In this course Leading Organizational Change, we have explored the intricacies of what it means to be an effective leader and how to execute positive changes within our organization. In traditional views, a leader is often viewed as the one responsible for making the most important decisions and carrying those through without necessarily rallying their team for collaboration. They’re also the person their team looks to for ultimate reassurance or guidance in decision-making. However, what I have learned within this last course is that leadership is far more complex than the traditional views. I have been fortunate to grow up in a family who represent what genuine leadership really looks like, and how to capture the hearts of our audience. It all begins with clearly defining and voicing our why so we may connect with others’ why. The clearer we are on our own reason for doing what we do, the more successful we will likely be in implementing our innovative ideas. The last several courses in the Digital Learning and Leading program helped me not only decide what I wanted to do within my organization, but encouraged the how and why I plan to do what I do. This course, Leading Organizational Change, helped me further clarify by creating an action plan in implementing Project-based learning (PBL) within a blended learning environment at my school. I created a sense of urgency in appealing to the hearts and minds of my audience first, and then stated in detail how I planned to execute these ideas with the support of my team. As John Kotter (n.d.) stated, “the more you win over the hearts and minds of others, the more successful your change will be.”
Leadership is a critical process because I must maintain a level of composure in the midst of my daily whirlwind, keep unwavering focus on my goal while guiding and supporting those around me. To successfully set a foundation for this to happen, I must gain the trust and respect of my colleagues if I want to not only execute innovation within my organization, but also rally the support of my team. With this in mind, I would need to learn how to leverage the six sources of influence. I believe the best way to accomplish this is to determine who the key influencers are in my organization and gain their support. Key influencers are those who are held in the highest regards, are trusted among peers, and get things done regardless of the situation. They are the ones that have the same amount of time and stress in a workday, but manage to successfully implement and reach their goals consistently. Their popularity and social status would allow me to influence more people with my innovation plan than if I were to attempt it alone. Once these key influencers were able to connect with my why, it would create a ripple effect in helping others in our organization do the same.
Gaining the support of my key influencers would not be enough to guarantee success of my innovation plan. I needed to narrow it down and clarify my goal so that it is simple and relatable for anyone in the organization to understand. Then, I would need to determine the vital behaviors that would influence my goal. This is where it can get tricky. Oftentimes, our organizations’ leaders determine too many vital behaviors and try to solve them all at once. What I learned through reading Influencer (2013) is that our plan can fail if we overwhelm ourselves and our team with too many goals. It is vital that we determine a maximum of two to three vital behaviors that influence our goal. This led to the creation of my Influencer Strategy. This plan summarizes and clearly states how I plan to use personal and social motivation to enhance the likelihood of my plan’s success. It also helped me predict where there may be weakness, resistance, and setbacks during this implementation process and how to redirect when needed. If we can determine ahead of time where problems may arise, it helps us revise as we go and ideally resolve issues before they impact the success of our plans.
Influencer (2013) helped me identify and clarify my W.I.G. (Wildly Important Goal) and consider the two to three vital behaviors that would influence that goal. To further specify how to execute my plan, we were asked to read The Four Disciplines of Execution (2012) also known as 4DX. 4DX referred to the five stages and four disciplines of executing change among our daily urgent whirlwind. We determined lead and lag measures to remain focused on our end result. As I have previously reflected and stated comparing Influencer with 4DX:
Influencer represents the theory behind how to influence the behavior of others to provoke innovative change. The 4DX model represents the practical approach. The vital behaviors in the Influencer model directly reflect in the lead measures in the 4DX. The goal in the Influencer model directly reflects in the Wildly Important Goal of the 4DX. Both models complement one another, one is theory, one is practical application of that theory. In reflecting on both models, it has helped me look closer at vital behaviors not just within my professional organization, but in my daily life (Herrin, 2019).
Both of these models helped me clarify and create a plan to follow through in execution. Another important aspect in carrying out my plan was to create a compelling scoreboard that helps my team track progress in a simple and encouraging way. It reminds us of our “why” and encourages us to maintain focus among our urgent daily whirlwind (daily jobs, personal lives, daily demands). The final step in initiating change was to create a “cadence of accountability.” This is intended to help the team stay focused, discuss improvements, and heighten overall morale. There is power in numbers so it is important to stress the need for accountability. It also provides the foundation of teamwork so if the plan is a success or failure, it does not fall on one person in particular. It is a team effort, which helps create a new culture of learning, innovation, and future success of new innovative ideas. My 4DX plan helps me feel more ready to begin the change process within this next year at my new campus.
