Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Education, The Land Of Nice.

Let's face it if we are in the business of education, we live, eat, work, and play in the land of nice.  It is difficult for us to be frank or candid with each other.  Dennis Sparks was right when he said, "schools are in trouble if the most honest conversations occur in the parking lot." We have to find a way to have honest and candid conversations when it counts. In a work environment there are times when we choose not to say what we really think.  

That means that we as leaders need to not only encourage candor, but create systems that make it happen.  The problem for many leaders including myself is that we may not want honesty, because honesty can hurt.  It can mean that our pet projects and initiatives aren't as effective as we think.  We want to assume that the change initiative is going well. It's easier that way.  

Ed Catmull the leader of Pixar and one of the creators of Toy Story found that problems are often hidden within an organization, and the good stuff often hides the bad stuff.  He explains, 
"When downsides coexist with upsides, as they often do, people are reluctant to explore what's bugging them, for fear of being labeled complainers" (p. 63)
So...How do we create systems that allow people to be honest and candid?  I think it starts with visibility, and actively willing to hear what we don't want to hear.  Catmull insists that the mark of a healthy culture and environment is one where,
"People feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Lack of candor, if unchecked, ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments" (p. 86)
I am seeing this first hand with the individual meetings we have setup for our PLC groups. It would be easy to sit in my office and assume things are going well, but any time you initiate change there will be varying levels of buy-in.  This is clear in our meetings so far.  We have had honest conversations about improvement and how we can better support our groups. These conversations at times have been very frank, but have been very beneficial for our leadership team.  

How do you foster an honest and candid environment?

1 comment:

  1. Mike: Have you thought about a styles inventory for staff to give their self assessments/perceptions of their own styles. More specifically, where do they see themselves with respect to their view on Task and Relationship Behavior? Keep in mind that this is only a180 degree look. The other 180 degrees is in how colleagues view others styles. In addition, and probably more important, is where people view their Readiness levels for task. In this case Change. Google Situational Leadership. Maybe you got a taste of this in your graduate program. Good stuff. It can be a real eye opener for people. Thanks. Wayne T.