Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Make an impact: what's your influencing style?

A teacher friend on Plurk led me to this article in the Harvard Business Review online. We (my Plurk, I mean, Professional Learning Network) discussed our own influencing styles. Teachers are leaders, and teachers influence many every day of each school year. We have opportunities to influence students, the students' parents, students' friends & siblings. On another level, we influence other teachers, administrators (sometimes), and incoming teachers, too.

Here are the main influencing styles, according to the HBR.

  • Rationalizing
  • Asserting
  • Negotiating
  • Inspiring
  • Bridging
My main styles are rationalizing and negotiating. I rationalize in print every time I write a grant. Every time I discuss the value of virtual schools, I rationalize a unique form of education. Rationalizing can be positive: for me, it means finding the reasons for what I'm doing and sharing those reasons with others. I rationalize by writing letters in support of my favorite candidates for office, too.

Ah, negotiating. Long ago, when I worked in a child care center, I stepped into an argument and removed a pan of heavy serving dishes from the hands of one of the angry staffers. I brought this out of the boxing ring and into the kitchen to prevent breakage and injury, but it turned out to be the move that made the combatants settle down a bit, too. Taking the physical barrier out of the way also made the two feel more equal: one no longer had the tag of "kitchen help" weighing on her - literally or figuratively.

Training peer mediators was a great way to spread my negotiating skills. In training mediators, I had the chance to work with some wonderful students who really cared about making a difference. Non-violent crisis intervention was another valuable training for my peacemaker tendencies. Group facilitation and AODA support group training offered skills for negotiating woven into the counseling techniques.

As for the others -
Asserting: I'm more likely to back down or negotiate a compromise than assert myself too firmly. I consider conflict and fights to be a waste of time and energy. Mediation feels more productive.
Inspiring: Teachers inspire no matter which other style of influence they favor. Every time a student picks up a book we recommend and actually likes it, there's an influence. When a parent hears the same comment from several teachers over a span of years, that parent might begin to listen and accept the influence from school staff. Now that I think of it, inspiring is part of my style, too. I just don't think of it very often.
Bridging: This would seem like a companion for negotiating, but it's actually more of a networking strategy. Connecting with others, building consensus and coalitions, depending on others to return favors, and uniting with an expanded group of like-minded people - salespeople use these skills, political candidates develop and hone theirs, but do teachers work this way? Some do. It's an area where I see a need for growth, at least on a personal level.

Teacher influence , no matter which style, spreads to the general public. We prepare and train hundreds of students who bring their talents and skills to an educated workforce. We attempt to influence those who set policy and write laws; we're not always successful in that arena.

Perhaps a chance in influencing style would help.

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