All the six habits of becoming a highly effective person have opened my eyes to some amazing ways that I can become a more effective leader and increase my sphere of influence. I need to first be proactive, take responsibility for my actions, gain control over my circumstances, and make wise choices rather than by reacting to situations and blaming others. Second, I need to start with the end in mind. I need to begin with a vision of where I want to go in order to move forward. I decided my future goal would be to take part in curriculum development or teacher training/mentoring programs. Third, I need to put first things first and focus on my time management to complete important tasks first before worrying about other non-important tasks. Fourth, I need to think win-win. I need to focus on my work relationships and how to make them mutually beneficial for everyone involved. I need to work with others by coming up with a better way of doing things that meet both our needs. Fifth, I need to seek first to understand, then be understood. I need to be an effective listener to show others how I would like to be listened to and this will also allow me to demonstrate how respectful I am when listening to others’ ideas. If I am respectful when others’ are talking and sharing, they will respect my ideas in return. Sixth, I need to achieve synergy with my team. Synergy involves working together to achieve better results than if individuals are working alone. Synergy leads to being an effective, Democratic leader. The last habit of a highly effective person is to practice each one of these skills continually to continue improving. These habits are not something you can do in one week and then be fantastic at forever.
In order to sharpen the saw and continually work to improve in these seven habits, I will need to remind myself of the habits and work to incorporate them into my everyday routines. I have written blog posts about each one, now, that I can refer back to to remind myself of what I need to work on and the focus of each habit. I am extremely excited to learn how to become a more effective leader. Having these tools and techniques at my disposal encourages and challenges me to work to become even more effective than I already am. I am going to print out these seven habits as well and post them in my classroom to continually refer back to. After learning about each one, I know how valuable they are, I just need to remember to continually work on them.
This week when discussing this last habit with my colleague, Courtney, I will remind her that as teachers we can never be perfect. We can never be the best and we can never be done learning. This is probably the best habit to remember. We need to continually work to be more effective and increase our sphere of influence.
The second habit I will be working on this week is achieving Synergy with my team. Synergy involves working together to achieve better results than if individuals are working alone. Synergy leads to being an effective, Democratic leader. The action plan to creating Synergy is defining the problem or opportunity, listening to others’ ideas, suggesting my own ideas, brainstorming new options or ideas and then choosing the best solution for everyone involved. Covey suggests that effective leaders seek knowledge from others, create and participate in diverse teams, recognize others for their contributions, focus on others’ strengths instead of weaknesses, solicit others’ ideas when brainstorming and avoid stereotyping or labeling others.
There are a lot of things to work on in this one habit. I already know that I am not very effective at some of these tasks. However, to begin with my strengths, I know that I am a good listener, I enjoy brainstorming with others to create a better idea, I seek out knowledge from others, I participate in diverse teams and I recognize others for their contributions. I am the teacher that constantly shares my lesson ideas or insights that I have when teaching and resources that I find. I also plan ahead for possible conflicts that may arise and share these thoughts with others to help come up with possible solutions ahead of time. I also thank others for their contributions and give them credit whenever it is due. I make an effort to achieve Synergy in my team. The areas I need to work on are focusing on others’ strengths instead of weaknesses and avoiding stereotyping or labeling. I think these are areas in which most people are not highly effective without some effort. I think school cultures can have a big influence on how people act. Within some school cultures, people tend to notice weakness before strengths and inadvertently stereotype and label others. This is something I should not participate in and avoid. Even listening to others talk in a negative manner can alter my own thoughts. I want to be a positive role model for others, therefore, I will work on avoiding those types of conversations and focusing instead on strengths of others.
When discussing this habit with my colleague, Courtney, I will make an effort to give examples of how Synergy can be achieved with our fifth grade team. I would love for our team to be more effective and communicate more. Right now it is not as effective of a team as it could be. I know teams take time to develop, but now that I know the action plan to establishing Synergy, I can share these steps with my teammates to help them see where we can be more effective. Listening to others and sharing their own ideas are the areas where we need to begin. I share my thoughts and ideas with them freely, but want to see them do the same. This will be the beginning steps to achieving Synergy and I am excited to begin the process.
