How to Bring Your Passion to Work to Influence Others

Do you ever feel like the whole world thinks they know how to do your job (and that it’s easy)?


In my “former life” when I taught public school in south-central Los Angeles, it used to drive me crazy when I’d hear people dismissing teachers’ frustrations with completely erroneous comments like, “They’re done at 3:00 and they only work 180 days a year; what more do they want?”


I’d always give the same response: “I have two words for you: Birthday Parties.”


As that inevitably was met with confused looks, I then explained:


“Think about your kid’s birthday party. You have a dozen kids at your house for two hours, playing games, doing arts and crafts,                         opening presents and eating cake. Parents typically stay, so the ratio of kids to adults is 1:1. You spend several weeks planning for it,                   and when it’s over, you collapse on the couch (probably with an adult beverage) and thank heaven you won’t have to do it again for                     another 364 days.


Now triple the number of kids and send all the adults home. Instead of games, make them sit still, don’t let them talk, and teach them math. Then give them a test. Regardless of how much math they knew upon entry, what behavior problems you faced, who was sick, who came late, or who hadn’t eaten that day, if they fail it’s your fault and their scores will be used to evaluate your professional competence and future potential.


Oh yeah – and do it five times per day, every day. But no big deal, because it’s only 180 days per year, right?”


(Any idea what teachers are doing with the rest of the days of the year? Hint: think PLANNING, for starters.)


Why would anyone keep working under that kind of scrutiny?


Passion. Passion for education, passion for children, and the determination to make a positive difference despite the odds, the nay-sayers, and everyone else who thinks they know how to do your job.


That’s the kind of passion Christine Ostrowski, Chief Financial Officer of Overbrook School for the Blind demonstrates in this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence podcast.


With a career history in financial management in the education world, she knows full well that everyone has an opinion, but not everyone understands how grants, budgets and compliance work, much less in conjunction with the personal, developmental and pedagogical requirements of student populations with special needs.


Think it’s hard to spark or manage change in your organization? Christine sheds light on the challenges and the victories of what it takes to innovate and lead change in an organization that is over 200 years old!


Some terrific insights she shares in our conversation for greater positive influence over different stakeholder groups include:


  • How she uses visuals such as a graphic one-pager for people to reference when she was trying to explain something
  • How to use a “discovery” conversation to navigate challenging situations such as accountability issues in order to collaboratively find a way to improve the process
  • Challenges faced when well-intended board members from the corporate world expect an educational non-profit to follow corporate behaviors
  • The importance of being passionately “mission driven and committed to creating a better tomorrow”, and
  • What dragon boat racing (yes, “dragon boats”) has taught her about teamwork


And more!


Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.



Oh – and before I forget – happy Valentine’s Day!


As my little gift of love to all of you, just for fun, check out this (gratuitously cute) video of all sorts of animals being reunited with their owners — if that kind of love doesn't put a smile on your face today, nothing will!