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Who Are Your Advisors?

Recently, I’ve been listening to Barack Obama’s audiobook titled ‘A Promised land’. It’s a fascinating and inspiring recount of his life before and throughout his Presidency. I wasn’t listening for the interest in politics, instead what made him such a great leader.

Like any successful leader, Obama attributes a large portion of his success to the team around him, including his wife, Michelle. This is lesson number one that we can apply to our life in schools; strong family supports help. Outside of his family supports and more specifically, Michelle, his team consisted of experienced political experts who understood America and Obama. Here is our second important lesson, our team around us is crucial. One man who Obama claims to understand him better than anyone else was Reggie Love. Love served as the Special Assistant and Personal Aide, commonly referred to as the Body Man to the President, or iReggie because he had all the essential info stored. Amongst many things, Obama valued Reggie because he describes him as seeing the world through a different window. He’d challenge Obama’s thinking, consider the unconsidered and always add a balanced or counter perspective.

This got me thinking about who our advisors and supports are in schools. Who are the people we seek advice from before we make a big decision? When things go wrong, who do we go to for support? For most of us, it’s generally people who agree with us or validate our attitudes. They may be colleagues, team members, or friends that we know will have a similar view to ours. It’s important to have these people in our corner to help us navigate and overcome our inner voice and feelings.

However, how do we get a balanced or different perspective if we keep going back to those who think as we do? We must have a wide and diverse network. Have you got a Reggie Love in your network? Someone you trust who will look through a different window? Maybe they aren’t even in the school setting.

It sounds simple, but generally, it’s a little more complicated than just finding someone who has a different view and hearing them out, then taking their advice. Seeking feedback and advice from people with a different perspective is not intuitive and can come with threats. It requires a high level of trust and psychological safety. When we disagree with someone’s opinion, we increase the likelihood of conflict arising and self-doubt in our own performance. A disagreement can lead us to feel vulnerable. Why? The psychology behind this indicates that one of the essential components for overall well-being is connecting with more agreeable people and who understand us. But it’s more than just agreeing. It’s about our supporters being empathetic and understanding our needs.

The next time you are about to step into a big decision, stop for a second and make sure that your advisors see the world through every possible window and not just the same window you look through. It may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but a bit of pushback and challenge from those we trust will help us broaden our understanding, perspective on situations and empathy towards others. It will hopefully lead us to become better teachers and leaders.

Check out other articles Simon has written here.