Coaching & Leadership Development
October 31, 2016

How to Manage Change as a School Leader

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.


As a school leader, any change that you go through, particularly if you are at the forefront of the process, requires that you take stock of what the change process is asking of you. This is a necessary first step if you are to develop the wherewithal to manage it 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 positively 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:

– Recognise 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 fast pace, results at any cost climate, giving sufficient time to the change process can seem like a flight of fancy, but I want to remind you 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 your school right now and ask yourself, what actions can I take to support both mine and my school’s growth, what actions will help us to:


– Refill our emotional, mental and spiritual reservoirs?

– Embrace and develop new mechanisms for coping with the challenges of change?

– Align our values with the changes that are occurring?


Identifying just the smallest of first steps and taking action on them, will help to ensure that change is a process that facilitates growth for everyone!


Taking back control of change


Back in 2016, I hosted a Webinar on “Successfully Managing Change” to seek an answer the central question: “How can we work positively with the challenges and opportunities presented by change?”


The aim of this Webinar was to discuss how we can positively transform our attitudes to change and subsequent outcomes, by learning to constructively engage with the personal dimensions of the change process.

During the webinar I shared what I’ve learnt about change from my years of experience as a school leader and as a coach. In particular, I discussed how:

– A reluctance to engage with the psychological and emotional aspects of change can be harmful to you and your school. 

– Key coaching tools can help you develop new ways of thinking to empower growth and development 

– To develop new mindsets that will help you successfully manage change amidst external pressures and demands 


Ultimately, I explained how by learning to let go of resistance to change, embracing it and taking meaningful action, you can place yourself firmly back in control of change.


To watch the webinar, please follow the link below…


Watch the Webinar

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