Is it possible to have high expectations in the classroom, school, system, office or district without putting undue pressure and constraints on the community/environment? I believe it is. It begins and ends with positive and supportive relationships that you establish on the front end or along the way in the work while collaboratively creating clear action steps to overcoming constraints.
I am a huge fan of Capturing Kids Hearts. I have practiced the core values of Flippen Leadership my entire career as a teacher and leader. Under time constraints, do we always have the luxury of establishing firm relationships before we have to start giving coaching feedback or diving into the work together? Unfortunately, no. You have to give yourself permission to take the time to work on the relationships if possible. We don't always have that luxury though.
Back in my cheer coaching days, I remember some brutal conversations that the girls would have with each other as big performances were approaching that often led to major conflict in our team. One instance was a very touchy situation where a young lady had gained some weight and her uniform was clearly TOO TIGHT. One of the other cheerleaders walked up to her and just stated the obvious in a negative tone, "Your uniform is too tight." The girl's crushed face and tears were heart breaking. That took some work to try to bring the team positively back together before the competition.
I remember thinking, you better have a deep relationship with me before you walk up and tell me that my uniform is too tight. It's all in how the conversation could have been navigated. How about offering to go get a salad for lunch, take an extra fitness class together, or ask your teammate if they want any support in such a sensitive area of life? Let your quiet actions mirror your values: bring water for everyone to drink on breaks rather than soda, bring fruit for snacks instead of the junk food most had on hand, provide positive reinforcement on what that teammate does to add value to your group. The bottom line is you better make sure that you have made some deposits in the emotional bank account before you start making withdrawals (Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
Coaching is sensitive work, and stating the obvious frustrates. Making comments, criticisms or suggestions on someone's craft is just as sensitive as commenting on someone's weight. I wouldn't tell a child repeatedly that she is 2 years behind her peers much like I wouldn't appreciate someone telling me that I need to lose 10 lbs. True or not, the problem becomes too overwhelming, and the child much like any adult will shut down.
Are you focusing on the problem or are you building the supports to get your team to achieving the vision? I believe in beginning whole group with goal setting and creating a shared vision, navigating into small groups (professional learning communities for adults), and then getting into personal coaching. I also don't believe you should start coaching on an expectation that you have not explicitly taught or assessed to establish present levels of performance. We don't always have the time for this value, but not taking the time can have more costs in the end. I've navigated this mistake too often.
Can you ignore the obvious? No. Acknowledge where you are starting from and then work together to create the steps to achieve the vision. I have a high appreciation for people in my life who can respect that I am intelligent enough to see the obvious. What gives each of us hope is working together to set the plan to overcome adversities, support weaknesses without focusing on them, and positively move forward with a lot of encouragement and celebrations of victories along the way.
Eric Jensen states that the number 1 factor in overcoming any adversity is the belief that you can. Belief inspires hope which inspires the mindset to grow. I want to encourage each of you today to dream, create a vision, and to face adversities head on with an attitude of victory as you collaborate on the steps needed to overcome!
How can you walk alongside your team to support the growth to meeting the vision? Recognize the strengths of the team, use a good to great model to analyze your system, offer to lead a book study, start a forum for an open dialogue around a critical growth area like a new methodology that might positively impact the group, or offer some team building ideas that might support the team in the area of struggle. It's easy to say someone needs to be a professional and educate themselves; it's admirable to offer to get in the trenches with someone and lead the way.