Monday, March 30, 2009
Tell Me Why
I filled in as a substitute teacher last Friday at a high school near my home. The coach who I was filling in for, left nothing but a sheet of riddles for the students to ponder to kill the time (yes, the teacher was a coach... stereotype accomplished). Having dealt with teens before, I knew that I had to make the riddles worth their time. Teens are no different from any other person you'll come in contact with. If they feel like you are being disrespectful of them, they're more likely to treat you with disrespect. And wasting anyone's time (even a teenager's) with "busy work" that wouldn't have any impact on them or the reason why they are there, is disrespectful.
The class was supposed to be a teen leadership class, so, I decided to explain why the riddles were important in leadership. We did the riddles together as a class. Then discussed how many of the riddles had different possible answers. The great thing was that some of the students had answers but couldn't explain why or how their answers were correct. One student even looked up the answers on his iPhone but still couldn't explain why the answer he had written down was correct. Therefore other students were doubtful and reluctant to follow his lead in writing down his answers. It was clear to see, however, that some other students had a reason for answering a certain way, were passionate about it, and could communicate that reasoning and therefore were able to lead the rest of the group to their way of thinking and even to changing their answer.
The key to this: Understanding and being able to clearly communicate why you believe a certain way or believe in taking certain action is more important in building a following than whether or not you know the expected "correct" answer. Many times people are willing to take a chance and follow you if they know why. Life is not an elementary school flash card. People don't care who's first in shouting a flippant solution. Knowing why your solution is best, and being able to communicate that with passion to you followers is key.
Are there things you're sure of but you're not sure why you're sure?