Paul presented “Seven Things I Hate About Your Ideas” in 2016, the alternative title…. “Telling the honest truth about the obstacles to Collaboration and Listening … even if you’d rather not hear it!”
“When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought.”
~ Theodore Zeldin (Scholar and Thinker)
In their book “The Fourth Way”, Hargreaves and Shirley argue that schooling has slowly evolved in its structures of practice, from government funded, intuitively-lead foundations of teaching (the ‘First Way’) to a system that is heavily laden with tight boundaries and “endless quantities of achievement/performance data so that short-term solutions prevail …”; the ‘Third Way’.
The ‘Fourth Way’ is a call to arms for a return to “… the magic and wonder … of teaching. It’s time to recover the missionary spirit and deep moral purpose of engaging and inspiring all our students. It’s time to put down the spreadsheets and look to each other … to show our true strength by learning to “let go” a little.”
Peter Senge presents a similar and powerful case, which speaks to the heart of the learning community’s culture – to release established beliefs about hierarchical leadership within educational institutions and embrace the value of an inter-connected, empowered, co-contributing community.
At the heart of this call is a demand to STOP, COLLABORATE and LISTEN … So what is the HONEST TRUTH about “Stopping, Collaboration and Listening”? If we know it is so amazingly beneficial for education, community, schooling, academic outcomes, moving our school’s forward by building professional learning communities – there couldn’t possibly be any hurdles… right?
Far be it from me to be negative but … I know the people you work with … they are extra-ordinary … in every way possible.
They truly see the world from a different perspective than you and I.
They think YOU are the one on the right!
The “Seven Things I Hate about your Ideas” are really about identifying what I feel are the obstacles to collaboration and a culture of listening.
- Territorialism (not isolation)
- Tunnel Vision not THE Vision
And I’ll share number seven at the end.
There may be a fear from the team (or leader) that the process of collaboration and listening to others will expose some short comings about knowledge or practice, e.g.
- Their afraid that your stupid idea will be better than their stupid idea.
- As a leader – you’re afraid that their idea will expose how pathetically you have been leading the department/school up to this point in time – without having thought of this idea yourself.
- WORSE – you’ve already had this idea, you haven’t had a moment to propose it within your team and by them SAYING it, you’ll still have to put all that energy into making it happen and then you have to give them all the credit for it!
Like Alice – a colleague may not want to collaborate in a team because they “have to” or because they have been told to. Similarly, team members may not want to generate amazing ideas which the administration won’t allow.
Experience has told your colleagues that if they walk around the corner the outcome/pathway will be painful or inconvenient to confront!
“Your stupid ideas will leave me with more work – just like that group project at university where nobody did anything but me and they all got the grades.”
TERRITORIALISM (Craving the Status Quo)
Your colleagues may be completely comfortable with the status quo They have been through a myriad of change and if you force them to come to the Pot Luck Dinner of Collaboration they will bring a fork and not a plate.
MILITARY RISKCENTRICITY (Is that a word?)
For some, change is painful and a sniff of change can be recognised a mile away … territory will be fiercely defended. The concern here is not just wanting to maintain the status quo … it is the military-stance that accompanies the resistance!
Some team members are not seeing the “big picture” (some appear incapable to do so) – they speak only from the perspective of their own patch of grass. Sadly, other team members/leaders quickly identify this quirk and the truly valid points they sometimes hold about their area/s of expertise are lost.
NUMBER SEVEN … THE BIG ONE!
The seventh reason that people hate your ideas is sad but true and brings me to a change in focus in this conversation…
If you’re a leader – you know this feeling and you can give me current examples of it in your teams. But …the truth is we have to take the time to look in the mirror… In developing a culture of shared vision; open and collaborative learning; informed, research-rich discourse amongst practitioners, and accountable, open-door mindsets we must be committed to reinventing the tone, mode and method of our own established pathways. Without a senior leadership agenda to commit to return to these ideals; teachers and middle-management can only aspire to achieve these objectives within their own spheres of influence.
I do believe that educational leaders ARE at a cross-road. because the demands of modern education are at odds with our embedded systems. “Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say.”?
Blasés research states that “… there is convincing evidence that teachers will reduce their overall involvement in work, in important quantitative (e.g., time, energy) and qualitative (e.g., commitment, caring) ways … as administrators tightened control over teachers, they tended to become less engaged, less motivated and less committed…”(Blase)
The current trend for Principal turnover in schools is now three to five years (my son has had three principals and an acting principal in the last 2 years) – with 70% of Australia’s 10,000 school principals reaching retirement age over a five year period to 2018 – we would expect that many people reading this article will be taking on key leadership roles within our WA schools and taking them on at a lot earlier ages than has been historically represented.
In their book ‘The Power of Two‘ – Rodd Wagner and Gale Muller ask us to reconsider a solitary point … don’t ask how you can become a better leader … ask how you can be a better partner!
“If you want to have great partnerships, be a great partner. Get beyond yourself. Give up the notion that you are well-rounded, and stop expecting your colleagues to be universally proficient. Incorporate someone else’s motivations into your view of the accomplishment. Loosen up. Put aside your competitive nature, your prepackaged view of how the thing should be done, and your desire not to be inconvenienced with the imperfections of a fellow human being. Focus more on what you do for the partnership than what you get from it. Demonstrate trust and see if they don’t surprise you with their trustworthiness. Be slower to anger and quicker to forgive. And along the way, communicate continuously.”
~ Rodd Wagner and Gale Muller
So the challenge as leaders is to become partners, to reflect on how we can better invite contribution and collaboration … and to develop the disciplines and successes in our staff culture that we want in our student culture.
Our schools are the social embryos of humanity – those institutions that we establish to promote our highest collective values. They should be the embodiments of norms of reciprocity, active trust and democratic deliberation. It is not more mandates and management they need, but the broad shoulders of uplifting and sustainable leadership – Hargreaves and Shirley – The Fourth Way