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June 15, 2012
You see things, and you say, "Why?" But I dream things that never were, and I say, "Why not?"
-George Bernard Shaw
In her Exchange article, "Learning to Play Well With Others," Jeny Searcy talked about her experience as a center director:
"I made it my goal to not only function as the ‘director,’ but to be willing to do whatever the staff had to do. I substituted in the classrooms, I cooked, I fixed toilets, and I planned programs. I kept an open-door policy so that the staff members and parents could visit at any time. I felt that I had to prove I was a member of the team. After six months, I was nominated by all 13 members of the CDC staff as Sunbeam’s Employee of the Month. I thought I had truly arrived as a leader! After all, Roger Neugebauer wrote in Exchange, “The good director doesn’t make people love her, but makes people love to work for her.” I had accomplished that, hadn’t I? I was good — or was I?
"Then I attended a leadership class conducted by author Linda Dowling who had written Mentor Manager/Mentor Parent: How to Develop Responsible People and Build Successful Relationships at Work and at Home (Dowling & Mielenz, 2002). I thought I was on safe ground here. I believed I had proved I was a mentor leader. After all, my staff liked me and I never asked them to do anything that I wasn’t willing to do myself. When I shared this with Ms. Dowling, she replied, 'Jeny, you aren’t being a mentor to your staff; you’re being a martyr.'
"Whoa! All my good ideas and hard work weren’t the right thing? Maybe I needed to stand back a little. At about the same time, I learned the following phrase: 'Good supervision is not what happens when you are there; it is what happens when you are NOT there.' Maybe my being there for the staff at all times was allowing them to lean and NOT allowing them to learn. Maybe I should step back and trust the staff. If I have hired the right people, they don’t need me to do everything for them. As General George S. Patton said, 'Don’t tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with the results.'
"Lesson Learned: Respect and listen to your staff. Currently, I do one-on-one protected reflection time with each staff member 45 minutes each month. I love listening to the teachers’ ideas, their worries, and their joys — and the children, the teachers, and I all benefit."
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