This past Friday night I was talking with my friend Kim who is a Project Manager with Hitachi, pretty much the computer world's equivalent of a principal. Although Kim is in the business world and I am in the education world, the two of us are very in sync about how we feel about leadership: we both know it should be influential and inspirational rather than demanding and forceful. It is for this reason that we often find ourselves comparing ideas and then tweaking each other's successes and applying them to our own field of work.
So, after we shared what leadership-related books we both recently finished and/or are currently reading (Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Drive by Daniel Pink, and Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh), we got talking about how we both struggle with measuring intangibles. Although in two different fields, both Kim and I are motivated to foster the humanity in those we work with. But how does one measure humanity? How do we know that we are growing humanity?
Both Kim and I are tactile and visual people. In fact, we originally bonded not through our common leadership styles and beliefs but through our love of quilting and painting. We both love to create with our hands and see the finished product upon completion. With quilts and with paintings, you can see results far before the finished project takes hold. When working on a quilt, there are stages of progress: fabric selection, washing and ironing all fabrics, cutting all the shapes from the fabrics, laying out the fabrics, piecing together the quilt top, cutting and placing the batting in the center, attaching the bottom to the top via a quilting pattern, adding the binding, and THEN the finished project can be seen. Incrementally, progress can be seen and measured. Likewise, when working on a painting, there are stages of progress: stretching and setting the canvas, doing the base layer/background, working in the midground of the picture, working on the foreground of the picture, adding shading and/or light, glazing, and THEN the final painting is ready to be shared with others. Again, incrementally progress can be seen and measured. When you measure success and growth in stages, it motivates you to keep going and ensure you that you're on the right track. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. Both Kim and I would love to have that same feeling in our work lives as well...
This inspired a brainstorm session, so while our husbands sat on the couch watching the Wild game and playing with Kim's two Goldens (they had both had a long week), Kim and I took to our phones to see what others in similar situations have done or are doing. We especially were looking for something that would appease our desire to be tactile/visual. And what did we settle on? Vision Boards.
If you go to Google Images and search "Vision Boards" you will get a lot of fluffy looking boards held together in part by white ribbons where women have made vision boards pertaining to their perfect weddings. Look further and you will find some images of vision boards pertaining to individuals' dream homes, ideal careers, and/or perfect vacations. If you keep looking you will find what Kim and I are going to each try to create: a vision board focused on making the intangible tangible as a way to keep focused on our shared goal of fostering humanity. The one we stumbled upon that we both loved is a grid: at the top is the guiding principal, at the bottom is the why and the ideal outcome(s), and in the middle are the steps we plan to take to get from one to the other. (For me, it might look something like "foster humanity" at the top; improved student-teacher, teacher-teacher, and teacher-administrator relationships are built and in turn higher engagement and learning is seen in the classrooms; and face-to-face meetings, teacher-chosen topics at our Tuesday after-school meetings, and other such activities in the middle.) We also stumbled upon a Ted Talk from 2014 that we really liked that might help us in our attempt to go visual: “Draw Your Future" by Patti Dobrowolski (https://youtu.be/A7KRSCyLqc4).
I'll have to let you know how it goes.
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