Friday, May 11, 2012

operating from the same page

This past week I was conversing with a colleague from our Development Department, Carrie Leising, and we began to talk about the theories one uses to lead.  She asked if theories are valuable (or something to that effect) and that led to the "aha" moment for us that all of our actions are driven by some type of theory - whether it is an informed theory, another's theory, or an uninformed theory.  That the led to a dialogue on the importance of those who work with and for you needing to be operating from the same theory (i.e. working from the same page).  We often hear that leaders should surround themselves with people who think differently so that more creative ideas can arise and good questions can be asked.  That being said, I am a believer that while a leadership team can - and should - be composed of people who see the world through different lenses, all members should be operating from the same theory.
One of my roles as Dean is to ensure that the faculty is operating from the same theory of teaching and learning.  This is a group that is very diverse and comes from a variety of backgrounds.  We have all decided that is an incredible blessing for our students as they encounter different ways of teaching and different personalities.  Yet, it is critical that all of us approach the classroom from the same theory of learning and teaching so that our vision and operational plan can come to fruition and be lived out in a consistent manner.  While not wanting to make this a blog on teaching and learning, some of the basic tenents of this theory is that all students can learn if they choose to engage; learning is more important than teaching; students need to learn and practice in order to master content ands skills; and that true assessment will lead to better teaching and better learning.
So how can I - and others - ensure that the team is operating from the same theory?  Here are a few thoughts:
  • be explicit - state the ideas and theory early and often.  Put it into words the team can understand
  • be patient - sometimes the operating theory takes time to emerge.  Think about it outloud with others and find the words that best fit for your group
  • be informed - read about the ideas and thoeries that excite you.  Find out what others have said and written so that you can speak to your theory as one that is informed
  • be passionate - this is important stuff.  Don't let others intimidate you with their nay-saying of theories.  Remember that there is no practical operation without a  theory
  • be repetitive - state the theory over and over and over.  Just when you think your team is understanding it, remember that you have only begun
  • assess it - check to see if your theory is working.  Assess it against best practices, other institutions, and data you can gather and analyze
  • be adaptable - sometimes theories don't work.  Be willing to look at other theories and consider what they have to offer - and be willing to get rid of a theory that is not working for you or the team
  • be adamant - if others on the team refuse to engage with your theory, find out why.  If they still refuse to participate, it may be time to let them find another team
SO...what theory are you using to lead?  Can you state it?  Where does it come from?  Why is it important to you?  How does it help improve the bottom line of your organization?  And how is it beneficial to those you lead?

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