The #ONEword All School Leaders Should Avoid
Over the last month thousands of Twitter followers around the world have been sharing their #ONEword for 2015. Admittedly, I have been inspired by members of my PLN and their selections of words such as empathy, attitude, kindness, purpose, resiliency, inspire, courage, engage, create, today, and balance to name just a few. Some may have selected their one word as part of a New Year resolution or saw it as an opportunity to commit to a change in lifestyle. For others like me, maybe it was a chance to reflect and grow both personally and professionally.
As I embarked on the challenge of selecting my #ONEword for 2015, I will admit I struggled to make a decision because one of my words embodied the spirit in which I wanted to model to school leaders how to behave and the other bordered on how we as leaders should never behave, especially if we aspire to develop a vibrant and healthy school culture. Yet, both words are coupled in such a way that others may or may not understand nor appreciate their potential impact on another person or organization.
So, I selected FORGIVENESS. Initially I focused on my need to forgive others who I believed may have wronged me in some capacity. I quickly discerned that perhaps I should be more focused on expanding beyond my own willingness to forgive others. After all, wouldn’t I be more fulfilled if I took it a step further and asked others for their FORGIVENESS?
In my head it seemed so.
Yet, I still felt that wasn’t really what was weighing on my mind. There was another word that was rankling away on me more. If you have ever been on the receiving end of this word, I think you will be able to relate to what I am about to share. It is a word that rips at our inner core and makes us question our commitment, loyalty, and value to our organization.
What is this #ONEword?
Lamentably, it is a word I fell trap to during my early years as both a teacher and as an administrator. In my head I justified it. I convinced myself that both students and staff got what they had coming to them. And if I felt that a student or staff member had denounced me in anyway, I believed at the time I had every right to play the gotcha game right back. How terribly wrong I was to have behaved in such a manner. I have shared before in other posts that I have never felt I have a monopoly on how to lead. However, I do feel over the years I have learned that by taking time for reflection and developing a mindset that I am willing to make changes in my behavior when necessary, I can and will grow both personally and professionally. As a school leader, it is my responsibility to ensure our schools do not cultivate a culture that is so toxic that it destroys the very fiber of what it means to be a community.
What does a culture of gotcha do to students and staff?
- makes them feel betrayed, de-valued, disrespected, and in many cases, embarrassed
- professionally, causes individuals to believe the environment is set up to fail them
- designs a focus on placing blame rather than giving credit
- spawns an opportunity to tear down and discredit members of an organization rather than build them up
- shapes members to feel powerless, to lack ability to influence or change for the better
- produces an environment where opinions don’t matter; if you try to explain or respond, you are left without a voice.
- questions the integrity of its members; makes people feel others cannot be trusted
- expectations from superiors are not open and/or clear, we expect others to just define them, yet nail them when they don’t do what they are “supposed” to be doing
- devised to set people up to fail; not an environment where members feel they can take risks
- discovers that people are getting you even when you don’t know they are getting you
Looking back I realize I need to heed my own advice when it comes to modeling forgiveness. One, forgive myself for some of the poor choices I made early on in my career as well as forgive others whose words or comments may have hurt me in some way. Two, ask for forgiveness from those who I have wronged where appropriate
Then again, as I reflect on this post, maybe gotcha doesn’t have to be the #ONEword we avoid after all. Let’s work together to redefine gotcha as spending more time trying to catch others doing something right than trying to catch them doing something wrong.
Thought for the day: “Forgive and Forget…not Revenge and Regret.”