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Mentoring Matters for Assistant/Associate Principals and Deans: December 2018

Leadership-life Fit: Do your habits serve you?

Habits are behaviors that have become automated such that we rarely give conscious attention to them. We do something because we’ve always done it—no questions asked…until we experience a failure or a less-than-desirable outcome or an uncomfortable leadership-life fit. James Clear offers two strategies for raising our awareness around the impact of our habits.

In his article, "The Habits Scorecard: Use This Simple Exercise to Discover Which Habits You Should Change," Clear explains how Pointing-and-Calling can raise our level of awareness bringing a non-conscious habit into our conscious awareness. Pointing-and-Calling means identifying something, pointing it out, and naming  it aloud. For example, my husband likes to point-and-call before the kids go to a game or practice: Do you have your shoes? Your knee pads? Your water bottle? Your ibuprofen? Though the kids roll their eyes communicating, “I know this already. I’ve done it a thousand times,” it’s that thousand and first time that they forget something because “the more automatic a behavior becomes, the less likely we are to consciously think about it,” Clear notes.

Clear goes on to introduce the Habits Scorecard as a way of pointing-and-calling out our habits. Absent some type of point-and-call system, the consequences of our habits can sneak up on us.

Clear invites us to list our habits and evaluate them (in our case—asking whether they are contributing to a quality leadership-life fit). The intent is not to change anything, but simply to notice what is going on. No judgment or criticism—just observation! Then, you can decide if any are habits you should change in pursuit of a quality leadership-life fit.

If you’re interested in raising your awareness around your habits, learn how you can create your own Habits Scorecard.

Leadership & Social Media

Get this straightforward advice on the do's and don’ts of social media use for principals.

Tending to Compassion Fatigue

Once a term associated with first responders, compassion fatigue has become a concern among all those on the front line serving the needs of traumatized individuals—teachers and principals included. What is compassion fatigue? How do I recognize it, and what do I do in response?

What is compassion fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is the negative impact over time on caregivers (teachers and principals) who serve the needs of traumatized students (and staff). School staff hear many heart-wrenching stories of student experiences—often times from the same student who has had multiple traumatic experiences.

How do I recognize it?

Symptoms can include a shift to a negative attitude, attributable to the feelings of frustration and hopelessness at the plight of some of these students of trauma; over-identification with those for whom one is caring; forsaking self-care in favor of care of others; and other symptoms of chronic stress like exhaustion, sleeplessness, low energy, and frequent colds and illness. Additionally, educators may be “burned out” and emotionally unavailable, not present. They may have a lower tolerance for frustration and an aversion to working with certain students, all of which pose a risk to their personal well-being and their job performance. (See NAESP’s Principal magazine this month.)

What do I do about it?

As with many problems, the first step toward addressing compassion fatigue is an awareness of the stress and its impact. Once you recognize you or your teachers and other staff may be suffering compassion fatigue, you can take strides to heal. This recognition may result from conversations you have with staff about how they are doing about how they’re handling the emotion associated with a particular student’s or students’ situation/s. Awareness is the key. You can still care for your students and your staff while re-directing some of your energy back toward yourself.

Strategies that help heal compassion fatigue include…

·      regular exercise and/or movement

·      healthy eating habits

·      sufficient and restful sleep

·      social activities with family and friends

·      journaling

·      getting out and experiencing nature (not always ideal in Iowa in the winter)

·      healthy escapes and hobbies

·      reflecting on purpose – what renews you and gives you hope

As leaders, we attend to the well-being of all those whom we serve; and to show up our best, we must first take care of ourselves. When we are healthy, resilient, and present, we are better able to see what our staff needs and help them to take care of themselves so that they can be healthy, resilient, and present for their students.

For discussion in your mentoring partnership:

·      What indicators, if any, have you seen of compassion fatigue in your building?

·      How have you responded to concerns about “burnout”?

·      How do you promote self-care in your building?

·      In general, how do you support the health and well-being of staff?

Leadership 101—Build Resilience and Handle Tough Conversations

Develop your facility with these six strategies to increase your capacity for emotional composure and resilience in the midst of high-stakes, emotionally charged situations.

We are not born with an innate ability to navigate difficult conversations—those where emotions run high. However, we can develop practices and incorporate strategies to increase our emotional health and well being such that we are better prepared when confronted with angry faces, tears, screaming, silence, and other outward signs of emotional turmoil!

An Inc. columnist provides six ways in which to build emotional resilience:

1.     Identify your stress response.

2.     Get out of your head.

3.     Fuel your body – eat healthy, sleep, and exercise.

4.     Be clear about your purpose, your why.

5.     Be empathetic.

6.     Be intentional – know your impact.

Delve more deeply into the six.

Take an even deeper dive with this Harvard Business Review article “How to Control Your Emotions During a Difficult Conversation” by workplace dynamics expert, Amy Gallo.

Leading Like Santa

In this reflection of Santa as leader, the author discusses the CEO of Southwest Airlines and other leaders who exemplify the “Santa Style” amid significantly changing times. This commentary encourages us to think about “all that is good about being in charge.”

For discussion in your mentoring partnership:

How do you lead like Santa?

Monthly 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!