If you were to walk into a meeting, and hand everyone crisp one hundred dollar bills, someone would mutter, “How come you didn’t give us two hundred dollars?”
I was recently talking with a colleague about the negative energy that sometimes pervades education. There is usually one or two people (sometimes more) who will respond negatively no matter the message being conveyed.
As a genuinely positive person, I always try to see the brighter side of things. In fact, it shocks me when someone brings negative energy to something that I see as positive. As a leader, there are only two ways to respond: compounding the negative energy by reacting in kind or continuing to promote positivity in response to the negative energy.
I believe it is the responsibility of an educational leader to bring positive energy, and to rise above the negativity, and make decisions that will benefit students, no matter of the resistance.
Below are several strategies for preventing and dealing with negativity:
Establish group norms. When leading any meetings, establish group norms that place positivity at the forefront of conversations. Let staff members know that meetings will adhere to certain requirements, including positivity and constructive feedback. During your first meeting of the year, provide examples for expected behavior, and allow staff members to contribute to the group norms. Be sure to distribute or post group norms so that everyone is aware and so that expectations are clear.
Emphasize a Solutions Based Culture. Let teachers know that critical and constructive feedback is welcome, as long as the person critiquing is also providing a viable alternative or solution to a problem. You are essentially saying here that it is ok to speak up when something isn’t working, but you also have to share a solution that might work as well. Make meeting sessions and conversations all about solutions versus complaints. Create a solutions based culture where staff members are focused on solving problems instead of complaining about them.
Spread positivity. Model. Model. Model. Like any other teaching strategy or tool that you would like to see teachers using, it is important to model. Let teachers see you as the most positive person in your building or district. When faced with complaints or criticism, respond with only positivity. Show staff members that you are dedicated to leaving a positive impact on everyone – students, staff and parents.
Provide an outlet for critical feedback. One of the most important ways to promote positivity amongst staff members and colleagues is to maintain an open door policy. Allow staff members to speak to you at any point about any concerns that they may have. In addition, provide a procedure or routine for teachers to give critical feedback. It could be a 5 minute Problem Solving Summit during a monthly faculty meeting, or a weekly survey through Google Forms. Show staff members that you are willing to listen to their concerns, and be sure to address any concerns that may arise. If staff members feel like their concerns are being heard, they are less likely to bring negativity to the table.
Be transparent. Make sure that you are open in terms of decision making. Be transparent in making decisions, and let teachers know the WHY behind decisions. Openly sharing information with staff in a timely manner can help to eliminate some of the negativity associated with decisions. This openness, coupled with an always positive message can help to prevent and limit negativity.
What other strategies, ideas or resources do you have for responding to or dealing with negativity? Share in the comments section below.