“You can’t be a world changer until you serve. And you can’t serve until you break free of your comfort zone.” –Ann Voskamp
I think back to the daily conversations I had as a principal. In the first few months, I would go home sick to my stomach worrying about the impact of an interaction I had with a teacher, or fretting over a conversation I needed to have with an underperforming staff member. I knew what was at stake- the students and their learning.
And then I had to ask myself - where did my priorities lie? Was this about taking the right steps, being perfect (or so I thought) in my communication? Or were my priorities to lead a school and provide staff and students with a safe environment to make mistakes, learn, and grow together?
I made the decision to have the conversations that I knew I needed to have and it wasn’t easy. I stumbled through many conversations at first, and more days than not, my conversations were risky. I showed up authentically, sometimes sharing news with teachers that was hard for them to hear. No one likes to hear, “you are not meeting the expectation” or “our students deserved to have high performing staff members.” Sometimes the conversations would end in tears. I made it my priority to be real, say what needed to be said with compassion, and to follow up the next day to continue to invest in the relationship.
As I had more conversations, the trust began to build even when the topic was tough. My teachers knew I cared about them and the students.
I think back and would not change a thing. I had to struggle through the conversations to learn. Most importantly, if we did not have the conversations, we would not have had a foundation to build our relationships on. I would have failed the staff and students.
Today I make speaking with candor, clarity and compassion a priority. My team is my most valuable asset and as their leader I will continue to develop each and every relationship with conversations.
Classroom Tip: Take a moment to consider how much you’re investing in relationships with your students. Think about a conversation you want to have and consider how you can be real, and say what needs to be said with compassion. One conversation can change the trajectory for a student. What conversation can you have to inspire?