Being Brave: How To Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
In the book, Five Ways of Being, my co-authors and I outline five dispositions we believe are critical for educational leaders striving for success.
One of these is developing our capacity to be brave. So let’s explore how taking action amid uncertainty and ambiguity can enlarge our ‘bravery’ container.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
In life, we often have to do things we don’t want to do.
We have conversations with people about things we don’t want to have conversations about. We broach subjects with a personality type that we find uncomfortable or don’t understand. And sometimes we have to support a professional decision we don’t agree with.
As leaders of learning we always need to be brave – and choose courage over comfort.
In a professional learning community (PLC), the fundamental thinking and structures of a school need to shift, which requires all of us to step out of our comfort zones.
So it’s really important that we don’t become paralysed by the fact we don’t always know what to do.
Instead, we can use a strategy called ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ to work through challenges or decisions in a considered way.
By shining a light on the situation, you illuminate the issue. The camera refers to taking a snapshot of the challenge, and action reminds you not to become paralysed through over-analysis.
I recently worked with a school’s leadership team who were re-examining their school program, because they needed to find more time for their collaborative teams to meet.
The team wanted to focus on the work that made the biggest difference.
One program under the spotlight was the school’s bike education program. Should they keep it, drop it or refine it?
The fate of this long-running program was not a decision that could be made by just one person.
Pinpointing the forces at play
To tackle this conundrum, we used a framework known as Force Field Analysis.
It’s a simple, but very effective process.
With your team, you brainstorm all the reasons driving this potential change, and write them down in a column to the left.
For the bike education, some of the forces for change included the need to free up more time for collaborative teams, and focus more effort on the school’s priority areas of numeracy and literacy.
In the right-hand column, you and your team should list all the forces resisting this change.
For this school, that included the fact that some parents really valued the bike program, and felt it made the kids safer.
Letting the numbers decide
Under the Force Field Analysis Framework, a team looks at the factors influencing the decision (positive and negative) and ranks each on a scale of 1 (least important) to 5.
With the bike program, there were far more points on the forces of change side of the column, so the decision was made to cut it the following year.
Firstly, implement firm timelines for the process to avoid over-analysis and inaction.
And remember that this process won’t suit every situation. If the challenge is multi-layered and complex, it might be worth considering as just part of the overall process.
Either way, using Lights, Camera Action – in conjunction with this method of analysis – sets up a clear roadmap to move forward, and continue flexing your bravery muscle.