Educational Equity Newsletter – May 21, 2020
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Preparing for Fall: Scenario Planning, Financial Contingencies, and the “People” Side of Change
Can you believe that May is almost over? In just a few months, back to school (whatever that will look like) will be happening. For many of the leaders we coach, it’s time to plan for the fall and make decisions on the things we can predict. This year, we’re making those calls with less information than we typically have.
Here are some tools to help you plan for the future:
Prepare for the three most likely scenarios.
For many of the ed sector leaders we work with, planning is stressful because we don’t know whether schools will open in full, split between virtual and in-person instruction, or stay completely virtual. We’re advising our coaching clients to scenario plan for all three cases: even if nothing happens as you plan, thinking through your options and actions will help you adapt. Get started with this simple scenario planning tool.
Pre-plan your budget decisions.
We’re all preparing for hard financial choices in 2020. Rather than making quick decisions on these issues if they arise, use a tool like our budget decisions framework to set priorities on paper first. When evaluating suggested cuts, consider who on your team will be most adversely impacted and build in mitigations to minimize the impact to groups on the margins in your organization. If you’re asking team leaders to prepare to make trade-offs, a document like this can help you understand what aspects of their program or staffing they feel are critical. Budgeting is a skill best learned by practice. Make sure to model decision-making and show how your organization or team budget works.
Prepare to handle strong emotions.
As you and your leadership team make changes that impact people’s livelihoods, day-to-day work, and organizational outcomes, expect that emotions will be high. The way you handle these emotions in yourself, your leaders, and your team will either build credibility and trust or detract from it.
- Create spaces for people to process and share concerns. Often, a decision has been with a leadership team for months before a team member has heard about it. It’s easy to expect staff to “get on board,” but remember that you’ve had a month to process what they’ll hear for the first time. Instead, anticipate that there will be concerns and create spaces (one-on-one, on teams, or via surveys) to share their feelings and concerns. Share what you’re hearing, and, when possible, create mitigations to address common concerns.
- Expect and learn from resistance. People who work in our sector have strong feelings about what’s right for kids. It’s natural to be upset about decisions that you feel will jeopardize student learning. These reactions and perspectives are an asset, not a liability. As a leader, take hard feedback, incisive questions, and attempts to (re)negotiate decisions as humans being humans, rather than as your staff undermining your leadership. This is especially important if you work with women of color, who tend to be labeled “toxic” when they disagree.
- Make space to grapple with hard truths. Often as leaders, we don’t give ourselves space to feel the hard stuff, such as grief for a loss at work, fear for our organization’s future, or uncertainty about an outcome. The problem is that these emotions often show up in the ways we manage, which gets in the way of being an equitable manager. For example, they may show up as having an unusually short fuse, an urge to clamp down and micromanage, or an unwillingness to address performance issues. If you find yourself engaging in unhelpful (or even harmful) behaviors, give yourself room to get to the heart of the matter. Think about what support you need to get back in the game and lead your team the way you intend.
- What am I feeling?
- What’s at the root of the tension/conflict?
- What do I need right now?
- How do I feel about how I’m showing up right now?
We know that this is all easier said than done. If you need to talk through what you’re working through, feel free to request a no-cost COVID-19 coaching session.