Friday, June 18, 2021

Three Ways Curiosity Makes You a Better Leader

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Curious leaders listen and make you feel supported, valued, and appreciated.

One of the best leaders I've known was also one of the most curious leaders I've known. He peppered me with questions from the first day I met him. He wanted to know my background, my story, my ideas on different topics. 

He was quick to ask, "What do you think?" about whatever we were discussing, and he was genuinely interested.

I always felt like I had a voice and my ideas mattered.

He made me feel much smarter than I actually am. It was motivating. It gave me energy to do more, to be more, and to ask more questions of the people in my circle. Curiosity is a game changer. It creates new ideas. It creates positive momentum.

Ask these questions to practice being a curious leader...

1. Who has been a big influence on you? Who inspires you?

2. What's something you're working on that you're excited about?

3. What would you do differently if you were principal? 

4. What's the toughest part of your job? 

5. What resources do you need to reach your goals?

6. How do you want your students to feel when they're around you?

7. How can I know if someone I'm speaking with would be a good connection for you?

8. Why did you choose to be a teacher/principal/etc.?

9. What's a book or movie that's inspiring to you?

No matter how the other person answers any of these question, be sure to take an approving, supportive stance. I guess you could ask these questions looking for a "correct" answer but that wouldn't be curiosity. That would be judgement. 

Be a learner, not an expert.

Curious leaders view difficulties and challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.

Poor leaders get frustrated by problems. Great leaders are fascinated by problems. They view challenges with a sense of wonder and awe and possibility. 

They focus on what they can learn from the problem. They don't get stuck as easily because they don't let what they can't do get in the way of what they can do. 

They invite others to work with them to solve the problem. They're open to creative solutions.

Curious leaders know the problem is not really the problem. They know the problem is really how we think about the problem. We can always control how we respond to the problem. 

Curious leaders believe every problem can be beneficial if we use it to learn and grow. Our struggles make us stronger.

Be fascinated, not frustrated. Shoutout to Dr. Rob Gilbert for sharing this idea on the Success Hotline.

Curious leaders have more empathy and embrace different perspectives.

Some leaders get offended when people behave badly or in ways they don't understand. They are quick to judge.

But curious leaders try to see things from the other person's perspective. They don't take things personally. They are not easily offended.

They try to understand poor behavior. They look past the behavior to try to identify a legitimate need the other person is trying to meet.

They don't assume they know another person's intentions. Instead, they invite the person into dialogue. They're curious about how the other person is experiencing the situation.

They don't judge. They try to understand.

Be curious, not furious.

Thanks to Dr. Bryan Goodwin for his work and inspiration around the importance of curiosity.

What are some other benefits of curiosity for effective leadership? What's a way curiosity has helped you? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Avoid Getting Stuck: "What if" vs. "Even if"

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The fear of failure keeps many of us on the sidelines. Instead of pushing our limits and trying something new, we continue with the same habits and practices as they are. 

We tell ourselves our current ways are working. Our methods are time tested and proven because they get us consistent results. We try to get just a little better at the same things we've always done.

But just because the results are consistent doesn't mean they're the best results possible. People tend to reach a certain level of effectiveness and then get complacent. We're less willing to change.

However, excellence is never being satisfied with how things are. It's always pushing the limits. It's always seeking to learn, grow, and change.

Change demands we overcome our fears. Your fears are resisting your greatness.

What if I fail?

What if people don't like what I'm doing?

What if I get in over my head?

What if I don't have the talent or qualifications to make this work?

All of these "what ifs" are the resistance to your next level and making something great happen.

So instead of what if, reframe your resistance and think even if.

Even if I fail, I'll learn from it and keep going.

Even if people don't like what I'm doing, I won't give up.

Even if I get in over my head, I'll keep learning and problem solving.

Even if I don't feel like I have the talent or qualifications, I'll keep developing my talent and qualifications.

You have everything you need to pursue your excellence. Go for it. If you had no fear, what would you do?

What's something you've felt a nudge to do, but your "what ifs" keep knocking you back? How could you reframe these to "even ifs" and take your next step? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Purpose of School Isn't Preparing Students for College

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Recently I had the privilege of taking a few of our students to a career event at Bass Pro/Wonders of Wildlife in nearby Springfield, MO, one of the largest employers in our area. We got a behind the scenes tour of the incredible facilities and heard about many of the career opportunities available in the company.

As we listened for a couple of hours to the presentations from various department leaders, one thing stood out to me. Only one of the presenters indicated that students needed to go to college to get hired or have a successful career in the company. The one career field that demanded college was accounting.

Even more striking were the stories of these successful individuals. Many of them did not have a college degree themselves. For the few who did have a degree, they shared that they weren't working in an area related to their college degree. The successful completion of college was not key to their success. 

What was key to their success was what they did both prior to getting hired and especially after they were hired by the company. They continued to learn. They listened to mentors and watched what successful people were doing. They took advantage of opportunities. 

They had initiative, worked well with others, looked for ways to add value, and played to their strengths.

And they were passionate about what they were doing. Even if they weren't passionate about it at first, they became passionate about it. They developed their own love for their work and contribution.

The key to success is not college. And I'm certainly not against college. It makes sense for some students. It's necessary for some careers. And all students should be prepared for some type of postsecondary training as a result of their schooling. 

I used to think all students needed postsecondary education. I no longer believe that's true. I've seen too many of our graduates who are finding success, contribution, and fulfillment who went right to work out of HS. But the key is they went right to work with the right attitude and mindset. That's what matters most. 

The purpose of schooling is NOT preparing students for college or even for a specific career. The purpose of schooling is to prepare students to be continuous learners. To never stop learning. To be adaptable learners. To know their strengths. To be confident in their ability to tackle challenges, pursue passions, and overcome obstacles.

And by the way, if we focus on those things as the purpose of schooling, all of our learners will be far more prepared for college too, if they choose that path.

How would schooling change if we truly viewed developing continuous, adaptable learners as the goal? How might our curriculum be different? Our assessments? Grades? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.