A School For Tomorrow
THE PATHWAY TO EXCELLENCE | WORK

PLANNING

What is planning? Plans are the way in which we bring about our desired future. They make aspirations real; they give substance to goals. The success of our planning process depends on how well we are grounded in our own capacity and our ability to connect ourselves to the team and community around us. In this way, the real source of our ability to map out The Pathway To Excellence can be found in our character, the quality of the judgments we make, and the depth of the relationships that sustain us on our journey.

BECOMING STRONGER


In life, the real battle is not against others, but against ourselves — our fear of failure, our apprehensions that we just can’t do it. For those who are content to stay where they are, the thought of something new, a prize beyond their previous contemplation, is a scary prospect. It is, in many ways, easier to stay in that space where you know where you are, even if it is mediocre place. How do we explain this? Do we seek to make excuses, to blame others for our own shortcomings? Do we make light of our ambition and pretend that it doesn’t matter? Do we give up and find something else to do? Or, having set our goals and worked towards them, do we instead accept that what we did on this occasion was just not good enough this time? Do we seek to take the lessons of our defeat and learn from them? If we have been doing it the same way, without success, do we keep on doing the same things? Or do we try something different? Do we make a new plan for the future?


All of us need to build a plan for our lives which is based on becoming who we need to be. We need to find new and better ways to do things, accept greater levels of responsibility, think clearly and make decisions well. Doing these things well, begins with a goal to work on and strengthen our integrity. Integrity means wholeness of character, uprightness of action, and soundness of moral principles. It means being honourable — acting in accordance with your values. It also includes the qualities of truthfulness and honesty. Much has been said about integrity and it is a hard goal to achieve. It is, in many ways, the mission of a life’s work and it is the yardstick by which others most commonly judge us. It is the foundation of our true strength – who we are on the inside and how this is revealed in our actions in relationship with others.

“Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” 

Helen Keller

BECOMING CLEARER

We all need goals and a way to make them happen. We know that those who achieve set goals, develop plans to achieve them. They manage their time well and are able to work with discipline towards the completion of their plans. If we don’t set goals, and if we don’t work hard, we make it much more difficult to succeed. So, it is important to set goals, work hard and manage our time well. But it is not enough just to do this by itself. Good planners tackle complexity in life by translating them into apparently simpler situations and assigning a scope and sequence by which these situations can be addressed. This is usually achieved by breaking them down into smaller and more manageable ideas or jobs to which time and other resources can be attached. These jobs can be dealt with one by one until the whole task has been achieved. On the other hand, it is not always this straightforward. Not every situation can be broken down without needing to be put back together. For this, we may need to learn about how the simpler matters relate to each other, or how there may not be an easy solution. This, in turn, helps us to develop our own organisational capacity further.


We cannot expect to deal with difficult challenges until we know how to do the simple things. We cannot attempt to grapple with complex ideas until we have mastery over the basic details. The basis of all that we do comes down to our willingness to work hard in preparing for what lies ahead. We must then anticipate the challenges that lie ahead and rehearse what we need to do to meet them, by practising our skills and applying our knowledge. At the heart of this is our attention to detail. We must become good at demonstrating basic competencies, and we must absorb the knowledge needed for us to get the job done. It is important that we complement this with a willingness to be honest and demanding in the evaluation of our performance. When we are working with others, a gentle tone goes a long way in helping a team to understand that while we value them, we need to raise the standard even higher. We can’t be afraid to identify the little things which need fixing and then insist on them being fixed.

We also need to make the decisions that need to be made. Effective decision- making comes about when we make timely decisions that meet the desired purpose, and manage the stress and risk associated with the decision. We will need to involve others in the process and seek to understand their point of view, but have the courage to rely on our own capacity to make significant, far- reaching and ethical decisions. To do so, we need to think, by analysing the consequences of the alternatives objectively, and feel, by considering the impact it will have on those involved. The judgments we make as a result of this will need us to gather information by sensing the facts and details at hand, as well as taking into account our intuition about alternatives to these facts. We need to use balanced, critical judgment and be willing to make choices about alternatives. A simple model for decision-making is to:

    1. Define the problem.
    2. Identify the objective of the decision. 
    3. Analyse the situation.
    4. Identify and assess the alternative.
    5. Decide the best course of action.
    6. Implement the plan.
    7. Evaluate the results.

