To sharpen the saw, is a matter of complete self control. By understanding, to this point, the necessary measures and improvements that need to be tended to, to be a better leader for myself, for others including my peers, colleagues, family and friends, requires much reflection, effort and patience.
There are so many aspects that could be "sharpened" that it will never be truly sharp enough because other factors still come into play; the influences of the environment, obstacles, morality, relationships, and passion to name a few. Therefore, it will be an ongoing process with many changes along the way.
To successfully build on this habit, I would really need to focus on my other six habits, cycling through them until it occurs naturally. By working on myself first, I will be able to accomplish more in the end with better qualities as a person and as a leader. One key factor I could start off with, is using what I already know and evolving them as situations come into play.
For others to learn the same, I need to allow time for their habits to develop as well. For example, especially with my family, I will have to find when there are "learning moments" and then give direction without the expectation of immediate change. It's about taking the opportunities and showing it without the requirement of putting a due date on it. Adjusting the saw, what it will be used for and by who, all need to be recognized in different situations.
From what I understand, the concept of "synergy" makes up true collaboration. That the whole is great because of the sum of each of its parts. Therefore, it is so important to work with others, to share knowledge and ideas, and learn different ways of thinking, different perspectives, and different options. The school system is exactly that. It is full of educators and learners who work together to build a community. The more involved they are with one another, the stronger they grow as individuals.
Speaking about synergy actually reminds me of the excitement of being a teacher. However, to be honest, that's not what I feel all the time because not every school works well together, they even have staff department cliques. Gossip spreads quickly and many like to isolate themselves in their rooms. As for myself, I've always seen myself as a floater. I don't really stick to specific groups and I am always curious about the lives of others, and it goes without judgement. I enjoy opportunities to merge subjects and to diversify the learning itself.
Diversity is all around us and we are immersed in it. So why not just appreciate it and take it in? Learn all there is to learn from the individuals that differ so much from ourselves. Even in a classroom, I take opportunities to collaborate with my students. I ask for feedback. I give them time to share what they know and the skills that they've established. The environment thrives so much more when we are all learning together from each other.
To further develop this "synergize" habit, I must go out of my comfort zone. In order to teach others to be open, I need to be willing to do so myself. One step at a time, I can share bits and pieces of me when appropriate, to colleagues, to students, to friends and family. Hopefully, it is honesty with each other that will enable us to embrace the differences in each of us and to be our better selves.
When I think about this habit, to "Seek First to Understand..." I immediately relate it to proper listening skills. The following video, although posted for entrepreneurs and sales, is quick and to the point with 10 great tips on how to be an active and effective listener. From there, we can then build on the empathetic quality behind it so that an authentic relationship is built. We'll need to have multiple interactions with the same person to be able to truly read and understand their cues, so that we not only share what we ourselves are interested in, but learn what others are interested in as well.
If I was to evaluate myself based on these 10 points, I would rate myself as inconsistent. Being an active listener, is exactly just that, active! Sometimes, it's hard to follow if our energy isn't there to support us because of high levels of stress and other factors come in the way, which is every now and then. For example, holding eye sight is difficult for me. I consciously do it, but it's not within my culture to do so. We are taught the exact opposite, to look away to show respect for the speaker; otherwise, "staring" means challenging the speaker. Therefore, it takes a great deal of effort to fight against how I was originally taught, it is less effort to listen by looking away.
I also struggle with being able to minimize external distractions. In some cases, they're non avoidable and if the speaker gets distracted, you naturally do too. I think it's more important that you have paid enough attention to know where to start up again. Also, having "distractions," or having a busy atmosphere, could actually help boost the energy to stay focused. As for internal distractions, which include thinking ahead at what you want to say, actually is even harder to control. Again, when you're not in the right conditions, or you're unfit to follow through on these listening expectations, then you should make it clear to the speaker to avoid misunderstandings.
This is especially important when working with students. It is already difficult to read their intentions when their body language says otherwise. I need to continue to build on these qualities I struggle with and establish them as part of a habit I take with me to work and everywhere else I go. Students want to be understood. They need someone to not only hear them, but someone to really listen to them; which leads me back to working on my patience and taking the time to let them talk instead. Being empathetic and being concerned speaks out that you care. The best way to teach my students to listen, is to take the initiative and listen to them first; "seek first to understand, then to be understood." Lead by example in all interactions.
"Effective Listening Skills." (2011, December 9). Fig ESSA. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8zNx_IarUw
I never really thought the nature of working with others could be identified with "win-win" results. Generally, I try to avoid argumentative conversations, especially when the other person has such a strong opinion that they won't bother to hear what others who disagree have to say. I wouldn't think this as a "lose-win" scenario either, it just isn't worth my time and effort to give my own opinion if they aren't going to try to understand my perspective in return. However, when it comes to subjects that need a decision, that need debate, then I'm all for it. Conversations could get tough, but if it was easy, we wouldn't be trying to resolve a problem or trying to find a solution in the first place.
"Win-win" to me is also the realization that ideas don't have limitations, except for the ones you keep to yourself. We need to be open enough to lead others and open enough to be led. Teachers are not the smartest or the best in everything, there are restraints from lack of experiences and practices. To be better, to have all of us win, we must accept help from our team mates. We see this in sports all the time. The best player is only as good as the team, and the player's influence on the team is just as affective. Therefore, what I would like to do, is find ways to be less defensive to negative comments that are geared directly towards me. Sometimes, even adults say the wrong thing but have good intentions, we're all part of the same team. Yet, familiar it is to think, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," the saying has long been proved wrong and so it is still a battle when things you don't want to hear are said.
