Greg Pilewski | October 2014

STEAM Leadership: CREATE New Thinking

I always adopted an open-door policy as a leader.

One of the things I realized was that my staff always enjoyed having some face-time whether formal or informal. I looked forward to those times because it was a great opportunity to connect as people, share relevant information, seek clarity, provide each other with feedback, and think about next steps.

Once, it seemed like it was one of those days when I was on roller-skates.  You know the type of day…..the type of day when you are running from classroom to classroom or meeting to meeting and you get a chance to go back to your office and you see one or two people pointing at you from a distance and then you get to your office and hear a voice say…..“I hate to bother you, but do you have a minute?”

Sound familiar? 

On this particular day, I remember three staff lined up outside my door waiting to see me because they had something that was urgent.  After we solved the problem and they left my office, a well respected colleague of mine came into my office and said “they seem needy….think about how you can make them better at thinking”

I was always open to feedback from my colleagues and those that I supervised.  However, as I reflected upon her comments and stepped back to look at the larger picture…she was right!  I needed to make them better at thinking….new thinking!

How do you make your staff better at thinking and how do you CREATE new thinking? One of the biggest and most challenging lessons I learned early on as a leader was in order to improve human performance you needed to change the way that people think.  The trick is in how to have multiple conversations, while asking multiple questions, so that others have meaningful insights.

One of my favorite leadership books is “Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work” by David Rock.  This book offers a simple brain-based approach to leadership in order to support busy executive leaders with strategies to improve their own as well as their colleagues’ day-to-day thinking. As you reflect upon your own thinking and how to create new STEAM thinking among your staff members, consider how David Rock provides practical strategies for leaders with his CREATE New Thinking Model outlined below (pg. 151).

CREATE New Thinking Model

Current Reality (awareness of dilemma, reflection, question, insight) pg. 155

  • Is this in your top three, five, or ten priorities right now?
  • How committed to changing this issue are you, on a scale of one to ten?
  • How do you feel about the thinking time you have given  this so far?
  • What are you main insights about this issue up to now?
  • On a scale of one to ten, how confident are you that you have all the information you need to act?
  • What’s the insight brewing at the back of your mind?

Explore Alternatives (Turning insight into action) pg. 160

  • What are some possible paths we could take from here?
  • Do you want to explore a few different ideas for how to move this forward?
  • How could I best help you from here?
  • How do you think we might move this insight forward?
  • What are some different ways we could tackle this?
  • Can you see some different angles we could look at this from?

Tap Energy (capitalize on motivation to turn insights into habits) pg. 166

  • Shall we focus on (x) and get more detailed on that?
  • How can I best help you think through how to make this work?
  • Do you want to think through how make this happen?
  • What specifically would you do in this situation?
  • How can I best support you to turn this insight into a habit?
  • Do you want to take some kind of specific action around this?

Do you use any specific strategies as a leader to create new STEAM thinking among your staff?

What “aha” moments have you had as you engage in multiple conversations about STEAM with your staff?

What are your most treasured insights you have gleamed as a STEAM leader?

About the Author

Greg is a former Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and has nearly twenty years of classroom, school-based and district-level leadership experience in five different public school systems. He has a passion for teaching and learning and a commitment to supporting school-level and system-level leaders with integrated and innovative resources. Not only is Greg an accomplished leader and speaker, he’s also an avid tinkerer in his workshop where he enjoys making projects around his historic home for his lovely wife and two Labrador retrievers. You can catch Greg’s insights right here each and every Thursday and contact him directly at: [email protected]