Being influential: What does it take?

Here are 3 skills you can learn to make more of a difference

[Editor’s note: This is the ninth installment in Jennifer Abrams’ ‘Personal Development’ column for eSchool News. In her columns, Abrams focuses on leadership skills for anyone working in a school or district. Read more about the column here.]  

I coach many a teacher who shares with me that they are frustrated with the system in which they work. They have ideas to make things better but complain that no one listens. I have been there. I was that teacher, frustrated with my ability to make a difference in a bigger way. What would it take to be of more influence?

When I went to get my credential, I learned how to teach students but didn’t get any coursework or learning in how to work effectively with adults. If you want to increase your scope of influence beyond your students and your classroom, there are skills you can learn that make a difference. Here are just three.

1. Don’t just have complaints. Have suggestions.
I mentioned this a few columns ago in my column “How do I share something challenging with my supervisor?” but it bears repeating here.

Recently I was on a conference call with two administrators who were open to hearing their faculty’s frustration for how things had gone this past year and their need for more transparency around decisions, their concern around how discipline has been handled, and their need for communication around the rollouts of new initiatives. For these administrators it is hard to listen to negative feedback from faculty. What might have had more influence would have been if the teachers had offered a set of suggestions for what could be changed for everyone: what the teachers could do differently on their end and any possible next steps for the school at large.

Delivering complaints without possible solutions on both sides is a better guarantee of not getting what you want. Taking ownership and responsibility of some of the next steps and offering suggestions—and not complaints—makes you more influential in the long run.

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