I used to think that management meant control! This came, perhaps, from my experience as a hockey official. I was a referee from the time I was 11 years old until very recently (26 years altogether). I was able to pursue this passion to some pretty high levels, culminating in 12 years with the Western Hockey League. At my best, I was commended for managing games well, and this meant that I was in control: Of my emotions, of the players’ actions, and of many other aspects of the game. When I began teaching I brought this same mentality with me to the classroom. I sought control over every aspect of MY room, from assignments, to seating, to who was allowed to speak and when. I now know control is simply a matter of perception and it is not in a causal relationship with management. Where I used to think control and structure lead to relationships I was able to build, I now believe I was able to build those relationships despite my approach, not because of it.
I learned though experience, research and a lot of failure, any perceived benefits I was seeing in my practice from control could be reached in other ways (innovative ways as it were). I learned building relationships and trust is the best form of management there is! While it took years to acknowledge this, and even longer to find the words to describe it, I finally feel I have a framework to speak about my own practice.
I saw my career pass before my eyes when I first read The Innovator’s Mindset as a teacher. I saw moments where I let my need for control erode away, and focused instead on innovative ways to meet the needs of students. Moments where student voice and choice lead to experiences not possible in a classroom governed by a control mindset. The irony for me has been the more control I gave up, the better my management seemed to be.
As I have now transitioned to an administrative role as acting vice principal of my school, I have returned to the Innovator’s Mindset to help me in preparing to serve teachers. This idea of control and management has been central to the approach I am now taking with staff. “If we want meaningful change, we have to make a connection to the heart before we can make a connection to the mind.” (Couros, 2015, Pg. 78). For me this is about the move from exerting control to the building of relationships and trust in moving staff forward. I have seen the negative impact on a staff when control was exerted at the expense of relationships. In my experience this type of control, at best, leads to compliance; compliance in turn can be a recipe for mediocrity or worse. I want to move our school beyond compliance and mediocrity! This is where I think the characteristics of the innovative leader (Page 88-90) can help. These are characteristics I aspire to use in serving my school community……and not one of them is about control!