We Get To

EP 8

How can you motivate yourself to engage in challenging work even when you don’t feel like doing it? In this episode, Simon explores a powerful reframing of how we can approach the work in front of us. He shows how shifting from ‘We Have To” to ‘We Get To’ can unlock new focus and energy for change.


Like me, do you ever struggle sometimes pushing forward and motivating yourself to keep implementing a large programme and initiative or a strategy? It’s even harder when that improvement element has come down from above, perhaps from a system or from a leader above you where you just feel like, I’ve just gotta get through this. I’ve been working in my home state over the last year and a half supporting schools through a very large curriculum reform. And one of the things that I’ve often found is rather than getting right down into the exactly how are we going to run this process and make this adjustment to the programmes or the scope and sequence to align with the new syllabus document, you know, rather than getting right down onto all the granular implementation work, sometimes we’ve just gotta pause and I’ve just gotta ask people, Hey, right now, are you in a, we have to frame or can we get ourselves into a, we get to, we have to, we get to, and sometimes the response I get is, yeah, yeah, no, but let’s not worry about all that mindset stuff.

Let’s just get into all the details, Simon. Like, I’ll feel better if we can just get this done. I said, ah, I think we might be in, uh, we have to, and sometimes it’s worth pausing. Start considering some of the big pieces of work you are leading right now. Some of the things that are feeling like real weights on your shoulders, maybe there’s some things that you’re procrastinating on a little bit or feeling frustrated and you are already in the mode of, we’ve just gotta get through this. And on the other side, I can feel relief again, but I want to save, if you are leading change that’s gonna last for more than a month or two, we have to, is a really, really poor quality fuel. And if you are leading the change, I mean that there’s other professionals, busy type professionals who are looking to you and you are trading in on the easy win of saying, ah, I’m sorry everyone, but we have to do this.

It might seem good in the short term because you are aligning with what your colleagues are already feeling about this change. And to be honest, in the short term, you get this little bump of relational connection because they’re all thinking, oh, at least our leader feels the same that we do about this. But that short term bump of alignment often leads to a situation when there’s no discretionary energy left, that anyone is willing to get through the work. And I said before that it’s fine, you’ve just gotta grind something through for a week or two, maybe a month, maybe up to a term. But if you are leading real change, like the curriculum change, these wonderful leaders I’ve been working alongside of working on, that’s more like a two to three year implementation journey. Moving from exploring and understanding the changes to experimenting and enacting some of those changes all the way through to embedding.

This is big, long-term work. And you can apply this not just to curriculum change, but large scale changes in the work you’re doing around wellbeing. Large scale changes you’re doing in work around literacy or numeracy, large scale changes you’re doing around behaviour policy, inclusion policy, uh, trying to have, uh, greater level levels of, uh, equity in your outcomes, trying to serve underserved communities, whatever it is. If you are going after the stuff that really matters, it’s multi-year work. And one of the most powerful things to do is to move yourself from the frame of we have to till we get to. So how do we get to a, we get to, well, sometimes it’s about returning to our own driving why in the work? To be honest, sometimes I feel, uh, I have to on stuff that I put on myself, uh, I came up with it, I chose to do it.

Or leaders that I’m coaching chose to work in a certain direction. It’s not an external mandate. They actually chose to want do it, and yet now they find themselves in an energetic state of feeling. I have to get through something that I chose to do. And so in that frame, it’s often worth just pausing and trying to find a through line back to what would it be like if it, if this was, I get to, I find even just saying it to be honest, just totally reframes my energetic state. I look at the day, I’ve got in front of me and a few heavy things and I think, oh, I’ve gotta get through this. What I get to, if we’re thinking about a, a longer term piece of work, strategic improvement work, again, we might want to pause and say, what was it that we were really trying to solve in this?

What’s the opportunity here? When you think about work that might have been passed down to you from something higher up in the system, someone or a strategy, a policy, something that you must do. One of the most powerful things that a local leader can do is to receive something that is imposed on them. Like they didn’t ask for it. But rather than use that as an easy way of then saying to everyone, all right everyone, well, you know how I feel about this, but we’re, we’re in a position where we’ve gotta do it. It’s being imposed on us, so let’s get on and do it again. It, it’s good in the short term to do that. You’ll get a nice little connection, but it’s a terrible medium to long-term call. In fact, we’re much better off to pause and say, okay, I, I wouldn’t have asked for this large scale change, but hey, where’s the opportunity in this?

And could we turn this even in my own thinking to what we get to and explore it for a moment, don’t force yourself but just explore it. Hey, is there an opportunity here to do some of the things that we were already excited to do and just reframe them and package it within this thing that we’re doing? Is there an opportunity here to collaborate in new ways to develop our new knowledge, to upgrade things that, to be honest, we have been pretty frustrated by for a while and in this new work that we’re doing, hey, there’s a chance to upgrade some programmes or upgrade some units of assessment or collaborate in a new way or lift our capacity to use data. Can we articulate some things we’re actually excited about doing things that we’re either wanting to do anyway and that we can do via this lens.

Things that we are excited to do but hadn’t yet had a sort of a motivation or an impetus to do it. Are there ways that you can move in your own thinking and with your senior team from a lazy We have to, to an empowering we get to, so if you try it for me over the next couple of days, why don’t you start off with something small, something in your calendar that you’re like, oh, I can’t believe that’s in here. I gotta do that. And just say, I’m just gonna look, do this little test and look at my calendar and say I get to fill in the blank. So to when you start to think about something that you are leading with your team, can you just reflect a little bit about the times that you might fall into a, we have to lens and start to explore whether or not you can find a, we get to frame and if it’s something really longer term, especially something longer term that may well have been imposed from above, could you spend some time thinking about in what ways does this provide or we get to, are there through lines, are there things that you could re language about what this journey’s really about that might have course changed how your staff and colleagues are able to engage in the work.

But that’ll happen because your emotional and energetic state will be different as you lead it as well. So a small reframe today from we have to, to we get to that internal mindset shift can make a huge impact in our motivation, our energy, and our capacity to lead others, especially through a medium to long-term improvement journey. We get to.



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