I’m about to make a generalization, so close your eyes if you don’t want to read it.
Value driven leadership is really the only way to go. Leaders serve. Within the notion of service, two groups exist…you, and those you serve. I happen to believe that while distinguishable in many ways, during the leadership/service relationship, those two groups ought to be conjoined (so to speak). What is leadership about if not facilitating a process by which an organization and its members are supported and encouraged in the ongoing process of reaching and exceeding their potential? Moreover, should that facilitation not be aimed at the organization and it’s members, both as individuals, and as a collection of individuals with a universal initiative and a shared notion of anticipated outcomes? If so, how better to lead an organization than by understanding and working through a set of values that speaks to that collection of individuals, lends itself to that initiative, and perpetuates those outcomes? If not, what could it hurt:)? The following is a simple system that can help any organizational leader tread a value driven coarse with ease. Let’s call it “3,2,1.” Check it out.
Do these 3 things during every interaction: Listen, Care, and Offer to Help.
Again, organizations are make up of individuals, and by individuals, I mean people. Typically, people like to talk. School communities in particular, are made up of people who like to talk. Teachers work really hard to build meaningful relationships and provide high quality classroom instruction. They focus tons of time on learning and development. They share their professional world with large groups of other stakeholders, who provide them with plenty to talk about. Many of them enjoy talking about their journeys. Some of them need to talk about their challenges. Most of them are well served to know that someone is listening. Be that someone. Listen. It couldn’t be more important.
Students and parents have a myriad reasons to talk as well. They have thoughts and ideas about learning and sharing in the positive progress of the school community. They have hopes and concerns. They too need a venue for sharing. Being a good listener can go a long way in building the type of culture that enhances learning and growth for all. And, if you intend to be that “good” listener, I would suggest that you care. Incidentally, this is not something that you can pretend to do. Have you ever had a conversation with someone in a crowded room, but felt like you and that person were the only two people in there. That’s good listening. When you truly care about what someone is saying to you, it’s an easy feeling to achieve and project. When you don’t truly care, it’s nearly impossible. So care, for real.
Finally, offer to help. This can be done in a variety of ways. However, I have found one to be highly effective and quite easy to implement. At the end of a conversation, e-mail, or text, just say or write, “let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” Simple, tells the story. Then, if the person that you’re talking or writing to responds with a suggestion of how you can help, do that. If you’re not able to, communicate that. The key is that you authentically try to help in any way you can. Listen, care, and offer to help. Now you’re counting down to value driven leadership. More importantly, you’re framing those values in a way that makes sense and has meaning to the people you serve. It’s good. And don’t worry if you mess up on any of the three at any given time. You can try again. You can keep trying.
Do these 2 things in between: Reflect and Respond.
Reflect as frequently as you’d like, in whatever fashion suits you best. I like to blog. Blogging gives me an archive of my regular reflections, it gives keeps me on a reflection schedule, and it gives me a contributing audience whose input has been invaluable to my growth process. While I highly recommend starting one, you don’t need a blog reflect in a meaningful way. You can write in a notebook for ten to fifteen minutes at lunch or the end of the day. You can speak into a voice recorder whenever an idea for reflection pops into your head. You can sit in a quiet room and think, you can draw pictures to storyboard your growth, you can write poetry, you can sculpt, and you could even talk to your dog (a very non-judgmental individual, I would guess). However you choose to reflect, do it, and make sure that you do the second part of the “2” – respond.
Reflection is great practice. Some would suggest that it’s essential to learning and growth. I will suggest that it’s infinitely less meaningful if it doesn’t lead to action. Respond to your reflection by doing something. If you had a negative interaction with a colleague on a given day, reflect on it, and then respond by brainstorming ways that you might approach that person in the future or repair a bruised relationship. If you are consistently unable to address all of your daily e-mails in a timely manner and falling behind as a result, reflect on it, then refine your organizational or time management systems. Taking the time to reflect and respond to your reflections will help to keep you grounded your values, and those of the organization in which you lead. The practice will highlight successes, expose missteps, and encourage forward progress through challenges.
Do this 1 thing all the time: Forgive.
Forgive yourself and others. We will all make mistakes. Forgiveness helps people move forward. Also, it can be a power tool for grounding oneself in an authentic set of core values, because if done from the heart, it can diminish many of the unnecessary distractions that some of us face on a regular basis. Keep this tool in mind when you drop the ball. Remember, if you can forgive yourself for being human and fallible, you can feel good about trying again.
If you try “3,2,1” or use a different system, I’d love to hear about it!
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.