Celebrate Exemplars of Change

[The following is an excerpt from TrustED®: The Bridge to School Improvement]

Effective change agents identify and celebrate those individuals, and their accomplishments, already moving in the direction of the desired change. Teachers know the value of providing exemplars to their students in order that they can see what success looks like. The same is true in the change process. Leaders celebrate and make known to all stakeholders exemplars of where the change is taking us.

Individuals drive the change needed and every individual makes a difference. Trusted leaders celebrate any member of the school community who demonstrates a positive example of the change required. By placing in the light, and drawing focus to those examples repeatedly, the school culture gradually becomes defined by those examples and others will seek to either follow them, or determine that the school is going in a direction they cannot support and typically move on.

The practice of identifying exemplars of a desired future, and drawing intentional attention to those behaviors, combined with individual and public appreciation for the same is actually a management philosophy known as Appreciative Inquiry.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a philosophy of change management that recognizes words have power and there is corporate strength in keeping an intentional focus on the positive. It is about changing paradigms and ways of thinking. Our default as sinful human beings is focusing on the negative, so it takes intentionality to change our way of thinking. In the New Testament we read, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Our thoughts matter. We become what we think, see, and speak.

One study concluded that the key to AI’s transformational influence on stakeholders is “a focus on changing how people think instead of what people do.” Obviously, the goal is changed behaviors and actions (i.e. what people do), but the focus of AI is guiding stakeholders to develop internal motivation and solutions through asking positive questions. Focus first, on what people think, and then the changed actions will follow… [continue reading]

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