Tag: communication

Understand Your Power

Understand your power and influence.

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Teachers, coaches, and leaders understand your power and influence so that you can build the skills within your students, clients, and direct reports. In the first part of my teaching career, I did not truly understand or appreciate the power and influence I had over my students. Statements and comments I made to my students were taken as the honest truth and solid facts. Sure, I had to make things fun and engaging to keep their interest but what I said mattered and counted. My students were influenced by my words by the simple fact that I was their teacher. I held the most power in the room. It was up to me to set the tone for the classroom, help students feel safe and welcomed, and build a sense of belonging. When those basic needs were disrupted, I was the person with the power and ability to respond and make changes to bring our community back to safety and belonging.

Standing Steady Between Praise or Blame

“When we find our center and our balance in the midst of these opposites…. we can find our ease and our freedom in the midst of these changing winds.”-Gayathri Narayanan

Photo by Jean-Pierre Brungs on Unsplash

What does standing steady between praise and blame mean to you? How do you respond to praise and blame? Do you crave and seek out praise? Do you resist, ignore, or avoid blame? As an educator and a school leader, I was told to develop a ‘thick skin’ or ‘armor’ when blame and negative comments came my way. Alternatively, I was told to soak in all the praise when it came my way. I was not standing steady between praise and blame. I was being pulled from one end to another, placing my value and worth on other people’s opinions. I have realized that may not be the way to go and there are other options.

Be a Human with a Human

I first heard this phrase when attending the ten-day intensive part of my executive coaching certification through Berkeley. “Be a human with a human.” noted one of the faculty coaches before they launched us into one of our first practicums where we coached a stranger in front of each other and received feedback. I was so nervous and was at the beginning of this journey, not feeling like I had the skills as yet to do a great job. A lot of self-doubt was creeping into my mind until I heard this phrase. Being a human with a human seemed doable to me. It was a reality that felt approachable, comfortable, and true. After all, we are just two human beings talking to each other. 

I saw the true expression of this phrase in a brilliant movie. Recently, I had the privilege to watch an early screening of Ava Duvernay’s new film, Origin, about the author Isabel Wilkerson’s journey to writing her book Caste while coping with personal loss.

Exploring the Role of the Coach

“Over whose head is the thought bubble?”

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

I have been exploring the role of the coach. I recently had the privilege of attending a truly transformative professional development opportunity, The Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute. This was an initial step towards my learning and developing skills to be a certified executive coach. The BECI faculty were skilled at modeling practices, building a safe space for risk-taking, and creating an engaging environment with a high level of interaction. Throughout the program, I had so many subtle and not-so-subtle shifts in my thinking. 

In exploring the role of the coach, one big shift I experienced was seeing the relationship between my background as an educator and executive coaching. In Miles Downey’s book, Modern Effective Coaching, he writes: “The coach’s responsibility, therefore, is not to teach but to facilitate learning.” I argue something slightly different.

New Leaders: Gather Data

Part 3: Gather Data to Make Change

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

As a new leader, gathering data is a key part of your entry into your new community. Throughout your first year and in every interaction, make sure you are gathering data about the people and the place that you are leading. This requires actively and carefully listening and careful note-taking. You might be eager to share about yourself and your ideas in some of these interactions and yet it may be more important to provide space for others to share what they know and understand first. This data and knowledge that you gather from the community will be vital for future change-making of any sort. Gathering data is the first step. 

Tips for Gathering Data

  • Listen with an active listener’s stance. Listen to understand rather than listen to plan your response.
  • Take thoughtful notes. Record dates and names of people.

New Leaders Series: Tell Your Story

Part 2: Tell Your Story, Create Connection

Tell your story and create a connection.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

In my early days of leadership and teaching, I would get extremely nervous before speaking to large groups. Am I interesting enough? Is my message clear? One critical element I realized further along after boring many audiences was that storytelling was the key especially when you are new to a community. When I began with a story, people were hooked and they got to know me a bit better. The act of beginning with a relevant story also helped me relax as a speaker. Telling your story helps people relate to you and identify with you. 

We remember stories. Stories can build connection and ultimately your relatability and your relationship. If you are speaking in a full faculty, board, or parent meeting, ‘make sure your pitch provides information on competence and change, experience and expectations, and your overall leadership approach.’

Documentation is Communication

Documentation is communication.

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

When I was an administrator at a school and I had concerns about a direct report’s performance, I looked for past notes and documentation regarding observations, conversations, and other feedback. I found nothing. This was a person that had many complaints from all different constituents in the school over many years and yet there was nothing in writing. This could mean that someone might not have received clear and timely feedback about their performance and at the very least if they did, there was no follow-up to clarify goals and expectations. This does not serve anyone well: the person struggling in the job, the supervisor, and ultimately if you are in a school, the students. Documentation is a form of feedback. It leads to clarity and direct communication. There are likely few surprises when you document in a timely and clear manner.

Improvement Plans

Improvement Plans set a path to potential growth.

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Have you considered an improvement plan for an employee? Improvement Plans set a path to potential growth. This is the time of year that independent schools consider whether to offer contracts for employees to return. For high-performing employees, these decisions are quick and easy. For employees that are underperformers, and who have shown consistent signs of underperforming, it might be time to consider an Improvement Plan. An Improvement Plan, sometimes called a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan), makes clear what the person needs to work on in order to stay in their position at the school. It clarifies expectations, spells out goals and timelines, and has an emphasis on growth and support. 

It’s essential that the employee understands they have an opportunity to improve. Avoid making employees feel like they’re being laid off, rather, emphasize their opportunity for growth.

What’s In a Question?

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A well-formed question can tell a lot about a candidate. “Asking good questions is the path to insightful learning,” wrote Adrian Gonzalez. One of the often overlooked items in a hiring process is the questions we ask candidates. Hiring season is fast approaching in schools. It’s time to prepare. Questions can tell us a lot about a candidate. If you ask the right questions, you can learn a lot about a candidate. Your questions also reveal a lot about your institution. Questions are just one very important data-gathering point of the hiring process. 

Steps to forming questions:

  • Be grounded in your school’s mission and strategic vision. Keep it at the forefront of your mind while forming your questions. Form questions that will grow your community.
  • Think about what qualities, skills, and understandings you are looking for in a candidate. 
  • Create questions that will uncover or gather data around these qualities, skills, and understandings.

What Do You Do With A Problem?

Kobi Yamada writes of a brilliant idea in his book, What Do You Do With A Problem?

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Yamada shows us how to view a problem as an opportunity. His main character is a child with a problem that keeps growing as he keeps worrying about it and even ignoring it. Until he decides to take a different approach. Yamada writes: 

When I got face-to-face with it (the problem), I discovered something. My problem wasn’t what I thought it was. I discovered it had something beautiful inside. My problem held an opportunity! It was an opportunity to learn and grow. To be brave. To do something.

Kobi Yamada

When I am faced with a complex problem, I think about it constantly. The issue will fill my every thought in waking hours and I may even dream about it. This type of rumination can feel like it’s overtaking my mind.