Is learning the priority?

learning3As a wrap-up to the 2014-15 school year, our full complement of leaders met recently to reflect on the past year and plan for the future. These full day meetings can be challenging – the school  year has just concluded with everyone keeping pace with the frenzy that inevitably develops over the last month of school. Sometimes we just lack the energy and enthusiasm to make these days very productive. This day was different and the feedback from the team was very positive.

Our focus for the day was the exploration of innovative leadership (using this blog post from George Couros) and applying our new learning about ourselves and our colleagues to the development of personal goals for 2015-16. It may not sound terribly exciting, but the team found the day worthwhile as reflected in this comment from the concluding feedback survey: “It was a huge help to be able to brainstorm with others about our goals and bounce ideas off of each other. It not only made goal creation easier, but it was also enjoyable. How often do you ever hear about goal creation being enjoyable?”

For our discussion of innovation leadership, our leaders read the blog post, 8 Characteristics of the Innovative Leader, and then completed the rubric linked at the bottom of the post. Following this individual activity, we discussed and debriefed as a group while Assistant Superintendent, Lynn Fuini-Hetten, walked us through a line activity where each leader rated himself/herself on a continuum from 1-10 for each characteristic. We had a great discussion! And it was eye-opening to see where we are as a team when it comes to thinking and acting innovatively in our varying contexts.

When we discussed the characteristic of models learning, one of our leaders shared that regardless of our leadership role we all needed to be learners, all the time. I was thrilled this idea was added to the conversation. I reinforced the idea that we as leaders needed to be modeling this for our teachers and students as nearly all careers will require workers to be, first and foremost, learners. Learning must be our priority – for us as leaders, for our teachers and for our students.  This is non-negotiable.

Harold Jarche reinforced this for me in an excellent post, the literacy of the 21st century. I bet you can guess what it is. But is learning truly the priority in our organizations? Jarche suggests not, but it needs to be. Why?

…as standardized work keeps getting automated, the only work left for people will be complex and creative. This type of work requires a culture of continuous learning. 

The good news is that everyone can learn. The bad news is that many have forgotten how. Learning is the key requirement in dealing with complexity, because you first have to try something new, and then learn from the experiment.

As Lynn and I planned the day, we consciously focused on learning – each leader uncovering his/her own mindset toward innovation and applying that shifting mindset to developing goals that reflect innovative practices, pushing each of us to the edge of our comfort zone. That’s where the learning occurs. Each leader developed (many in collaboration with one another) three goals focused on communication, parent/community engagement, and acknowledging successes and failures. With each leader’s focus on these areas over the next year, in innovative ways, I look forward to seeing how we make progress toward a greater vision, model innovation, but most importantly model learning. Not only will we as leaders need to master this “literacy of the 21st century” as we enter an era of unprecedented rapid change (some may argue we are already there), but we will need to model it for our teachers and students so they are well-prepared to navigate this world of rapid change as well.

I am looking forward to continuing this good work through the summer and into the new school year with our leaders.

How do you keep LEARNING as your organization’s priority? 

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