Honesty Is Such A Lonely Word

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 8.05.00 AM“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” –Thomas Jefferson

I was reading a message from a friend who wants to improve his product.  I said I’d give my honest opinion. The other day, I looked at a website. I said, “Looks good–news features are solid, a little intellectual for the topic, it’s clean, designs okay.”  It seemed like there was a disconnect I couldn’t put my finger on though.

“Really?” said my friend, “You’re the only one who likes it.” Well, then, either I’m stupid or a renegade. Either could be true.

“Who’s your market?” He told me. The market wasn’t me–it was my students. I knew exactly what needed to be done. I was honest.

Honesty’s tough to get. When you have people who will be honest, it’s gold. Not simply honesty–you can get that anywhere… “Do you think I look fat?” “Yeah, actually, I saw a picture of a cow and thought of you…” “If there’s a dumber person in the universe, I haven’t met him.” Not that kind of honesty–honesty with love.

Honesty’s no good unless it comes from place in the heart and soul that makes you want to be a better human being, even while you’re having the tough conversations.

I’ve learned volumes about honesly. I was setting up this blog. None of the names worked. My friend Kamal, the author, was helping–he’s plays the “no BS card” well, so he often gets veto power somewhere in the process. It goes like this:

“I was thinking of doing…”

“No, that won’t work.”

“Oh.” Repeat convo ten times. I used to get frustrated–nearly gave up on this blog.

If you’re not going to do this right, don’t bother doing it. Quit right now!” Doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. I set up a template under cover of darkness, so I wouldn’t be caught and told “no.” I’d get it running and surprise him. Truth was, my ego was bruised. Didn’t want to hear “no” again. Even if he was right.

“Is that you following me on WordPress?” How did he catch me? “You can’t call it that. “Wittischism?” That’s no good.”

Too clever. You can’t use words no one knows. NO ONE can spell that. Don’t use double letters. Short as possible. Try again.

The arrows flew. I hung my head and slunk away. Eventually, I succeeded. I love where I am today. Honesty with love…it’s magic.

Anyone can be a critic. But “honesty with love” means you want that person to succeed. “What do you really think of this?” When I am open to that conversation, I leave the table a much better person. My work is better. I am better. I am excited to improve. It’s game changing.

We are trying to do this in education. We’re not there yet. We’re in a very destructive place. We’ve set up a system intended to open the doors to feedback and dialogue, but made it so high-stakes and data-oriented, that it’s become “subjective honesty with fear” instead of “honesty with love.”

This year, I was afraid–terrified. Bad evals based on rubric checkboxes, coming up short on goals I wasn’t quite sure how to design…I was depressed. My husband told me I needed professional help. And that I was forbidden to talk about education at home anymore. Instead of getting help, I planted vegetables. There’s no copay involved and I can eat them.

The Right Kind of Feedback Matters

The Right Kind of Feedback Matters

We can solve issues in education by using “feedback with love.” Include the voice of the students, and do the hardest thing of all–set our own egos aside, and be willing to really listen and handle the truth.

When I look at someone’s manuscript, blog, or product, I know if I say, “Yeah, it’s good,” and it’s not, they suffer down the road–their product won’t be useful and it won’t sell. All because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. That’s how it must be in education–groups of straightforward people inspiring each other to greatness. Right now, I do this with EdCamps and Twitter chats like #satchat and #edchatri,  We can do better. The technology’s there.

If we get this right in education, the paradigm shifts. Recognize everyone’s talent and promote feedback by taking away certification-ending fear. Everyone needs growth and we’re all experts in Our Thing. Put the politics aside and say, “It would be helpful if you’d…” or “Let’s try…” Game changing.

Can we think outside the box on this one?

Can we think outside the box on this one?

When fear, not love, is present, we shrivel up. Instead of seeking out others to exchange ideas, we sink further into our shell. It’s what’s happening now. It’s a place we don’t want to be.

Education needs “honesty with love.”  I asked my friend to tell me how he knows he’s a good doctor. People still get sick and injured. He’s the best. He knows. Even without a rubric.

Here’s the key: Hire good people. Treat them like they’re gold. As a business owner, this is critical. Because of this, we saw growth off the charts in one of the worst economies. We trust our stars to do their jobs with integrity and enthusiasm. The results don’t lie.

Loosening up the reins isn’t easy, but it’s the highest form of leadership. Nothing makes me work harder than when a visionary high-fives me. Nothing stifles my spirit more than micromanagement and fear. Let’s get out of the fear zone and into the vision zone in every area of our lives. It makes all the difference.

I can do better. We can do better, with a lot less effort–using honestly, openness, and feedback with love. Our results won’t lie either.

[images: dailyvowelmovement.com, ibikeburlington.com, thislifeasiloveit.blogspot.com]

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4 thoughts on “Honesty Is Such A Lonely Word

  1. Last year I was promoted in my job. It was a rare thing, because the regional director at that time didn’t like to promote from within, preferring instead to make one transfer.

    I was made Supervisor of my department after having come up through the ranks in that same department. Prior to me being in charge there was a heavy cloud of if you screw up, you’ll get written up hanging over us.

    I told my “CEO” that I believed that people work better when they don’t have to come in every day and be fearful of being punished for making the any mistake whatsoever. I told her that if they feel comfortable enough to make a mistake, that those mistakes would decrease and eventually disappear. It also opens up the honesty and integrity, because now they won’t be fearful and try to cover up their mistakes. I work in a very high accountability and security oriented field. A mistake for us can have SERIOUS repercussions. But I told them going in that if you cover up something, I can’t help you. If you come forward it right away and it’s fixable, then we can get in front of it, fix it, and THEN fix why it went wrong.

    As of right now my department is running the best it ever has. I look forward to our quarterly review because the results will show that. But honesty with love puts a stronger bond within whatever group you are in, whether leading or following. Where there is no fear, results flourish.

    • That’s awesome. I agree entirely, and that’s what I’d like to see… My husband and I are discussing this post now–he’s concerned that I define my discussion on education more, and that I stay away from the ed-rant–I never want to do that:) I believe you can solve problems when you take the approach you took. He’s right in that there are so many layers of people invested in their own ideas–easy to get a bruised ego, and a special person to let go of that control.

      • I have read Maxwell… my husband reads leadership books all the time–I always read heavy social history. I read leadership books now….rarely “education” books…

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