Sunday, April 27, 2014

From push to pull

I've been reading a lot about change, and about the sorts of structures that need to be in place to encourage change to happen.  This has also involved thinking about leadership and management.  Now I'm back in John Whitmore's Coaching for Performance book and I'm reading about the shifts that are occurring in the way people are managed.  He writes: "you used to be able to tell or push people to do what you want, but  now they expect and demand to be treated differently".  I think this is true of students too - gone are the days when they sit passively waiting to receive the knowledge that teachers are pouring into them, now they want to be more active in constructing their own knowledge.

Whitmore writes that we should be grateful for this change in mindset because it leads to the possibilities of higher performance.  In particular people want to be given choices and responsibility, however as he points out: "although executives talk about empowering people all the time, they still have plenty of push left in them."

We talk a lot about student voice and choice.  We also talk about empowering teachers.  My last blog post was about empowering teachers to become part of a volunteer army/network ( being "pulled" in by their own choice) where they feel willing and able to make changes, not where they wait to be told what to do next ("pushed").  Whitmore agrees with Kotter:  give people responsibility and those people will give of their best - and everyone wins.

A lot has been written about workspace stress.  Believe me I have experienced this myself.  The data these days points to this stress being created by little personal control, leading to burnout.  In my experience this is true.  I've been much more stressed in schools where I've been micromanaged than in those where I have been trusted to get on and do a good job.  Ironically it's at the schools where I've been micromanaged where I've ended up being the least productive.  In my case, when I'm left alone, given trust and responsibility, I rise to the occasion, am motivated to work hard, and feel very satisfied.  Whitmore points out:  Self-esteem is the life force of the personality, and if that is suppressed or diminished so is the person.  Stress results from long periods of suppression.  Offering someone choice and control wherever possible in the workplace acknowledges and validates their capability and their self-esteem.  Stress is therefore eliminated.

Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan via Compfight cc

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