10. Getting Unstuck: Implementing Complex Changes with Margaret Zacchei

You’ve agreed on a plan for a complex change. What do you need to consider to implement the plan? How do you get staff buy-in?

Educator Margaret Zacchei explains how she approached making changes as a school leader. Margaret is an innovative educational leader and consultant with more than 25 years of experience as an elementary principal and teacher. Through Margaret’s leadership and engagement of staff, the school where she was principal until 2017 received the highest recognition for achievement by the Connecticut Department of Education in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Currently Margaret is serving as a consultant and coach to school districts and administrations, sharing her experiences and perspective as a leader and change agent to help them achieve their goals.

Listen for:

• Michelanglo and Jordan Peterson’s quotes about setting expectations – and how both offer different, but sound advice.

• Why it’s important when developing an implementation plan to identify what success looks like ala backward design.

• What factors – and potential obstacles – need to be considered when developing an implementation plan.

• Why it’s important to grant ownership to those actualizing the change.

Change is great. You go first.

• Why going slowly when first implementing change actually contributes to success.

• Why and how one of Margaret’s change initiatives did not go well.

• Why and how that change initiative eventually did go well.

• How shared leadership and the idea of building meaningful relationships, e.g., understanding what truly motivates colleagues, can contribute to change success.

• Why leaders need to create an environment that lets or helps people show up and showcase with their gifts.

• How giving control and ownership supports staff buy-in to change, responsibility, and accountability.

• Why leaders need to assess their own relationship to change.

• What benefits a leader can accrue by honestly listening to positive or negative feedback.

After listening to the episode:

  1. Margaret made the point that when she and her team considered a complex change initiative, they always tried to ask themselves the question: “Is this change going to result in doing what’s best for students?” Why is it important for any organization to ask a results-focused question like that? Think of your own organization. What question should you be asking when considering a complex change?

  2. Consider any major complex change you’re considering or need to consider. On a single sheet of paper, create a timeline, and put your implemented solution – as much as you know it to be at the moment – at the end. Then, working backwards until today, ask yourself: What is required to implement this change? What does this mean for our time? What might we need to do for the budget? How does this serve our bigger mission? What would make it easier for us to commit to this? Write down three insights you get about the implementation stage by answering those questions.

Jeff Ikler