Recently the Harvard Business Review published a special edition (Summer 2020) on managing in difficult times. The author of one article made a very valid point, ‘Crisis leadership has two distinct phases. First is that emergency phase when your task is to stabilise the situation and buy time. Second is the adaptive phase when you . . . . build the capacity to thrive in a new reality.’ The tips that follow will assist you to capitalise on opportunities stemming from the new reality.
- Anticipate emerging needs. In 1825, if you asked a farmer what they wanted, they would have said, ‘A horse that’s half the size, twice as strong, and eats half as many oats.’ There would have been no mention of tractors. Proactive schools will see challenging circumstances as a chance to develop new programs and pathways and to reshape their future. To generate innovative solutions, encourage conversations that begin with ‘What say we…? or ‘Would it help in future if we….?’
- Prioritise staff and student wellbeing. One of the lessons learnt from the pandemic is that wellbeing is an essential prerequisite for student achievement and staff effectiveness. Pastoral care and staff wellbeing programs will need an increased focus on resilience, interconnectedness and sense of belonging.
- Bolster vocational education, skills and training programs. The community has now realised the vulnerabilities and false promises associated with certain sectors, careers, forms of employment and the ‘gig’ economy. Occupations in the essential services and trades sectors will be increasingly popular. Also as manufacturing ramps up onshore, technology-related subjects will be popular. This is an opportunity to review these subjects and the resources allocated to them.
- Diversify income streams. Philanthropic sources will diminish, sponsorship opportunities will dissipate, and government funding could be reduced substantially and as the economy struggles to recover. Determine how your assets and resources may be converted into alternative generators of income e.g. through strategic partnerships or the marketing of online programs or adaption of assets.
- Acknowledge your staff publicly. The requirement for online learning at home has caused many parents to recognise the valuable work that teachers do under difficult circumstances. While public sentiment and appreciation of teachers is high, deliberately and frequently feature the contributions of your staff, both in your internal communications and promotional material.
- Encourage more inclusive, respectful and diverse workgroups. There are two, seemingly self-contradictory, things we have realised from this crisis – the first is a greater recognition of our interconnectedness and the second, a greater appreciation for self-reliance. We are most successful when we are supported by a community of generous and collaborative colleagues with diverse perspectives and expertise. Reinforce this realisation and incorporate it into the school’s ethos.
- Review your market positioning. Marketing budgets will shrink. Apply the marketing axion, ‘You have to be better; if you can’t be better you have to be different because if you can’t be different you can only be cheaper.’ Look for your school’s distinctive strengths, prioritise your marketing activities to focus on those that are most effective and simplify your message. Above all, pursue excellence in those distinctives you have identified to achieve a competitive advantage.
The next blog in this series is Capitalise on New Opportunities (Part 2).