3 Questions Crucial to Creating the Conditions for Change


Frustration is an easy emotion when you either see opportunities for change in our work, but don’t see others moving to the point that you have envisioned.  In one day, I remember talking to a group of administrators, teachers, and parents, and I noticed something amazing.  When working with the teachers, there was a comment that they wanted change, but were blocked by their administrators and parents within the community, some of the administrators said they were slowed by the teachers and parents, and then the parents said (I bet you can see where this is going) said they wanted something different but the schools (educators and administrators)  were not making it happen.

The mindset was that was change was something in the control of others, when reality states that we are often our own barriers to the change process. If we want to create conditions where others see the importance of and are willing to embrace change, is does not start with giving answers, but asking questions, listening, and understanding.  Change is not something you do to others, but something we experience ourselves.

With that being said, if we get to the point in leadership that we are frustrated that others won’t change, we are missing the point of why we are in leadership in the first place.  Simply telling someone to change will not work, but helping to create experiences where people make emotional connections where they see their own change is imperative is crucial.  Showing someone that something is “better”, does not mean they will embrace it.  People are often more comfortable with a known “average”, than an unknown “good”.  Helping others get to a place where they are willing to risk trying something new is crucial, and modelling that we are willing to take risks ourselves is crucial.

Here are a few questions that I think are imperative to creating the conditions for change to not only happen, but to flourish:

1. How do I continuously model that I am willing to grow to those that I serve?

Asking people to take risks does not happen without leaders that openly model taking risks.  Leaders continuously learn and grow, but if it is hidden in a space where those we serve cannot see, then their reluctance to change is warranted by the lack of change happening from the “top” of the hierarchy.  Many feel, “Why would I change, when those above me are not willing to do the same?”

2. Do people have an emotional connection to why change is imperative, not just what change looks like?

Leadership is about heart and mind; both elements need to be focused upon.  If we are not able to connect on a deeper level or feel why change is imperative, others will not be compelled to try something new, especially without the guarantee of immediate success.

3. As leaders, have we removed barriers that help us to unleash talent, not control others?

People always want better, but they often not only deal with their own reluctance, but sometimes page after page of policies and procedures, or structures (both physical and organizational) that are barriers to change.

As mentioned earlier, we can only control the path and direction that we decide to go in, not that of others.  What is important is creating the conditions where people are not only willing, but even feel compelled to move forward in a safe environment where risks are not only tolerated, but encouraged.


  1. Sita Dubeau said:

    I enjoyed this article. The modeling is important as is the sharing of the challenges, joys, of change. Often as administrators, we tend to hide the challenges we face in developing, supporting and responding to educational change from our teaching staff. Perhaps this is because we tend to have less involvement with teaching staff in the area of curriculum development or teaching strategies. We tend to be more focused on other areas of the job and bringing about change in these areas of process and policy which is important too. I believe that sharing readings, research and responses is very important. That is, I have found it to be helpful when directed towards a staff member who has already indicated an interest in the area of change. Supporting staff who are interested in pursuing professional development to change their teaching practice is exciting and rewarding. It is with these staff members that sharing the joys and challenges of change is most successful.

    June 11, 2015
  2. George, this is an important topic that you have explored so well. I think your piece will be useful in the PD work I am doing on Long Island. Thank you for sharing. Would you be interested in allowing your inspirational quote/image be placed in the Hall of EduHero Voices sponsored by #NYEDChat at http://beyondliteracylink.blogspot.com/2015/05/hall-of-eduhero-voices.html? It is a growing body of #eduinspirations for the field.

    June 11, 2015
  3. George, you quote is really-really true, since the people we can influence the most is ourselves! 🙂

    Change is not something we do to others, but is something we experience ourselves [George C]

    June 12, 2015
  4. Scott Clay said:

    This article sums up so clearly what we need to focus on when leading change. I love the sentence, “The mindset was that was change was something in the control of others, when reality states that we are often our own barriers to the change process.” It is so true. As superintendent I try to help our staff members see the importance of the changes we are attempting to make. They truly believe, as I do, that our students deserve the very best we can give them, but change is difficult and the emotional reactions often impede our progress. Thanks for writing an article that will help refocus our efforts.

    June 15, 2015
  5. Derek Lark said:


    That is the idea from the article that stood out for me and that I agree with the most. As a leader, you must convince those your are trying to influence the actual purpose for the change. Only once this is clearly explained, understood and agreed upon can you make change that will be sustainable and effective. Anyone can make change, it takes a great communicator and a team approach to make it sustainable and effective.

    June 15, 2015
  6. I love, love, love this piece. As a veteran teacher (24 years), I’ve found myself re-energized in my own learning and teaching through the freedom I feel I’ve been given to take risks. This comes from my building principal–who has taken her own risks with us. She has really put herself out there asking for feedback, sharing her own challenges and risks, and giving us the support needed to make whatever leap we choose. I know change isn’t easy, but with support, it’s an amazing feeling.

    June 19, 2015
  7. Pauletta Howard said:

    I like the concept of your opening sentence when you stated that “Frustration is an easy emotion…….” As a building principal it is sometime relatively hard to accept that change is an internal challenge. We have the highest goals and expectations from everyone, but the willingness to see the crucial role that leaders play in initiating the expected change is often overlooked. I have often been asked by students who are having conflicts with their peers to change their schedules so that they may avoid interactions that may lead to more serious consequences.The response to this request is almost always the same. I remind them that the only actions that can be controlled or changed are their own. As I look forward to the upcoming school year I will actively seek feedback from my teachers and staff on changes that I can address personally with the goal that my staff will follow this example of self-reflection.

    June 24, 2015
  8. abas said:


    August 2, 2017

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