Cross-posted from Wonder Explore Learn August 16, 2017 | Katherine Goyette
In reflecting upon my work as an educational leader, I have found that I must start not with Why, but Who. This past October I began developing a vision to create a global network for educational leaders, Site Leaders Connect. The vision was to spark innovation through collaborative conversations, to build capacity and affect change through connections amongst educational leaders. I have had the opportunity to begin crystallizing this vision and iterating logistics of the project with support through the Google Certified Innovator program. I began the project with my vision; yet, Google’s design thinking process, from its outset, emphasized the end user, the WHO. One of the first activities we took part in before the GCI Academy in Toronto (#TOR16) was an empathy map. Using the design thinking process, we began with the end user in mind. I interviewed site leaders to ensure that the Site Leaders Connect vision matched their needs.
This process was quite valuable for me, as it fueled the work with a purpose that extends beyond an abstract idea. Just as I had begun to wonder if Site Leaders Connect was even necessary or beneficial, if I would be able to make a difference, I was called upon to create this empathy map. This process of going back to the WHO, interviewing these individuals that the project would affect, reminded me of the importance of my work.
As a site leader, when I would begin to get lost in the logistics of my position, I would walk classrooms, talk to students, and get my grounding back by focusing on the WHO. This always managed to increase my productivity and motivate me to continue in my work. The Google Certified Innovator program reminded me to begin with WHO. However, I have found that in implementing Site Leaders Connect, I must continually go back to the WHO. Site Leaders Connect, and any work I do, must be led by not my vision, but by the needs of its members. I have once again realized that I must focus on people, not projects. Whose vision is it anyway? If my work is led by MY vision, by MY why, I have lost the entire purpose. I am at a point in this process that I needed to go back to the WHO, to allow the end user to lead. It is only when we empower others that we will be most effective. It is not about me, it is about those I serve. This revelation caused me to interview my WHO, my end-user, once again. As a result of this process, I have retooled Site Leaders Connect with ways to place members in charge of the entire network, to truly become a facilitator of learning that meets people where they are. This will create a more customized experience that amplifies and celebrates strengths of team members. None of this iteration would have occurred if I had not gone back to the WHO.
Speaking of the importance of people not projects, of the WHO as opposed to our own WHY…As I was writing this blogpost, my favorite 6 year old, Ashleigh Juarez – toothless (she asked I include not only her picture but also her name & latest nickname), approached me and asked what I was writing about. How fitting to be interrupted. To be reminded that people, the WHO, are more important than any project we implement. As a leader, as an educator, as a human being, do not forget your WHO. If your why is not led by a who, I challenge you to refocus on what is most important. I challenge you to lead not with why, but with who.
Google Certified Innovator (#TOR16)
Educational Technology & Integrated Studies Consultant
Tulare County Office of Education