Halftime: You can make excuses, or you can make adjustments
If you are like many Americans, you may have watched more than a couple of football games over the last few weeks during the holidays. As always, there were some great games, there were some boring ones, there were blowouts, and there were upsets. Even the experts that study the games for a living cannot predict the results with 100% accuracy. Things happen that cannot be anticipated and the teams that adjust and adapt are usually the ones that come out on top. The best coaches make halftime adjustments to put their teams in a position to win.
Now, the school year lasts a lot longer than a football game, but the premise is
the same. The schools and their leaders that make the best adjustments as the year moves along generally have the best results. As the school year reaches its midway point or “halftime”, what adjustments need to be made right now in order for students and teachers to have a more successful Spring? This may be a shift in a schedule or better communication or perhaps just a renewed sense of purpose with increased follow-through, but even minor course corrections can lead to great results over time. Be bold and act now or risk sitting in your office in June wishing you had done some things differently along the way.
James Clear, the author of the best-selling book Atomic Habits talks about the mindset of those that take action and those that do not. “One type of person approaches a situation with the mindset of, “How can I make this work?” This is bold leadership. It displays confidence and persistence that allows a principal and those around him/her to stay committed to their purpose even when things are not going as planned and adjustments are necessary. The second type of person, Clear shares, seems to take the approach to each circumstance with the mindset of, “What are all the reasons this wouldn’t work?” and by doing so either refuses to take action or does so with little resolve or belief in their ability to overcome the challenges. These leaders do not inspire innovation or change. Here is the scary reality: both leaders will be forced to deal with the reality of their situation and results, but the first person will only have to solve problems that actually occur, while the second person will often avoid taking action entirely because of the potential problems they have dreamt up before starting. You see, too many of us suffer from paralysis when it comes to making bold changes or adjustments because of what “might” happen rather than addressing the current reality and taking the mindset of a problem solver, not a problem adder.
I am always curious to discover how different schools and school leaders attack challenges they face on a daily basis. If you have recognized the need to make some adjustments but aren’t exactly sure what they need to be, you might consider the concept of Radically Listening by Logan Beth Fisher as a way to find out more about your current reality and your staff’s needs. If you have identified areas of improvement, but aren’t sure how to implement them, have you considered your own administrator PLC? Why Administrators Need Professional Learning Communities, Too (NWEA) is a great reminder that we can learn best with and through others and it is okay to ask for help. Even great coaches have coordinators and assistants to help them focus and make recommendations.
Just remember, no matter how wonderful or challenging your school year has been to this point, there is still plenty of time to make adjustments. If you are winning at halftime, reflect on the processes that brought you that success but don’t let your guard down. If you are feeling behind, don’t give up. Use the mindset of “How can we make this work?” and then have the courage enough to take the action to make it a reality. Be bold.