Douglas B. Reeves in his book The Learning Leader discusses The Law of Initiative Fatigue.

The Law of Initiative Fatigue is my adaptation from the term originally used in the Harvard Business Review. The law states – When resources of time, money and emotional energy are held constant while the number of old, continuing and new initiatives rises, organizational implosion is inevitable.

Reeve goes on to state that:

When leaders cling to previous initiatives while attempting to add new ones, they can experience some apparent early success. … [but] enthusiasm gives way to organizational overload, which is precipitously followed by burnout. Not only will the new initiatives fail under such circumstances, but the energy and resources available to old and continuing initiatives are dangerously compromised as well.

Reeve gives some great examples of ways that schools can reclaim time within the building. What struck me about this whole part was that, as leaders, we sometimes fail to see that we are living examples of this law in action. For me, I have noticed that I have taken on many new initiatives without taking time to reassess what I am doing, parring back and deciding what is vitally important and what can be 1) eliminated 2) given to others to do 3) rolled into a new initiative so no new workload is added.

I don’t know about anyone else but, as a leader, I sometimes become so enthused about new initiatives and ideas and add them to what I already doing because I see the potential they will have for the students. In particular, I have noticed that in the last six months or so, I have added many new technology tools and strategies to my repertoire but have not taken the time to fully incorporate them in my teaching and so I was trying to do more in the same amount of time. I have added new methods of supervision but I have not taken the time to completely incorporate a new method of reporting back and talking with teachers. I have taken on new roles within the school division without fully reflecting on what each role will mean to my time commitments. I have begun new projects with the School Community Council without, again, reflecting on what they add to my time commitments. There are a number of books that I want to read and articles that have peeked my interest that I have yet to get to even though summer is here. I have joined a number of networks (Ning, Facebook, MySpace) that all take time. Besides these, the school division is focusing on a number of initiatives that require my being a leader for my staff in a number of areas. None of this includes the extra-curricular that I coach or time with my family. By the end of school, I was feeling extremely drained. However it was not until I did a principal evaluation with my staff at the end of the year, did I see, through a few comments from teachers in my building (who are very perceptive) that I was taking on too much. Each of the things I was doing seemed to be important and, when I looked at my calendar, were doable.

As I’ve been working through the first two weeks and reflecting on what Reeves is saying, I’ve realized that the Law of Initiative Fatigue is, in fact, very real and has affected my ability to be an effective leader. This means that in order to reduce the number of demands on my time and focus on the areas that will bring the greatest development, I will have to sort through what I “NEED” to do and what, although it might be important, can be delegated to someone else or needs to eliminated. So how do I go about this?

I’ve decided that I needed to choose areas that will reduce my time and prepare to focus on key areas.

Area 1 – School division focus

The school division has chosen to focus on reading and math curricula and PLC’s for staff development. As I have mentioned, I have a number of areas that I have been focusing upon but I have decided that these three educational areas will be where I concentrate and focus my energy. That will entail me helping teachers to make sense of the data when it arrives, working to identify key areas of concentration, comparing it to our last set of data and celebrating what we have been able to do well. I will continue to build my understanding of PLC’s as they relate to our school and look for ways to involve community in building links to what we are doing within the school.

Area 2 – Professional Development

The first thing that I am going to do is work on a daily journal. This way I will track what exactly I am doing. This will allow me to see where my time and energy is going and will help me to focus on the areas that I have identified. It will also give me a chance to reflect on how I spend my time each day. Not that every moment needs to be full and accounted but to ensure that I’m remaining focused. I do have a tendency to become “focused” on one thing at the expense of others. This, I believe, will help me to manage my precious time.

I will continue to blog and discuss what I am doing and what I see as being important in education. I find that the feedback and discussion that takes place is incredibly helpful and challenges me to “stay the course”. Besides that, the ideas and insights that I come across help me to grow and learn which is essential to me being an effective leader.

Reading – I have decided that, although there are hundreds of great books that I could read, I don’t have the time. I will focus my reading on leadership growth and development, PLC’s and staff development in the areas of reading and math. As the educational leader, I want to be a help to my staff and assist them in their growth and development and focus on improving the learning in the school.

Conferences – I’m not sure what I will do here but I know that I will again focus on the areas of learning that are central to the division initiatives.

Mentoring – I have been working with my Superintendent, using my Administrator’s evaluation, to key in on particular areas that were identified by the staff. Reeves points out that:

Leaders need not, indeed they cannot, be every dimension themselves, but they can and must ensure that every leadership dimension is provided by some member of the leadership team. [these dimensions are described later in the chapter]

At present I am the official leadership team but I know that there are particular people within my school whom will be able to fill various dimensions within the context of the school community. That is why I chose to have the Admin evaluation completed by my staff. They are the people who will be able to give me the clearest picture of where I have strengths and where I need to grow and look for others who have that strength.

I am mentoring our Teacher Association President this year. Being vice-president, I will be able to assist her and offer her some insights from my tenure in various local and provincial positions. My goal here is to assist her to become the leader she can be and be able to look for people who will be able to fill the roles that she needs.

There you have the first two areas I will be concentrating on this year. My next post will look at the areas of School, School Community Council, Teaching (my own) and Supervision. As I have done here, I will outline what I plan to do to bring focus for myself this year in these areas. If you have any comments, feedback or ideas, feel free to drop them off. I’m open to suggestions or critiques (as long as they are progressive with a focus on growth!)

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