The Games We Play

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We all spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get people to do what we want them to do.  How can I make my boyfriend commit?  How do I get my kids to clean their rooms?  How do I stop that guy at work from coming in late every day?  There are so many different tactics that we attempt to use in order to get what we want.  We try to give someone “a taste of their own medicine” with the hopes that they’ll figure out how we feel.  We try to buy someone off, or punish them by giving them the cold shoulder.  There’s a million games that we play in relationships – and often they backfire.

For example, huge issues quickly arose when a dear friend of mine and I moved in together, but had never discussed what it meant to each of us to be roommates.  Her picture was that we would do everything together, and she was very upset to find that I carried on my life much as I had before we moved in together.  The angrier she got that I was leaving her out, the more frustrated I became that she was trying to control me.  Looking back, I realize that the whole situation could easily have been avoided if we’d actually had a conversation about our picture of what living together would look like, instead of us each lashing out and getting angry with each other.

One of the things that can really help prevent problems from arising in relationships of any kind is to have a clear understanding of the social contract which establishes the “rules” for the relationship.  When we actually make these rules explicit, it ensures that everyone is on the same page.  Often, the problems that arise are simply because there is a difference in expectations. 

I heard a story about the staff a daycare centre that was frustrated with parents who were picking up their children late.  They decided to implement a late fee – a certain amount for each minute the parent was late in picking up their child.  To their surprise, instead of solving their problem, it actually made it worse.  Instead of parents feeling like they needed to be there on time, parents felt that as long as they paid the fee, it was ok to be late now.  Daycare staff and parents had very different pictures of how the relationship was going to work.  How different might this have turned out if instead of implementing the fee, the daycare staff had simply talked to the parents about how important it was to have the children picked up on time so that staff were not working overtime and being forced to miss out on their own family obligations? 

How often do conflicts happen in life because we just haven’t really talked?  Instead of playing games, trying to understand and be understood? 

This IS My Job

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I used to get frustrated about how much time got wasted in my workplace.  People would interrupt me when I was working to chat about the weekend, or things going on in their lives.  I welcomed the odd storm day that forced me to work from home, as I could get so much accomplished when I was able to work without all those distractions.

But if you really want to talk about efficiency, email has been an amazing time saver.  I’m part of a diminishing group of people who used to work before there was such a thing as email.  Looking back, it’s mind boggling to think of how much longer it took us to do business when you actually had to catch someone on the phone to talk.  I can fire off a dozen emails in the time it used to take me to make one phone call.  And when things had to be done by phone, you couldn’t just get straight down to business either – that would seem rude.  So you had to do the small talk, chit-chat thing before moving on to your real reason for the call.  What a massive waste of time!

Except that it wasn’t.

I’ve seen good ideas wither on the vine because people could not work together to make them happen.  I’ve seen how simple tasks can become incredibly complex because people are playing games, or don’t want to put in any effort for someone they feel doesn’t respect them.   

I appreciate now that everything about work is really about people.  Without relationships, very little happens efficiently.  Differences of opinion do not turn into battles or become personal attacks when opposing sides know and respect each other.  Good ideas can turn into great ones when people go the extra mile with their contributions to a project. 

So I’ve changed my tune.  Spending time building relationships does not interfere with my work.  It is my work.  Although I still appreciate the time saving that things like email have brought, I’m also aware that I need to attend to the people I work with – not just our tasks.  After all, belonging is a basic human need, and without it, things go off kilter. 

I heard a great line recently that I think sums this idea up very well:  We need to loiter with intent.  We need to hang out with people, get to know them, build relationships.  Sure – it can be a break from work, but remember – it’s not a waste of time. 

Growing Together

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Every year since I first stumbled across Restitution, I’ve participated in the Restitution Summer Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  It’s a training session that is run at the end of August, and not only do I find that it helps gets me excited and motivated for the new school year, but the best part is connecting with a group of people who have similar ideas and beliefs.  I have met some of the most amazing people – some who have travelled from as far away as Iceland and India – and there is simply nothing like the energy that comes of sharing our stories and struggles and learning together.

Sound like something you might be interested in being a part of?

Truly – there is something for everyone!  There are many sessions being offered – from introductory sessions for those new to Restitution to advanced levels for those who have done training in the past.  There is even a facilitator training session for those who are interested in teaching these concepts to others.

Here’s how to get involved – simply click on the links below and you’ll find all the information you need:

Restitution Seminar Brochure 2016

Restitution Seminar Registration 2016

Facilitator Training Registration 2016

Hope to see you there!

 

Lessons from a Great Supervisor

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It’s always stressful when a supervisor that you have worked well with resigns.  Will the next person “get” you the way this one did?  Will you have the same synergy?  Will they understand and support you?

It’s high stakes.  Because having a supervisor that doesn’t support, understand and “get” you can turn an awesome job into a terrible one.

I’ve faced this situation numerous times in my career.  And on those occasions when things turn out well, it’s such a relief.  But regardless of whether the experience is positive or negative, I’ve learned a lot from watching these folks step into a new leadership role.  There’s the standard stuff about taking your time to learn about the system before making any radical changes or about the importance of getting to know everyone as a person and what their role is all about.  But one supervisor I had really stands out to me.

He was great.  Immediately, we connected.  He was always interested in my opinion on things, and seemed to really value what I said.  He made me feel smart.   He often told me that he had learned a lot from me.  He really built my confidence, and inspired me.  I would do anything for him.  He made me feel special… kind of like the teacher’s pet.