The first habit that I will be working on this week is Seek First to Understand and Then Be Understood. The emphasis in this habit is to be an empathetic listener before offering my own opinions or ideas. Being an effective listener shows others how I would like to be listened to and allows me to demonstrate how respectful I am when listening to others’ ideas. If I am respectful when others’ are talking and sharing, they will respect my ideas in return. This will create a respectful, positive sharing experience which will increase my credibility as a leader and my sphere of influence.
After learning about this habit, it is something that seems like it is common sense. When I am sharing my ideas, I always feel valued when someone is really listening. Therefore, I need to focus on doing the same in return when others are talking. This includes not judging, probing or giving advice while others talk. Instead, I need to work on actively listening to others to show that I am respectful and empathetic to their ideas and concerns. I have had plenty of experiences where people do not listen to my ideas. Having experienced this, I know how damaging it can be to a working relationship. I tend to share my ideas freely and openly with others to create a type of collective community with my team. When I feel that people do not listen to my ideas or engage in thoughtful conversations about them, I feel disregarded. I’ve felt this way before and it’s never occurred to me that it is a habit that people need to work on.
I know I can be great listener. I can be quiet, listen and just support others. However, there are times when I share my ideas before listening to others. The difference between the times when I’m a good listener and when I share my ideas is when I am eager to contribute to the conversation. It is not out of the need to be controlling, but a need to contribute and participate. Nevertheless, I see the value in simply listening to others before contributing. Listening first, offering my ideas, and then brainstorming is a great method to use when working together. I need to slow down and listen first. I tend to listen for a little while, come up with my own ideas that I’m eager to share, and may tend to interrupt others and begin brainstorming before they are done talking. This only tends to happen with people I feel really comfortable working with, but I will start working on this. There are also plenty of other times when others do not listen to my ideas, so I just stay quiet when brainstorming. I listen to their ideas, I try to offer mine, but when I receive an immediate “no” to my idea without justification, I shut down and quietly listen the rest of the time. This is not an effective way to communicate. I cannot control how others act, but I can control how I act (I remember this from habit one - Be Proactive!) so I will work on listening first when I am with others. For the other times when I am not listened to myself, I will remember this habit and how much more effective it would be if the other person I am talking to knew about Stephen Covey’s Habits of Highly Effective People.
When discussing this habit with my colleague Courtney this week, I will make sure to give examples of times when I was a good listener to show how I am working on this habit. Teachers always have struggles throughout their days, weeks and years of teaching. I am a teacher that always listens and supports other teachers when they need it. This is not necessarily the part that I need to work on. The part I need to work on is when myself and others are brainstorming ideas, I need to listen to others before sharing my ideas. This is difficult to do with two new team members because I feel that I need to “watch out” for them and tell them how things are done. However, I need to demonstrate that I respect and value their ideas and listen to them first before sharing my ideas or how things are normally done at our school. Listening, then sharing, can lead to a more effective team because we may brainstorm a new way to do things that has not been done before. It’s not about who is right. It’s about what is best.
The previous three habits that I have been working on focused on becoming an independent person to be free from other's influence so I can increase my own sphere of influence. These habits focused on my character and authenticity as a leader. The next three habits will be focused on my relationships with others and how I can attract interest from others who would want to work with me. Relationships require work and function similarly to a bank account. In order to have a positive balance or relationship, you need to put more into the account than you take out. This makes effective leaders. You need to invest in relationships by being pleasant, honest, keeping your promises, listening, showing humility and having clear expectations. This will make people want to work with me and my sphere of influence with increase.
The habit this week I will be working on is Think Win-Win. Effective leaders examine how they interact with others. You need to take the time to find common ground with everyone you work with and cooperate with them. This needs to be done with everyone, including people that have differing viewpoints than yours. If you focus on relationships and how to make them mutually beneficial for everyone involved, you will foster a win-win relationship. It isn’t about each person getting exactly what they want or about compromising. It is about working together to have both of your needs met by coming up with a better way of doing things that work for both parties.
