The Reflection Pool

Influence Really is That Important

In my first naive years as a school leader, I didn’t understand the power of influence.  I wasn’t so sure that Dale Carnegie really knew what he was talking about. I used to think that if you told people what to do, then they would do it. I spent very little time reflecting on my leadership and my impact on people.

Photo Credit: wajadoon Flickr via Compfight cc

Fast forward 9 years.  Now I know that leading people is much more complex. Lots of reading, observation and my own mistakes and successes have taught me that. Compliance does not mean commitment. Not only that, but if you lose the ability to influence those you work with, you become an ineffective leader.

The Ontario Leadership Framework rests on this: “Leadership is the exercise of influence on organizational members and diverse stakeholders toward the identification and achievement of the organization’s vision and goals”.

This kind of leadership needs respectful relationships, trust, and an ability to listen carefully and understand people. That means:

  • getting to know people, their values, beliefs and experiences;
  • demonstrating character (Steven M.R. Covey: How the Best Leaders Build Trust): trustworthiness, follow through and integrity;
  • demonstrating competence (Covey) and knowledge in your role;
  • showing vulnerability and admitting what you don’t know;
  • listening to understand, not to respond;
  • asking for feedback regularly;
  • showing that you value people through your actions and your words.

What strikes you about this list?  One of my biggest challenges is active listening. Sometimes the need to give my opinion or the “right” answer can be overwhelming, and I need to remind myself how to work best with people.

I want to influence others to do their very best, most creative and interesting work and so I keep on. It’s worth doing.


Giving In to the Temptation of Email

Photo Credit: mbiebusch via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: mbiebusch via Compfight cc

This learning thing is hard.  In February 2014, I wrote a post about Learning From My Mistakes. One of the things I talked about was using email for communication and how tricky that can be. It was a good post, honest and true.  If only learning was as easy as writing a blog post!

Like you, I receive a fair bit of email. I also have a bit of an obsession about keeping my inbox clear. (On a side note, sometimes I delete too much. I’ve had to ask a colleague for a certain information email more than once – you’d think I would learn.) In any case, if I’m clearing my email later in the day and know it’s urgent to respond, I can succumb to the temptation of email. I put sensitive information that would be better shared in person or through a phone call.

This past week, I responded to several important emails that way. I tried to be ultra clear in my responses and read over the emails before I sent them. Of course, they lacked the human touch, because email can never convey that.  I went to bed, satisfied that I had dealt with those issues.

But I really hadn’t. Sometime over the course of the night, my brain realized that I had gone against my commitment to better communication. I needed to pick up the phone.

So I did. And I apologized and said I would do better.  Folks graciously accepted my apology and we had a good discussion about the issues. But I wish email wasn’t so seductive.