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A small, five letter word that carries more weight than almost anything else in our lives. A huge component of good leadership is building trust. Most of the time, the focus of the conversation is about building trust within a team, with colleagues, etc. Rarely, does that conversation shift to the other side of the coin.

*Enter Ashley, stage right*

Today, I would like to focus on that often forgotten side – deciding who and what you should trust. How do you decide where to place your trust? No, it’s not a rhetorical question. I want you to honestly answer. What are the qualities that you look for in a person that you consider trustworthy? How do you decide if a program or practice is worthy of your time & effort? Who do you listen to as a respected authority? The list you develop is undoubtedly related to the sum total of your experiences as a person, including your morals, values, and experiences. That means that everyone’s answer will be unique to them. Some people will base things on competence. You’re looking for accomplishments, accolades, degrees, etc. Others will focus on relationships. They’re looking for past experiences, relatability, and even trusting their gut feelings about a person. Still others will mention some combination of both. There is no right or wrong answer. The point of this post is not to steer you down any single path; it’s to get you to reflect about how you make decisions, specifically as they relate to trust.

I, for one, fall into the category of people that first look for competency-based trust. How do I know that you are qualified in this area? Why should I listen to you? Do I trust this person, software, etc. to do its job? What do the data, reviews, etc. say? I could continue, but the list would be longer than this post. My gut feeling is great, but if it’s not backed up by facts I don’t completely trust it. That often leads me down the same path when it’s time to make decisions. As a leader that can be helpful, but it can also be a hinderance to decision-making. Additionally, it makes me considerably less likely to take uncalculated risks. It’s something that I have been focusing on as a growth area. No, that doesn’t mean I don’t require facts to move forward (though I am sure that there are many people who wish that were the case, lol). It’s means I’m a work in progress, and I’m learning to value other’s decisions regarding where to place trust.

As a focus for my professional growth, this path has led me to become a better leader for my team. Understanding how they make trust-based decisions, and trusting that they are making the right decisions is a big part of being a leader and growing leaders. As such, my focus has shifted away from “what would I do in this situation,” and entered a new territory that I am honestly not sure how to describe. It has taken work for me to sit back and just observe. I’ve learned that this new realm requires balance. There are times to trust, and there are times to step in. I have made blunders in both areas, but I continue to learn and grow from these missteps. It is my intent to continue to learn and grow in this area.

So often in our careers we find ourselves experiencing the same things & the same types of disappointment over time. We often look outward for the cause. However, many times the answers that we are looking for can only be found by looking inward. Let’s all take a moment to look inward.

Where do you need to grow as it relates to trust? What steps can you take to hold yourself accountable for growth in this part of your journey?

I invite you to start right here and right now. Leave a comment to let me know what you will do to stretch yourself. Be sure to add your thoughts to your personal journal so that you can hold yourself accountable for the new trust goal(s) that you set. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Full Circle

There seems to always come a time when you realize that things do indeed come full circle. For me, that time is now. I have used this blog as way to try to chronicle my journey through an official leadership title. I use the word try very generously. Sometimes I do great, other times not so great. Periods of great insight tend to be followed by even longer periods of silence. The posts in my drafts always seem to outnumber the posts that have been published. Through it all, I have tried to share without censoring my feelings, perspectives, and opinions. For the most part, I feel successful in that endeavor.

Today I find myself at a familiar crossroads (to play on another cliche). I am at another point in my journey where I have to make a decision. Upon deeper reflection, I can say it’s likely not a crossroads but rather a fork in the road. I find myself staring down two very different roads/paths. I have to make a decision, and a decision that feels all too familiar. This isn’t about a job or career choice either. It’s about destiny. It’s about looking in the mirror and asking myself “how bad do you want it?” and then going after it. The fullness of the circle being me finding myself right back here.

The problem with things coming full circle is simple; a circle is 360 degrees. That means I’m right back in the exact same place I’ve found myself in before. That means I haven’t made the progress I thought I had made. It’s like being on a ride at the county fair all over again. It’s thrilling & fun, and then when it stops, you’re right back where you started. It’s fun when you’re a child, maybe even as an adolescent or young adult. As a grown woman, quite frankly, I’m over it.

And so I find myself looking back over all of the decisions that I’ve made, because everything is a decision, even deciding not to do anything at all. I’m looking at these decisions with a critical eye. I don’t look with a negative, self-critical agenda. Instead, I look with an eye for detail(s). What decision(s) did I make as I approached 90 degrees? 180 degrees? 270 degrees? Those are the decisions that led me back to this point. Those are the decisions that I want to understand better. What was my driving motivation behind them? Is there something that I need to be healed from that will allow me to make different decisions this time around?

If COVID-19 has taught me nothing else, it has taught me the value of true community. It has taught me that the people in your village (both personal and professional) will always hold you accountable for making better decisions. It has taught me that there are people who hang out near your village but are not a part of it. It has taught me that everyone who claps with you isn’t clapping for you. It has taught me that the values that I hold dear are what truly matters. It has taught me that taking time to slow down is what we all need, and that it shouldn’t take a global pandemic for it to happen.

Today I pledge to get off of the ride, and leave the circle behind. Here’s to a future of decisions that come from a place of wholeness, and to roads that lead to new adventures. Here’s to overcoming obstacles and enjoying the journey. Here’s to committing to discovering our destiny, and making the decisions that will ultimately lead us there!

Navigating Landmines

I’ve been looking at my blog dashboard, staring at the unpublished drafts of post from the last 6-12 months. There are so many things that I wanted to share, but I chickened out when it was time to publish them. Why, you ask? Honestly, it’s because I don’t like playing politics and there are so many hidden politics in education it’s unreal. Sometimes it feels like I’m walking through an old landmine. I know I’ve said this before, but transparency is not always well received in this industry. But I still feel an obligation to share my journey, and I plan to do just that!

I wish I could tell you that I am not nervous about it, but that would be a lie. It’s important to me that when I share my journey, I share all of it: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And while it’s one of my core beliefs, it also still scares me. But one of my absolute favorite quotes simply says this, “So you’re afraid. Good. Be afraid and do it anyway.” That’s been on of my anchoring principles throughout my life. That last part that says “do it anyway” reminds me that fear is going to come up. There’s nothing that any of us can do to control that. But we can control how we respond to fear.

The next post you read on this site will be an honest reflection of my leadership journey through public education. It is my sincere hope that through the experiences shared here, we can ALL learn how to better lead, serve, & guide those charged to our care.