Open for feedback?

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“People generally feel confident that they are sufficiently knowledgeable about their own organizations. However, this knowledge may be based on unquestioned assumptions, false perceptions, and wishful thinking. Decisions based on inaccurate knowledge lead to mistakes that cost time and money and result in ineffectiveness.”

– Joanna Lockhart author of: How to Market Your School 

Are you looking to make a change in your practice? Remember that if you are operating in the education space, any decision that you make is going to have an effect on the people that you serve. This could be something as small as changing your instructional approach in your classroom, to something a bit larger like changing your building schedule, all the way up to changing the roles and responsibilities of building principals in your district. With that in mind, be sure the people impacted are brought in early on the change process or you could have an expensive (be it time or money) mess on your hands. I read an article by Adam Grant (read it here) on this very thing. One of his most powerful points was that if a leader is going to make a change they should directly consult the people that will be affected by that change. When it comes to our district, building, and classroom practice do the people we serve have the power to tell the truth?

When I ask this question, what I mean is do you know what is and is not working for the people that you serve? Are you a leader that can set ego aside and hear out the needs of the people who work with you on a regular basis? The way you approach this could be very simple. In the classroom, are you soliciting ongoing feedback from students? Are they telling you how much they enjoyed/did not enjoy each lesson? Do you know what they want to learn more about? What they are working on in their free time? What their favorite lessons look like? These are all questions that allow them to have a voice in any changes that you make. By taking their feedback and using it to provide the learning experience they need, you are actually validating their voice and creating a culture that is sure to grow transparent and collaborative leaders. The same is true in district administration. Can teachers tell you the truth (principals)? Do you know what matters to them? Do you know how they spend their free time? Do you know their aspirations? Are you providing real growth opportunities? If you are at the central office level, can your principals come to you with these same concerns? Do you know their needs? Their frustrations?

I have a FAVORITE TED Talk (of course I do!) on the importance of feedback in bringing about change. It is by Joy Mayer who happens to be another AWESOME Missourian. She tells us that friction (uncomfortable feedback) makes us better. 

Remember, to lead is to constantly learn and while others may not tell you the truth, I always will. If you want to make any change you have to be willing to take ongoing feedback from and regularly collaborate with the people who will be affected by the change. Otherwise, you can’t grow and neither will your organization.  – Dr. Kia