I Don’t Have Survey Fatigue

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Confession time: my name is Sue and I like doing surveys. Weird, right? I’m the one who actually clicks on the link in a request email and completes all those questions. Cheesy magazine questionnaires, coffee shop service feedback forms, online shopping experiences, I pretty well do them all. I even do workplace surveys. I figure I can’t complain if I’m not willing to offer my opinion or experience.

The surveys I enjoy the most are those that teach me about myself. I’ve blogged about the importance of feedback, and this kind of survey enhances my self understanding. This past year, I’ve completed the Implicit Bias Test , the Quiet Revolution Personality Test (introvert or extrovert?) and most recently, the Strengths Test and the 4Di questionnaire.

But the real question is: so what? Is there a point to all this navel gazing? Let me use the 4Di to answer.  This particular test looks at operating style not personality. It shows you how you like to learn, make decisions and collaborate at work. Our senior team completed it, and it was illuminating. Since we shared our results, it helped me to understand those I work with a lot better and to think about how to interact more effectively within the team. My “balanced red” style is different from when I took the test years ago as a principal, perhaps because I’m in a different role. “Balanced red” essentially means I like to stop and decide best. For those of you who work with me, you might recognize that “cut to the chase, make a decision and act” style. It works great sometimes, but other times it’s better to slow down to understand or to go and create, the two other operating styles the test identifies.

Having different styles on a team only makes it stronger. We can use the different styles at different times, depending on the kind of work we are doing. Do we need to make a decision? Do we need to learn and understand better? Do we need to consider creative possibilities and options? Even more, how can each of us learn to use styles that we are not comfortable with?

All this knowledge helps me be a better co-worker, leader and, to be honest, a better person.  That’s important to me.  Maybe you would consider doing a survey too?

Good Leaders Read…A Lot

Educators know that reading is power.  I’ve been reading What Connected Leaders Do Differently by Todd Whitaker, Jeff Zoul, and Jimmy Casas. It’s a solid read with an american focus, and I’ve found some great nuggets.

Here’s one: great leaders read all the time.

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Great leaders also always seek to improve. They want to learn and to get better. They’re never satisfied with good enough. Reading is part of that continuous improvement. How else can you explore new ideas and create new schema?

I read a lot, mostly at night or on the weekends. I have a paper book on the nightstand (no screens before bed!) and spending 15 – 20 minutes winding down helps me on two fronts: I can take my mind away from the whirlwind of the day and read something of interest.

What do you do to amp up your reading?

A Simple and Powerful Leadership Truth

We love to ask grand questions. What was your best day ever? What was the worst part of your vacation? What is your favourite book of all time? These kinds of questions can be great conversation starters, but I always have trouble answering them. How can I choose one book of the hundreds I’ve read?

Then last December, Will Gourley posed a big question through a #tweetthehalls hashtag. (It’s a fun idea that promotes lots of interaction on Twitter.) Day 2 was to share your best new learning so far this school year. I jumped right in! Here’s my tweet:

Since then, I’ve also come to realize that making assumptions about anything is a pitfall. You might ask why it’s taken me so long to come to this. After all, that old chestnut says, “Don’t assume, because you make an ass…”, you know the rest. I think agreeing with a statement and understanding the impact of that behaviour are two different things.

An example might illustrate this better:  this year, I’m involved in a Pupil Accommodation Review, a government process initiated by trustees that takes a close look at a group of schools to decide what is needed in that area of city – consolidation, renewal etc. It’s where trustees can decide to build or close schools in the city. I’m facilitating this technical yet highly emotional process with a group of parents, staff and community members to provide advice to trustees before they make their final decision. And I can’t make any assumptions.

I’m immersed in the daily business of education at central office as well as the work of the Board of Trustees. I know the policies, background to decisions, staffing, and pretty much the inner workings of how it all happens. That informs my reactions and decisions. But of course, the committee mostly has none of that. So I can’t assume that they understand how decisions are made or how schools really work.  And why would they? They are immersed in their own contexts, whether at work or at home. So I have to explain clearly and make sure they have the information they need.

The need for setting context, checking in and explaining can be linked to the difficulty of communication. We’ve all experienced how hard it can be to truly make yourself understood. Because we cannot truly know what others are thinking and feeling, unless they tell us, we are often guessing how our messages are received – guessing through facial expression, body language, and words we hear. And all that is filtered through our own experiences and bias.

I’ve read many leadership articles and books that urge over communication and understood that on an intellectual level – sure, sounds great! Good idea. But now I’m getting it in a deeper, more visceral way. I’m paying more attention and seeing this powerful leadership truth. We all need repetition and explanation. All the time.