“Every new experience brings its own maturity and a greater clarity of vision.” — Indira Gandhi
I’m a firm believer just because a person has been doing something for a long time doesn’t mean they’re any good at it. We see it everyday throughout a number of professions in our society. Sometimes experience doesn’t matter. It really is unfortunate too. The opportunities that each of us have from learning from our triumphs and mistakes should be one of the reasons we get out of bed each day. No matter what you do for a living, it’s what we do with our experiences that will lead to our success.
As a building administrator, I have a responsibility to learn from my experiences. Each day after work when I discuss my experiences with my wife, I can’t help but think of how my thought process and decision making has changed over the years due to my experiences. I approached situations differently when I was a young teacher and administrator mainly due to a lack of experience in the different positions. As I’ve gotten older and experienced different aspects of leadership, I have benefited from pairing my experiences with reflection in order to grow.
I have the privilege of connecting with leaders each day from all over the world. The really good leaders also learn from their experiences. They utilize their experiences to improve their leadership in the classroom and building. Everyone can see it by viewing these great leaders interactions and shares on social media each day. They learn from their own mistakes, from other’s mistakes, their own success and their colleagues success to become better. Not only are they growing from their own experiences, they are using others experiences as well to make their leadership stronger.
To fully utilize our experiences, we need to follow certain steps:
Reflect on our Daily Decisions
Reflecting allows us to look back and learn more about our decisions. What were the outcomes? Who was impacted? Did we consider all the details? We learn by what we do, what we experience. We can’t go through our day without reflecting on our decisions and expect to be great leaders. This includes teachers and aspiring administrators. Reflect each day on the different decisions you had to make in the classroom, as advisors, as coaches and in our department meetings. This is a great way to demonstrate concrete examples of leadership. What were the leadership situations? How were they addressed? What was your role? This is a great way to build your leadership experiences and reflect on your own practice.
Ask Others for Feedback
Its easy to make decisions and never look back. While the decision may have been made, if you don’t get feedback from others, you won’t know if it was the best decision. There are many ways to get feedback to enrich experiences: ask colleagues you work with for their input, seek out members of your personal learning network, and ask the parties who were involved in the decision or situation. Solicit input buy utilizing surveys or allowing stakeholders to share their thoughts. Find ways to gather feedback even if you don’t look good in the end. Gathering feedback will help you down the road and create memorable impressions that will affect your experiences and decision making for years to come.
Allow Personalized Professional Learning to Shape Our Experiences
Take time to read books, blog posts, articles and websites. Listen to podcasts and webinars to increase your knowledge base. Gather the information you sustain from these resources and use them to help you get better. Professional learning plays a huge part in making each of us stronger. We apply what we learn to our experiences in the present and in the future. I personally know of many books and podcasts that have affected my decision making and helped make me a better leader. I’m not wiser than someone else or more detail oriented than another leader. It’s the fact I make the time to read and listen to podcasts and webinars. I have a desire to enrich my life experiences to get better. It has proven to be successful for me in the past, so why go away from it?
You can follow the steps mentioned above and continue to struggle as a leader. The foundation of using your experiences to be a better leader is actually caring about what you do. If you don’t want to be great, your experiences won’t help you. As leaders in the classroom and in buildings, everyone around us deserves better. They deserve our best. But we as leaders have to want to change and move forward. Make the decision to help foster your leadership with your experiences. If you don’t build your leadership from your experiences, you are just another person doing something for a long time. And that doesn’t make anyone better. It just makes them older.