When Christopher Hoffman, EGUSD’s district’s superintendent, offered his top leaders the book “Leadership and Self-Deception,” to read, some thought it was just another leadership book and some thought it might be “another initiative.”
It’s not just another initiative. The “outward mindset” concept explained in the book helps EGUSD leaders self-reflect on the lens they are using before or while interacting with staff, students and parents. The hope is that by providing this type of professional development, the cause of conflicts will be better understood, which will enable greater understanding for improving the outcomes for students. Hoffman describes the concept as “being open to the humanity of each person you come in contact with.”
About two years ago, EGUSD partnered with The Arbinger Institute. According to its website, the institute “can positively affect an organization’s culture, resolve conflict and facilitate dramatically better organizational results.” Several Fortune 500 companies, municipal governments and professional sports teams have partnered with the institute.
Hoffman expects it will take three to five years before the vision is rolled out to the entire school district, which is the fifth-largest in California (63,000 students and 7,000 staff members), and now more than ever he sees the need to shorten that timeline.
This year, more than 300 staff members were trained by EGUSD trainers and more trainers will be added this summer. After reading “Leadership and Self-Deception,” and having gone through the training, principals and staff are seeing how this cultural shift in mindset can improve relationships at school and in their personal lives.
The focus of the ‘outward mindset’
Richard Gutierrez, a new principal at Valley High School, says he likes the concept’s emphasis on engaging with others.
“This training has taught me how to reach out to staff, our communities and families,” Gutierrez says. “It has given me an opportunity to see what areas I need to focus on—such as communicating with others and understanding what everyone’s needs are. This training has given me a new perspective that I can share with my staff.”
Charles Amey, principal at Edward Harris Junior Middle School, said the concept has helped him to put others first.
“I learned how to take a step back and realize that our staff members have a million other things going on in their personal lives outside of the school day—whether it’s taking care of a sick parent or a child with special needs,” Amey says. “As a whole, we need to be sensitive to the needs of our staff.”
Maria Osborne, principal at Cosumnes Oaks High School, said what’s she learning about the “outward mindset” matches her core beliefs.
“It has always been a goal of mine to work in a community that values the ‘outward mindset,’” Osborne says. “So much of the work aligns with the core values of who I am. It has shown me that I’m working where I want to work with the people whom I want to work with. I appreciate what we’re doing, because there’s no greater strength than unity.”