‘The Power of …. Optimism and Opportunity’
‘Opportunity is a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. Optimism is a hopefulness and confidence about the future.’
I got lost in a daydream earlier this week thinking about all the difficult situations I have faced as a leader, of which there have been many, but none as complex and emotional as the crisis we currently face. It has, without a doubt, been one of the strangest and one of the most challenging times for us all.
At the start of this new journey I spoke about the challenge ahead – a challenge which meant that we were all going to have to lead in ways we have never led before, work in ways we have never worked before and teach in ways we have never taught before. Whilst there have been many challenges (and there will be many more to come) this new way of working, what we have learnt from it and the way people have united in the face of adversity gives me much hope and optimism for the opportunities that lie ahead.
It has long been said that the worst of times brings out the best in people and that out of a crisis comes both optimism and opportunity. Throughout the crisis there have been endless examples of this across our own organisation and the education sector in general. The speed of the pandemic took us all by surprise but, people quickly stepped up, making dramatic changes and performing at new levels. As a result, we have found new ways to serve our students, families and communities and we have made positive changes to how work gets done. Amid the fear and uncertainty people have risen to the challenge and gone above and beyond, energized by the desire to make a real difference; especially for those who need it most. Our mission, vision and values have been brought to life like never before.
Over recent weeks my own thoughts, and my challenge to other leaders and colleagues, has been to start to think beyond the now. We have spent so much time engrossed in immediate action, trying to do the right thing in the face of difficult challenges, but what about the future? What can we be optimistic about? What are the real opportunities? What can we stop, start and accelerate doing? The questions and challenges are endless, but one thing is for sure - this could provide a real opportunity for significant and positive change.
In my experience, optimism drives our behaviour; especially during times when it would be easier to say “stop – I give up, it’s too hard”. Personally, there have been many of those days recently. However, optimism is believing in the impossible and then taking the steps to make it possible. Optimism lies at the core of great leadership and within the DNA of great organisations – a place where people remain optimistic and ambitious, even in the face of great adversity. As we all make our way towards what is being deemed ‘the next normal’ we also make our way into the realms of purposeful optimism – a place where optimism is underpinned by clear strategies which have purpose and intent and well-resourced people who are enabled to pursue opportunity and do meaningful work.
So, what’s next? What might the ‘next normal’ look like? What opportunities might it hold?
I have thought long and hard about this, and to be honest I probably have more questions than answers but, some possibilities are starting to bubble in my mind and some rays of light are starting emerge at the end of the tunnel:
What things do we stop, start or accelerate doing?
Which strategies and practices are worthy of keeping in our ‘next normal’?
How can we accelerate best practice and facilitate ongoing collaboration?
How do we capitalise upon our increased (and improved) use of technology and accelerate digitisation?
How do we learn to manage a blend of face to face and remote learning and make remote delivery a key part of our curriculum design?
How do we become an agile organisation that responds quickly to challenge and change?
Can we reallocate resources and invest in our infrastructure to make all of this happen?
How do we identify and meet the needs of our students; especially the most vulnerable and the ‘newly’ vulnerable?
Most importantly, how do we do all of this with the safety and wellbeing of our staff, students and stakeholders at its heart?
We all need to start imagining our organisation as it should be in the next normal and work towards developing step by step plans to make it a reality.
Hope and optimism can fade when times are hard, and it is difficult to see the opportunities, even though they might be right in front of us. One thing is certain - we will map out our road to recovery, we will stay optimistic along the way and when we do get there, it will be a better future.
’ Tough times come and go, but great teams last forever ’.