Results from the 2020 Stronger Smarter Census

A common theme from respondents in our 2020 Stronger Smarter Census is that after attending the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program (SSLP) they became better listeners.  Alumni tell us they become more patient, they slow down the conversation, are more curious, have less need to talk or give their opinion, and can ‘be still and listen to others.’  

Alumni tell us that when they enact these deep, active listening processes, they develop a greater understanding of difference.  As a result, they are more open to change, and better able to honour and value multiple perspectives and respond to feedback with ‘possibility’. 

Pulling in the same direction

Alumni describe how, when this deep, active listening becomes a part of the school culture, it provides a different way of doing business, where all voices and perspectives are included, and the conversation can be flipped to a strength-based discussion.  

As schools enable these strength-based conversations, alumni describe how staff feel empowered, comfortable to raise issues, and more focussed on solutions. There are more collaborative decision-making processes and a hierarchy of responsibility, not a hierarchy of power.   

In these positive work environments where they can share ideas, alumni tell us they are setting clear visions, and deliberately including Stronger Smarter in school plans.  When positive and consistent language is used across the school, and there is space for professional conversations, alumni describe how the school becomes more unified with everyone pulling in the same direction.  

Listening to hopes and expectations

This deep, active listening is essential to bring the whole school community on board with transformative change.  Alumni describe how they are enacting deep listening to listen to ‘the hopes and expectations’ of their local communities.  This results in more respectful, open and honest communicationsOur SSLP alumni describe how they are deliberately seeking community feedback or guidance to help determine school strategic directions and empowering parents to make decisions in the running of the school. 

We cannot hurry the river

In the SSLP, we draw on the deep listening process of Dadirri, as described by Aunty Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Bauman based on 65,000 years of continuous cultural knowledge from the Daly River People in the Northern Territory.   Aunty Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Bauman says, “We cannot hurry the river.  We have to move with its current and understand its ways” (Ungunmerr, 1988, p.3).   

Deep listening is key to changing the conversational processes from debate to dialogue.  Dialogue accepts the uncertainty of ‘not knowing’ and requires an engaged curiosity about what others bring to the conversation. Rather than a need to ‘debate’ or discuss disagreements, we can sit quietly to reflect and silently explore our own assumptions.  This may take time, but we cannot hurry the river. 

It is a simple thing to slow the conversations down and listen, bringing the possibility of shifting our own perspectives and embracing the ideas of others.  When we do, we can draw on multiple perspectives and collective sense-making.   

Our 2020 Census responses tell us that this deep, active listening is a key element that alumni take away from our programs, and something that makes a significance difference in school. 

More information about the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program.