A Climate for Change

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Leading change in a fast-paced world

By Louise “Toni” Moore

Change: We see it everywhere. With the current rate of globalization, rapid advances in technology, and the exponential rate of knowledge growth in our world, we have seen a dramatic acceleration of change all around us. Changes in the way we live, work, and play are evident wherever we turn. How do we cope with all of this change?

As individuals, we are asked to adapt and change as new technologies are constantly being introduced into our lives. Twenty years ago, could we even have imagined shopping online instead of going to stores? Did we envision communicating with family and friends anytime throughout the day by text?

Our schools must change to keep up with current technology and research about the brain and learning. Teachers need to change the ways they teach in order to capture the attention of their students. Our jobs change to accommodate the needs and wants of those we serve. Even our understanding of our roles as local and global citizens is constantly evolving and changing. Change destabilizes us, frightens us, and often turns our lives upside down. Thinking about the tremendous scope and scale of so much change can be overwhelming — even paralyzing.

As a leader of a Catholic school, you can be certain of one thing: Change will occur. In addition, you as a leader can count on being at the center of change. You will be the one to shepherd your students, staff, and school families through the change process. This year, the Administrator’s Corner will focus on the complex process of initiating, guiding, and managing change in our schools, establishing relationships that support change, and truly embracing change within ourselves. Understanding the change process and the important part the leader plays will assist you and your school in navigating the often turbulent waters of change with courage and confidence.

Human beings tend to want to retain the status quo. This tendency is so strong that even in the face of compelling evidence supporting a change, people resist. In fact, people not only resist, they often take action to sabotage a proposed change. Although we would all like to think that we are totally rational as we approach the subject of change, the truth is, we are not. Change is a highly emotionally charged proposition. Leaders must learn how to not only manage the organizational aspects and systems involved in change, but they must also provide a climate that will support the very powerful emotional reactions involved when they ask people to think about and do things differently.

Successful change starts and ends at the individual level. If we want to be more successful at leading change, we need to get better at helping people tap into natural human motivations that allow them to overcome their fear and resistance to changing.

One of the first steps a leader must take is to create a sense of urgency for change. The delicate part here is to create this sense of urgency without signaling a crisis. Presenting the current state as a crisis may lead to despair. At the same time, people will not be motivated to change unless they become uncomfortable enough or “feel the pain” enough to try something new. While signaling urgency, it is also important to offer hope for something better. Creating this uncomfortableness with the status quo sets the leader up for presenting his or her vision for a new and better reality.

Wishing you many blessings as you embark on a new school year and embrace your role in leading change!

Louise “Toni” Moore, PhD, is an educational consultant at the University of Dayton.

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