Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Leadership Reflections: Default to Discomfort | #30DBB - Day 2

This is day 2 of "The 30 Day Blog Binge." Learn more

I get extremely nervous when I go into other teachers' classrooms to work with them. As a specialist who coaches teachers everyday, you can see why this might be a problem. And to be honest, I'm not entirely sure why I feel this way. It may just be my natural introversion, but my palms get sweaty, I can't sleep very well the night before, and on the way to work I run through all the things I might see in their classroom that I may not know how to help them fix.

But here's something I've always known about leadership but am finally learning (yes, there's a difference): I need to embrace being uncomfortable. If, as a leader, coach, and specialist, I only do the things I'm comfortable with, there will be exactly no change, either in myself or the people I'm supposed to be developing.

Lean into the Discomfort

As I listened to Brene Brown's TED Talk on "The Power of Vulnerability," she used a phrase from her background as a social worker where they are advised to "Lean into the discomfort of the work." Obviously, social work and instructional coaching aren't the closest of bedfellows, but they share some similarities, the main one being that in both situations, you "intrude" upon another person's life. Now, this is with the goal of offering them something they may not be able to attain on their own, but some days it just feels like bald-faced intrusion. But to make any progress in either situation, the "intruder" has to be okay with being uncomfortable.

Default to Open

There's a guiding principle in the open-source movement referred to as "default to open." The primary mode of thought should be to do something in the service of others and make it available without thought of compensation. The goal is just to make something great.

In a similar vein, one of my guiding principles in leadership has to become "default to discomfort." My primary mode of thought should be to do something in the service of others and make it available to them without thought of how I feel about it. The goal is to help someone else become better, and eventually, to help them be great.

Getting Over Myself and Out of My Head

So when I suck it up, embrace my discomfort, and cross the threshold of a bustling classroom, I remember how much I love it. It's like being a fish who's been attempting to breathe pure oxygen and finally gets tossed back in the pond. There's no where I'd rather be than in a classroom, surrounded by the natural energy of learning, working with kids and teachers, and knowing that I'm making a difference. I'm a teacher to the core, and I'm finally acknowledging just how central that is to my happiness.

Fear can't be a guiding factor in leadership. The pursuit of vision, change, and growth requires discomfort. So instead of running from it, I choose to lean into it. I choose to seek it out and be okay with it. I choose to "default to discomfort," because I'm finding that there's no other way to lead.


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