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Jennifer Berry Crucial Conversations & Facilitative Leadership Reflections Dr.

Francine Riddick Northeast Leadership Academy, NCSU

Crucial Conversations and Facilitative Leadership Reflection Paper Crucial Conversations This school year, I have had the opportunity to serve on a team of seven individuals who design professional development for the district focused on the Common Core and Essential Standards. As you can imagine, with a team of seven strong personalities, we often found ourselves stuck this year during group planning times. At the beginning of the year, we all agreed to six norms that we would conduct all PLC meetings and PD planning sessions with. However, we often found that norms were ignored, and no one was willing to address the situation. One of the largest problems that we faced this year was the overwhelming feeling of discontent. Many of us who had taken this position felt that what we had been told our jobs would be was not what our jobs actually were. After one particularly long day of listening to several officemates voice their frustrations, I found myself thinking that this was not an environment that was conducive to producing constructive work. I had reached the point where the negativity of others was affecting my own job performance, and I decided that this would be a great opportunity to practice my Crucial Conversations skills. Our team had become stuck and was no longer able to function as a productive team. In order to get unstuck, our team needed to begin a dialogue where we could all openly express how we felt in a safe environment and find a way to address the issues we were having in a way that would allow our team to move forward. I realized that I was part of the problem because I had moved to silence along with my other team members, while a few had resorted to violence. No one was willing to openly address the issues we were having with each other or with our boss, and if no one was willing to discuss the issues,

Jennifer Berry Crucial Conversations & Facilitative Leadership Reflections Dr. Francine Riddick Northeast Leadership Academy, NCSU

then a positive solution could never be reached. I decided that I needed to identify what my own motives in this process were. I realized that when it came to speaking up and addressing my concerns, I typically resorted to silence and the Suckers Choice because I was concerned that when I spoke up, what I said would come out the wrong way and be misinterpreted by others and thereby make others not want to work with me. Upon selfreflection, I also realized that because I held in what I wanted to say, I would often have my emotions build up which in the end would cause me to speak in anger when I finally did speak. As a team, our problem was two-fold: we were not willing to hold each other accountable to our own agreed upon norms, and we were not willing to address our team concerns to our boss because we all seemed to feel that she was unapproachable. So as a team, we had all made the Suckers Choice to not say anything because we had convinced ourselves that approaching our boss or each other wouldnt actually change anything about our job, and we felt stuck in our positions without any other options. My motive for wanting a Crucial Conversation to address the negative atmosphere was to find a proactive solution to our team concerns as well as the foreseeable concerns of our boss. I wanted to create a proposal for our boss that would change the responsibilities of our job positions in a way that would still accomplish the purpose that our positions had been established for as well as addressing the concerns of our team in a way that we could all be happy. To address the teams job concerns, I talked with each team member and asked them to share with me what their concerns were and what they would want out of their position that would make them happy. To ensure that everyone felt safe to contribute to the Pool of Shared Meaning, I constantly reminded myself of my motives in order to listen carefully to

Jennifer Berry Crucial Conversations & Facilitative Leadership Reflections Dr. Francine Riddick Northeast Leadership Academy, NCSU

what each person said without commenting or judging what they had to say. Once I thought that I understood what everyone wanted, I drafted a proposal to our boss for a change in our job responsibilities based on everyones input and our bosss communicated vision and goals for our department. I thought long and hard about how I would present my idea to the team, and on the day of our weekly PLC meeting, I presented the proposal to the team. However, I got so nervous that I immediately started off the conversation the wrong way by reverting back to my reptilian self. A safe environment was not established that could create dialogue, and I noticed that people had instantly resorted to silence for some and violence for others. As soon as I realized what I had done, I stopped, apologized, and asked if we could start the conversation again. This time I began by establishing a mutual purpose for the conversation. We all agreed that we were unhappy with our current roles and agreed that the only way to fix it was to offer a proactive solution to our boss. Once we had all established a mutual purpose, the conversation was able to continue. I used the skills from STATE My Path to share the facts that we all agreed on being sure to stop frequently and re-state what others had said to be sure that I had understood everyone. Then I used the Tell Your Story strategy to explain why I had come to the decision to write the new job proposal and then I Asked for Others Paths by asking the rest of the team to share their opinions on the proposal. In the end we all contributed to modifications in the proposal and agreed as a team to present it to our boss. When I look back on this experience, I wish that I had had my Facilitative Leadership training then. By using the tools from that training, I would have been able to create more ownership of the problem and the solution as well as creating a shared

Jennifer Berry Crucial Conversations & Facilitative Leadership Reflections Dr. Francine Riddick Northeast Leadership Academy, NCSU

proposal that was created from the start by all of us. I think it would have helped to make the process go much more smoothly. From a Crucial Conversations perspective though, I realize that I am not even close to mastering these skills, and I will have to practice them daily in order for them to come more naturally and to become automatic. I definitely see the benefit of the skills, and this training has made me a much more reflective listener and observer and has made me more reflective on the conversations that I have with others daily.

