Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Overcoming Resistance and Enduring: "Enchanting" Schools, Part Three

While vacationing at Walt Disney World about 10 years ago, my wife and I were on one of the boats that transport visitors to and from the Magic Kingdom.  It was late.  The parks had all closed.  There were only a handful of people on the boat.  One was an employee (cast member) of the park.

As we were sitting, my wife and I decided to strike up a conversation with the cast member.  During that conversation, we asked her about working at Disney. 

She replied,
"I love it.  It is great to bring so much happiness to people each day." 
When pressed about how hard it must be to maintain such a positive outlook, the cast member said,
"Well, some people do not last too long.  Early on, it is so exciting to be here, but once the 'pixie dust' wears off, only the truly committed endure.  Yes, it can be rough at times.  I had a visitor get upset and throw a drink at me once, but you smile your best smile, think happy thoughts, and wish the person's day gets better.  You can't let one bad experience ruin your day because the next visitor you see may be the one whose day you make the most memorable."
In my experience, of all the characteristics of great educators, overcoming resistance and enduring are at or near the top. Whether that resistance is from students, parents, administrators, government, the economy, or "the system", schools must find ways to overcome and endure in the face of various challenges - some preventable, some not.

When schools shift their focus from a responsibility to a cause mentality, a feeling of ownership begins to evolve which can unlock some hidden innovation and creativity.  Programs are viewed differently and new ideas emerge.  Schools that were once sterile and polarizing begin to become more likable and trustworthy.

As new ideas take shape, programs are refreshed, given a "new coat of paint", and prepared to be rolled out for the school community.  The school year begins.  Your programs are re-launched.  Everything is working great.  feedback is positive.  Everyone is happy.

Then.....Day 2!

The "pixie dust" starts to wear off.  Maybe not very noticeably, but wearing off all the same.  People are now immersed in your cause and, as is our nature, they begin to find pieces about which they feel the need to make "suggestions."

It is time to overcome resistance and endure.

Overcoming Resistance and Enduring

I have been drawing upon David Deal's post about Enchantment in this series.  Here is the excerpt from his post about these two topics.

Overcome resistance
Typical of Guy’s approach is confronting and overcoming potential problems. Accordingly, Guy suggests finding out why people might resist your product and overcoming those factors. One way to do so is to offer social proof that your product is popular.
If you struggle during your launch, one solution is to find the handful of bright spots where you can be successful. For instance, in the mid-1980s, Apple struggled to evangelize its products. Apple survived by finding the one bright spot: desktop publishing software like Pagemaker. Apple capitalized on that bright spot and survived.
Enchanting as many influencers as possible (not just the single most influential person) is important. Marketers are always worried about influencing the C-Suite, which is really too bad because by enchanting middle managers, you’re reaching more people (some of whom will become CEOs or CMOs).

Achieving endurance means empowering people to follow you, not giving them money.
The Grateful Dead has endured for decades. The band helped its own cause by empowering its fans to tape its concerts for free, even to the point of creating a special section at its concerts to record and share.
Invoking reciprocation is also crucial. Invoking reciprocation means actively supporting someone else so that the other party will support you. When someone thanks you, the right reply is, “I know you’ll do the same for me.” That way, you encourage reciprocation. You also have to enable people to pay you back by showing them what you want and how they can help.
In order for schools, teachers, and administrators to enchant followers to their cause, they must maintain an awareness of how well their efforts are being perceived by the students and families being served.  This requires an active presence and willingness to listen to feedback.  Some of what is heard will not be positive, but the enchanting leaders will use passion and innovation to highlight the positives while working to address challenges.  If you are "out front" people will gain confidence in your leadership and be more willing to work with you through these challenges - you have gathered followers to your cause!

In addition, being clear about how each follower can contribute to the cause is key to building endurance.  Have a specific plan or ideas to include students, parents, other teachers, etc. in your cause.  Make the effort to help others in their cause because "they would do the same for you."  Examples in schools may include mentoring a new teacher, observing a colleague's classes, or offering a new activity for students.

Here's a real example from a colleague of mine.  A student in my school is transferring away to a school closer to where his father works.  The new school has a Latin program that he is interested in, but he has not had Latin yet.  His mother approached a friend of mine (a Latin teacher) and asked about some summer Latin tutoring to prepare the boy for next year AT A DIFFERENT SCHOOL.
Not only did my friend agree to help, he did so FOR FREE.

That is an enchanting teacher.

Looking back and coming up

Click here for part 1 in this series (Likability and Trustworthiness).
Click here for part 2 in this series (Getting Ready and The Launch).

Next in this series, I will examine enchanting school presentations and uses of technology.

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