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Are We Encouraging or Discouraging Others?

Picture This:

A teacher has a sudden source of inspiration and brainstorms a project she is excited about. The teacher realizes the project is a little "outside the box," but she is sure her students will love the activity.

Before implementing the idea into her classroom, the teacher decides to ask her principal for approval. The teacher enters the principal's office, beaming with enthusiasm. She describes the project, explaining how her kids will enjoy the lesson and also how the new learning will connect to course standards.

The principal listens as the teacher speaks. He can see the teacher's enthusiasm for the project. Clearly, the students will have a great time. He also agrees the lesson will meet the students' learning needs.

When the teacher finishes speaking, the principal has an opportunity to provide a response. Because he likes to give advice, the principal immediately thinks of how this project could be better. Thinking he is helping, he says, "Good idea, but it'd be better if you tried it this way..."

The teacher listens, and quickly realizes how much of the project will change if the principal's suggestions are implemented. The teacher starts to feel her enthusiasm slip away. She wonders if the project is really worth the hassle.

When the principal finishes speaking the teacher nods her head in agreement and thanks the principal for his time. The teacher says she will take the suggestions into consideration and rework the lesson.

The teacher leaves the office, and on the way back to her room she decides to scrap the project all together.


As leaders, when someone comes to us excited with an idea we must realize sometimes it's better just to say "Great idea!" as opposed to saying "Good idea, but it'd be better if you tried it this way..."

Don't get me wrong. I love giving advice. I have a natural desire to want to help others, and am eager to provide suggestions that will help others be successful. But I must realize when I give advice, what I am really gaining in return? Sure, my suggestion may have slightly improved the quality of the idea. However, I must realize that I've also greatly reduced the employee's ownership of the project.

When staff members come to us with new ideas, there are two possible results when they leave our discussion: Employees are either more excited or less excited about their idea.

Assuming the project fits our school's mission and values, our goal for the discussion should be that teachers leave more excited about their idea.


Looking for a good book discussing the importance of encouraging others? Consider reading What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith.



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