Many of you are about to implement something new. Perhaps it’s a new reading program. Or, maybe it’s a behavior initiative. If so, you are facing the age-old problem of getting people to change. Good news! There is a proven way to implement your new program 10x better.
The mark of an effective leader is her capacity to bring about change in others for a worthy cause. So what does that capacity look like? What makes some people able to achieve a desired change while others flounder?
Are you ready to implement your new program 10X better? Get the free guide.
A Success Story
I once worked with a district of 26 schools. Their scores were near the bottom of their state. The state had already stepped into one of their schools. There was fear of more on the way. They needed to do something. But what?
The problems were complex. They had a migrant population and were impacted by rural poverty. Master schedules were on paper only. There was no evidence of productive grade level or MTSS meetings. They had a few coaches, but there was no focus on their practice. Coaches were often engaged with testing, picking up intervention groups, or putting out fires. Principals dealt with behaviors most of the day. District leaders provided materials and training in the best programs, but few teachers taught them.
So how, 3 years later, did this district soar to exemplary status in their state? How did they implement their new program 10X better?
First, forget the quick fixes. There is no fast and easy way to get big results fast. Why not? Because most of the problems we face, like the ones in this district, have multiple causes. That means they require multiple solutions implemented simultaneously.
When people are faced with change, they ask two questions. “Should I do this?” and “Can I do this?” To be effective, leaders need to make sure that the answer to those two questions is “YES”. So we implemented a strategy to motivate and empower their people at every level of their district.
Implementing your new program 10X better requires motivating and empowering people on with different roles on three levels. You have to motivate and empower teachers, coaches, and administrators all at the same time.
There is a reason for this. To implement change, all three roles have a critical part to play. Teachers need to be personally motivated and able to embrace the change. Coaches, colleagues, and mentors should provide social motivation and ability. Administrators should motivate by incentivizing and rewarding the change. They also enable change in my managing the learning environment. (For example, the work in the halls tells a story about what matters in a school. Look around. What is valued where you are? Do the hallways reflect the change you want?)
How to Motivate
There are many ways to motivate individuals. Here are some ideas to help your people love what they normally hate. Here are some ideas that we implemented in this district:
- We asked people to try teaching the programs they had. Most people can be convinced to TRY anything once.
- We gave them a choice. People chose the students they would start with and the problems they would like to solve.
- We provided opportunities to interact. We formed cohorts and visited each other’s schools and classrooms. People are much more motivated by experiences than by talk.
- We told real stories. We used protocols like instructional rounds to face reality. We discussed the undiscussable in safe norm-regulated environments.
- We embraced novelty. If you want to see a change, you have to make this time feel different. For example, the leaders in this district shared what was expected. Then, they gave principals, coaches, and teachers the reins on how they would meet it.
How to Empower
Once people were motivated, they set themselves up to succeed. They gave them the knowledge, skills, tools, and time to empower the change.
- They LISTENED first. They visited people. They asked them about their concerns related to new initiatives. You ignore concerns at your own peril.
- They used research-based models consistently. For example, The Concerns Based Adoption Model provides a good roadmap.
- They scheduled multiple opportunities to practice intensely over a short period of time. They observed to learn, not to judge.
- They gave honest, productive feedback right away. This is why it is good to start with a few and build capacity.
- They invested in building interpersonal skills. So many interactions go awry because well-intentioned people don’t know how to communicate effectively. Every meeting was protocoled. Books like Crucial Conversations or Fierce Conversations are good resources for learning how to communicate productively.
- EVERYONE did the work. This might be the most important strategy of all. Everyone participated in every experience. Everyone, from students to directors, was expected to change their practice significantly in a way that everyone could see.
Putting it all together
If you want to implement your new program 10X better, you need to pull at least 4 of the levers below. All 6 is even better! One of my favorite books about implementation is Influencer. It is a very practical book that shows you how to answer these questions:
- How will you motivate individuals to change? What might inspire them to believe they should change?
- What will you give them in training, materials, and/or time so they could change? What barriers need to be removed?
- How will you motivate your teams, grade level, MTSS, leadership? How might you apply a little positive peer pressure?
- Who are your champions? How could you use them to build capacity?
- What are the incentives and rewards? How will you promote the behaviors you want?
- How will it be different? How could you leverage events and physical spaces?
The guide, How to Implement Your New Program 10X Better at the top of this post takes you step by step to better implementation. It’s yours for free. We use these very strategies in the implementation of Dot It. In fact, these ideas are built right into our tool!
DOT IT software and professional learning motivate and empower teachers, coaches, and administrators to implement the highest quality plans, and the most effective practices with the best evidence of progress for smarter MTSS and Special Education.