The beginning of the year is usually when we consider all the steps we want to take, over the coming months, to do better, to be better. These are often steps we feel we need to take — or changes we need to make — in order to grow. And we usually focus on what we will do — not on what we won’t do. It’s not that these issues aren’t important; we just generally choose to accentuate the positive, rather than harp on the negative.
I’d like to buck the trend. I am sharing the three educational nonresolutions I’ve made for this year. Technically, I guess, they are still resolutions because I’m working to commit to keeping them. But, for the fun of it, I’m calling them nonresolutions because, well, you’ll see below.
Nonresolution 1: Quit talking so much. This has been a work in progress for me for years, and a worthy nonresolution to continue. It isn’t that I’m always talking, but I do need to get better at avoiding making my voice the loudest. Since it isn’t the most important — or most informed — there is no reason for me to believe that I need to always make my “two cents” worth more than they are. I’ve made drastic improvement in this area over the last few years in particular, and in a new role, this nonresolution is even more important than ever. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that as our careers advance, the amount we talk needs to take a step back, in favor of more active listening. I’m still growing in this area, and I see a need to continue working towards being the listener I know I can be.
Nonresolution 2: Stop trying to “make” others. No, I’m not missing the end of this nonresolution. It is simply to stop trying to make others be something they aren’t ready to be. Instead, work to mold them into being something that they can. This might sound obvious, but I’ve found it to be a pretty subtle leadership strategy skillset. I never want positional authority to be the first choice in moving others to change. Putting people in a position where they have no agency in how they move forward is unwise. If anything, it builds animosity and opposition–and those are two feelings that we never want those we serve to have to shoulder. But when we mold others, we help them grow and hopefully grow ourselves as well. And, by keeping it collaborative, we also boost our ability to accept steps and solutions that are different from how we first envisioned them. Allowing others to push our thinking makes it easier for them to push themselves.
Nonresolution 3: Don’t worry about what people think. Remember earlier when I mentioned how I was calling these nonresolutions and then I hinted at the reason why and how it would be described later? Well here it is. Simply, I believe that I have to stop worrying so much about how my ideas and actions will be perceived, and just share them regardless of the feedback I get. We should make sure that we are caring for others and what they think, but this concern should not keep us from taking action. Five years ago I don’t think I could ever set this as a nonresolution. But growth, particularly recently, has helped me to realize that I only lose if I choose to stay silent. While I’ve had my share of mistakes and gaffes, it’s often the poor reception that some of my ideas receive that has helped me grow the most. And, as I’ve learned, it’s rarely personal. Ideas should be judged in order to determine what makes the most sense. Given this, I’m happy to worry less about what people think, and worry more about making sure that everyone, including me, has the opportunity to voice questions, wonderings and concerns.
These three nonresolutions aren’t the only changes I have high hopes for in my growth this year, though they are three that I believe my continued success will rely on. While I never hope (or want) to reach perfection, I do believe that these steps will help me to grow to be the leader I want to be, the leader I know I can become.
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Fred Ende is the director of Curriculum and Instructional Services for Putnam|Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Fred currently blogs for SmartBrief Education, and his two books, Professional Development That Sticks, and Forces of Influence, are available from ASCD. Visit his website www.fredende.com. Find him on Twitter @fredende.
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