5 life lessons
Oh, brother! Am I learning a lot recently! To the point of having to hold back from the urge to engage in a bit of Stalinist revisionism and wiping this blog. I have been managing…sorry…I have been a manager…for about five years and yet it seems as if things only began falling into place over the last five days or so! This is a short post outlining some damascene moments for me. Each of these things is likely to provoke a “DUH! Well…YEAH!!!” sigh from both of you, my loyal readers. But it’s taken me until now to realise what they really mean:
1. Give feedback daily
I bitch and moan about how one person does X and the other person never does Y. But my bitching and moaning is anonymous venting or secret frustration. So I never really share these frustrations with those who need to know about them! Similarly, I rarely make it clear to the poor sods on my time just how much I value them. Uh oh! I hear you think, Hippy clap trap coming up! Well, I have just engaged in an exercise where I wrote down their names and listed the admirable traits of each that first came to mind. Where once I thought I managed a bunch of slackers, now I see a truly talented and engaged bunch who I am bloody lucky to work with. So, Ms. We’re-Going-Off-On-A-Trip-Today, I want to salute your contribution to the team morale and the consistently positive feedback you get from your students. Similarly, Mr Moaner, let me tip my hat to your constructive feedback and your commitment to make the team work better. From now on, you can both expect to hear more from me.
I realise now how the lack of feedback -both positive and constructive- is contributing to/causing a culture where people don’t share their ideas with me or with others. Leading on to…
2. Understand that I share responsibility for the faults I see in others
Right! Now I understand! I’m the manager…every fault that I see in others reflects upon a deficiency in my approach. If the fault persists, it’s because I haven’t intervened. Admittedly, my intervention might not eradicate the fault, but I am actually paid to intervene. When I fail to do so, I have to assume responsibility for the prolongation of the problem. Duh! Well, YEAH! But I am only getting this now…So the teacher who fails to stick to the new initiative isn’t necessarily demonstrating their resistance or their ineptitude; it might actually be down to me not explaining the new initiative very well or introducing the new initiative along with too many others. Whereas before I might have been tempted to sigh frustratedly, “Who will rid me of this damned priest?”, now I see the value in asking myself, “How can I better support this teacher to meet my expectations?” What a dummkopf!
3. Just because I don’t see it that way doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t see it that way
I’ve been reading all the guff about how we need to be one thing or another and thought, Sheesh! Try that with some of MY team! Now something has change to make me think Sheesh! I should have been trying that with some of my team! It was only my perception of the team that was stopping me from seeing what would have been bloody obvious to anyone else. I think I may be learning here that the way I see things are not necessarily the way things are…nope…scratch that…I think I may be understanding here that the way I see things are not necessarily the way things are.
4. Positive psychology may feel like accentuating the positive, but when you accentuate the positive, you can make life seem a lot more bearable
I have spent the last few years in a bit of a gloomy fug. I have looked at the difference between the way the world is and the way that world should be (according to me) and the difference has made me despair on many an occasion. Don’t focus on the negatives; accentuate the positives! the cliche has chided me. Oh feckorf! I have responded This kind of positive bullshit leads the vacuous grins and patronising bons mots that are ridiculed even in Hollywood movies. But…but…but…I am beginning to think that cynicism isn’t actually all that fun. Constantly sneering at people who see the good things in life pretty much condemns you to live in a crappy little world. And then you die. Perhaps those endlessly beaming souls who bound from positive experience to positive experience are actually enjoying their allotted time on this planet. And perhaps life really is all about life, liberty and the purfuit of hapineff. Which would make them wise and insightful and make me a fecking eejit.
5. It really is all about me
I’ve been wandering around thinking that it is all about them: the low expectations, the correspondingly low standards, the shoddy approach to professionalism…and I’ve been thinking that the ones who have to change are them. Now I am beginning to re-understand the idea that it is not possible for one person to change another. Each person can only ever hope to change themself. By expecting to be able to change other people, I am condemning myself to Sisyphean failure and externalising all responsibility for that failure onto an innocent bystander who cannot be held accountable for my failings. I am beginning to suspect that if I focus less on what people aren’t doing and more on what I am doing to help people do things, then the chances are that things will begin to align themselves more snugly.
Holy crap! It really has been an eye opener, this. How things develop is something I am eager to find out. And I hope that you won’t mind too much if I indulge in some happy clappy bullshit from time to time. I have no doubt that the sneering, cynical, frustrated monster will die slowly, so expect rank hypocrisy, mind-boggling inconsistency and uninsightful mundanities to continue to reappear in my words.
But for now, let my closing lesson be this: to any of you who found some echoes of truth in my words until now, I’m beginning to think that we were all wrong. Ooo-hoo!