When I first started the ETMOOC adventure, one question I was asking was, “Can I have some new glasses, please?” I knew I wanted to expose myself to new ways of thinking and grow in my ability to communicate, share, and learn from others online. I had also been thinking a lot about how to help others transform the way they view the importance of connecting with others and building relationships, both online and face-to-face. ETMOOC has helped me to see and experience the power of my online connections and how social media can play an important role in developing/fostering them. The recent webinars and blog posts by those in the ETMOOC community begged the question, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” Huh? Where did that come from? Let me explain.
It’s the classic question referring to the circular cause and effect relationship between at least two different things. This is important as we look to promote change in not only how we SEE (paradigm shift), but how we BEHAVE (actions) and SPEAK (language). So the question is, what comes first, the paradigm shift or actions or words? Most would say we have to change the way we see things before our behavior or speech will change. But is that really the case?
While educational leader/consultant George Couros (@gcouros) was speaking about networked educational leadership (see presentation here) in a recent webinar for ETMOOC, he focused on the role social media can play in leadership and developing relationships/culture in the school setting. He addressed how we can lead/influence others and create change, and the role character and credibility (trust, integrity) play in that process. As he shared his ideas and experiences, he made a couple of statements that grabbed my attention.
The first statement was “Covey (Stephen) says that great leaders have great character and credibility.” I’m a huge fan of both Stephen R. Covey (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) and his son Stephen M. Covey (The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Change Everything). When I was working for a nonprofit doing social work/counseling, our staff read and practiced the principles in the Seven Habits book. Our focus was on strengthening relationships through character and credibility. We developed core values and a mission statement that we worked to live out as an organization. And our mission wasn’t about serving ourselves. It was sharing ourselves. We experienced not only a lot of growth personally, but also in our organization and our connections with those we served. It connected us together in new ways as we shared a new paradigm, new behaviors, and new words. As George C. was speaking, I was remembering back to those experiences.
Next, George C. went on to say that these qualities of character (integrity) and credibility (trust) can be amplified through social media. How we speak in social media says something about who we are, what we know, and what we care about. It’s not just about pushing out information. That’s not where community or influence comes from. Being involved in the social media environment gives us a place to reveal ourselves in relationship. Sharing what we’re doing, what we know and think about (authentically), what we’re passionate about, can have a powerful influence on those around us. We have the opportunity to authentically share ourselves with others in a way that would not have been possible just a few years ago.
“Social media wasn’t growing like gangbusters simply because Mark Zuckerberg built a better widget. It was growing because as human beings, we all have a deep connection to openness and authenticity.” (Notter and Grant, 2011). We all want trust in our relationships. We all desire to be heard and valued. And that has been the experience for many of us during these first few weeks as we’ve joined together in community and developed some beginning bonds and a voice. But speaking/showing ourselves through social media is only one dimension. If it doesn’t translate to our face-to-face relationships, something is missing. George shared how his life online spurred him on to better face-to-face relationships, which in turn influences his online relationships.
I’m sure that one of the goals of those leading ETMOOC is that we would experience some paradigm shifts, that is, see things differently than before. But George C., his brother Alec Couros (@courosa), and the other ETMOOC leaders have clearly shared a desire to see us BEHAVE and SPEAK in a way that will help us build strong, trusting, connected relationships with students, colleagues, and other members in our sphere of influence. But where does it start for us? Stephen M. Covey, in his book, “The Speed of Trust,” helps us answer the question, “What comes first?”
The paradigm shift is only ONE of three important dimensions. “Clearly, the three dimensions are interdependent, and whenever you effect a change in one dimension, you effect change in all three.” For this reason, Covey believes that we must focus on all three dimensions – seeing, speaking, and behaving, so that we have not only the paradigms, but also the words (language) and behaviors (actions) that establish and grow trust.” (Speed of Trust, 2006)
Covey continues by saying that “…I am equally convinced that speaking and behaving differently can also have an enormous impact on the way you see and the results you get. The very act of serving someone, for example, can quickly cause you to see that person differently—even to feel love and compassion which you have not felt before. I call this a behavior shift— a shift in which our behaviors ultimately bring about a shift in the way we see the world. I am also convinced of the power of a language shift. The way we talk about things can create a shift in how we see and how we behave, as well as in how others see us.”
So as we continue this journey together, remember that our ETMOOC experience isn’t just about seeing things in a new way as we take in what others share. It is the words of encouragement to others as they share an idea. It builds trust and confidence in others. It is taking a risk to reveal ourselves authentically for others, so that they in turn will have the courage to do so. It builds credibility. In the process, we are changed and others benefit. We have the opportunity to influence others by our example and watch to see how they respond. That’s one of the things I appreciate about our ETMOOC. We are all at a different place in this journey. Change and connections to the community of learners may start with our thinking, our words, or our actions. It’s really how we connect to the experience.
For most of us, our learning communities are lagging behind in one or more of these areas in regards to connected learning. How will we respond? How will we approach influencing others to change? How can we connect with them to encourage them to change? For most of us, it will be in small ways, ways that do make a difference. Let’s use the strength of our character and credibility, with knowledge and skills, to make a difference. Because trusting relationships can change everything.