Are You Fixing or Teaching?
I remember early on in my career as a school leader wanting to solve every problem that came my way. In fact, I thought that is what strong leaders did. I won’t lie, not only did I think I could fix every problem, I wanted to fix every problem. Yes, it made me feel good that I was helping others and most of the time they appreciated it. However, what I eventually learned was that not only did the problems never seem to go away, they seemed to multiply ten times over to the point of frustration. Over time I began to see others as weak and was critical of them, as though somehow they were incapable of solving their own problems. Ironically, what I failed to do was to reflect and look at my own skill sets. Had I done so, I would have recognized that the real solution to their problems was not rescuing them from these situations, but rather supporting them by asking them questions to understand their dilemmas better and then providing follow up questions to help them come up with potential ideas to help them resolve these issues. Sadly, rather than help others unleash their potential, I chose to harness them by placing such labels on them. How wrong I was to model such behavior.
As I grew in the position as a school leader, I was determined to work harder at being intentional with those around me in spending more time in conversation about whatever we seemed to be dealing with at the time. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a team my last several years who truly believed in investing in one another by giving each other two of our most precious commodities; the gift of time and the gift of love. What I learned was that none of us were taught in “leadership school” how to grow and develop our staff or our teams. Yes, we were told of its importance, but never given the tools or a process to follow in order to truly challenge and support their learning in order to help them develop their confidence as leaders. What I failed to understand early on in my tenure as a principal was that my responsibility was to not only help others around me become better leaders, but also support them in becoming better learners so they could become better teachers.
Here are 10 things to consider to help propel your team(s) to becoming more independent and eventually more successful in resolving their own issues so they can help others resolve theirs.
- See yourself and others as learners first.
- Listen to concerns with the intent to understand, not respond.
- Ask questions to gain more clarity. Don’t lead off with possible solutions.
(Asking better questions will only come as the result of you being a better listener)
- Spend more time in conversation. This shows others you value the relationship too.
- Bring a third or even a fourth party into the conversation to model the importance of team resolution.
- Value all opinions in order to help nurture an environment that values curiosity.
- When others struggle to resolve their own issues, don’t stamp them with a label.
- Provide ongoing support, time, and resources needed for a successful resolution.
- Follow up with an encouraging word or note and then check-in again to recognize and celebrate the progress.
- Encourage them to repeat the process with other similar situations they encounter to support and honor them in their growth as learners, teachers, and leaders.
For the most part, almost every dilemma you will encounter as a classroom teacher or a school or district leader will have a solution, it just doesn’t have to be you who comes up with it. Supporting students and staff in their quest to resolve an issue by focusing on a process to help develop their skills will go a long-ways in building your capacity and preventing you from completely depleting and exhausting yourself of your time and energy by trying to fix it all. Teaching and leading was never meant to be a committee of one, rather a committee of team.
Together we are better.