It’s 5 minutes before the “starting time” of our Collaborative Inquiry sessions on Monday morning. The junior staffs along with their principals are gathered and excited to begin our day together. The ministry folks have arrived. Our team is gathering tools and posters and preparing the tables for the busy day of strategizing ahead. The room is a BUZZ with activity.
First up on the agenda, after our prayer, is a reflective review of where they left off last time. Each school had prepared a poster with their Inquiry Question, their Theories of Action, and their plans for data/evidence collection and next steps. Each session, we begin by taking a pulse of how they made out with their plan. They use red, yellow and green sticky dots to reflect on how they made out with each part of their plan. This task is completed on a large poster so that they can then use the poster later in the day to present to other schools. It has worked very well all year to keep our teams focused and the dialogue related to the action plan for the students.
So as we scramble as a team to prepare each school’s materials, a sick feeling starts to hit me. The posters are not where they should be. A new member of our team is scrambling along side of me helping me look for them. I’m trying to appear calm, in order to model effective professional behavior to one of our newest members of our team. Must model organization, preparedness, control, calmness, right? The ministry ladies come over to chat and see if I need them to help with setting up anything (NO! I scream in my head, just let me think!), the other team members are scurrying about trying to help and obviously starting to sense my angst.
The only option was to admit defeat. I turned to our newest member of our team and said “Oh no… the posters are in my garage.” Actually, you can substitute another word for “oh no” because I believe I may have even done that in the heat of the moment. I just thought I had better keep an appropriate title for this blog post.
The next thing that happened just makes me realize what it truly means to be a member of a team. Everyone jumped into problem solving mode with 2 minutes to starting time. Blank posters were created, team members dug up old notes from the previous session, about three different people offered to drive to my house, and a couple of others offered to cover while I went home to get them. However, it was starting time. There was no other option than for me to admit defeat and “roll with it”.
After we prayed together as a community, I welcomed the teams and we began our session with the message of how “collaborative inquiry can be messy”. It’s ok not to be perfect at everything we are trying to accomplish. Everything we do is a learning opportunity. It was a perfect moment to admit to the entire room of teachers, principals, ministry folks and team members (and obviously to myself), that our posters were in my garage. What happened next makes me realize how very hard we are on ourselves. They thought it was funny. They laughed at my imperfection. I even heard, “Thank God, you are human,” from the crowd. I had beat myself up for 5 minutes (which honestly seemed like three hours) and they laughed and appreciated that I was human.
Being a perfectionist is hard work. I remember reading a long time ago “Perfectionism can drive you to the dredges of destruction”. When I read that, I thought it was quite harsh at the time. Probably because the truth of that statement scared me immensely. But over the years, I’ve realized that it is quite true. Just this morning I was also reminded of this in a blogpost by Daniel Pink which allowed me to reflect once again on the view of perfectionism and the choice I need to make regarding this quality in myself.
We all “leave the posters in our garage” at some time or other in our lives. We do this because we are not perfect. And, since no one is perfect, it’s much easier to admit your mistake, laugh it off and move on, with the help and support of your team around you. I’ve learned that most people (the ones that matter) will appreciate the fact that you are human, and really don’t mind that you are not perfect. In fact, they will appreciate that you are not perfect.
So try it. Admit that you left the posters in your garage…