Jennifer Berry Crucial Conversations & Facilitative Leadership Reflections Dr. Francine Riddick Northeast Leadership Academy, NCSU

Facilitative Leadership Through my experiences both as a teacher and as an instructional coach working for and observing the administrators in my schools, I have found that each administrator had a different view on the role of participation by teachers and other stakeholders in the decision-making process. Upon reflection, I realize now that those decisions had a direct impact on teacher morale and the willingness of the staff to change. The one principal that I worked for who highly encouraged participative decision-making at all levels had a great relationship with both the staff and the parents. After completing this training, I realize now that he was using a lot of the strategies from this training. Many of the concepts that we explored are great tools for creating involvement and ownership of the school and the change process. I found that I have attempted to use almost all of them since this training because I see how valuable and powerful they can be. This school year our PD team completed a book study on Evaluating Professional Development by Thomas Guskey. While completing the Facilitative Leadership training, I found myself reflecting a great deal on what our team had learned from this book study and thinking how well the ideas meshed with the training. Part of the training looked at how to find a balance in focus between process, results, and relationship. This section also emphasized the importance of setting clear, measurable goals and performance indicators. As our team moved through the Guskey book study, he also emphasized the importance of having clearly defined goals and defining what success looks like. Both Guskey and Facilitative Leadership emphasized the importance of constant evaluation and reflection to determine if the goals are being met. Because of this book study, I feel that our team was inadvertently doing some of the practices from Facilitative Leadership without even

Jennifer Berry Crucial Conversations & Facilitative Leadership Reflections Dr. Francine Riddick Northeast Leadership Academy, NCSU

realizing it. For each professional development session that we planned, we set out clear goals of what we wanted to achieve with the training and defined what teachers would know and be able to do as a result of the training. We would also end each training with an exit ticket or survey for participants to give feedback on how well they thought that the goals had been achieved, and the following day any team members who had worked on planning and implementing the session would meet to debrief on the session and look at any plus/deltas for the session. In terms of planning, I think this really helped our sessions to be more focused and beneficial to the participants. However, as a team we tended to focus heavily on the process and results piece and neglected the relationships portion resulting in a very dysfunctional team at times. From a district perspective, I often find it difficult to see how to gain Maximum Appropriate Involvement on a large-scale level. I feel that often, a few key stakeholders at the top make decisions, and then those decisions are handed down to the people expected to carry out the decisions without any input from them. This year the PD Team frequently designed and delivered PD sessions to teachers without any input from the teachers about what their data stated they needed to have PD on. A great example of this is the five days of required PD on the Common Core this year. The first two days of PD were designed based on what my boss and her boss had decided that the teachers needed to know. No one asked the teachers or principals what they already knew or what they felt they needed to learn more about in order to be prepared to teach the new standards next year. This, of course, resulted in a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest among the teachers and administrators, as they felt no ownership in the decisions that had been made. In order to remedy this, the district then conducted focus groups at each school to gather input from

Jennifer Berry Crucial Conversations & Facilitative Leadership Reflections Dr. Francine Riddick Northeast Leadership Academy, NCSU

each schools leadership team on what the teachers in their schools wanted PD on in relation to the Common Core. This information was reviewed and has been used to design a three day Curriculum and Instruction Institute that will offer a variety of sessions in which teachers can choose from and participate. From the perspective of a building level administrator, my experiences this year have taught me the importance of transparency and to be willing to seek involvement and input from everyone in my building. Adults dont want to be treated like children; they are educated adults and want to be respected and treated as such. By seeking as much involvement as is appropriate to the decisions being made, the principal is able to get a better, multi-faceted view of the issues that affect the school while getting buy-in at all levels in a way that will support positive and lasting changes within the school. The section Design Pathways to Action also stood out to me as the information reminded me of what I had read in Dr. Militellos book Leading with Inquiry and Action. Although I have not actively tried any of the tools and strategies from this section, I understand the importance of creating a strategic plan to identify and address problems within a school. This section also compliments the section on Share an Inspiring Vision. In order for a school to move forward, everyone needs to see the bigger picture and possibilities for the school. Otherwise, how will you know what the ultimate goal for success will look like, and how will you know when youve arrived? All stakeholders need to be in agreement on where the school is headed and how the school will get there. Both the vision and the Pathways to Action are integral to developing and implementing the School Improvement Plan. I must admit that I have never worked at a school where there

Jennifer Berry Crucial Conversations & Facilitative Leadership Reflections Dr. Francine Riddick Northeast Leadership Academy, NCSU

was a clear vision or pathway to action, and I feel that these are both key to setting a foundation of successful change within a school. Part of my teams responsibilities this year has been to mentor all of the first and second year teachers in the district, so I found the section on Coach for Performance very useful for working with my mentees. Many of the tools in this section helped me to have discussions with my mentees in which they were able to reflect on some of their practices and come to conclusions on their own without me having to explicitly tell them, You need to do X if you want to achieve Y. And what you were doing really was or wasnt working for your students. I also found myself wishing that I had had this training when I was an Instructional Coach. Part of my job responsibilities then was to observe teachers and provide feedback to them on ways they could improve. I often felt that I was telling teachers what my opinion was and how they needed to change their practices. Now I can see the value in using inquiry and advocacy to help teachers to be more reflective on their own practices. By simply listening and asking questions, the teachers that I worked with previously could have come to the conclusions that I had drawn about their instruction on their own and wouldve, therefore, felt more ownership and willingness to change some of their practices. How you approach the people you work with can affect how they respond, so these tools will be important as an administrator for helping teachers to be more reflective on their instructional practices. As a whole, I think that Crucial Conversations and Facilitative Leadership have been some of the most beneficial trainings that I have been through. Both trainings gave me specific tools and strategies that I can use and begin applying immediately, not just to my professional life, but to my personal life as well. As I often feel that the areas addressed by

Jennifer Berry Crucial Conversations & Facilitative Leadership Reflections Dr. Francine Riddick Northeast Leadership Academy, NCSU

these trainings are my weaknesses as a leader, I am excited to be able to add these trainings to my toolbox.