Friday, February 6, 2009

What we Influence

I was thinking today, after meeting with a group of teachers, about something I had recently read by Doug Reeves in his book, Daily Disciplines of Leadership. In the book, Reeves talks about the concept of leaders, if they wish to be effective, needing to influence behavior, not attitude or beliefs. No matter how impassioned our beliefs may be, they do not persist if not accompanied by successful behavior. He goes on to say that all this talk about creating "buy-in," the stuff that causes people to get on board, is not even necessary if we cannot first influence behavior.

He has a point. Acceptance comes only after successful experience. We have to go through some turbulent times, including reluctance and opposition, before we can expect to change deep-seated belief. Think about the student sitting in the back of a classroom, working the math problem that is just not clicking in her brain. Her eyes are glazed and she scoots lower in her seat, hoping against all hope that her teacher will not notice her. The great teacher will notice her, however, but this is a topic for another post...

This student might have a deep-seated belief that she cannot "do math." This belief probably pervades her every thought when she hears the word math. Her parents probably tell her that we weren't good in math either, honey.

This pattern can only be broken when the great teacher takes the time to show her just how easy it can be, maybe showing her that there are more ways than one to get to the same answer.

This pattern will only be broken when this student experiences success.

As with the teacher who has taught the same way year after year, and therefore does not believe there is another way, so, too, the way with the student.

Acceptance comes only after successful experience.