As a school leader, solving problems, moving initiatives forward and supporting colleagues requires difficult conversations from time to time. Reflecting further, depending on how much is going on in our respective school environments, it can appear at times the a number of difficult conversations are necessary in a short period of time.
Without a doubt, difficult conversations can serve as important, crucial, conversations that if addressed well enable schools to move forward with purpose and momentum.
That said, difficult conversations are emotionally draining and challenge many of us to overcome our fears as to what may happen when we engage in such challenging, possibly confrontational, dialogue.
Owing to this, as leaders, we need to pick our battles, pace ourselves and not feel as though we have to address everything all at once. This can sometimes be at odds with what we are aspiring to achieve for our schools, as by not tackling every difficult conversation, we may allow certain behaviours, issues, situations to be maintained until such time that we have the capacity to address them.
Our school cultures may, to a large extent, be defined by what we, as leaders, are prepared to accept and tolerate. If school leaders, however, choose to tackle all their cultural issues head-on, all at once, then it could come at huge cost. School leaders are also charged with ensuring that they can endure the turbulence that often comes with tackling challenging circumstances. A bit of self-preservation from time to time, saying that something can wait and picking the right time to engage in a difficult conversation can go a long way to ensuring a sustained and more purposeful leadership effort.
With difficult conversations, we have to know when it is worth holding them, what will be the benefit and what is the cost, for what and for who, if we decide to postpone a few conversations to a later date. One thing is for sure, we cannot run away. If this were the case, we probably want to evaluate why we are in a leadership position in the first place.