I had a teacher back in elementary school that made me feel this way too.  She used to give me secret gifts and cards with motivational messages.  I never told any of the other kids, because I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad that she liked me best.

It was years before I figured her out.  She did this for every one of her students.

And after a while, I noticed the same about this supervisor.  He made everyone feel important and valued.

Our team became highly motivated and effective because under his leadership, all our basic needs were met.  Obviously we felt belonging, because he made it clear that we were important to him.  Our power need was met because he constantly gave us messages that the work we were doing was important and valued.  He trusted us to make decisions and didn’t micromanage, fulfilling our freedom need.  And because we all liked him and had a good relationship, we had fun.  We did a lot of teasing and laughing together.

So often when someone enters a position of authority, it seems that their main concern is to demonstrate that they have the skills and talent to be the boss.  They feel the need to prove themselves.

How ironic that it’s actually when you shift the focus off of yourself and instead appreciate others that you become an awesome leader.

No matter what our job, all of us at some point find ourselves in a higher position in the hierarchy.  Think about how you interact with parents, the support staff, or the custodial staff.  And no matter what your position, we are always in a position of power with our students.

In these situations, do find that you more concerned with people recognizing your talents, or do you make a point of recognizing theirs?

Do You Make Those Around You Better?

Teddy

Nothing I like better than to spend a Sunday evening watching my beloved Minnesota Vikings kick butt!  But this week, something other than just football caught my attention.

One of Teddy Bridgewater’s teammates was talking about what it’s like to play with him as the quarterback.  The line that caught me was when he explained that playing with Teddy made you want to be a better person.  He said that Teddy is always calm under pressure, and that watching the way he handles himself makes others want to do the same.

This made me think of a conversation I had with a leader who was sharing the frustration they have been experiencing with managing their staff.  He told me that he was seriously considering “giving people a taste of their own medicine” by treating them with the same lack of respect that they were showing to others.

What do you think the chances are that this strategy will cause his staff to wake up and realize the error of their ways?  I think it’s vastly more likely that disrespect will breed further disrespect.

I’ve heard the same theory applied to children’s behaviour, too.  It’s easy to slip into thinking that we can teach by causing someone else to feel as badly as they’ve made us feel.

The problem is that behaviour is driven by the pictures in our head.  If people don’t have a picture in their heads of how to be a positive force, they cannot achieve it.  In every interaction we have with others throughout our day, we have a choice to make.  Are we going to react to the situations around us, and justify our actions because of the challenge of a situation and the fact that “everyone else is doing it”?  Or will we choose to be like Teddy, and be a role model for others of how to handle yourself with grace and strength in spite of the stress of the situation?

 

Back At It!

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The first day of school always floods my mind with memories…. The crispness of the fall air, the pile of shiny new school supplies, the excitement of reuniting with friends I hadn’t seen since spring. For those of us who grew up and chose to work in the education system, the emotions that arise at this time of year run even deeper than that which are brought with these nostalgic childhood images. We know the incredible power of education, and how it can change people’s lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the thrill that comes from having the opportunity to really make a difference in the world. That first day of school is so exciting!

But if we are going to serve our students well, it’s important to remember that not everyone experiences this day in the same way. For some, there may be embarrassment about not being able to afford all the new clothes and supplies that others have.  It may mark the return to a place where they are excluded on a daily basis from feeling like a part of the group. It may signify many torturous hours to come of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by academics that they just never seem to be able to grasp.  Although we may do our best to instill in our students the idea that there is a world of possibilities open to them, some will not believe that this applies to them.

Let’s make sure that we remain open to understanding the reality of every student that comes through our doors this September. Otherwise, we may miss the opportunity to create the connection with a child that is needed to help them grow and flourish to their fullest potential.

All the best to each of you this school year!

Simple Thing That Aren’t That Simple

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I love those moments where the basis of Restitution is reinforced by new research and findings from completely unrelated fields. It’s what makes me confident that the principles we teach are solid – not only does my own experience tell me this, but others are finding the same to be true.

I had one of these moments the other day in a training session I attended. The presenter was talking about the importance of organizations being confident in their core values and beliefs, and how without this, a business cannot succeed.

He challenged us to come up with a statement that outlines the core values of the organizations for which we work.

Seems simple enough. But it was stunning to me to see what happened next.

People talked about how we provide high quality educational experiences.

They spoke of helping people develop competency.

They talked about providing a skilled workforce, and helping people to find fulfilling careers.

It all sounded pretty inspiring. Until the presenter pointed out that these statements are not statements of belief, but that they are statements of what we are doing. To get to the level of beliefs, we need to ask ourselves, “Why do we do these things?”

We do them because education is important.

Because we believe that all people deserve the opportunity to find fulfilling work.

Because we believe that in order to keep our community strong, people need to find educational opportunities close to home.

Why is it so hard to talk about what we believe?

When you meet someone, one of the first questions asked is “What do you do?” But when you really get to know someone, you know so much more that simply who they are. You know what they stand for, and what is important to them. Imagine if instead of asking someone for a job title, if instead we were to ask a person why they do the work that they do.

It made me wonder – if we spent a bit more time thinking about why we do things, instead of what we are doing, is it possible that our behaviour would be less reactive, and more purposeful?