Sunday, February 1, 2015

Listen or Fix

During the course of your day, week or month are you confronted with problems or issues?

The natural reaction when confronted with a problem is to help or try to fix the problem.

I believe our intentions as people are good.  We hear the problem and we truly want to make things better.  But what if we aren't supposed to fix the problem?

"Think about what happens when somebody comes into your office with a problem - whether work or personal. The tendency is to want to solve it. But most of the time, people aren't asking for help, they're asking to be heard. And most of the time, you shouldn't be solving the problem anyway." 
- Howard Behar

One of my struggles as a husband, father, principal and friend is that I really have a difficult time deciphering when to fix and when to listen.

On more than one occasion this has happened- I arrive home to see my fabulous wife and my two boys.  As I walk in and get settled I notice the boys chuckling as they watch Funniest Home Videos and then my wife and I share a story about our day.  On this given day she begins to share, and as she finishes up her story I begin to interject a solution.  She tilts her head and gives me, the look.  I scrunch up my face and say, what?  She then proceeds to tell me that I'm still in "Principal mode" and that I need to turn it off.  At this point I outwardly chuckle, but on the inside I'm legitimately perplexed.  I truly heard an issue and I was trying to help or fix.  

As a leader, whether in the classroom, building or district you are likely faced with issues and problems on a daily basis.  Some of the issues are large and others, not so much, but we are faced with them.  Do you try and fix each problem?  

As a classroom teacher I often listened to students arguing and squabbling.  During my early years I tried to fix problems, but as I gained experience and confidence my goal became teaching and empowering students to work it out.  I became more of a listener and moderator...not a fixer of all problems.  

But then I became principal and for some reason things changed a bit.  

As principal I try to protect my teachers the best I can.  I want to provide an environment where they get to simply focus on kids and learning.  

Recently I was walking through Warner and a staff member approached me.  We discussed a curriculum issue.  After a couple minutes of hearing the details I asked questions.  I was starting to better understand where some people stood with curriculum.  As we parted ways I thought about the conversation, I wondered if I was expected to have all the answers?  And then I came to the conclusion that I didn't have to fix this.  I had to understand the issue, and meet individuals where they are.  

Each day I reflect on conversations with students, staff and families.  Each conversation presents a different issue.  My area of growth is to listen first, then ask questions.  

My advice to others would be two things:

1)  We can all be better listeners.  Whether you are working with a student, parent, colleague or friend, try your best to listen and understand.  Think of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits - 

2)  Empower others with the capability of problem solving without you.  Protecting staff and students is noble and people will notice.  But building capacity amongst your staff and stakeholders will be much more efficient and sustainable.

As February begins I will make a conscious effort to improve as a listener and gain invaluable understanding.  

This Week's Big Questions:  Where are you on this continuum?  Are you a fixer, solver, listener or encourager?  What role do you most often find yourself in?


Monday, February 2nd:  SAU Tutors return
Monday, February 2nd:  Lego Club 4pm
Tuesday, February 3rd:  M-Step training after school
Tuesday, February 3rd:  4pm Minecraft Club
Wednesday, February 4th:  Grades 3-5 morning assembly
Wednesday, February 4th: Global School Play Day
Wednesday, February 4th:  PLC discussion on Standard Based Grading in the Library (all welcome)
Thursday, February 5th:  Re-Scheduled iCreate field trip to Westwinds (8:45am-10:50am)
Thursday, February 5th:  CP Federal Credit Union 2pm
Thursday, February 5th:  School Improvement Meeting 4pm Board Room
Thursday, February 5th:  4pm Minecraft Club

Articles Worth Reading:

Who's Your Mary? @laughwithchad

Sacred Cows in Education @curriculumblog

Be My Guest @BergsEyeView

Videos Worth Watching:

Opening Doors and Opening Hearts (6 min)

Charades with Jimmy Fallon (5 min)

It's about HEART (5 min)

1 comment:

  1. Ben I fully admit that I am guilty of this. Too often I feel as if I have to be the one to solve the problem when really I am surrounded by wonderful people that are perfectly capable of solving the problem by themselves or maybe with a little help. Unfortunately, this tendency to feel as if I have to solve everything causes stress because it means that every problem that is within my sphere of influence is one that I internalize. This post, like all of your posts, will help push me to become a better leader, husband, friend and father. Thank you. By the way, if you haven't already seen this video you should check it out. I think you will get a kick out of it.