The Entire Bell Curve

Everything you have ever wanted, is sitting on the other side of fear.

I recently spent a week learning with an amazing group of school leaders working with Hitendra Wadhwa from the Institute for Personal Leadership for the first session with The Holdsworth Center. His work focuses on maximizing your outer impact by first pursuing inner mastery. As busy school leaders, we spend so much time focusing on the outer work – the doing. How often do we spend time working on the inner pieces that drive the work? Hitendra defines the 5 pillars of personal mastery as purpose, wisdom, growth, self-awareness and love. It was a very different experience from the education leadership training I’m used to planning and attending, and I loved it! I took away many great nuggets of learning, a renewed passion and commitment to the work of supporting Texas school leaders and a change in perspective in how I tend to think about others. The cohort of leaders we are working with are truly remarkable people who shared their passion, dedication, vulnerability, hopes and dreams for their students and districts.

In leadership development we often focus on the bell curve and figuring out where our people are. I truly shifted my thinking when he shared this thought:

People are not ON the bell curve, they are the ENTIRE bell curve. – Hitendra Wadhwa

When I think about myself and how I work, this is completely true. Sometimes I am a high performer, at times average, and can be low when I procrastinate on or don’t have a developed skill set yet. It really depends on the task at hand where I would put myself on the bell curve, and I do represent all areas depending on the task. It should be no different for the students or staff we work with on a daily basis. But when I think about others, I usually plug them into one of those categories and watch for evidence that supports my designation. Sometimes people surprise you (at both ends of the curve) with what they accomplish (or don’t).

This is another reason why a growth mindset is critical. When we slap a label onto ourselves or others, people usually live up to that expectation. Our job as leaders is to create an organization where there is a culture of continuous learning for everyone involved – students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members. Mistakes are going to happen and it is only a failure if you don’t learn anything new from the situation.

It is also important to remember also that no one can be a high performer at everything. We are all working on something to get better at (or should be)! I am currently working to absorb as much information as possible about leadership pipeline and talent management for my new role with The Holdsworth Center. It has been a daunting 3 months in a brand new role and at brand new organization. I am definitely all over the bell curve with my own capabilities. New can be hard, but also fun. It is pretty amazing to be creating a new learning organization with smart, dedicated and passionate people. I’m working on my ability to learn, but am excited about what is to come and each day gets a little bit easier!

The great thing about people is they are all different with unique talents. TEPSA’s former Executive Director, Sandi Borden, used to say everyone has their own set of gift and graces, and warts and wrinkles. It always struck me as a funny statement, but also very true. It is a great reminder to look at the whole person and help them grow on their path. People are complex and when we try to put them at one spot on a curve we are doing everyone (including ourselves) a disservice.