Four Practical Ways That Learning Leaders Can Empower Others
By Heather De Blasio
As learning leaders, we’re committed to the learning entitlement of our students. But for our students to truly flourish and be empowered, we must also be committed to the learning entitlement of our leaders.
Here’s four strategies you can use to start empowering others.
#1: CHECK-INS, NOT CHECK-UPS
This helps us to empower, rather than micromanage, our colleagues. It’s about giving leaders and teachers the necessary support to succeed, while also offering sufficient autonomy to allow the work to remain meaningful.
This strategy is particularly helpful when you’re delegating tasks, and the first steps are the most important.
Start by setting clear goals and communicating the requirements and expectations of the task to the nominated person or people.
Also be sure they know it’s quite okay for them to check back in and get further clarity.
Keep check-ins casual and frequent, and ask questions such as: What support might be helpful to you this week? What might be some obstacles getting in your way – and are there any resources we could help with?
Avoid asking: “do you know when you might be finished?”
#2: CHALLENGE CORNER
We must set aside time in our leadership meetings to actually grow our leadership, by working with and learning from each other.
Challenge Corner is one simple strategy that can help make leadership growth and development a feature of our everyday lives as leaders.
First, include Challenge Corner in your agendas. Then, a meeting participant should be nominated to describe and present a challenge, or a current problem they’re not sure how to deal with.
Others should listen carefully, respectfully and curiously. They will be invited to offer suggestions, and explain what they’ve found helpful in similar situations, using sentence starters like: “You know, one thing I’ve found helpful when I’ve faced this is such and such…” rather than saying, say, “well, here’s what you need to do”.
Team members help the presenter to explore some potential options, who will then rehearse how to tackle their challenge.
#3: MIRROR MIRROR
This strategy involves asking our leaders to imagine they’re looking at themselves in the metaphorical mirror – preferably among a group of leaders.
We ask them to notice what they’re seeing themselves and others doing, saying and feeling, and to write each idea (using positive language) on a separate sticky note.
Consider questions like:
- What are you doing?
- What do you see others doing?
- What do you hear yourself and others saying?
- What’s your body language?
The ideas are then shared and categorised, allowing us to gather a rich picture of what it feels, looks and sounds like to be a growth focused leader.
#4: LEADERSHIP SPRINT
Decide what the focus of your sprint will be. It should be something that’s a little challenging, but not too far out of reach.
As an example, a few years ago my office, previously in a cosy, hidden-away corner of the school, was shifted to a new, highly accessible location. I felt like I couldn’t get my work done.
However, as a leader, I also know that I had to show high personal regard for all my colleagues, so I decided my focus would be on being welcoming and invitational.
Any time someone walked into my office with an issue or had something to share, I would stop what I was doing and spin my chair around, or invite them to pull up a chair.
For the next month, I gathered evidence of the impact the sprint was having, and noticed that with my new approach, my visitors’ heightened emotions would gradually soften and dissipate.
They said things like, “I knew all I had to do was just come into your room and I’d start to feel a bit calmer”.
I learned that being present is of critical importance with my people, so they feel valued and seen in the organisation. And that being with my people is the work of a leader – not an interruption.