In third world countries, hypothermia is a leading cause of child mortality. One simple, cost effective strategy for decreasing the risk of newborn deaths in these countries is to get the baby “skin to skin” with the mother as soon as possible. This “skin to skin” contact regulates the newborn’s body temperature and dramatically decreases the risk of death from hypothermia. As simple and cost effective as this strategy is, its implementation has been challenging because it involves change, and we tend to resist change.
Educators are in the change business. Teachers try to change student learning and behavior by adding value, while administrators often attempt to change the behavior of the adults in the organization.
Since leading change is a major role of educators, you may assume we would be good at it. But my experience tells me that we are not very adept at leading change nor do we understand the principles of leading change.
I once asked a group of administrators to brainstorm strategies for combatting teacher absenteeism. The first strategy they reached consensus on was rewarding teachers for attendance. While that makes great common sense, research indicates that rewards are not one of the most powerful change producing strategies.
In a bestselling book on influencing change, (Patterson, et. al., 2007) the authors state that when we are faced with a behavior that we want to change, we default first to verbal persuasion next to rewards. While both of these strategies can be a part of a good change model, neither strategy should be our first move.
So what does work? In my next blog, Skin to Skin, Part 2, I will talk about more powerful strategies for leading change, and I will share more about the implications of the “skin to skin” project.
Patterson, K., et. al. (2008) Influencer the Power to Change Anything. McGraw Hill.