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Mentoring Matters for Superintendents: March 2018

Leadership-life Fit – Just how focused are you?

Can you stay present, while being aware of your thoughts and surroundings? Can you recognize and move past distractions as they arise? Take this 20 question multiple-choice assessment to learn how mindful you are and what you can do to improve your focus.

Leading for Safety

The most recent school shooting has placed a spotlight on Iowa Leadership Standard 3 – “ensuring a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.” Find a wealth of information and support for this work in Matt Carver’s March column.

Note that a number of the walkouts being planned are affiliating with this national movement: #ENOUGH – National School Walkout.

Psychological First Aid for Schools is a helpful resource in the event of a school crisis or trauma.

Leading Teaming—How do the adults in your organization learn (or not)?

Learn how you can cultivate psychological safety so that teaming in your district can move you toward the outcomes you want. Be a learning organization.

Amy Edmondson, researcher and teaming expert, shares what she has learned about key leadership behaviors that impact organizational learning in this interview transcript.

Edmondson’s work supports the contention that team learning is key to organizational learning. Foundational to team learning is the concept of psychological safety. Psychological safety is a shared belief that “I can bring my full self to work.” It means I know I won’t be humiliated, mocked, or in some way made to feel “less than” if I express disagreement, raise questions, or make mistakes.

Too often we suffer groupthink—the appearance of agreement that disguises underlying dissent. One implication of groupthink is that people refrain from speaking up or dissenting for fear of retribution or loss of friends or status.

The leader’s role is to improve the psychological safety in the organization. Edmondson notes that first leaders must frame the work—“clarify for people that we live in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world.” This clarity reinforces the need, the “why,” for speaking up. Amidst all of the uncertainty no one knows all the answers, but we all have something unique to contribute. The leader needs to continue to emphasize the importance of each person’s voice and perspective to understanding and learning. (In the context of the school shootings, this seems particularly fitting).

Second, leaders can create psychological safety by inviting everyone to participate in the conversation. (I love the 2 cents strategy as a way to encourage all voices and to moderate discussion. Prior to starting a discussion, I distribute two pennies to everyone. Anytime someone speaks, he/she pays a penny by placing it in front of him/herself near the center of the table. Once everyone has offered their “2 cents worth” we pull our pennies back and begin the process again, each paying a penny each time we speak. No borrowing or loaning. If someone has nothing to add at any given point, I don’t require him/her to contribute before we pull our pennies back and start again. This rarely happens.)

Finally, leaders can develop psychological safety through social recognitions. Acknowledge and appreciate when people offer their thoughts, share a concern, or voice a question.

Read the full transcript.

For more information about creating effective teams, see this blog which describes Edmondson’s four pillars (behaviors) that drive teaming success.

Leading Communication—The Voice of the District

Personally connecting with staff and stakeholders can positively impact the climate and culture in your district. Let March be the month you try one of these strategies for a more personalized approach to your communication.

Communication Matters: Connect for Success: Putting a Face on Leadership

Monthly calendar and checklist

These lists are intended as a guide—we encourage you to process in your mentor-mentee team to identify other items that may need your attention!