This exercise is derived from Sullivan & Glanz's (2006) sweeping exploration of school leadership processes.  The authors discuss the nature of necessary 'assertion messages'. That is, when leaders must communicate feelings and needs without making a listener defensive.  This is an essential skill for efficient leaders needing to drive change and improvement in dynamic working environments, while keeping staff on board and motivated.  However it is also potentially an empowering strategy which any professional might benefit from deploying once in a while.

The approach looks something like this:

  1. Provide a non-judgmental description of the situation or behaviour which you believe needs to change;
  2. Explain your feelings on the matter;
  3. Point out the effect the situation or behaviour is having on you or your work.

The complex processes of leadership are perhaps over-simplified in this example.  Nevertheless it prompted me to consider how we could learn from times at which we either fail to assert ourselves, or perhaps over-assert our opinions on others.  Reflect on the following - writing in detail about what happened - in order to learn about your reactions to different situations, and consider the nature of the paths you might take in the future.
  • Reflect on a situation when you felt that someone, or perhaps a processes or procedure, intruded on you or your ability to do your work, but you did not assert yourself. What happened?
  • Reflect on a time when you were assertive and perhaps set about voicing your concerns in order to protected yourself. What happened?
  • What conclusions can you draw from these situations, which might inform your reactions in the future?
(Sullivan & Glanz 2006)

Sullivan, S. & Glanz, J. (2006) Building Effective Learning Communities: Strategies for Leadership, Learning, & Collaboration. California: Corwin Press.

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Regards, DJA