Plan for the Middle

middle of the road

This post is dedicated to the middle. As you work to improve outcomes in your classroom, school building, or district it can feel like a long way between where you begin and where you ultimately want to be. Harvard Business Review calls this “medium term”. This is the point between the start and the finish when some things have been accomplished and others still need to be mapped out. The writers put it this way, “Moving from the short term to the long term requires that you successfully negotiate the medium term.” (read the full article here) In order to take advantage of “medium term” we have to set goals for the middle.

“Typically, the big picture and overall vision are easy to lay out, but all of the steps in between are not clearly outlined or celebrated which leads to broken communication and disappointing outcomes. “

If you are in the middle right now, here are three steps to ensure that you plans don’t derail:

  1. Recognize what has been accomplished
    • This goes beyond sending a congratulatory email. When students, or teachers, or parents, or building leaders have made real progress towards reaching a final goal you have to give them a real celebration. This can look like a special lunch (students, parents, and teachers LOVE those), an award (a symbolic one like a figurine or belt that can be given to the person who currently has made the most progress. This is for bragging rights more than anything), or something small like a gift card
  2. Clearly outline what still needs to be done
    • Remember that clarity is key here. Even if progress has been made, as the vision holder, you have to be very clear about the ultimate goal and what still needs to happen to get there. I once had a leader say that you cannot communicate a vision enough. Keep reminding everyone of the ultimate goal even as you celebrate their steps towards it. In this way, you keep all students, parents, teachers, administrators eyes on the end goal which is really where you want to be.
  3. Set a time limit
    • A goal without a deadline is useless. You have to be sure that you let everyone working towards your big goal know when their final progress will be assessed and what will happen at that point. A lot of workplace anxiety, in my opinion, results from people being unclear of what happens once a deadline passes. You can prevent this by informing them of what will happen once the deadline has passed and informing them of how their progress will ultimately be measured. Clarity and communication at the front end can prevent mass confusion and burnout at the back end.

The point here is to remember that you can reach your destination later if you plan for the middle now. Set clear mid term goals and celebrate your progress! You deserve it and so does your team. Remember, to lead is to constantly learn and while others may not tell you the truth, I always will. Though the road there from here is a long one, if you want to keep people walking with you you have to plan for and celebrate the middle. – Dr. Kia