BECOMING MORE CONNECTED

We live in community – any plan we make for our lives must necessarily involve others. Part of the challenge we face in this is how we can become better connected with those around us. As ever, it starts with the right questions: What is my value system? How well do I value those around me? How well connected am I to my community and its needs? Am I the servant of my fellows? The purpose of your work is all about the relationships between you, your team and the context in which you find yourselves. For you to work with people successfully to execute your plan, you will need to obtain their willing support, confidence, loyalty, trust and respect.

Caring for others is a natural consequence of servant leadership. Compassion, kindness, sensitivity and loyalty all form part of this process. Nonetheless, it is important not to shield people from difficulty, even if we wish to protect those for whom we care. While we can provide a buffer for a short period of time to make challenging circumstances easier to deal with, we must also make sure that we allow people to develop the character, competencies, and confidence to take on adversity. In short, caring for others does not mean being patronising. At the same time, we must also ensure that in balancing the competing needs of the task and the group, and the individuals in the group, we do not allow group and task needs to overwhelm the needs of individuals. This does not mean that we should tend to each of these needs equally at all times. Sometimes, we just need to get the job done, while on other occasions we need to build the group. Both of these situations can mean that the needs of individuals can be put to one side – but only temporarily. It is important that we do not become hardened by the pressure of achieving our tasks, and that we come back to look after the needs of team members on a regular basis.

Trust comes from relationships based on respect, loyalty and honesty. Trust is a reflection of the value which people place in each other. Performance is highest in an atmosphere of high trust, respect and mutual accountability. We must give trust before we can expect to receive trust. We must also be prepared to be disappointed when people do not make the best use of our trust. Sometimes it takes time to build trust. We must be prepared to invest trust in our team and its members. We may not make an immediate return on this investment, but the greater the trust we show, the more effective the team will become in the long run. Positive reinforcement and encouragement go a long way towards building trust, but so does honesty. False praise does not build resilience and confidence in the long run; people would rather know that that we trust in their character and potential, and that they have our genuine support in improving their performance and solving their problems.

Perhaps the best way to be credible and win the trust of your team is for us to act in accordance with our own principles and values. If we handle situations the way we think is right according to what we believe in and the things we think need to be done, then most times we will end up with a solution that has integrity. On the other hand, it also means that we do have to be prepared to explain our goals and the way we are trying to achieve them. We also have to be prepared to justify why the choices we have made are good choices, especially by revealing the information that we have at our disposal. We should be prepared to state up-front what we and our team are likely to gain from this and the dangers or problems which we are likely to face.

When we see a mistake, we help others to learn from this as opposed to punishing the error. We help others to feel comfortable with, and eventually part of the vision for the future. We can’t be afraid of unpopularity and we need to actively challenge the status quo. And we need to be prepared to adjust the levels of involvement and autonomy of others. Sometimes we encourage greater participation; sometimes, we will do this by being more directive and firm. In different circumstances, we use different approaches. What we do in one situation might be completely different from the way other people might handle it. Developing our own leadership style involves learning about the theory of leading people; using different approaches for different situations; reflecting on our own ethics, beliefs and personal values; understanding motivation, integrity, courage, compassion, humility and effective communication; and, above all, leadership by example.

This gives what we are doing an openness and transparency that makes us and our team personally accountable for what we are doing. This means that what we do is more likely to be authentic. It doesn’t mean that everything we do has to be popular or successful. In the end, other people will judge us by our behaviour, especially our most recent behaviour. If we can combine our best with our most recent and if we behave well, we will earn high respect from others and we will feel higher levels of self-respect. Our plans will fall into place and the milestones on The Pathway To Excellence will pass by as we would want.

LOCATING OUR PLANNING IN OUR LIVES

In the end, we believe that everyone can work and contribute more successfully through:
    1. Identifying and understanding the consistency of their self-regulation – how well you take responsibility for and follow through with organising yourself and your life
    2. Adopting an effective approach towards your goal setting – how you create meaningful plans to define what you want to achieve in your life
    3. Working through improving your skills in project management – how you make specific choices to construct plans and achieve your goals in a timely and resource-effective fashion
    4. Locating their success through the judicious exercise of their evaluation and assessment skills – how use both evidence and intuition to make sound judgments about the degree of success you are having in accomplishing your plans

RELATED READINGS

GOAL-SETTING

self-REGULATION

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

EVALUATION AND ASSESSMENT SKILLS

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