.


This becomes a particular problem at times like this, when school leaders are facing a huge amount of change and uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.


When faced with a crisis like this, when you are at the forefront and needing to manage change across your school, you also have to take stock and ask, “What is the change process  asking of you?”


This is a necessary first step if you are to develop the wherewithal to manage the crisis positively, not only for yourself, but also for those that you lead and manage.


In my work with school leaders, I have come to realise that change is managed most effectively when individuals understand that there are four distinct stages that they and their schools must successfully progress through.


Each stage requires a deep level of self-awareness and emotional maturity to avoid the fight or flight syndrome, or remaining stuck in an unhealthy comfort zone. The four stages are…


1. Letting go:


This is the stage where you have to:

– Accept that some or all elements of the past have served their purpose

– Overcome any feelings of resistance, that may be keeping you and others stuck

– Recognise that you have a choice as to the mind-set and attitude you adopt for dealing with change.


2. Accepting:


This is the stage where you have to:

– Find ways to dig deep and become comfortable with many of the uncomfortable feelings that accompany change e.g. anxiety, doubt, regret etc.

– Learn to be solution focused in your thinking

– Be very aware of who you surround yourself with i.e. those who wish to keep dragging you back to the past or, those who will help you to accept the here and now and prepare for the future


3. Taking action:


This is the stage where you have to:

– Be brave and learn to take risks

– Recognise that we only every really learn though our mistakes

– Be prepared to be seen differently and act differently


4. Embracing:


This is the stage where you have to:

– Give full expression to your values and all that the change process has meant for you and your school

– Acknowledge all that has been learnt and find moments to affirm and celebrate both organisational and individual growth

– Find a way to come to know yourself and your school on new terms


Time and the Change Process


Every change process requires time, energy and a great deal of patience. Yes, I know, in the current crisis, giving sufficient time to the change process can seem like a flight of fancy, perhaps it’s worthwhile remembering that:


“Any worthwhile transformation does not happen overnight. A teacher does not become a successful, confident school leader overnight. It is a journey; it is a process…. Just as nature affords time to the change process, school leaders need to have personal time invested in them as they learn to manage both the personal and external processes of school transformation”

[Staying A Head – 2014]

So, take a few moments to reflect on any key changes that are happening for you and those you lead right now. As you reflect, ask yourself, what can be done to support my growth and the growth of those I lead and manage? What can actions can be taken that will help to:


– Refill our emotional, mental and spiritual reservoirs?

– Develop new mechanisms for coping with the challenges of change?

– Align our values with the changes that are occurring?


Identifying just the smallest first steps and taking appropriate can help to ensure that you and those around you, come out of this crisis stronger.


Support in times of Challenge


As a result of the current COVID-19 crisis, the challenge and complexity of the Headteacher role has grown exponentially.


Every school leader in the country has witnessed an enormous amount of change in terms of what their life, their role and school now look like. Today, like never before many Heads find themselves having to sail previously uncharted waters.


These are unprecedented times, for which there are no rule or guide-books. Everything has changed! As a result, there is understandable anxiety about the current situation we are all in. Feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, isolation and stress are prevalent.


Relationships with families, pupils and staff have changed. The speed of change has been swift, with little or no time for school leaders to make sense of both the here and now and also what the ‘new order’ might bring.


In times like these, we need to be deliberate in pressing the pause button and finding time to reflect.  Leaders need safe relational spaces to explore, question and reflect on how events are impacting on them, on others and their school.


It is a time when we can be explicit and openly address the fact that we are all in a time of transition. It is a time that requires open and honest discussion about what this period signifies for us all and with support, find ways through to the other side.


Without such spaces or the proper support, sadly we know that this crisis can prove to be both overwhelming and isolating for those who lead our schools.

Leaders also run the risk of emotional ‘burn out’. When this begins to happen, not only do we experience extreme levels of mental and emotional exhaustion that can be debilitating, but we also can begin to derive less satisfaction from our lives.

Having been a Head myself and experienced burnout, I know all too well what this feels like and equally what must be done to prevent it!

It is for this reason, that I now offer free “Coaching for the Soul” calls, for Heads who feel that they could benefit from a confidential space that will allow them to:


–  Talk through the challenges they’re facing and find solutions

–  Receive support and encouragement in their current situation

–  Reflect on recent events and the impact they are having

–  Gain clarity around their thoughts and plan a way forward

Book Your Call

 If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!

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