After spending a few hours last Sunday prepping all of my food for the upcoming week (meal planning, chopping vegetables for lunch salads, cooking and storing dinner for four nights, etc.), I began to think about how we prepare for success in life and at work. I prep my food for the week so that I can be successful in my healthy eating, which leads to less stress, more weight loss, and a better feeling overall (my word of the year IS rejuvenate!). When I was a teacher I never thought about the preparation of my leaders (though I noticed when there was a lack of preparation!). I believe I assumed they were naturally gifted at on-the-spot presentations and I just hoped that skill would appear in my toolbox someday.
I’ve worked with new leaders who enter into a position assuming that all leaders are naturally gifted speakers who can jump up at a moment’s notice to give an important presentation or open up a full-day of professional learning or provide a teacher with meaningful, relevant feedback. One of the first items I coach new leaders about is preparing for success. Leaders are made in the preparation. Yes, there are good leaders who can think on their feet and be eloquent. And the more experience you have, and the clearer your own personal mission is, the more you can grow into this. However, the vast majority of people I know and have worked with, speak more articulately when they have taken the time to reflect about the comments they plan to make. It is well worth it to make time in our schedules to prepare for important events so that we communicate our vision.
Every time a leader speaks, they are sharing their beliefs. A well-spoken leader demonstrates care for the content, the people, the teamwork, and the vision. A leader who jokes around but never addresses the purpose can appear to not care about the learning or the people within their system. The first few minutes of a professional learning opportunity can make or break it for participants. A clear, focused, opening that sets the purpose of the day, aligned with the vision of the system, with an acknowledgment of the specific people in the room who took time out of their lives for this learning event, can draw people into the learning. A different opening can turn them off quickly.
I think we would be wise to make our preparation more public so that aspiring leaders can see that inspiring leadership takes time, just like great teaching takes time. Teachers work so hard to be prepared for students’ success. I would like others to realize that all of the amazing leaders I have worked for and with have also worked hard to prepare for success.