Thursday, April 9, 2015

Too much empathy -v- a visionary with nobody following

Last month I went to Switzerland for Days 5-8 of the Cognitive Coaching Seminars.  One of the things we discussed was the difference between field dependent individuals and field independent individuals.

People who are field dependent enjoy working with others.  They are collaborative and enjoy mentor relationships.  They see things holistically, taking in the overall picture, but can have difficulty with individual parts.  Often they work from intuition and "gut reactions".  These people like and need concrete experiences.

Field independent people, on the other hand, like working alone to get a job done.  They are logical, rational and task oriented and see things analytically, from the parts to the whole - they are really good with details.  They like to figure things out for themselves and often avoid asking for help.

Now let's think about how these characteristics impact administration and coaching.  Administrators who are field dependent are often accused of having too much empathy which could make it hard to take tough decisions and get things done.  Administrators who are field independent may come across as visionary, but with nobody following them.

Teachers who are field dependent and independent want different things from administrators and coaches.  Field dependent teachers want their coaches to be warm and to show personal interest in them when supporting them, for example to seek their opinions in decisions that are being made.  They want their coach to provide both guidance and modeling.  They respect coaches and admin who have an open door policy and who practice what they preach.  On the other hand teachers who are field dependent want coaches and admin who are knowledgeable about curriculum and instruction yet at the same time maintain a professional distance.  They want admin and coaches who focus on tasks, yet who show independence and flexibility, and who make decisions based n data and analysis.

When I assessed my own cognitive style I came across as being very field dependent.  In particular I really like helping others to achieve and I enjoy being part of a group or team effort.  So now I'm wondering, does this strong preference in me mean I come across as having too much empathy, so that it's hard to get a job completed?  I think I definitely do give a lot of personal support and provide guidance and modelling, but do I also need to focus more on tasks and perhaps give messages more directly and articulately?  And should I try to focus more on local and rational analysis to solve problems and make decisions rather than relying on empathy and intuition.  Such a lot to think about here!

Photo Credit: Free Grunge Textures - via Compfight cc

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