There are four types of relationships that can be established with others. The first is a competitive relationship in which there is always a winner and a loser called win-lose. This type of relationship does not foster growth and the people involved do not support each other. It will be a constant battle between the people involved to always be on top. This breeds disloyalty and people become uncomfortable around each other. The second type of relationship is lose-lose in which everyone involved does not want the other to win and it becomes a dysfunctional, downward spiral where no one wins. The third type of relationship is lose-win in which one person lets the other person win in an attempt to foster a relationship and be liked. This does not work, however, and the person who “loses” ends up becoming a doormat. Lastly, the fourth type of relationship is a win-win relationship in which both parties work together so as not to get one person’s way or the other’s way, but come up with a better way in which everyone’s needs are met. This relationship focuses on cooperation instead of competition and everyone benefits from the relationship.
This habit really struck a chord with me this week. I am constantly focused on establishing healthy and beneficial relationships with my colleagues. I believe having good relationships with your coworkers is one of the most motivating forces at a school. However, in most work relationships I’ve experienced, I have not seen many win-win situations. Many teachers are competitive and are driven to be the best or better than others. I think this is due to the pressure of test scores and needing to constantly improve student scores to be considered effective teachers. Nevertheless, in our profession, competition doesn’t do anyone any favors. If there are winners and losers, people are not be motivated by the right cause to help students. If teachers are motivated by getting better test scores than others, and in turn are not sharing ideas or lessons, schools suffer. This does not foster lasting, supportive relationships between teachers.
Recently my school had a meeting to go over our test scores from the recently released Smarter Balanced results. We were provided with a page listing each grade level’s percentages of students that met or exceeded standards, almost met standards or were below standards. This page also compared each grade level to the district and state percentages for each category. In this meeting, teachers began congratulating specific grade levels for their test scores. I became extremely uncomfortable. Test scores are not about winners and losers. Although it appears teachers are being supportive by complimenting other teachers, I could feel the competition amongst the teachers growing. This is not how I would have run this meeting. I’m not entirely sure how to go about discussing data without having people compare or compete with each other. This is something I am hoping to learn. However, any type of conversation in which only certain teachers are receiving praise is not the best way to go about it.
I am constantly functioning from a win-win viewpoint when working with others. I want to have long-lasting, functional, supportive relationships. I want to work on a team that is like a well-oiled machine instead of disjointed parts attempted to beat each other. Creating a win-win situation with all members of my team is a goal that I really hope to achieve. I do my best to support, encourage, and cooperate with everyone I work with. However, working with others who do not share the same viewpoint makes this difficult. A win-win relationship requires effort from both parties. Without it, the right relationship will not be established. I’ve caught myself falling into the lose-win situation with others because I’d rather let the other person win if they are competitive than fight them over it. In turn, it appears that I am a doormat. This is a constant struggle that I have. I feel that so many teachers are competitive and establishing cooperative relationships with competitive teachers goes nowhere. This is something I am extremely passionate about and I would love to learn more. I would love to know the steps you can take to show others how competition is not beneficial in a school setting. I want to know how to show others that cooperative relationships are so much more beneficial for all involved.
I have two new team members this year who are new to teaching and I see the competitive mentality already taking over. It breaks my heart. I am working extremely hard to put effort into our team development and foster a win-win mentality, but with outside pressures I see them retreating and our team is suffering. They do not think about how we can support each other and look out for each other to create a supportive team. They do not think ahead or share their ideas. Instead, they are doing things on their own and not asking for help or advice. I’m the only member who constantly communicates, shares, asks questions and looks out for the team. Watching this happen has me worried. All I can do is continue to put effort into our relationship, cooperate, share, support and work to establish a team that wants to help each other succeed instead of just being better than each other.
The first two habits of highly effective people that I have learned about and worked on for two weeks are being proactive (taking control), and starting with the end goal in mind (staying focused on what’s important). This week, I will be focusing on putting first things first and working on time management to complete important tasks first before worrying about other non-important tasks.
I have to say that I’ve always been really good at time management. I have a map of my week and know when certain tasks need to be completed. I then complete the tasks by order of importance and the time they need to be done. For example, if I know I have three blog posts that need to be done by Thursday but I know my week is filled with certain tasks that are not as important but still need to be done, I make time on my weekend to complete my blog posts since they are important. I always prioritize the tasks that have to be completed, and complete them in order of importance.
