Tag: leadership

New Leaders: Prepare for Your Journey

Part 1: Building Relationships

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

Have you accepted a new leadership opportunity? There are probably many feelings running through you right now: excitement, worry, joy, overwhelm and so much more on any given day and even in any given minute. Having been a new leader and new to school communities many times over, I have learned from my mistakes and from the things that worked well. The way you enter a community and begin your journey as a leader is important. This should be intentional work that is thoughtfully carried out with the purpose of learning about the community you are entering and making connections. 

Building Relationships is at the core of introducing yourself to a community and a key way for you to get to know a community. This is time well spent even if it takes the entire year. Meeting one on one with your direct reports as you enter your school community is an essential first step. 

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.

Challenge without Strain?

Can you have a challenge without strain?

Photo by Luemen Rutkowski on Unsplash

Recently while holding a pose in yoga class, the teacher mentioned that you should feel challenged without strain. I wondered about these two words. I used to think a challenge had to come with strain. There was no other option. How do you separate the two? Can you separate these ideas? The practice of yoga and meditation has helped me to discover that yes in fact you can separate challenge and strain. 

Challenge and strain are two different things that sometimes co-exist. Challenge is defined as something new and difficult that requires great effort by Meriam Webster’s dictionary. Strain is defined as stretching to maximum extension and tautness, to injure by overuse, misuse, or excessive pressure. 

Growing up in an immigrant family, I was taught that challenge and strain were inextricably connected. If something was difficult and arduous then it was worthwhile.

Right Fit AND Right Growth

Are you looking for the right fit candidate for your institution or for the right growth candidate? Or both?

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“No matter how effective your organization’s recruitment tactics are, there’s never a guarantee an employee will live up to expectations – even if they seem to be the perfect cultural fit.

You’ll know you’re on the right track, however, if you see a diverse, unified, and happy set of employees who are motivated to help achieve business objectives.”

-Megan McNeill, The Pros and Cons of Hiring for Cultural Fit

Both Can Be True

Are you looking for the right fit candidate for your institution or for the right growth candidate? Often times in hiring groups, I would hear members discuss a candidate and make comments such as:

‘That person would fit right in with our team.’

‘This candidate is a great fit for our institution.’

‘This candidate can slide right into our group so easily.

Stress: Why Do You Care?

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Are you experiencing stress? Why should you care? It may mean that something or someone you care about is involved. According to Dan Harris in the Ten Percent Happier Stress Better Meditation Challenge Series, stress can be a signal that something matters to you. Professor Modupe Akinola of Columbia University suggests that when you realize you are stressed try to find out why you care. She calls this a ‘reappraisal’ of the stress and states that one way to NOT feel as much stress is to figure out the underlying reason why you care. Rather than focusing on the cause of the stress, focus on why you care about what’s causing the stress.

Here are some steps they suggest from the Ten Percent Happier Stress Better Challenge:

  • Tune in to your feeling of stress: Know when your body feels stressed, be aware of when it is happening, and notice. 

Are You Strong Enough to Ask for Help?

Recently, I was reminded that asking for help shows strength. We just got a new puppy! It was a spontaneous decision.

We already have a three-year-old dog and we were about to move across the country in two weeks. Now 9 weeks in, I can barely make it down the street with both dogs. There is a lot of ankle biting, barking, and general chaos on the sidewalk. I am not sure our new neighbors are eager to meet our family. So after much thought, we decided to engage the support of an expert trainer and walker as well as sign up for puppy kindergarten classes. Now, we are taking a few steps forward each day. Of course, there are plenty of ankle-biting moments still today and in our near future. Just this morning, I was exhausted after walking a few blocks. 

At first, I thought outsourcing and paying for help was a sign that I couldn’t do something I should be able to do myself.

Don’t Rush to the Solution

Don’t rush to the solution. That’s what I keep telling myself when I realize I am in the weeds of an issue.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Recently, I dove into solving what I thought was the problem, only to realize later that I had buried myself into the minutiae of details and was ultimately not making the change that was necessary. I had to stop, pull back, and look at the issue from the 30-foot view to define the actual problem. As Albert Einstein once stated: “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

As a leader, it is vital to keep the long view and the broad view of the systems at play. When leaders take time to reflect, think, and listen, they are more likely to come to a collective decision that can affect lasting and true change.

Leading with Equanimity

Leading with equanimity can lead to a spacious mind. A February morning in New Jersey.

Do you lead with equanimity? What does equanimity mean to you? When I first heard the phrase ‘lead with equanimity’, I would imagine someone who was standing still in the middle of chaos, someone who did not waver or show emotion, someone who did not react and was ultimately possibly ineffective. To me, this is no longer a true or complete version of leading with equanimity. 

My Early Thoughts

When I first started my journey into leadership, I found that I became easily tightly attached to an idea or plan. I had thought long and hard about how the plan was going to work and stuck to it. Sometimes, I was so attached to the plan or idea that I could not see some pitfalls, unintended consequences, alternative ways to proceed, or necessary course changes. Other times, I found myself so averse to an idea or plan that I could not possibly see a way for it to work.

One Set of Values is all You Need

I had to code-switch as a kid living in a Sri Lankan immigrant household and then going to a suburban predominantly white school in New Jersey.

On a daily basis, I switched who I was depending on where I was.

Do you have one set of values for how you show up at work and another for at home? Ideally, you should be able to be the same person at work as you are at home, with some small changes (maybe no pajamas at work). For some, this is a privilege that we do not even notice and for others, it may feel like a luxury. In fact, we all should be able to show up with one set of values that is true for us in both settings. 

The Importance of Values

When I begin coaching a new client, we often work through a values exercise. We use a list of values and narrow our way through to the few values that are most meaningful for the client.

Get Out of Your Own Way

I learned to get out of my own way from my daughter. At age 17, she started her own company, Celia Swimwear.

My husband and I didn’t even know she had done this until she needed our, over 18 adults, help to establish her LLC and open bank accounts. She has always been a visual artist and a seamstress since she was little. She designed her own swimsuits and tried sewing them. She realized that sewing swimsuits were difficult, the material, the stitching, etc. That did not stop her. She found a manufacturer who would produce her designs and who shared her values. She set up an online shop and got to work. Her sales were not taking off on her first line. That did not stop her. She learned about advertising on social media. She was hit with a large and unexpected customs bill. That was a big one!