(Originally posted on Inquiry to Results.)

By Chris Hubbuch

Little could be more painful that being in the clutches of a bear trap. Just thinking about that word is enough to conjure thoughts of oversized metal blades clasping the limb of an unsuspecting animal or hunter. I like to use the term “bear trap” to describe circumstances that we can easily avoid or fall victim to in our daily lives.

Wesley Fryer (2013)

One bear trap is reacting under the power of emotion versus taking a more reasoned approach. This can have a devastating impact if we use forms of digital communication in response to an event. Whether through email, texting, Twitter, Facebook, blog posts or commenting on websites, potential bear traps lurk if we are not careful. Given the immediacy of information, the permanency of our digital footprint and the myriad tools allowing for rapid, ongoing communications, we must use caution and allow enough time for decision making. Call it a function of self-discipline or emotional intelligence, but one potential bear trap for educators or administrators is the thoughtless use of digital communication tools. This can harm teams, limit collaboration and lead to a breach of trust in relationships. Avoid this bear trap for it has the power to impede progress with students, parents and colleagues.

Another potential bear trap is to act without considering others unique perspectives or context. This is both dangerous and insensitive and can quickly lead to dysfunction or a breach of trust. Effective collaboration isn’t absent of conflict, but with established norms of transparency and by maintaining positive intent most disagreements can be successfully navigated. Avoid this bear trap and show your team or organization how much you value their input.

Take technology out of the equation and we can still fall victim to reactive patterns of thought and action. What is one way to steer clear of this destructive tendency? While I haven’t always been able to avoid the seemingly avoidable detours of reactive behavior, developing an inner circle of trusted advisors has made a tremendous difference (Maxwell, 2007). It’s important to be selective about your circle of trust. Loyalty is important, but more than that your inner circle should stretch you and help you improve identified areas for growth.  This requires surrounding yourself with positive colleagues who consistently demonstrate a growth mindset.  Connection with trusted advisors is one of the best ways to walk confidently and safely each day. Your inner circle can be the ultimate bear trap repellant.

What about you, what other bear traps exist that remain unexplored? How do you successfully navigate around them and help others to do the same?

Photo: cc licensed by Wesley Fryer (2013)

Maxwell, J. (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You. Thomas Nelson Inc.

Chris Hubbuch is the Principal of Excelsior Springs Middle School, Excelsior Springs, MO. He shares his insights on his website, Inquiry to Results. Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisHubbuch.