Shaping Leaders….

“Sandwich method”- Any of us who have soaked even a tip of our fingers into the world of coaching are bound to have heard of this method. I first heard of it from Aileen, my first team leader who has grown into a mentor and a good friend for life. 

When I first joined as a School Transformation Lead, my role as a mentor to teachers entailed classroom observation and debriefs. Debriefs were those spaces where we sat with our teachers to reflect on their teaching in the period that we observed them – the regular prompts being ‘what went well?’, ‘what could be better?’.

Every STL does this in their own way. A colleague Priyanka used to add a quick self-reflection to it, while Ankita used to have a chat about what was in their lunchbox to ease their concerns and create a comfortable atmosphere. Each one of us eventually grew a style of our own, prompts of our own, and thus kept growing our coaching skills. 

So what is this piece of writing all about? 

It is an artifact of my reflection of how these small practices, approaches, and even words we use have helped me grow not only as a professional but also as a person. When I was first introduced to the sandwich method my first thought was, “Yeah, this makes sense to me, I wouldn’t prefer to hear any new person stepping in to tell me what I could do better.” so yes, I began practicing the sandwich method. Gradually my teachers and I figured out how we would like to have our debriefs.

A recent compliment that we received put me in a Eureka moment. An IAS Officer leading a department had been observing us working with the teachers of the department and their compliments for our smiles and facilitation skills. He pointed out “So many of you noticed and complemented this team’s smiles but what do you think makes them do that? Does that mean they don’t have any problems or they don’t see any in this new journey with all of us? It means that they have chosen to see it from a positive perspective. To focus on the good things so they can grow.” 

This wasn’t the first time the team was noticed for our smiles. It’s the first thing anyone knows about us wherever we go – across geographies, across stakeholders, and in diverse situations. However, what was new was how this official decoded the smiles and unraveled the approach not only to his people but for us as well. That’s when I realized that these small practices, this vocabulary that I had grown, have gradually shaped my personality.

My eye for positives became sharper and it was a natural thing for me to notice well. Does that mean I close my eyes to all the negatives? No, focusing on the positives makes me believe that there is something in the glass already. There is more to fill, but the realization that I already have achieved some of it keeps me going with renewed energy. Just the way you know your father would always see modern art in your scribbles, you need someone to believe in you and when you can start doing that for yourself then there’s no stopping. 

“The language we use affects whether we respond to some setback optimistically or apathetically. And you should know that your words are nothing more than your thoughts made verbal. Your language broadcasts your beliefs.”

-Robin Sharma “The Leader Who Had No Title”

This was just one of those beautiful ideas, life-changing practices that I have imbibed and grown from the culture at Mantra. I don’t think I can nor do I want to be able to count the limitless learnings and blessings at MANTRA.

So, here’s a big “THANK YOU” to all my teachers, school leaders, students, non-teaching staff, and my very own Mantra Team for embracing me into this beautiful culture and helping me grow with all of you.

And here’s a collage… to show how much I miss all of this fun on the field and with the team, hoping that some part of the old normal, our visits to schools, comes back soon!

-Contributed by Pranashree Bhushan, Team Mantra

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