Steven Covey explains that there are four types of activities: important and urgent (quadrant 1), important and not urgent (quadrant 2), not important and urgent (quadrant 3) and not important and not urgent (quadrant 4). People that fall in quadrant 1 are procrastinators, people that fall in quadrant 2 are prioritizers, quadrant 3 are yes-men, and quadrant 4 are slackers. I would have to say I spend most of my time in quadrant 2. I am a prioritizer. I complete important things first by urgency, which means I tend to get things done way in advance. However, I do also tend to spend some time in quadrant 3 as a yes-woman. I often feel like I need to help others when they ask for it and complete those tasks first, even though I know it is not as important as some other tasks. This is what I need to work on. I get stuck completing tasks that are urgent but not important because other people ask me to. I can get bogged down with interruptions. I need to work on saying no. This has always been something that I have had to work on and I now know that a highly effective person spends more time on important tasks that are not urgent over non-important tasks that are urgent.
The other aspect of putting first things first that tends to get me into trouble is how task oriented I am sometimes. I am such a prioritizer with my school work and lesson planning that I tend to forget about relaxing and spending time with friends and family. Those tasks become unimportant when I have a lot of things to complete. I don’t think it should be this way. If you prioritize well enough, you should have time left to spend on non-work activities. Instead, if I complete a task early, I try to get started on the next task to get it done even earlier than I had planned. However, this is a vicious, never-ending cycle. There will always be something to work on that is considered important. I then become angry and frustrated that I work all the time and don’t have any time to relax or enjoy myself. Therefore, I need to strike a balance between being a prioritizing task-master and thinking I’m slacking if I’m not constantly working.
Therefore, the two aspects of time management that I need to work on to become more effective and increase my sphere of influence is setting aside non-important urgent tasks that others ask me to complete and also setting aside time once I’ve completed an important task early to relax and spend time with friends. It is a difficult balance to establish, but I’m glad I am working on this now before I take on any official leadership roles because having a healthy, balanced list of priorities is what will allow me to increase my sphere of influence as a leader.
I think this is a great concept to explain to my colleague, Courtney, as she completes her first year of teaching. She will need to prioritize her activities and complete the important tasks first before they become urgent so she does not end up feeling stressed to complete those tasks. I will also explain to her my tendencies and how I plan to work on them. This will also be good for me to explain to Courtney because if she asks me to help her with something unimportant and I say no, she will know I am working on being a highly effective person, instead of thinking I am not be helpful. We will help each other work on time management and focus our time on important non-urgent tasks first.
This week the habit of highly effective people that I will be working on, and teaching my colleague, Courtney, has to do with having a vision. In order to be proactive (the habit I learned last week), we need to start with a vision of where we want to go, or have an end goal. Being proactive and starting with the end in mind will allow me to move away from being dependent on others. I will become more independent and others will see my independence and my sphere of influence as a leader will increase.
I’ve never articulated my end goal or vision before. I know I have them, but I don’t normally sit down and think about them. Sometimes my end goal is to get through to the end of the day of teaching. Sometimes my end goal is to successfully get to the end of a unit with my students. However, my end goal in a larger sense has always been simply to provide a wonderful learning experience for students. If I keep this end goal in mind, my students and I will have a fantastic year learning and growing together. Aside from the goals I have with my students, I need to start thinking about a goal that goes beyond my classroom. I need to start thinking about what kind of impact I’d like to have as a teacher not only on my students, and my site, but maybe my district and, if I’m being ambitious, my city or state. I can see myself eventually participating in curriculum development and/or teacher training and mentoring programs. I’d love to take what I have learned in the classroom and share it with others. Whether that be in the form of developing curriculum that I believe would help students be successful, or supporting other teachers in the same areas. I appreciate being asked to think about my end goals because I’ve never really thought about it before. Now having them written down, I can take steps to achieve them.
