If you work in a school I’m probably safe in saying you are working too hard and doing too many things. Whilst it might appear harsh, I may even suggest that you are probably not doing all these things as well as you could leading to reduced impact. Even worse you possibly haven’t spent enough time thinking, in the first instance, about whether all the things you are doing are likely to have a significant impact or possibly any impact.
This isn’t just a problem in schools it can afflict many public services and private businesses. Too many people are working and in some cases essentially living in an organisation where busyness, for its own sake, is seen as a virtue. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains his theory about two modes of thought; System 1 (fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious) and System 2 (slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious). While System 1 helps us survive in the jungle it is System 2 which is likely to be of greater benefit in addressing complex issues.
To what extent are teachers and leaders working in survival mode? Operating in a fast moving frenetic environment with System 1 thinking and flight, fright or fight actions and reactions occurring all over the school. It’s time to slow down. I’ve spoken at a few conferences recently and used the slide below. It always seems to have an impact.
If you were to list all the objectives and time consuming actions you are currently engaged with and give them a score out of ten – one means unlikely to have a significant impact on the learning, care, guidance or support of pupils or staff and ten means massive impact (pulling on the data, feedback, research and experience to support this judgement) – how many would score a 9 or 10 out of ten? If it’s not a 9 or 10 out of ten it’s a no.
Now imagine crossing off all the objectives and time consuming actions that scored eight or less from your list. If this is too scary for you, rather than liberating, write them on another piece of paper but ignore them. Go back to your original list and the few items which scored a 9 or 10 out of ten; genuinely and truthfully assess which ones you have time to implement or do this year and do very well so they have the impact required. Each of these items is likely to have a number of strands so be realistic. Which ones could wait a year or even two? I know they’re all important but you can’t do everything well so doing some well is preferential to wasting time doing many things badly. If one thing will improve my leadership, this is the 10 out of ten one on my leadership list, it would be to slow down and focus on doing less better.
Unless you work in a school which is in total chaos is it time to move from System 1 Running Around Like a Headless Chicken Leadership to System 2 Let’s Build Slowly and have Real Sustainable High Impact Leadership?
#SaturdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week. The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short. It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger. The intention is for it to be read in two minutes as you’re relaxing or busy running around on you day off.