Don't Just Do Something - Stand There!

I was a bit slow picking up the intent of this statement when I first came across it. This might be because we are so accustomed to doing something – anything – especially in a crisis or emergency. Sometimes, perhaps most times, the best thing a person can do, especially in a crisis, is to take some time to assess what is happening, consider the broader context, and then take more deliberate and measured action. In an emergency, this ‘stepping back’ from the immediate action can have a dramatic impact. However, ‘stepping back’ from our leading, teaching, or coaching practice can also bring many benefits.

Start of a new school term provide opportunities for some reflection and review before jumping back into the busyness of school or college life.

So, suppose you are emerging from a mid-year break, or planning for the year ahead, or indeed continuing to think about how to respond to the unpredictable pandemic. I wonder what different approaches and practices might be worth putting in place as you plan to get started again?

Reflecting upon the following questions can provide insights into new practices in your teaching, leading, or coaching that will help make what’s coming up better than what has just passed…

  • What are you most pleased about from last year or the year so far? And, what else? And, what else?
  • When you reflect on these things, what general principles and practices might have underpinned these successes?
  • What must you get right to ensure that the year or term ahead goes well?
  • What would be the highest leverage focus area for you to give attention to this year or this term?
  • What would success in this area look like? Who else would notice, and what would they be saying?
  • Who can support you in seeing this through?

Of course, reflections like these need to lead to actions. ‘Don’t just do something, stand there!’ is not meant to be the complete response to a crisis – just the first most helpful thing you might do. Reflecting without action actually does not change anything. “ ‘Do nothing’ hardly ever changes anything. But ‘do something’ changes the odds of success every time a new action is initiated.” (La Fasto and Larson, 2001, p22). This is especially the case when you have paused and reflected on your initial ‘do something’ so that your next ‘do something’ incorporates the learning from this reflection.

It seems obvious. However, while reflection and review are critically important, it is helpful to remember that it is acting on the learning from that reflection that changes the game.

And, of course, working with a coach can be the most successful way of creating space for reflection, since at the same time coaching incorporates a mechanism for moving to action.

So how can you turn the insights gained into actions that can help to ensure a successful next year or term? What might be the first small action you could take to ensure that you can change the odds of success?

  • La Fasto, F. & Larson, C. (2001). When teams work best: 6000 team members and leaders tell what it takes to succeed. Sage.