Mentoring Matters for Superintendents: February-March 2016

Leadership-life Fit

Dan Rockwell’s blog this week captures a powerful strategy for optimizing your leadership efforts—create rhythms of rest and reflection. Check out “Choose the White Room over the Padded Room.”

Board Relations – How Well Is Your Board Functioning?

Download this tool from The Superintendent’s Fieldbook to assess and/or discuss the efficacy of your board. Process in your mentoring relationship how you might target specific areas where you hope to increase the efficacy of your board function.

Leading Learning—Effective Communication

Communication is at the heart of a superintendent’s leadership success. Are you engaging in highly effective conversations? Are you clear on what you believe about communication and human interaction? Do your behaviors and habits reflect your beliefs? Use the resources aligned to Jim Knight’s new book Better Conversations and discover your communication profile. Take steps to eliminate ineffective habits and master those essential for better conversations.

Jim Knight grounds his Better Conversation initiative in a set of beliefs and 10 habits.

Better Conversation Beliefs

  • I see others as equal partners in conversations.
  • I believe people should have a lot of autonomy.
  • I want to hear what others have to say.
  • I don’t judge my conversation partners.
  • Conversation should be back and forth.
  • Conversation should be life-giving.

Ten Habits for Better Conversations and Strategies to Begin Improving

  1. Demonstrating empathy – Stop being your own worst critic.
  2. Listening with empathy—Be mindful of the other person’s feelings and mirror them back.  Additionally: 1) Commit to listening. 2) Be the listener, not the speaker. 3) Pause before your response to make sure you are opening up. If you can’t do the first three, at least don’t interrupt the person speaking.
  3. Fostering dialogue—Be empathetic. Balance advocacy with inquiry and suspend judgment.
  4. Asking better questions—Be curious, ask open-ended opinion questions, and be nonjudgmental. (Sample effective questions and question starters are included in the first linked resource below)
  5. Making emotional connections—Look for and recognize the non-verbal cues someone sends you. If someone smiles, smile in return. If someone moves toward you, don’t turn away.
  6. Being a witness to the good—Share positive information with others. Be intentional about looking for all that is good and communicate it!
  7. Finding common ground—Consider I-CARE as an acronym for common ground. I=shared interests; C=convictions (e.g. commitment to students); A=activities (e.g. love of sports, the outdoors, dance, music, etc.); R=roles and responsibilities (e.g. we are both parents, too); and E=experiences (e.g. a shared trip or memory)
  8. Controlling toxic emotions—Avoid toxic connections—groups or individuals that are prone to diminishing others.
  9. Redirecting toxic conversations—Interrupt it (e.g. I need to go). Remain silent. Move the conversation in a different direction (e.g. Speaking of Dana, when is conference?)
  10. Building trust—Knight suggests reflecting on the following:
    a. Character: Are you honest, transparent, and nonjudgmental? Do you need to change so that you can be more trustworthy?
    b. Competence: How can you increase the usefulness of what you share? Do you need to be more focused or precise? Do you need to increase your depth of knowledge?Reliability: What organizational rituals and boundaries can you add, or what activities can you quit so you can be more reliable?
    c. Warmth: Do you need to get better at demonstrating empathy, listening, being a witness to the good, or being vulnerable to encourage trust?
    d. Stewardship: Do you need to change your outlook on life in any way so that you are less concerned with yourself and more concerned with others?

For more strategies and examples, you will want to read Knight’s book; however, you can benefit greatly by accessing the resources below in order to determine your communication profile and to engage in the process of self- reflection and effective habit development.

Find the self- and peer assessment tools along with reflection forms here.
Find additional self- reflection tools here

Monthly Checklist

These lists are intended as a guide—we encourage you to process in your mentor-mentee team to identify other items that may need your attention!