Guest post by Chris Chappotin
Me after looking at the calendar this morning:
Can you believe that we are at January 11, 2022?
Have we stopped asking, “When are things going to return to normal?” Have we also stopped asking, “What will the new normal look like?”
I am confident in asserting that most of us were over 2020; and yet, cognizant that moving forward is not as easy as flipping the calendar page or swiping to the next day in our favorite calendar app.
As a result, while living in the present and now entering 2022, what will be necessary in order to move education forward? Restated in the context of Infinite Game by Simon Sinek, how can we remain players in the infinite game of education?
Here are 3 actions for thinking differently that will help us shape the future during these critical times.
PRESUME POSITIVE INTENT
Everything I learned about school leadership, I learned from High School Musical. As I write the previous sentence tongue-in-cheek, there is no denying that “We’re all in this together.” Facing the challenges of the future requires that we presume positive intent with each other. Are we all in this together at varying levels and responsibilities? Absolutely; however, in order to effectively navigate the waters ahead, we must unite through assuming the best in each other. Here are some self-reflective questions to consider when being purposeful about presuming positive intent:
What is my teammate seeking to communicate with me?
What factors inside and outside of the work environment could be impacting this conversation or situation?
How can I be a peacemaker in this conversation or situation? How can I contribute to the quest for solutions?
What action step(s) will facilitate increases in student learning? How can I support the success of my teammate?
Presuming positive intent nurtures the teamwork necessary to overcome expected and unexpected challenges. If we can presume we are all doing the best we can with the gifts and experiences we have, together, we can grow into the continuous improvement needed to face the future.
Presuming positive intent helps develop and sustain necessary relational bonds that will be necessary to withstand the consistent onslaught of challenges. In fact, as I type, I am wondering if presuming positive intent is somehow related or included within Dweck’s work on Growth Mindset. Regardless, as relational bonds grow stronger and trust is rich within the organization, purposefully stopping for times of communal reflection are important and meaningful exercises to keep us moving forward.
If we can retrospectively reflect through situations by honestly considering the strengths and limitations of how we handled things, together, we can enjoy the multiplicity of perspectives available in such a communal exercise, learn new ways of behavior, and grow relational capital amongst the team. As this becomes a go-to method for processing situations, we maximize our leadership capacities by sharing experiences, tools, and think-alouds with our people. In addition, we empower our people with the safe space to share and process the nuances, situations, and relational dynamics of the work. If we can do this with appropriateness, honesty, and a commitment to continuous improvement, I believe we can multiply our effectiveness and form encouragement bonds we can lean on throughout our careers.
Care about your people enough to facilitate their next steps. Consider skills they are excelling at, and how those skills will help them accomplish their dreams. Consider skills they need to practice at, and how to provide opportunities for the strengthening of those skills. Provide consistent encouragement, conversation, and questioning that will propel your people forward.
A signpost is a noun: static, cemented in the ground, unwaveringly pointing toward a destination far away. Signposting is a verb: action, ongoing, along the way, continuously pointing toward a destination far way, and making progress toward that destination every day.
Be a signposting leader for your people. One that points them in next-step directions, but also journeys with them toward their desired destinations. Care about them enough to facilitate their pathways forward: possibly into deeper levels of influence within your organization, and possibly into deeper levels of influence outside of your organization. Either way, by signposting your people into next-levels, you are continually building up the quality of your people as well as the impact of their service to you, each other, and your students.