Staff was seated in a circle and I listened behind their backs as they talked about me. My heart beat faster and I felt myself break into a sweat as they spoke about how I performed my role as a facilitator. I almost had to bite my tongue as I felt a need to jump in and defend myself. I knew this would happen and I took some deep breaths and concentrated on what they said, furiously jotting down notes.
Having staff critique you, even when you’ve asked for it, is a challenging experience. When it was mentioned that I needed to do a better job of communicating when staff meetings were, I had to bite back my excuses. I quickly had to remind myself that, if they didn’t receive the message, it was my responsibility. When advice was given to have a more linear thinker review my plans for activities I reminded myself that, that was why I had a diverse leadership team. Finally, when I was told that I needed to do a better job of asking questions so that staff could flesh out their own ideas, I realized that just saying yes to a good idea wasn’t always enough. There were many more helpful observations but those three stuck out to me.
Getting to the point of staff openly critiquing my skill set began with this year’s goal of having teaching staff record themselves in their educational practice. The purpose of doing so is to improve their skills as classroom instructors.
As the building leader I couldn’t have them do something that I wouldn’t do or haven’t done. As I prepared for this moment I asked a few of the more vetern staff if they would be willing to record themselves and go through the process of reflecting on teaching. Once they said they would I knew I couldn’t put off recording myself any longer.
Being vulnerable as a leader and putting myself out there as an example of a continuous learner was not easy. There’s almost nothing worse than watching the video of yourself and hearing yourself lead a meeting. Wondering, “Do I really sound like that? Is my voice really that high?”. The answer of course is yes.
Before showing the three minute clip of myself facilitating a meeting I discussed my reasoning for engaging in this process. I told them of John Maxwell’s Law of the Lid, which I interpreted and will paraphrase as, the team can only be as good as I am as the leader. In other words, If I’m a C + leader, we’ll only be a C+ school because I’ll be the bottleneck even if we have A+ staff. I’m the lid. So, I let them know that I needed their help in being a better leader so that we could be a better team.
After explaining my why for this particular task, I passed out a rubric that I adapted from Rubric for Evaluating Small Group Facilitators that had a place to collect data. The two data collection boxes where titled: What did you see and What did you hear? Beneath that was a list of behaviors that could be checked with either, solid, needs a tweak, or needs work. (You can see the adapted copy of it here.) I also explained that my purpose as the facilitator of our staff meetings was to meet whatever the purpose or objectives of the agenda are. I want them to walk away from our staff meetings having learned something, having connected to each other and or feeling heard. With that as their context I showed the video clips.
Once that was done I turned the video off and gave them time to finish filling out their rubric. As they completed their sheets I told them that I would move out of the circle and sit behind them so they could discuss what they saw with me symbolically removing myself from the group. My objective in doing so was for them to feel more comfortable discussing me. I also made sure to keep my head down so as to not make eye contact as they talked about what they saw. They were hesitant at first but as I prompted and asked clarifying questions they seemed to relax, giving more feedback.
Once they had gone over what they had seen and what they had heard they went through the rubric grading my performance. They started with the things they felt I did solidly, moved on to things that needed a tweak and ended with the things that needed work. I ended that portion of our staff meeting by thanking them and collecting their rubrics for further review.
Listening behind staff’ backs while they talked about me was difficult at first. As the process went on I learned valuable information about what I could do to be a better facilitator and better building leader. What practices do you have to help you improve? Share you thoughts in the comment section below. If you found this entertaining, educational or cause for reflection, please follow me and click share so your friends and colleagues can benefit as well.
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I'm a Principal and an Entrepreneur. I'm the former owner of a food venture Hustling Hoagies, the author of the children's picture books Detective Dwayne Drake and the Alphabet Thief, Detective Dwayne Drake and The Case of the Mathematical Misfit and the ebook Making it as a Male Model in Michigan. I've worked professionally as a model and commercial actor......