• Carolyn Stuart

Acting our way into new ways of thinking

Recently I have had the privilege of conversing with people about what they are doing differently as a result of the COVID rāhui. For many, working at a distance has meant that they have begun to use online environments that they have been meaning to engage with, but have never seemed to have gotten the time to do so, before now.

Necessity has been a strong driving force for changed practice, but interestingly people don’t appear to be resentful that they have been forced to change what they do. In fact it is quite the opposite, people have expressed gratitude and pride in their newly acquired skills and practices.

I have been reminded of a quote from Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity:

“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking, than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.”

It takes great courage as a leader to ask people to change their way of acting, ahead of current belief systems. However a wise leader would only do this if they were certain that the change of action will result in positive outcomes for their people.

I know that there have been times in my leadership journey that I have had to summon all of my courage to lead people in a new way of acting. Without exception this act of leadership has resulted in positive change. The easier leadership route though would have been to wait until people changed their thinking, but the cost of this is often worn by the people we serve.

In one sense this season has given us an amazing gift. The COVID rāhui has forced us to act our way into a new way thinking.

So what is this new way of thinking?

For me this new way of thinking is summed up in the Māori whākatauki:

He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata
What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

In reality this looks like:

  • Parents spending more time with their children

  • Leaders focusing on the wellbeing of staff ahead of how they are doing their job

  • People being willing to put the good of society ahead of their individual rights

  • Families coming up with new and novel ways to stay connected

  • Students who struggle to learn in a school environment thriving in an online learning environment

Image Credit: Tumisu Pixabay

Some of the lovely stories I have heard are learners genuinely inquiring into the wellbeing of their teachers; parents and students showing real gratitude for the efforts educators are making to enable learning to continue at this time; and teachers experiencing authentic partnerships with parents.

None of us know what the future will look like. But what we do know is what the present is (hint: we are living it now!) and what was our past. Now is the time to decide what our future will be.

Capturing the stories of changed practice, while they are happening, is a great way to scaffold the moral purpose for future change.

If we can somehow capture the good things that are coming out of this season, then maybe we can reap the greater benefit from this challenging environment in which we are currently living.

Til next time


P.S. If you like the way I think you can sign up for Thursday Thinking here and enjoy my thinking delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday morning.


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