In considering how my leadership would play out in my organization, I am reminded of a quote by Donald Miller about loving what we do. “Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way” (Miller, 2003). I wholeheartedly believe if a leader does not love what they do, they cannot determine their why for what they do. This is where disconnect often happens because there are far too many leaders who are there simply for better pay, power or political reasons, or perhaps they went in with innovative ideas but because a proper strategy wasn’t implemented, their vision became clouded or even misguided. I believe that most people have good intentions, but if there is no plan behind the intentions, this is often where we see bitter, disappointed, and hopeless administration attempting to carry out yet another lackluster idea. I believe the keys in being an effective leader is to truly connect with why you love what you do, why it is important to continue this work, and actually “be the change you wish to see in the world” (Ghandi, n.d.). I believe when we live out our unwavering why, it is magnetic to those around us. People love to connect to a good story, so if we wish to change the world, we must live out our stories fearlessly and with a solid action plan to achieve our goals.
Love and connection to our why won’t be enough however due to the inevitable resistance that follows change. To be a leader that stays focused, self-differentiated, and composed, I have to understand and practice the art of Crucial Conversations (2012). Being a self-differentiated leader means I would be capable of not just conducting uncomfortable conversations so that others feel heard, but also maintain meaningful connections with others while not losing sight of my own goal. Being able to hold crucial conversations is key in being approachable while fearlessly guiding and encouraging others in doing the same. It cultivates a growth mindset when we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and approach crucial moments with openness and grace. This builds a culture of community, and helps diffuse anxiety in all areas of life so that our focus remains on our goal and not clouded by others’ emotional responses. I believe it teaches us grace in dealing with others as well as grace for ourselves. Humans are complex, and we often need reminding of what our goal is among the whirlwind of emotions that naturally come when we connect with others. Crucial Conversations maps out an approach to high-stakes conversations that have the tendency to become emotionally charged. The steps mapped out are, “Start With the Heart, Learning to Look, Making if Safe, Mastering Your Stories, State My Path, Explore Others’ Paths, and Move to Action.” Each of these steps are vital in diffusing anxiety and helping all parties involved to feel seen and heard. If leaders approach crucial conversations starting with their heart’s motive, it makes it difficult to escalate the conversation when it is simply to honestly state intentions before wires become crossed. Self-differentiated leaders understand this as key in conducting communication with others. They are able to take a step back and examine objectively and refocus on the results they are seeking. When engaging in crucial conversations, the goal is to be able to reach a point to positively move forward with a shared perspective.
Within my own innovation plan, I desire to use crucial conversations to help each of my team members feel comfortable in implementing PBL within a blended learning environment. I hope to guide us in developing a shared perspective that creating a significant learning environment is key in fostering a life-long love for learning for each student at our campus. I plan to model these conversations through our weekly PLCs, monthly staff meetings, and conversations with parents. I believe parents are driving forces behind developing a strong school community, raising funds to provide resources that will advance our plans, and overall create a sense of ownership. I know the road ahead is not going to be easy by any means, but I do believe that what I have learned in these last five weeks has already set me up on a path to successfully implement my plan with strategies to revise as needed. The skills I have gained throughout this course have proven to be priceless as I have already begun to reflect on how I conduct myself at work, the conversations I choose to engage, and the environment I have created within my classroom. I believe the energy we give off is contagious, so with the vital skills gained in this course, it will be exciting to see how it further creates a ripple effect in conducting the change we wish to see within our organizations.
Ghandi, M. (n.d.). Ghandi’s 10 rules for changing the world. Retrieved on August 16, 2019 from http://www.dailygood.org/story/466/gandhi-s-10-rules-for-changing-the-world-henrik-
Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change. USA: VitalSmarts, LLC.
Herrin, A. (2019) The four disciplines of execution. Retrieved from https://annaleighherrin.com/the-4-disciplines-of-execution-%ef%bb%bf/
Kotter, J. (n.d.). John Kotter-The heart of change. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NKti9MyAAw
Kotter, J. (n.d.) Leading change: Establish a sense of urgency. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Yfrj2Y9IlI
McChesney, C., Covey, S. & Huling, J., (2012) The 4 disciplines of execution. London: FranklinCovey Co.
Miller, D. (2003). Blue like jazz. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2015). Crucial conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. USA: McGraw-Hill Companies.
Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2015). Video review of crucial conversations. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFaXx3pgaxM