Friday, March 18, 2016

Powerful Professional Learning

I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate to be participating in the Galileo Leadership Consortium, a two year learning opportunity focused on developing teacher leadership. Teacher leadership is the process by which teachers influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of the school community to improve teaching and learning practices with the aim of increased student learning and achievement. It is truly my most powerful professional learning experience to date. And I’ve been around for a long time!

We are frequently asked to explore our core beliefs and reflect upon our impact on others, primarily by examining Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. With passionate and dynamic facilitation by Joyce Fouts we are able to see how Covey’s habits can unlock the door to increased productivity both personally and professionally and I am constantly inspired to become a more compassionate, effective teacher leader.

Today we revisited Habit 4: Think Win-Win, the habit of mutual benefit. Common practices we see in this area include comparing, competing, and people feeling threatened by others’ success. Being insensitive to the needs of others, considering only your own needs and expecting to win or lose are consequences of a belief in the paradigm that there is only so much, and the more you get, the less there is for me. In contrast, a highly effective paradigm leads to the belief that there is plenty out there for everyone, and more to spare. This leads to an abundance mentality, the ability to balance courage and consideration, considering other people’s wins as well as your own and creating Win-Win agreements.

This abundance mentality is clearly effective according to the findings of Project Aristotle, a three year study by Google to examine why some teams are more successful than others. It was discovered that two group norms were shared by virtually all of Google’s most effective teams:
  • Equal air time – In highly effective teams, members participated approximately the same amount during meetings. “As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well,” said Google researcher Anita Woolley. “But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.” 
  • Interpersonal sensitivity – Effective team members were able to intuit how colleagues felt by their tone of voice, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues. The members of less-effective teams were less tuned in to their teammates’ feelings.

Apparently these critical team traits help to create “psychological safety” – a team culture in which individuals have “a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up,” says Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied high-functioning groups. “It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.”

For an educator, this is valuable information to help address the Narcissism Epidemic. Living and working in the age of entitlement we are witnessing:
  • Inflated feelings of superiority
  • Vanity
  •  Materialism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Relationship problems
  •  Egotism
  • Higher propensity for anger and bullying
More than ever before, we need to focus on helping our learning communities succeed through compassion. By becoming profoundly “other focused” we can develop empathy, find purpose, and feel happier and more fulfilled. Building a compassion culture not only boosts health and inspires loyalty, it also leads to emotional well being, effective collaboration and high productivity.

This post captures my learning from just a couple of hours at the Galileo Leadership Academy. My goal for the time I have remaining in this cadre is to soak up as much knowledge as I can about the skills, and dispositions of teacher leaders including servant leadership, collaboration, facilitation, best practices, action research, and systems thinking. I know it’s going to be an incredible learning journey!