This post that I had recently tweeted, ‘30 Things About Life Everyone Should Learn Before Turning 30“, is full of golden advice that is for people at any point in their lives. Ideas on the topics of self-development, productivity, relationships, health, career, and success, it provides quick snippets to think about that would be great for discussion with students or staff. (I actually encouraged people to use a piece of advice from the article as a “blog prompt” which I’m about to attempt.)
Although there is tons of great advice, this stuck out to me from the article:
How you invest your time is a reflection of how you invest your money. The smart and wealthy know the value of their time. They see each minute, hour, day, week, month, and so on as an opportunity to invest wisely in themselves. You must do the same.
As it has been said before, time is the most important currency you will ever spend, because once you spend it, you can never get it back. Personally, I am very guarded with my time. Not only how I spend it, but how I spend it with others. Most people think this way and are very guarded with how you spend their time as well. To be honest, I don’t blame them.
Because I truly believe all teachers want to do their best and be their best, I know that the overwhelming majority of teachers don’t mind the implied expectation of work beyond the day. Thus, It isn’t a time issue – it is a value issue. What’s better is just admitting that you don’t value whatever is being offered. Being upfront and clear is providing needed feedback. As a person whose job it is to support professional learning in a district, I need to know what’s valued and what’s not. Telling me there’s no time for something just leaves us all unfulfilled. Don’t end the conversation by shutting it down with the time excuse – begin the conversation by offering up an option that provides you with more value.
I have always believed that it is not about time, but priority. Yet it is also important to understand that my priority may not be your priority, and if I force my priorities on you, I am asking you to spend your time on something you don’t value.
Schools and organizations are guilty of thoughtlessly spending the time of others for their own needs, so it is understandable why many educators are guarded about “new initiatives” and the principal that comes back from a conference with the next “best idea ever”.
Examples of this are rampant in education. Have you ever noticed when it becomes “survey season” in your school or district? Departments scurry to ask educators for detailed feedback on how they did their job, because it is the department’s priority to get this feedback, and they need to report it to someone else. These all seem to come at the same time of year as well. Yet how many times have you seen all of the information compiled from those surveys lead to noticeable change? I am not about absolutes, but I rarely saw it in my career within schools. If you are asked for feedback that is never knowingly acted upon, you are less likely to give feedback in the future. It is done because it is asked for, not because it is believed in. Put that practice for many into the “expenditure” column.
Still, schools have to move forward and “lack of time” ultimately can not be an excuse. In leadership positions, if you want people to move forward, valuing the time of others is not the only thing you need to do. People need to see that the use of their time is an investment. Here are three suggestions to help move someone else ‘s time from the expenditure to the investment column.
- Start with the “Why”. This statement has almost become a cliche, but things do not become cliche unless they resonate. Simon Sinek’s amazing Ted Talk pushed people into thinking more about “what” they do, to “why” they do something. This quote is directly from that talk: Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP. But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result.By “why” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? As a result, the way we think, we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in, it’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out. – Simon SinekWhen people see that what they are doing gives them purpose and that it is something bigger than themselves, they are more likely to want to be a part of it. I believe the vast majority of educators all want to make a difference in the lives of their students, so if they see something that comes along the way and they believe that it will have that impact, they will more likely jump on board. Without people truly understanding the “why” of anything that happens within education, it is the equivalent of answering a student when they ask, “Why do I have to learn this?”, with the response, “Because I said so.” Believe that people want to be part of something bigger than themselves and make an impact, and start from there. If they understand the “why” behind anything, they are more likely to invest their time, but if they don’t, it just becomes “another thing”.This leads into the next point.
- Give Ownership. So if people understand “why”, do they see it as your process and vision, or “ours”? Do they have ownership over the vision and the process?One strategy that I used as a principal was that when I had an idea for something new, I would bounce the ideas off staff and community members to get their feedback. I would note what they liked and what they didn’t, revamp, and based on their feedback, come back to them, and get feedback again. They usually loved the new iteration because they saw their ideas in the process. Who doesn’t love their own good idea? :)In a conversation with Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf, educators and authors of the book, “Lead Like a Pirate“, they shared the following idea with the group:“People are less likely to tear down a culture that they have helped build.”Not only will they not want to tear it down, they will want it to grow. When you see the growth of the organization is on “all of us”, not just “some of us”, the experience that we create daily for our students becomes a reflection of our efforts. The use of your time has become more valuable.
- Help move people from their point ‘A’ to their point ‘B’. Yes, the real world has deadlines, but learning usually doesn’t. This is why all learning is personal. It is the constant trajectory change of people moving forward and growing that is important, and it is important to understand that this is a deeply personal process. In learning organizations, is your focus on everyone being at the same point at the same time, or everyone moving forward? If people know that constant growth and development is valued, that is what they will do. But if everyone is compared to everyone else based on “results”, many will lose interest (I am looking at you “testing culture”) and eventually tap out, whether you know it or not. When people know that you will both push and support them, the notion of “risk’taking” is a lot less scary. They also begin to understand that the investment of time, is ultimately an investment in themselves. Value growth and it will lead to a much better “product” long term.
I believe this…you can’t change people. What you can do is create the environment around them that helps them change themselves. If people know that you do everything to be thoughtful, purposeful, and value their time, the more likely they will be willing to not only “find” time, but make it. That is when it has become a priority for them, and they understand that this is an investment that will lead to something tremendous for not only themselves but for the organization they help lead.