Leadership magazine Sept/Oct 2018 V48 No. 1 - Page 33

in the Luther Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections (prison). We had been asked to work with capital offenders between the ages of 17-21 in a leadership skills program that was a pilot for the system. I had spent the first day going over the neuroscience of the brain and what causes “amygdala hijack- ings” and, in their cases, led to their being in prison. The second day was very stormy with heavy rains in the forecast as I drove up. We began with a review of the previous les- sons on how the brain works and the effects of stress and threat on our response systems. That’s when a tornado hit the prison. The lights, power, backup generators, locks and everything electronic failed. I was in a room with 27 capital offenders by myself. Now, I have a question we should all con- sider. How safe are you in the relationships you have around you? Have you done what you can do to build the best relationships you can... no matte r who it is with? So, let me tell you what happened. One of the guys asked, “Mr. Flip, are you okay?” I quickly responded, “I’m not afraid of the dark so I’m all right.” We all laughed as they knew they were talking about my being with them in a totally black room with no guards. While we sat there discussing what was going on, a riot broke out in an- other part of the prison. Fifty people went to the hospital that day. Another question: Do you think there were guards in the prison that day that were very much at risk? The resounding answer was yes. And, the reason is simple; they had little or no appropriate relationship with the inmates. In several scenarios, a few of them had been unduly harsh and abusive. In the most dangerous scenarios, in war, prisons, schools, businesses and in every arena we all work, the defining characteris- tic of safety is the relationship we have with those around us (On Killing, Dave Gross- man). Every psychological researcher and author of note speaks clearly and compel- lingly about the need for trust and psycho- logical and emotional safety in individuals and groups. This is not a difficult term to grasp. The question is how can we create that environment in our schools. That is what the little boy. She needs a “Bigger Clicker” and not an excuse for her lack of depth and abil- ity to love him and tend to the need she has inside. There are few institutions today that have as much access to children as educators and have the opportunity to model appro- priate behaviors. As educators, we are their path to a successful, hope-filled life. If any- one is positioned to provide socio-emotional equity to children, it’s educators. We can do it by creating an intentional culture aligned to socio-emotional, academic and psycho- logical safety outcomes. “One of the guys asked, “Mr. Flip, are you okay?” I quickly responded, “I’m not afraid of the dark so I’m all right.” Flippen Group does, and our supporting re- search is compelling. We can travel the world and stay totally wired to anyone, anywhere, yet we are with- out deep meaningful relationships in un- precedented numbers, which presents an amazing opportunity. Yes, we can complain about the situation, but I have never found that to be helpful. I remember this old cow- boy saying, “The deepest manure ultimately becomes the best fertilizer.” This is an op- portunity for us to grow each other. If kids come to us traumatized, disconnected, bro- ken, alone, and despondent, then please tell me who is better than parents and teachers to be the ones to fill those gaps and heal those hurts? The challenge is actually di- rected more to educators because statistics show that we spend more time with kids than their parents. Kids want to be with adults that like them, love them, challenge them, encour- age them, affirm and celebrate them. All of us want to be with these people. Even when we are disciplined or corrected we want it to come from someone who has our best inter- ests at heart. I recently heard a teacher say that she just didn’t “click” with a particular Cultures in the classroom, the board- room, on a plane or anywhere else are de- fined by the collective behaviors of the people within them. If you want to “create” a culture (remember there is one, whether intentionally created or not), then you do it through behaviors. This is also true if you are working to change a culture. The more variability you have in behaviors the more variability you will have in outcomes. We all know what a great culture feels like on a campus; you can see it and feel it within minutes of being there. This is the result of intentional behaviors that are aligned, practiced, supported and accepted. There is a need to clarify a point here: If you allow or ignore an unacceptable behavior, then it becomes acceptable. If we tolerate the intol- erable and accept the unacceptable then we can’t complain about the outcomes; we are the ones who created them. When developing a culture, it’s impor- tant to understand the underlying theories that impact our efforts. For instance, Albert Bandura, social cognitive theorist, posits ap- proximately 70percent of all learning is from modeling (Bandura, 1986). This is especially true for younger children. For those of us who have raised kids, we’ve seen this played out watching them mimic our voice tone, body language and facial expressions in role plays. However, if children are exposed to conflicting signals from parents and/or in- appropriate modeling by adult supervisors, it can create cognitive dissonance. We have known cognitive dissonance outcomes since 1957 when Leon Festinger first referenced and defined the term in his book “A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance” (Festinger, 1957). September | October 2018 33