Moving back to kindergarten after two years in fourth grade has created a lot of change in how I see myself, what my strengths and weaknesses are and how I can impact my site. In the past week the term “Sphere of Influence” has popped up too many times to be coincidental. It is clearly where I need to focus my attention right now.
I previously believed that I had a large sphere of influence on my campus and even reaching outward. Slowly, over the course of this school year, I have felt that diminish and am now forced to look at why. What part of that is the practcal logistics of my placement , what is the wider culture and what part is mine to own and alter?
There are many factors to consider, but what is playing in my head the loudest is how I use my voice and energy. Am I being as effective as I can be? I feel a sense of urgency for change, a passion to teach and reach students as deeply as possible, to shift how we view school and education. I am on fire about these things. The problem is that I haven’t been able to recognize that not everyone reacts to data and trends the same way I do. I haven’t acknowledged that people react to change the same way I do. I haven’t responded to my colleagues in the same manner I would react to my students by meeting them where they are. It was a mistake.
I come out excited, voice pitch elevated, adrenaline pumping and that either gets others to jump in or to run the other way. I was confused by those running away from me. I was perhaps even judgmental about it while I was simultaneously hurt by not being “taken in” by many colleagues as part of their team. What I am learning, reluctantly at first, is that the problem has never been them. It has been me all along. I need to modulate my voice to fit my audience when talking to my peers in the same way I do with students.
No one is going to jump on my bandwagon if I don’t learn to adjust my approach. In Michael Fullan and Joanne Quinn’s book Coherence , they outline how effective leaders foster a moral imperative like this:
- Build relationships with everyone, including those who disagree, are skeptical or even cynical.
- Listen and understand the perspective of others.
- Demonstrate respect for all.
- Create conditions to connect others around that purpose.
- Examine with staff, evidence of progress
I had a meaningful conversation with my superintendent earlier this week about how I perceived my sphere of influence and what I was going to do about it. He reiterated to me that maintaining my passion while working to find the right balance between push and pull, another concept in Fullan and Quinn’s book, takes time and intention. Leaders who don’t recognize when to step back and build capacity face push-back – some outright and some passive.
I have never intended to be too “pushy” and move people further away than closer in. I never intended to appear as though I was not being respectful or considering the perspective of others. But what I do know is that perception trumps intention every time. It is time to take a deep breath, listen openly and meet people where they are, not where I want them to be. Only then I can I increase my sphere of influence and be the leader I want to be.