A respected colleague, supervisor and mentor listened as I bemoaned my planning – critical of all I’d done. Had I not talked to enough teachers? Were the topics not of interest? Were there politics in districts that challenged after school participation? In my head, I asked those and many more, always finding what seemed like the right answer, followed by the “I blew it” self-deprication.
Tiring of my whining (yes, it was whining), he asked, “What are you going to do to fix it?”
Hmmmm…..it was clear that if I said I was going to cancel the remaining workshops, he wouldn’t be too pleased. But what his question allowed me to do was fix what I’d designed. His expectation was that I go back to the drawing board and rethink my approach. But he really did was allow me to take what I perceived as a mistake and fix it. Granted, it really wasn’t a mistake. I had collected my data, worked collaboratively with a team, communicated effectively over and over, but there was more I could do.
The experience was developmental because it was really the first time as a leader I had tried something that didn’t work and had a leader who expected me to fix it. I should share that two of my director supervisors’ expectations were to scrap the entire plan…but not this one leader. He simply asked the question.
“What are you going to do to fix it?”
I took our advisory team back to the drawing board and regrouped. We threw away the box and put up ideas on post-its that had great chances for success and no chances for success. In doing so, we found a work around to take the professional development and offer it directly to districts, at their school sites and district offices, tailored more on the needs of their teachers, supported with coaching afterward. Win, win, win!
And why was it a win? Because a leader asked the right question and had the expectation that I work a bit harder, with the input of others, to make the plan better. Ultimately, the outcome of the professional development offerings that year far exceeded anything I ever could have imagined, from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective.
Opportunities about for us to tap into situations in our schools and districts and make them more developmental, to focus on growing our own skills, to think and act differently. But they start with leaders seeing those opportunities and asking the right questions.
What did your most developmental experience teach you?
And how can you impart that learning on others with whom you lead?