Every three weeks, I get my nails done. It’s something I look forward to- for a variety of reasons. To start, I love choosing a new color and the look of a fresh manicure. But I also enjoy the conversations I have with my nail technician. I’ve been going to see her for over six years now.
We have plenty to talk about when I’m in the chair, but what I love most is listening to her talk about her work. Listening to how people think about their work and approach their work has always been very interesting to me. Since I didn’t ask for her permission to write this post, I will leave her name out, but she takes great pride in her work and takes great care of her clients. She books up quickly and is probably the most requested technician in the entire nail salon.
When she goes out of town, other nail technicians panic because they know that her clients have high expectations. She sets the bar very high. She often teases that she wishes that I wouldn’t come in to see someone else when she is away because she doesn’t want them to “mess them up.” Ha! But in all seriousness, she is also a team player. She has high expectations for herself in the way she takes care of others and takes care of the salon. I love watching her swoop in to help someone find that one specific nail color that they just can’t seem to locate or the way she notices there is a problem at the front desk, and then chimes in with the answer the receptionist needed in just the nick of time.
This got me thinking about high expectations in general. We know that high expectations for learning in the classroom are important. But perhaps equally if not more important, are the expectations we set for ourselves as professionals.
And as far as high expectations go, my expectations are highest when it comes to how we treat each other. There are plenty of other things that are important and necessary, but if we aren’t treating each other well, we have nothing.
Treating each other well can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people, but here are just a few ways (this is not a comprehensive list) that I think we could make a big difference in how our schools and organizations feel every day:
See People versus Seeing Through People
People before task. Connection before content. This we know to be true. But it runs deeper than that. I was watching a tv show the other day and a character said something that really struck me. He said, “He really sees me. Other people see through me, but he sees me.” I’m not entirely sure what the intended meaning was here, but to me, truly seeing people means truly listening and being present. Not listening to respond. Listening to understand. I also think it means truly focusing on a person and what they have to say versus going somewhere else in your mind. This has happened to me before. I’ve been “listening” to someone and likely nodding along with what they are saying, but I’m somewhere else entirely. Seeing people means giving them the care and attention they deserve. Every person in our organization has something they can teach us. Every individual brings value and assets. Every human being is worthy of being known. It’s one of our most basic needs as human beings – to be known. Know names. Pronounce them correctly. Address people correctly. And wherever we are with others, let’s be all there. Be all there – a lot of times. Proximity builds trust. The more true connection and togetherness we experience, the higher levels of trust we have. When trust is high, performance is more likely to be high too.
Hard Talks Should Be Talks not Emails
We’ve all gotten emails that made our heart sink. You know which ones I’m talking about – the ones filled with big scary emotions. People who are mad. People who are sad. People who are scared. People who are all of those things. Often, when people are really in it…whatever it is…what they need most is to know that someone cares and that they are not alone. Even if we don’t agree on what should happen next, we can still be in it together. And it’s really difficult to feel like you are working on something together when you are behind keyboards. It’s a lot easier to feel a sense of care when you can hear someone’s voice or when you can see someone’s face. Just because someone sends us something in an email doesn’t mean that our full response needs to be in an email. I’ve often written back something along these lines, “Thank you for trusting me with your concerns. This feels really important. Is there a good time for me to give you a call? It’s important to me that we have the opportunity to connect.” No one has ever been mad that I wanted to make space for a phone conversation. Things tend to move more smoothly when we can talk it out versus replying in emails. Tone is easily misunderstood in email and so many minutes are lost trying to get the words in the email right. This approach might seem like it would take longer, but I assure you, it often takes less time in the end. Less time spent in misunderstandings.
Follow Through & Learn in Front of Others
One of the best ways to build relationships and trust is to do what you say you’re going to do. If you say you are going to get back with someone, get back with someone. And even better, let them know when you will get back with them and then do so – on time. If it’s sooner, even better. Under-promise and overdeliver is a great way to take good care of internal and external customers. But additionally, if you don’t know, say you don’t know but that you will find out and get back with people or connect them directly with the people who do know. And when you get it wrong, say you got it wrong. Say you’re sorry. When your words or actions negatively impact another person, apologize. Learn from it. It’s not about intent. It’s about impact. Making it right is more important than being right. Practice being deeply human in front of other people by sharing what you learned from mistakes. It makes talking about mistakes and learning from them more “normal” in the workplace when we model it for others. There are no perfect people, so let’s stop pretending to have it all together. More authenticity and honest conversations are needed in schools. Artificial harmony is not going to take us where we need to go.
As I’ve said before, my expectations for learning are high. My expectations for how we treat each other are higher.
What are some ways that you are ridiculously in charge of your impact on other people?
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