Hence, building on patience is one way to be stronger' and by building on confidence we won't always have to prove ourselves. We don't always have to make a statement. We don't need to always have the great ideas. We just need to contribute what we can and not expect to win or lose. This also applies with our interactions with students. We don't have to be right all the time. We don't have to be in control; which, is emphasized in this article I found by Dr. Spencer Kagan called, "What is Win-Win Discipline." With not much collegial collaboration going for a TOC, and instead meeting new students on a daily basis, I need to really slow down, take the time to talk with the students and build positive relationships despite how temporary it may be.
Kagan, Spencer. (2002). What is Win-Win Discipline. Wagon Online Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.kaganonline.com/free_articles/dr_spencer_kagan/ASK15.php
When thinking about managing time and prioritizing the order of important tasks, I am surely guilty of having the bad habit of procrastinating. When it really counts, I get things done and I am reliable as a professional, but there are often too many times when I haven't been able to peel away from it which has resulted in tardiness and laziness.
Being able to put first things first is a habit of integrity and execution that should be practiced during moments when it is critical and will be a deciding factor of how meaningful that time will be used. According to Vik Nithy, a 20 year old student, procrastination is a personal struggle in our brains, and it is how we deal with it that will eliminate this none progressive quality. His talk not only explains why we procrastinate but how we can resolve it, including "to plan goals, plan time, plan resources, plan processes, plan for distractions, and plan for failure."
I have been working on this third habit for awhile now. Doing the "little things" as a reward for tacking the "bigger things." Instead of being late all the time, I'm right on time; however, being early is my goal. I generally set deadlines closer than they actually are to psych myself out. Most importantly, I try not to overthink nor stress out, otherwise it will most likely lead to procrastination (and now I can understand why from Nithy). Sometimes, I still look for the "zone" or the "conditions" that I decide are favorable to start the important tasks. Fortunately, the library and Starbucks have made it easier to focus and not have that as an excuse; I work better when there are other busy bodies around as I am easily influenced by their productivity. I believe I've made progress and intend to continue working on the various ways to stay happy with how I use my time. Another thing I could work on is the considerations of others involved with my decisions. I would not want to let anyone down, but I would also not want to sacrifice myself if getting help is an option.
Working with others and trusting their efforts is also making good use of resources. Through collaborations, through team or group efforts, tasks could get done more effectively and more efficiently. Hopefully, through working with others such as my colleagues, we all will be able to plan better and ensure the important tasks are completed first.
Nithy, Vik. (2012, March 13). Why we procrastinate by Vik Nithy @ TEDxYouth@TheScotsCollege. TEDx Talks. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD440CY2Vs0
One of the most crucial parts of being able to "see the bigger picture" is being honest with yourself. Denial, lost of confidence, and distrust are blockades towards an objective that is true and real. It's about taking a step back while looking forward. When it comes to building a habit on one's own "authenticity, reliability, & character," which will enable a respect for yourself and for others, then you can produce reasonable expectations.
To make my own improvements in this area, I would really need to train myself to be less critical, to step away from jumping to conclusions based on initial impressions, and to observe other possible options. Patience. The question in the end is, what is important? Then, I can focus and plan for the better. Seeing what I want to accomplish, setting goals and how I could reach it, will give more meaning and purpose for my life. The following TED talk by Isaiah Hankel, gives amazing examples of how we can attain this type of important mindset.
A prominent example that Hankel explains near the end of his talk is to build a visual prop. To not just hold the end in your mind, but to have a physical representation of that vision so that it can set as a reminder and help make you more aware of the decisions you make on a continual basis. This brings back a moment in elementary school when my teacher once told the class to close our eyes and to imagine our future goals. He explained after the exercise, that the more often we try to picture the future, the more colour will appear to the image and the more likely it will come true. Otherwise, the images will stay black and white. Now that I think of it, I haven't done that exercise ever since. Simply talking about what you want in the end is one thing, but taking the time to have your own personal moment with it is another.
That's what I need to do more of to achieve a colourful visual with more patience with myself and others. I need to make time to close my eyes and think about what I want for the future and then plan it out regularly. Returning to the same vision and modifying the plans if needed. Success is only what you make of it and the amount of committed time and effort. In this manner, my friends and family could learn to do so by my example, and I could encourage them to participate with me, the same way my elementary teacher had encouraged me.
Being proactive requires initiative and willfullness to take charge instead of simply reacting, responding, or readjusting. To be proactive in anything, involves the investment of time and thought. To lead, you need the character to step forward and take on challenges before they become problems and while options are still available. Personally, this is a habit that I think cannot be developed in simply six weeks because it is an effort prior to decision making, which occurs almost all the time.
To start my own improvements I would really need to be more conscious and to step back and reflect on what my own standpoints are and how they can be adjusted by others. Reminders and conversations can be passive ways to begin visualizing future events, situations, tasks or goals and to then plan steps to implement them. I would need to continue using my calendar and set up lists of tasks often. From there, I can ask my friends and family for feedback before taking action. In the end, I hope to be more open about my plans and to have others' inputs in my decisions; while, allowing me to feel more comfortable with criticism and increasing my patience for others' responses.
Ideally, my actions will be an example to help my family to think ahead with me in this process and to be a bit more proactive themselves. For the most part, it seems that they rely on my own proactivity to avoid the task that they could be responsible for. Continual conversations about future tasks and guiding questions will hopefully prompt them to be a bit more organized instead of procrastinating or acting after the matter.
Thank you to Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and inspiring change in individuals like myself.