If you were forced to make a choice between two difficult situations, which would you choose? The lesser of two weevils, of course.
I don’t know about you guys, but I am faced with this type of decision nearly every day. I could come up with a million examples.
For me, it always involves my ability to see into the crystal ball and guess the future outcome of a situation based on past errors in calculation. Generally it is impossible to avoid regrets, so you have to figure out which is less torturous to the most people involved.
Here is my formula for difficult situations.
- Consider my own sanity and wellbeing first and foremost. While this may appear selfish at face value, everyone else is ultimately affected if you become insane and unwell because of your decision.
- Consider others’ happiness and wellbeing. It is nice to see people smile and get their way. I have young children, I know this. But if there is a valuable lesson to be learned in the process, sometimes the bandaid will do more harm than good. Always consider the long term outcome.
- Consider kindness. If you are not kind in your delivery of your decision, regardless of the level of cruelty, it is your lack of kindness that will come back to bite you in the end. Always deliver gently.
- Consider who else is affected. If my family is affected in a negative way, it is a deal breaker. My family comes first.
- Consider the 4 agreements (Be impeccable with your word, Don’t take it personally, Don’t make assumptions, Always do your best). All communication should be routed through these four agreements. Everything that has ever gone wrong in my life has been a result of my choice to ignore one of these.
Every difficult situation should be handled differently based on the circumstances. There will never be a perfect formula. We learn from our past mistakes and make better decisions as we get older and wiser. But we can still make bad decisions even if we are old and wise!
Consider the formula, choose the lesser of two weevils, and take that giant leap of faith that you have made the best decision given the circumstances!
Today's leaders have to be more cooperative and transparent than ever before. How many of us have lived through scandals involving leaders at all levels? How many of us have lost faith in some form of leadership--local workplace leadership and local, state, and national political leadership? I'm sure we could all make a list of leaders who have fallen short. Why do some leaders cause their people to lose faith? Why do some leaders fail?
Looking at successful leaders, it's easy to see why they have remained trustworthy and admirable. Michelle Obama said, "When they go low, we go high." Leaders go high without letting injustices off the hook. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" went high, but he still shared his disappointment with fellow clergy and white moderates for their indifference. Interestingly enough, the second sentence of his letter reads, "Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas." While this might seem like he turned a deaf ear toward critics of his vision, instead he explains that he would not have time to get the "constructive" work done if he responded to those opposed to him and his methods. He listened, but he maintained his vision and continued his work toward justice.
In education today, we have to continue to work toward what is best for our students even in the face of criticism, sometimes disguised in the form of budget cuts or other subtle acts of devaluing education. Educational leaders continue on. Classroom instructors continue on. When the noise gets too loud, we focus even more intently on our classroom and students because this is the daily work that really matters--helping students progress toward their dreams and goals.
Finally, leaders emphasize input and cooperation from a chorus of voices. It's tough to know which words any of us say that may open up a great idea or shut down dialogue--though it's a bit easier to figure that last one out. Being authentic and kind allows all of us to take more risks. In taking risks, we are able to achieve beyond what was thought possible.
As adjunct faculty, our power inside and outside the classroom is like night and day. We are not full-time; our job is always at the whim of funding or enrollment. We don’t advise students or get the chance to participate in most staff meetings. How can someone with so little power have a positive impact on the workplace when they are, by most respects, the lowest member on the totem pole?
The answer is to use the position to your advantage. As an adjunct there is very little danger involved in sharing your ideas or asking questions. You have the advantage of avoiding workplace dynamics, the so-called “water cooler talks” or “he said she said”. As the lowest member on the totem pole, you have the advantage of being part of the team while also being outside of it. It is tough to make enemies as part time staff, so be brave. If you have an idea, go ahead and start talking it over with other adjuncts to see how it is received. If it goes well, suggest it to your advisor or department head. Making suggestions and taking an active part in trying to help those around you will help you shake any feelings of self-doubt you might have. Not all of your ideas might be used right away, but by sharing them, you are showing everyone that you do have ideas, and you do want to help. The other thing you can do is ask questions. You will find that most educators are more than willing to help you in your hour of need. Helping, after all, is part of what defines us as educators. Asking other adjuncts about their ideas or solutions is encouraging to them. When someone comes to you and asks for your help it shows that they have faith in you, that they trust your opinion. Trust and kindness often go hand in hand.
So don’t be afraid to share ideas and ask meaningful questions. By doing these two things a dialogue and community is created. Support others when you see them trying to reach out, and seek out support when you need to. By moving past your fear and realizing the impact you can have, even as an adjunct, you will encourage kindness and understanding in the workplace.
When you speak kindly
The words never disappear
Their light surrounds you
Argh! I have written and discarded many drafts now on the topic of kindness in the workplace. It appears this is my week to deal with ideas of compassion and leadership through a lens of turbulence if I want to write anything meaningful. I’m having a hard time of it, but perhaps writing will help me sort through my conflicted points of view.
In my world, Trump is raging like a temperamental two year old on Twitter, my HOA thinks state laws don’t require compliance, and recent changes on campus have left me wondering about college priorities and a changing vision for the Maricopa Colleges that doesn’t seem well thought out or defined. I know my concerns are valid and other than moving to Canada, I need to find a response to deal with all of instability around me, … but through kindness? Really? Maybe. Perhaps I still need convincing.
People mirror emotions of their leaders and more and more people in power right now are sending the wrong message. Violence and hate crimes are on the rise and normalizing “alternative facts” is part of the daily news. It is heart wrenching. But every so often amidst all the ugliness, a glimmer of humanity is sighted and you realize that compassion in troubled times is a thing of tremendous beauty and power … and suddenly you have hope again.
Right now, a little more kindness on campus will do great things for lifting me up and reminding me what a good community we share. Bring it on! I’m ready to share the good vibes right back with you.
Filed under: Arizona
, Write 6X6
I’m a bit of a Coke-Cola nut and one of my favorite ads of all time is begins with, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke”. As a kid listening to that song I couldn’t think of anything nicer than to share my favorite beverage, sing, and do kind things for other people. Yes, yes as a child you can see that I had some “coke bottle” thick, rose colored glasses, but really what would our campus look like if each of us were intentionally more kind? If we started going above and beyond to spend our days showing kindness to each student, staff, faculty, and administrator we come into contact with, what would the possibilities be? Would we see more smiles, more openness, and even more successes!
If you’ve taken time to read this post I challenge you (as I’ve challenged myself) to focus each day to be kind to those you encounter. I’d enjoy hearing about your experiences over a Coke…on me.