In my belief statement for my leadership platform, I talk about how I believe the purpose of education is to prepare students for the real world and support them in developing certain skills: collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking. If this is my end goal, I now have to take those beliefs and put them into action. If my actions match my beliefs, I will be seen as a reliable professional. Further, once I take action, the results I achieve, for example helping develop a curriculum that prepares students for the real world, will determine my character as a leader. My authenticity will be established if my beliefs match my actions and produce the correct results. Therefore, having my end goal in mind gives me focus and steers me towards being seen as a reliable, authentic professional with a larger sphere of influence.
I will sit down with my colleague, Courtney, this week and describe to her the importance of having an end goal. I will explain that it provides focus and guidance in your professional life. I will tell her my recently discovered end goal and how I hope it will allow me to increase my sphere of influence. I will take the time to challenge her to think about some of her end goals, small and large as well. I will continue thinking of my end goals throughout my teaching career and take steps to develop my reliability and authenticity as a leader and increase my sphere of influence.
I am going to be enhancing my leadership qualities by learning about, and teaching others, the 7 habits of highly effective people. Each week I will be learning a new habit, discussing how I am going to integrate it into my interactions with others and teaching this new habit to another person. I will be teaching these habits and discussing my learning with my fellow fifth grade teacher, Courtney. She is new to teaching this year and I hope to share my learning to not only help myself understand the new skill I am working on, but help her understand it and possibly implement it as well. We talk constantly throughout the week since we team teach and share all of our students. I’m not sure we will have a specified time each week to discuss the new habit (such as Wednesdays at 2:00), but I know we will make time to sit down and discuss it. We always have meetings on Mondays from 1:15 - 3:15 so if a hard deadline is needed, I will discuss it during this time.
The first habit I will be learning and teaching about his week is being proactive. Being proactive means you take responsibility for your actions and gain control over your circumstances instead of being controlled by them. You get more positive results by taking responsibility for your actions and making wise choices than by reacting to situations and blaming others. When people see that I am proactively controlling situations and taking responsibility, I will increase my sphere of influence as a leader. It requires a shift in how you look at the world and react to it and in turn it will make you a more effective leader. The thing to remember is that you only have control over three things: what you think, what you say and how you behave. Since I can control all three of these things, I will be more proactive in my interactions, get more positive results, and increase my sphere of influence.
The way I am going to be more proactive is by planning ahead. I am really organized and have always been a planner. This makes being proactive an easier task. If I am thinking about an event coming up, such as Back to School night, I will think about what I need to do to make it a positive experience, and take steps to do so. I will not wait for others to tell me what to do, or blame others if the experience is negative. I have control over my actions and I am choosing to be proactive and will plan ahead for Back to School night. I will also think about my interactions with others and plan ahead for what I can do to make the interactions more positive. Whether it’s interactions with my students, their parents, or colleagues, being prepared for those interactions is what allows you to gain control over your circumstances. I will not walk into class on Monday and expect my lesson plans to magically appear. I will plan my lessons ahead of time, think about possible problems that my students may have during the lesson and plan solutions. When working with my colleagues, I will plan ahead and write down ideas that I think should be addressed at our meetings to avoid confusion or misunderstandings that week. I will be taking control of my actions throughout the week and in doing so will have a more positive experience. I have already started being proactive is by taking control of some of my current circumstances. Our district is currently undergoing major shifts in teacher and student relocation. Due to this, maintenance is bogged down with orders and many were not completed by the beginning of school. Our classroom projectors have sat in a box all week and have not been installed yet. One way I have been proactive is by taking control of the situation and connecting the projector myself and set it up on a desk (they are normally installed on the ceiling). I now have a working projector until they come to install it on the ceiling. This makes my classroom a bit more cramped because my students desks needed to be rearranged to make space for the projector, but it enhances their learning experience so I believe it is worth it.
When I have my discussion with Courtney about being proactive, I will explain the concept first, of taking responsibility for our actions to gain control over our circumstances to have a more positive experience. Then, I will explain examples of how I have done this over the course of the week (such as the projector example). I will explain how my circumstances improved because of the wise choices I have made by taking control. I hope Courtney will then maybe be able to share some experiences that she has had throughout the week in which she has been proactive. I think it would also be valuable to discuss certain things that could have gone better throughout the week if I had been more proactive. Since this is a new habit that I am working on, it will not be perfected in the first week, so discussing how I could have done better in certain areas could be beneficial.