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Boardingologists message for 2019 - Boarding VUCA is here to stay but..

By Tracy Shand
Sunday, December 29, 2019


All views are my own ... so here we go. The Boardingologist's message to boarding leaders everywhere...


Dear boarding leaders,

How has 2018 been for you- professionally and personally? Is your strategic plan at the correct place to move your school forwards?Or ............... Are you a few boarders away from financial problems which could mean changes need to be made? I ask these questions first as many leaders, not all, define themselves by their professional success.

But as we close the door to 2018, it is time to go back to the heart of boarding and ask yourself some different questions. How are you ? No,....... how are you? Are recovering from that end of term cold that suddenly appears, celebrating an excellent term or saying to yourself how many days until chaos starts again? What would the people closest to you say 2018 has been for you ,your family and your career? What has been celebrated? What has been learned? What has been missed? In addition, how would the staff you lead answer these questions? If they were all in the room, would the atmosphere be positive or not so positive under your leadership? You can't get that time back ... so is it time to make changes?

The reality is that your front line determines your bottom line. From academic excellence, pastoral care to making sure everything is clean, tidy and everyone fed: it comes from your team of staff who are invested in your mission.. your vision for success. But the reality of our continually changing boarding landscape needs more , more investment in our communities to build tomorrow for everyone. How can we possibly put more investment into boarding in the current economic climate? But investments can be done in many different ways...through time, a listening ear, coaching and mentoring.


Boarding VUCA is more prevalent this year with Brexit looming, more schools opening overseas which in turn means less boarders here and the mental health crisis that we face on the front line of boarding - whether that be with staff, students or within families. For 2019, it is time to stop, look and listen in our communities to invest in building tomorrow for everyone. Where VUCA meets EXEAT is where you navigate the turbulence that is affecting the life of your community. So leaders, take some time out to consider five additions to your boarding strategy for 2019.

Make a difference where you are .

If you were to take a photo at the start and end of term- they would be very different. But should they be? Working for you is only one part of your teams life- or is it? Step back and think if what one difference you can make in Jan 2019 that would help your community to thrive, not just survive. Embrace the millennials thirst for promotion and new ideas by making them a Boardingpreneur. Get them to lead in an area of their passion to help them move forward - because we know, and research says, they are not staying forever. Advance the long term staff who know your culture so well by allowing a team approach to a school challenge - get them to define it, lead on it.. oh and get out of their way ! Watch the results happen, staff empowered and community engagement. Give it a fancy name .. and away you go.

Make everyone in your community a genius to build resilience, happiness and focus.

What could happen if you released an hour for everyone to follow their passion? It is less than 1% of the week... if you take the lead from the Genius Hour in education - and add in the accountability of sharing , true magic can happen.

Answer the one question as a leader you do not want to... and act on it.

To lead others you need to lead yourself, and yes sometimes you do not like the answers. At the start I asked you to define what the closest people to you would say, as a result of this I have stepped down from senior leadership to give my highest point of contribution in supporting with the Boarding Mental Health Award, and leading in this important area from 2019- well in less than 24 hours from now! .

Be the change -put physical first aid and mental health first aid on an equal footing.

Living on the boarding extra mile is tough at any level; whether you are single, married or with a family. Your life is in one house and as some would say we live in a goldfish bubble. Make 2019 the year that your community commits to improving mental health , career wellbeing and allowing your people to move towards their definition of success. ( Whether that be in your school or moving on elsewhere when they are ready)

Your school. Your boarding house. Your future. What is the 'one' thought you need to add on to future build in difficult times?

When I was writing Boardingolgy I had many laugh out loud moments when I tested the content with people and to finish I want to share one of the best ones that is related to what you do every day. Here we go - we are travelling to the chemistry lab and have just put our mask on..... Have you got your mask on? I seem to have taken a wrong turn from the chemistry lab and am now in the staffroom. So, apologies. Wait a moment until I take the mask off. Phew! The smell is worse – so why is it so strong in here? Call the cleaning team – as it smells like something may have died!

Is this aroma a result of all the conversations about dreams that have died in this very staffroom? Sad, but true that many boarding professional like you have dreams that just die due to other matters that get in the way.

For 2019, change the conversation and do not let personal or professional dreams die in your community. To lead in VUCA times your biggest cost is your best asset. Your people, the boarding DNA of your community is where your success lies. So, discover their talents, listen to their input, allow them to be well in your community, empower them towards their definition of success and watch the magic happen.

You are more than just boarding...

Have a great 2019.

Tracy Shand , Boardingologist

PS.. I bet when you get back to school in the coffee break - this quote will come back into your head... but let's keep the answers between us. :)

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