Both of my boys’ schools have cancelled the traditional prize-giving ceremony for the end of term, to be replaced with a pre-recorded version in September. Apart from the two year-groups who are in full time – who get their awards.
Neither school has explained why. It’s a decision that doesn’t make sense. The kids are gutted.
This is their annual chance to get a pat on the back or a certificate or an aged memorial mug to celebrate their hard work. Recognising and rewarding achievement is essential for children, as well as adults. And it’s not just academic achievement – awards are allocated in line with the schools’ core values – so they include areas like effort and creativity and leadership. The event is like a big party.
By September it will mean much less – especially if it’s pre-recorded; kids live in the moment and two months is a lifetime away. These are children who have already been through so much, having only seen their friends for one day since March. And it’s not like they’ll be doing anything over the summer that will change the decision over who gets which award.
So I wanted to contact both Headmasters to find out whether the decision was reversible – and to suggest an alternative that could be a win-win: that each year-group could have a 30-minute livestream with the Headmaster, with parents in the background, and have as close as possible to a live ceremony before the end of term.
I’ve worked closely with both heads all term, and the governors, including giving them and the teachers free training on shifting to online teaching and making virtual meetings more effective. I have also not been afraid to point out where decisions have been made from fear and were – in the words of the immortal Maz Evans’ Virgo – ‘sub-optimal’.
But my husband freaked out today when he heard I wanted to take action.
“Clare! You’re already the one who has been raising the issues and trying to help all term. I don’t want you getting labelled as a trouble-maker!”
He’s right. Where the mums in the class Whats App groups have been complaining about stuff, I’ve ended up as the one who spoke up. It’s how I’m built – if something is broken and causing people to suffer or struggle and I can do something about it, I do.
It’s why I was able to co-lead a group of 10,000 micro-businesses a few years back and get EU law changed, to allow them to keep trading. Like so many of us, I feel passionately that injustice needs inspired action to change it, not just indignant social media posts and petitions.
But that’s the thing with being a Crusader for Change, especially in a corporate environment: by continually being the one sticking your head above the parapet, you risk being seen as a perpetual trouble-maker who might destabilise the status quo, if they promote you. You get unofficially black-balled for the roles in which you would most excel.
Plus it’s utterly exhausting, taking on everyone else’s ‘monkeys’. When they come to you with their problems and you offer to help, suddenly the monkey-on-their-back that they were feeding becomes yours, and they sigh with relief as they exit ‘stage left’, knowing you’ll sort things for them.
It might be something like a team member who asks you to persuade your company to allow long-term work-from-home, so they can juggle parenting responsibilities with work. Or it might be an in-house process that everyone secretly knows isn’t working, that people realise you know how to fix. Or it might be the quality of food in the office canteen. Or, as happened with a client of mine recently, reports of potential sexual harassment by a C-Suite male member of staff.
Once you know about the problem, you feel compelled to take responsibility for fixing it – you put on your crusader cape.
After all, you’ve had a lifetime of being trained to believe that you’re the one who will take action – who else would?
When you’re leading from your heart in a head-based world, any injustice triggers your inner-indignation button. And whilst, for others, that leads to complaining, with you, it propels you into action.
Making a difference is hard-wired in your DNA. So what can you do?
The key is to shift from being a crusader to being a conduit.
Sometimes you might be the catalyst for change, if it’s your idea, but that still doesn’t mean you have to put it into action. For years, you’ve modelled how to create positive waves of change, and part of being a leader is to support your team members in developing those skills, rather than taking it all upon yourself, even if you’re running an inner-perfectionist streak.
Being a conduit for change means connecting people who feel inspired to take action, helping them to get out of their own way (good old fear and Imposter Syndrome), and supporting them through how to make their voice heard in ways that builds a tribe around them and changes the minds of the key decision-makers.
Letting go of being a crusader and shifting to being the conduit can be tough.
It can be hard to let go of being a crusader – especially since those of us with this trait often had it from early childhood. And there’s a part of us that secretly loves the adrenalin – and often recognition – that comes with the role. It makes us feel alive.
To move beyond crusader into being the conduit for change requires us to let go of some of our hidden unmet needs, to clear out some of our own baggage that can keep us stuck in that behaviour, and to find healthier ways to redirect our passion to make a difference.
And there comes a stage in life where we don’t want to feel like we’re ‘fighting’ all the time – when we yearn to flow, instead of forcing.
The crusader cape is whispering that it wants to take on a different role: creating those waves of change in ways that are more sustainable for you, getting the next generation ready to speak up and take action.
That’s why my certified Imposter Syndrome Mentors get specific training in how to support a client through this journey. And the how-to for you as an individual forms a core part of my Soul Led Leadership Development Programme.
If you recognise the crusader in yourself or your clients and can see it’s time to find a different way to make the difference you are really here to make, book a call and let’s have a chat about how we might work together.
And the headmasters?
With one, there’s no point in me writing to him. I’ve learned how closed-minded he is and that I need to ‘pick my battles’. With the other – a heart-based leader who is simply overwhelmed by navigating his school through the Covid crisis – I’ve sent him a heart-based email this morning asking if there might be another way. And I’ve let go of my attachment to his decision. I’ve accepted that it’s not my monkey.
I’m curious: what would you have done?
Clare Josa is considered the UK’s leading authority on Imposter Syndrome, having spent nearly 20 years specialising in the field, including publishing the landmark 2019 Imposter Syndrome Research Study and her latest book: Ditching Imposter Syndrome, which already has readers in over 30 countries.
After a corporate career in engineering, specialising in Six Sigma, and as Head of Market Research for one of the world’s most disruptive brands, since 2003 she has specialised in helping leaders and high-achievers to clear out the glass ceilings they never realised they had put in their own way.