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Inspiration in Exasperation, Part 1

Inspiration can come in so many different ways and at very unexpected moments. It may hit you while in the shower, driving, listening to a speaker, or even during a dream.

Inspiration often emerges through wisdom and experience. It's an instinct that initially has varying degrees of clarity but only becomes realized through deeper thought, extensive investment of time and energy, and relentless persistence.

It's a moment of collision, where the dots connect and something new that may never have existed before suddenly becomes a possibility. Such an exciting and motivating experience happened to me, and it became the spark for the life-changing guidance known as, The Laws of the Grapevine.

 



A moment of inspiration happened to me while driving after an exasperating day. That was certainly not the way I planned to start the week, but it became a Monday that will forever be etched in my memory. 

It was emotional. It was exhausting. But that's par for the course for those who leadespecially in schools. After working for about a decade in higher education and as an entrepreneur in technology services, I was blessed with the privilege of serving as a school administrator.  

That Monday I was out working in the morning drop-off line in front of the school greeting students and parents when suddenly my phone started buzzing with calls and texts:

"You better get over here ASAP. We've got a problem!!!" 

That's the kind of message that rapidly accelerates one's heart rate. My pace was much faster than normal and my mind was racing with so many scenarios.

Was there an accident?
Did someone get hurt?
What's going on?

As I walked into the school office, the room was full and the atmosphere was intense. Parents were mad. Teachers and coaches were mad. Students were mad. Emotions were spilling out all over the room.

Now my job was to quickly restore order and figure out the facts and factors in order to determine the best path of resolution. 

This is one aspect of leadership that is too often underdevelopednavigating through emotionally-charged conflict to produce a wise solution. Depending on one's natural strengths, skills and competencies, and emotional wiring, these situations can have a profound negative impact on the people involved. 

Resiliency, mediation, communication, courage, conflict resolutionthese are only a few of the core competencies that must be on the growth plan for any and every professional leader at all levels. Development of these competencies is fundamental to sustaining a healthy culture and to succession planning.

Meeting with the leaders and teachers involved, I was reminded that the middle school football team had won the league championship on the preceding Saturday. In the midst of the exuberance of the post-game celebration, I learned that the coaches announced to the players and cheerleaders that they could wear their game uniforms to school on Monday. 

Our school had a long tradition of requiring a formal dress uniform on Mondays that was tightly enforced. So, when the students arrived jubilantly in their sports uniforms, the teachers were surprised and opted to enforce the rules regardless of the instructions given by the coaches. That required these students to go to the office, call their parents, and request them to bring the proper dress uniform in order to return to class.

A moment of celebration was turned into a debacle of conflict. 

As you might expect, the parents arrived angry declaring that their students had been "disenfranchised, disgraced, and despised!" Their outrage was somewhat understandable, but the disrespectful behavior from a few was unwarranted.

Unfortunately, the fragility of people in our society, and particularly within the education environment, creates highly emotional and rapidly flammable situations. Rather than respond with wisdom and empathy, the default is reactive indignation and outrage that can only damage relations and make the situation worse.

The rest of the day, and actually that entire week, was spent trying to restore relationships and trust. Damage control consumes valuable energy and focus. When I finally had some time to reflect on these events at the end of the day, I wondered:

  • How we could prevent such a self-inflicted crisis?
  • What adjustments would enable us to resolve conflict more constructively?
  • How could we elevate the level of trust and emotional intelligence throughout our community?

After an exhausting day of meetings and mediations, I was driving home when suddenly inspiration unexpectedly arrived ...

 

(To be continued.)

 

 

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