I feel one of the toughest things to do in a team is pull someone up for exaggerating or fabricating the truth to make them appear hard working, professional or with greater expertise than may in fact be the case or indeed to cover up the reality they may not understand the expectations whatsoever.
I just read this post by Dan Rockwell where he identifies 10 tactics that produce brilliant solutions. The two that stood out for me were the following;
Ask tough questions. One of the saddest things I’ve seen leaders do is listen to bull crap. Exposing smoke-blowers motivates people to prepare for meetings and discussions.
Terminate drifters and butt kissers. They just take up space and drain vitality from real workers. Spend time with honest hard thinkers.
It actually takes me back to a lecturer I had at University back in the mid 90’s, as a group of students we knew that we could sabotage the entire 2 hour workshop by setting our lecturer off on an unrelated tangent by prompting him with different ethical issues. He loved to talk and we took absolute advantage of this, and rarely ever had to complete our readings because we were never accountable to respond of reflect upon them. Two hours would be over before he had a chance to ask any questions about our required tasks or homework.
The same can happen though when people within a team take up air time sprouting fanciful accounts minimising the opportunity to actually get on with the real work, in an attempt to avoid the tough questions. Especially if they’re allowed to.
So here-in lies the challenge. We work with people, with sensitivities, insecurities and different mindsets including the need to be admired by peers. How do we create an environment where people can be challenged to be honest both with their peers and themselves, by asking tough questions in a supportive environment where it then becomes more acceptable to respond “I have not done that”, “I don’t know how to do that”, “I need help to understand what is expected”.
How do we make it more admirable to admit that we are having difficulty or don’t know what to do, as opposed to affirmed for making stuff up to avoid “being found out”?
“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer
This is a quote that I have read, heard and seen adapted many times in presentations, on twitter and in blogs. I really don’t think there would be anyone who seriously believes that our world is not changing, or that the workforce our students enter will be identical to our own experiences. I don’t believe resistance to change is due to a disbelief, or denial that our world is changing. What I do believe is that many teachers are purely a product of the education system they are now a part of. Learning was remembering facts and equations and completing pages of questions or cloze writing.
Probably rarely encouraged to question or challenge an idea or concept in school, for many of us, it was probably not until University where we were asked for an opinion of our own or an opportunity to reflect upon our own learning. Many are more comfortable with delivering a prescriptive curriculum than being designers of curriculum. Just as our students are more comfortable doing the same because they know it has been successful in the past.
So how can we expect our teachers to be learners if they have never learned to learn?
We need to foster a culture where questions are inherent in the development process. By encouraging questions and encouraging being questioned as a leader, we can show that there is not one decisive best way to educate all students, to run a program or to implement a process. Through continually questioning what we are doing and why we are doing it, we can model to develop better ways.
Not knowing the answers is the first step towards taking a risk and if we are to prepare for tomorrow, today must be approached with openness and willingness to be critical (not critisisors) of ourselves and of each other.