I would like to dedicate these words especially to the directors of educational institutions, because I have met hundreds of you in different countries and I see something in common. The desire to make the necessary transformations, but the constant urgency of the day to day that does not allow to advance neither in time nor in the way you would like.
I have worked in and with higher education institutions for many years and I fully understand their desire to change higher education and provide a more enriching and relevant experience for students. However, I also understand the feeling of being drowned in the day-to-day urgencies, which prevents us from focusing on what is truly important. In this article, I will share five practical tips that have helped me overcome these urgencies and help higher education institutions move toward their goals:
Establish a clear, shared vision:
The first step in freeing ourselves from day-to-day urgencies is to have a clear, shared vision of what we want to achieve at our higher education institution. Let’s communicate this vision to all staff and work as a team to align our efforts toward common goals. I know it is not so easy, both to clarify our vision and to convince and mobilize others, but I am also sure that it can be done and needs to be done.
By having a clear direction, it will be easier to identify which urgencies are really priorities and which are far from our vision, better choosing our “battles” and mobilizing energies in the directions that make real sense.
Prioritize and delegate tasks:
Often, we find ourselves overwhelmed by multiple tasks that require our immediate attention, from logistical issues, matters with students, colleagues or visits from people from the ministry… uff, if it is not one thing it is the other, and all of them make it difficult for us to manage what we want to achieve.
To overcome this situation, we must learn to prioritize and delegate. Let’s identify the tasks that are essential for the advancement of our strategic objectives and assign responsibilities to our trusted team.
Delegating not only relieves our workload, but also empowers our employees and provides them with opportunities to grow.
It is important to keep in mind that delegating is not only in our teams, but we can also do it in systems and technologies, so that they take care of things that can be automated, not to replace our work, but to free our hands to make the changes that require our presence, creativity and personal stamp.
Set aside time for strategic thinking:
Strategic reflection is critical to focusing on what’s important. Let’s regularly set aside time in our schedule to look at the big picture, assess our progress toward goals, and plan long-term actions.
We are so on top of issues that it is common to lose perspective. It seems that we must always have answers and we give ourselves little time to ask new questions, reflect and keep a broad view to help us move better in a changing context.
During these moments of reflection, let us disconnect from daily urgencies and connect with our broader vision. Even a few minutes a day can make a difference in our ability to drive change.
Get back in charge of your schedule, to free up and take care of those times that help you keep your vision where it should never be lost.
Foster a culture of learning and innovation:
To free ourselves from daily urgencies, we must foster a culture of learning and innovation in our institutions. It seems somewhat paradoxical that, by focusing on other people’s learning, we neglect our own continuous growth and innovation. However, this is normal because of the enormous amount of daily responsibilities and commitments and the maintenance of relationships in fairly homogeneous circles.
Encourage all staff to constantly seek new ideas, experiment with innovative pedagogical approaches and share their experiences, to take a fresh look and turn things around.
Promote spaces for collaboration and mutual learning, where we can draw on the skills and knowledge of our academic community. By fostering innovation, we can creatively address challenges and transform higher education.
Leverage technology as a tool for change:
Finally, let’s leverage technology as a powerful tool to drive change in higher education. There are numerous technology solutions that can automate processes, improve efficiency and provide new learning opportunities. Let’s investigate and adopt those technologies that align with our vision and strategic goals.
Technology can help us overcome some of our daily urgencies by simplifying administrative tasks, facilitating communication and collaboration, and expanding access to knowledge.
However, let’s remember that technology alone is not the ultimate solution. The real force for change lies in our ability as managers to lead with passion, vision and empathy. Technology is a powerful tool, but it cannot replace our ability to be change agents.
In conclusion, I know that we often feel caught up in the day-to-day urgencies in our higher education institutions. However, we can overcome this challenge and focus on what is important by following these five practical tips: establish a clear and shared vision, prioritize and delegate tasks, dedicate time to strategic reflection, foster a culture of learning and innovation, and leverage technology as a tool for change.
I invite you to be the change the world needs in higher education. Let us not let everyday urgencies prevent us from moving towards a more transformative and meaningful education for our students (and ourselves). I am convinced that together, we can overcome the limitations and make a difference in the future of higher education.
Change begins with each of us – let’s be the courageous and visionary leaders our institutions need!
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