I captured my Thought of the Week in my blog this week, instead of in the Information/Updates.
Thought of the Week:
Who am I as a Leader? A focus on the Ontario Leadership Framework, School Level Leadership,2013
For a school and board leader, Setting Directions is a core domain in our work. As we all know from reading School Culture Rewired by Gruenert and Whitaker, this is strategic work that takes a significant amount of time, and involves Managing Emotions (a Personal Leadership Resource from the OLF). As we Build A Shared Vision, the OLF outlines the need to “encourage the development of organizational norms that support openness to change in the direction of the school’s vision”. As we Build Relationships and Develop People, the OLF reminds us of the need to “exemplify, through our actions, the school’s core values and its desired practices”. As we build this shared vision, it is essential that we maintain a strength-based, positive outlook, or we are doomed to fail.
During a recent school visit I witnessed a principal very carefully and positively outlining his expectations at his staff meeting – he called them “gripes” however what he was doing was clearly and honestly reinforcing his expectations through a positive approach…one that even involved a bit of humour while maintaining the urgency around what he was saying. Each day in our schools, as we measure the “climate”, we must ask ourselves if we have communicated our core values and our expectations around those core values, if we are modelling the core values that we aspire to see, and how we are holding everyone accountable to these core values. Without this in place, the re-culturing process will take a significantly longer period of time that we are able to afford.
Of the many core values that we must see occur in our schools daily, the notion of maintaining a strength-based, positive outlook, is crucial. We are working with young, impressionable minds who need to see us a pillars of hope who recognize their strengths no matter the circumstance! Our students needs to know that we believe in them, regardless of the circumstance…that when things go awry, it is the behaviour that we are working to correct, that our feelings for the student have not changed.
One way to shift the climate of your school to become increasingly strength-based is extinguish complaints by turning them into conversations. I was reading a blog this weekend that reflected the work of Will Bowen’s A Complaint Free World.
In his blog, William Parker summarizes Bowen’s tools for positively dealing with individuals who may have a GRIPE (which is an acronym for the strategy). He states, “Honest feedback provides you with information for making better decisions. Complaining simply discourages the attitudes or motivations others may have to take risks or achieve new goals. All of us are guilty of forgetting the difference between the two.” (Parker, A Complaint Free World: 5 Ways to Respond Blog). I appreciated the tools that this book and blog provides as we increasingly develop our skill set in how to respond to complaints – so that we turn the complaint around, and do not enter into the “blame game” but into an honest conversation. Remember, it is our role to lead our staff to understand how the work aligns with our school vision and our board vision. Try out one of the following!
5 Reasons People Gripe and How You Can Respond
- Get attention.
Everyone wants to be noticed even if it is for something negative. Unfortunately, if we use negative “attention grabbing” (by even complaining about the weather, work, family, or our health), we suck the life out of others.
Obviously, there is a difference between honest reflection and complaining. But complaining is when we express an idea for the purpose of selfish appeal or ego. So what if we get a handle on this bad habit ourselves, but others still drain us with their complaints?
Bowen suggests that when someone complains to get attention, ask them, “So what is going well with _____________?” For instance, if a team member is consistently complaining about his students, ask him, “So what is going well with your classes?” Redirect a person’s thoughts to thankfulness instead of misery, and then you can begin finding solutions.
- Remove responsibility.
People also complain as way to try to get off the hook. Perhaps we believe our protests mean we will not have to perform to expectations. Let’s say, for instance, when someone is being corrected for being habitually late with deadlines, he may want to point out that others are missing their deadlines too. Or perhaps he’ll claim the solution is beyond his control.
Bowen suggests asking this question: “If it were possible, how might you do it?” Again this question removes the excuses and opens the door for solutions.
- Inspire Envy (or the Humble Brag)
Sometimes people complain about others because they want to appear superior. For instance, if you’re in a meeting, and Mrs. T sees Mr. A coming in late, she may say, “Here comes Mr. A. Late again.” Her comment is less about his tardiness as it may be to draw attention to her own timeliness.
Bowen suggests this counter: compliment the opposite.
You could say to Mrs. T., “Yes, Mrs. T. It is great that you are always on time.” Although this may be perceived as slightly sarcastic, drawing attention to her need to inspire envy may be the quickest way to stop her complaining about others. Changing the subject is also a great way to ignore someone’s appeal for a “humble” brag.
Sadly, people who are unhappy often find a sense of control in sharing their opinions through the means of complaining about others. Bowen’s counter? If someone comes to you because they want to complain or gossip about another person, you might say, “It sounds like the two of you have a lot to talk about.” If they persist, “Would you like me to arrange a meeting?” This response may either point them toward reconciliation or it may motivate them to find a way to move past the offense.
- Excuse Poor Performance
Much like removing responsibility, complaining is the quickest way to divert a moment of honest confrontation or accountability. In team sports, athletes who are not easy to coach are usually weak teammates. Our educational teams are no different. We are often tempted to begin complaining about what we perceive as obstacles beyond our control.
But instead of complaining as a way to excuse poor performance, Bowen says to ask, “How do I plan to improve next time?” Again, excuses are exchanged for brainstorming solutions when you replace complaining with ideas for change. (from A Complaint Free World: 5 Ways to Respond, by William Parker, Connected Leaders, February 13, 2016).
As you think about the re-culturing of the deficit mindset that may exist in your school, I wonder if this way of approaching the complaint may help to shift towards a learner mindset? I wonder what the function of the “complaint” behaviour is? Finally, I wonder how beginning every formal meeting with the Learner Mindset Chart might support this work as well?
Until Next Week…as per the OLF, are your school’s core values and associated expectations clear for everyone?
“One percent of the work is stating the mission and 99 percent is living it.”