This is a question I ask administrators all of the time:
Have you learned anything new in the past three months?
Of course, everyone nods their head in enthusiastic agreement.
I then follow up with this question:
Could your staff tell me what new learning you have done in the past three months?
The response is not as enthusiastic and often a hard “no”.
As administrators and educators, it is imperative that if you are asking people to struggle and learn new things in pursuit of growth, that you not only do it along with them, but they see you doing it. When you are in a position of authority, it is easy for you to try and share that other people need to “take risks”, but do they truly feel as comfortable if they don’t see you have a willingness to do the same?
I recently had the opportunity to listen to a very forward-thinking AND forward-moving (these things do not always happen in conjunction) superintendent talk to his staff. Although he had shared with his staff things that he believed were necessary to be accomplished as a community, he also shared where he had fallen short and where he needed to grow. I watched as his staff seemingly had this release of pressure on themselves when the “leader” of the organization was saying that he was willing to push himself to get better and has experienced bumps along the way, but still was moving forward.
Recently reading a blog post from an educator, the teacher referred to themselves as a “recovering perfectionist”, and how their own need for perfection had held them back from trying new things in pursuit of better opportunities for themselves and their students. Schools are meant to be “learning organizations”, not simply “knowing organizations”. Believing that all of the growth needed has already happened and we are where we need to be is dangerous territory for any organization, but especially schools. The most backward districts and schools that I have seen are the ones that think they have arrived, while the best ones I have seen, believe they have a far and endless way to go.
If you are wanting the people you serve to move forward, they not only have to see that you are moving forward as well, but should see your ups and downs along the way. This empowers while giving permission for them to not seek perfection, but continuous growth. Humility and confidence are crucial characteristics in a leader and it is important for them to be able to share to those they serve, where they are going, where they have stumbled, and how they are getting back up, and why it is crucial they have done so.
Learning is a messy process, which is what makes it so powerful. Do not hesitate to share the beauty of this process to those your serve. It will only help them to embrace the same beautiful messiness of the learning in front of them.