Natalie Munroe Mistake: People Skills Lessons for Leaders

The internet is abuzz about Central Bucks PA teacher Natalie Munroe and her blog post where she called her students whiny and lazy. As I heard the story, I immediately knew that Natalie Munroe had made a classic people skills mistake.

Labels –> they never inspire and always leave scars.

There is much for leaders to learn from this people skills mistake. I offer the following lessons and welcome your additions to this post.

People Skills That Lead and Inspire

  1. “I” not “You”. When you have something negative to say, use an I statement instead of a you statement. Hear the difference between “I would like you to work harder” instead of “you are whiny and lazy.”
  2. Highlight behaviors vs. traits. Whether you are a teacher, a leader, a team member, or a parent, you are more likely to see positive change when you discuss specific behaviors you want to see rather than traits. You will see results sooner with “Ask for help or offer an idea” instead of “you are whiny.” For years, many mangers have used the desktop sign: “no complaints — only solutions” to inspire employees to engage and solve problems.
  3. Refocus powerless feelings.
    When labels emerge, it is a sure sign of frustration and a sense of powerlessness. Always a danger zone ripe for a people skills disaster unless you refocus on what you can do vs. what you can’t do.
    In this case, teachers have the tougher situation. Corporate leaders and managers have options to move low performers to less demanding projects, to lower profile teams, or out the door. Teachers don’t have these alternatives and sometimes little support. Hence it is even more important to refocus on what you can achieve with the students instead of the continued obstacles. When you lower your own frustration you find the power to inspire.
  4. Move forward however slow the pace. Forward steps toward the mission, purpose, and goals will keep your people skills and your people on a positive track to success. Side trips and rest stops in the gullies of change resistance will derail you all.
  5. When you slip, admit and recommit. Frustration can get the better of anyone. A teacher, leader, or a team member can slip into frustration driven labels and unproductive remarks. The sooner you admit, apologize, and recommit to productive interaction, the less the damage. You also become a model for learning, leadership, and integrity.

What other people skills lessons learned would you add to this list?


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, replaces interpersonal challenges with people skills greatness. Her stellar record is driven by 21 years of experience, a natural intuition about people, and Masters in Organizational Psychology. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote topics, and testimonials from diverse customers.

7 Responses to “Natalie Munroe Mistake: People Skills Lessons for Leaders”

  1. I’m not expert on soft skills. I grew up commanding tanks and blowing things up for my first adult job.

    I’ve had to work on my own personal approach for about a decade to over come my gruff outer shell. I have to thank my wife for her patience and tutelage in that department.

    I recently learned a tough lesson about treating a partner with respect during a heated dispute. I used a lot of “You” statements. They were not well received. After a few days of cooling down I reengaged and started with “I” statements. It was a very productive conversation the second time around.

    Also in that second conversation was an apology. Even though I was not the only guilty party, I apologized for my actions which were not the best.

    Very timely post for me. I read this three times going over each point. Thanks for the education Kate.

  2. Great post Kate. Here is my lesson to add to the list:

    * Leaders are held to a higher people skills standard. Our leadership puts us in a position of greater influence. That means that the words and labels that we use have a greater impact on others. When we chose to lead, in any field, we need to use care with our words. Something hurtful, muttered in a moment of frustration can last a lifetime in the mind of another. Something encouraging can too.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Love your opening comment Joan – leaders are held to a higher people skills standard. They must be (or at least strive to be) the model of working things out and labels are not an action moment.
      Thanks for your insight.
      Kate

  3. Paula Kiger says:

    Kate, I did not realize you had blogged about the “blogging teacher” issue.

    It is difficult for me to get this situation out of my head. One reason is that I have a ninth grader so I really feel invested in the teacher/student relationship, for the sake of my child.

    When I stated in my blog that I don’t want Natalie Munroe teaching my child, I want to make sure I meant that I think she needs to regain perspective – she may be a very good teacher but if she feels this strongly I think she needs to get on a more even keel.

    Here’s my post about this situation: http://waytenmom.blogspot.com/2011/02/whats-code-for-doesnt-blog-nicely.html

    I appreciate the thoughts you shared!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Yes Paula … I am inclined to agree with you. Although people have moments of disillusionment, once you put them in writing for all to read, you risk your professional status. It also suggests that it has gotten into her psyche and it will “drip out” to the students. There are so many ways to inspire — labeling doesn’t do it.

      Best wishes,
      Kate

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