Victor or Victim?

By David Robertson, IPLI Mentor, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education at Warsaw Community Schools

In the never ending pursuit of success, leaders are often perplexed about what makes the difference between a successful organization and one that fails to consistently achieve its goals. Many are familiar with the idea of self-efficacy; the belief that I can accomplish what I set out to accomplish. Self-efficacy is basically developed in four different ways.  One avenue through which self-efficacy is developed is the emotional state encountered when one considers a task. This makes sense right? I mean, if I have to take an exam and every time I think about taking the exam, I feel anxious, nervous, or scared, it’s likely I won’t do as well on the exam as if I felt confident and secure about my outcomes on the exam.

The problem with emotions is we can’t really control them. Emotions really represent a system of feedback for us that is connected to our thinking. So we can’t control our emotions, but our emotions are directly connected to our thoughts and we can control our thoughts.

Thoughts impact emotions.

One way we impact our thoughts is through our words. When we choose to use words that are uplifting and positive in nature, our thoughts tend to be more positive, our emotions tend to be more positive, and positive self-efficacy is developed.

Did that logic hold up?

Positive words —> Positive thoughts —> Positive emotions—>Positive self-efficacy.

Now, I’m sure a psychologist would point out that the word-thought-motion connection is not that simple, but there is a lot of research that would indicate the words we use about ourselves matter!

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of speaking to our staff at our Welcome Back/Opening Day ceremonies at Warsaw Community Schools. I focused on the fact that words matter, and while my focus that morning was on how our words share our kindness, I was also recently reminded of how our words impact our efficacy.

Richard DuFour once said,

“Effective team leaders do not look out the window waiting for someone else to improve their situation—they look in the mirror.”

This really got me thinking about the mindset of a successful leader and the collective mindset of successful teams. Successful leaders don’t see themselves as victims; they see themselves as victors. You see this with consistently successful sports teams. Despite a down recruiting year, or losing a key player, they always seem to come out on top. It almost seems that the games are settled before they even begin. There is a deep sense that their team will win (collective-efficacy).

One of the ways this strong, confident mindset is developed is through the words leaders use in highly efficacious organizations. Successful leaders use victor words, not victim words.

Victors GET to do things.

Victims HAVE to do things.

Victors speak about factors they can control.

Victims complain about things outside their control.

Victors never speak negatively about colleagues.

Victims blame each other behind backs.

So the question is, what kind of person are you going to be? A Victim or a Victor? I plan on doing my best to use my language to shape the state of mind of those I lead, and for myself in a way that sets us up for victory…after all, our kids deserve it!