You have seen it too. If you're honest, you have even seen in yourself. Those times when you find yourself sitting at your desk, having spent most of the day fighting fires and attending to the urgent, and wondering what to do next.
A few moments later your brain gets to grip with the idea that you can now really work on your to-do list. But what is on your list? How do items find their way there? And were they put there by you or by others?
It is about this time you realise that you have lost your vision for your school. It's not that you misplaced it, or it's buried in the pile of paperwork on your desk. Somehow, imperceptibly, it seems to have evaporated. It has leaked.
Don't worry. You're not alone. Vision leaks are everywhere.
When you boil it down, your vision for your school is simply an articulation of your preferred future. Of course, a great vision is one that is realistic and achievable mixed with aspiration and motivations ... after all it is your preferred future.
Your vision, when written down, is often called a ‘vision statement’. It is the beginning of everything. It provides the scaffolding for your school strategy and is reflected in your marketing and communications strategy. It also provides the context to each and every tactical execution. These are often the small, unnoticed decisions that get made in schools every day as people get things done. But if your vision has leaked away, how can you and your team make decisions that will progress you towards your preferred future — your vision with confidence?
Some school heads think that if they can fill the vision buckets of staff all the way up to the top it will stay full. But the reality is that people's buckets have holes in them. The holes vary in size and sometimes there's more than one hole!
Your well-considered, well-articulated vision statement begins leaking out of everybody's bucket, including yours, the moment you step outside the staff meeting where you presented it. Your team have lives outside of school. There are children to raise, lawns to mow and bills to pay. No wonder the vision you carefully developed and presented to staff at the beginning of the year has leaked.
So when is the best time to top up the vision bucket? Well the answer is probably always ’yesterday‘. The second best time is now.
When you sense it is time to top up the vision bucket, don't hold back, throw all of your communication resources at it.
It is quite probable that your vision for your school also forms part of your value proposition to parents. That is why it is so important to achieve internal alignment first. This means making sure all your staff know and understand your school vision and what it means to them.
Reading your vision statement at the next meeting is not going to be enough. Treat it like a lesson for students that needs to be planned, experimented with and ultimately shared conclusions arrived at.
Then back it up by repeating your message over and over again. Don't become monotonous, find new ways to re-tell your vision. You can do it in staff meetings, staff newsletters, department meetings, on professional development days, in one-on-one meetings and at school assemblies. Never stop refilling the vision bucket.
A particularly effective way to refill the vision back at is to report progress towards your preferred future. Report each little step, each tiny win. Every indication that you have momentum towards the goal should be reported and held up as a minor victory along the journey.
Catch people doing the right thing. Applaud them for it and then using the tools in your communication toolkit, tell everyone else the story.
Make topping up the vision bucket part of your everyday activity. Be on the lookout for places where the holes in the bucket may have got particularly large. Do what you can to repair the hole, but know that vision always leaks.
Insight applied: Alignment around your vision is the lifeblood of a successful organisation. Progressing your school toward its preferred future is a key part of your role as school head. You can only achieve that by consistently communicating what it is and what it will be like when you all arrive there together.
Are your actions and that of your staff aligned with your school's vision? Do you know for sure? imageseven is offering you a free, 20 minute, one-on-one telephone consultation with Client Services Manager, Andrew Sculthorpe to help you answer these questions and move your school forward.
This blog was written by Brad Entwistle
Brad Entwistle is founder and Managing Director of imageseven. For more than 25 years he has led the imageseven team on a crusade to lift schools’ brands and reveal the true value they deliver to students and their families. When he is not working with schools on their marketing strategy, Brad sits on the boards of two national not-for-profits and enjoys looking at antique maps.