This past month, I officially began my journey as a rookie district administrator. In less than thirty days, I’ve experienced moments of success and overwhelming excitement along with moments of “I might pee my pants” anxiousness. While my learning curve is straight up 180-degrees, the demands of my position are fulfilling my passion for education and stimulating my cognitive desire to learn through life– The L in R.E.A.L.
Last week, our Auburn-Washburn USD437 Superintendent, Dr. Scott McWilliams, and the district directors took the new administrators out for a welcoming lunch. After introducing ourselves, Dr. McWilliams shared with us what we can expect from him. The first words he uttered amazed me. He looked at each of us (only three new administrators this year) and said,
“This is my philosophy of trust. It might seem backward to some, but you don’t have to prove yourself to me. I TRUST you. I hired YOU because I believe in you. Now, let’s do the work and serve our students, educators, and stakeholders!”
Right after his philosophy of trust, he went over the top ten things we can expect from him as our leader and asked us to hold him accountable. However, all I could think about was that first statement. He trusts me. I don’t have to prove myself. Just do the work he hired me to do. I CAN do this! What?! He believes in me already.
There are times when we hear what we need when we need it. I’m convinced when “what we hear” collides with “what we need,” it’s as if a tiny firework show begins to explode in our mind. That is what happened to me when Dr. McWilliams made his “Philosophy of Trust” statement. From that moment, I’ve felt empowered, and the stress of wondering if I’m doing “ok” is no longer looming in the back of my mind. I’m just DOING what I know to do and striving for excellence.
Words and Science
What happened in my mind?
How did that small statement immediately impact my future achievements in this new role?
Basically, within our brain, we have this overactive amygdala that is concerned with the future, and we are constantly second guessing our performance. However, when I received the above statement from Dr. McWilliams, my lateral-prefrontal cortex (the self-worrying, future-focused neocortex) was instantly silenced. At that moment, I was able to feel a release to trust and surprise myself, in this case, with the execution of the job at hand. Therefore, words and actions are influential and scientifically capable of empowering others.
Cater to the Few?
Dr. McWilliams’ statement reminded me of a story I heard Dr. Yong Zhao tell at a speaking event. As a professor, he announces to his grad-students on their first day of class,
“You all have an A. Yes, you heard me correctly. Everyone has an A for the class. Now, let’s learn as much as we possibly can!”
That’s it. The pressure is off; you have the grade, now do the work. When sharing this story, Dr. Zhao mentions how most of the students learn and produce robust, quality work that surpasses his expectations. Even though there are a handful of outliers that don’t dive in with determination, Dr. Zhao doesn’t seem to be bothered by that small percentage of loss. That’s life, right? If we cater to the few, we will miss out on the incredible accomplishments of the majority.
So, how does this relate to students?
It is the beginning of the school year–a perfect opportunity to empower the students, staff, and stakeholders we serve to do the work, give it their all, and make this year EPIC!
Consider this question:
In what ways might we take the focus off the “outside measures of success” and unleash the creative potential of those we lead?
*Thank you, Dr. McWilliams, for believing in me. I don’t plan to let you down.