Verses Education
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Verses Education

We All Need a Professional Progress Bully

An unwanted poke can still be just the poke we needed

I owe so much in my professional life to people who cared enough to bully me. They pushed me to see in myself what they already saw in me. That’s not just hard to do, it’s hard to do alone.

Imposter syndrome is real. No matter how great we are, most of us are susceptible to allowing our humility to be a road block to our audacity. We want to do (and be a part of) great things but struggle to see ourselves as being deserving.

This is why it is so valuable to have a Professional Progress Bully in your life.

They bully you because they believe in you and your awesomeness, and they want you to recognize and see that same awesomeness in yourself.

These aren’t the bullies who sucker punch you in the gut, but they will push you when you don’t want to be pushed. They won’t stuff you in a locker and start a nasty rumor about you, but they will force you into wrestling with being uncomfortable, and they will challenge your own self-narrative about who you are and what you’re capable of.

They bully you because they care about you. They bully you because they believe in you and your awesomeness, and they want you to recognize and see that same awesomeness in yourself.

Be the Bully

Once you’ve been fortunate enough to be bullied by a Professional Progress Bully, pay it forward. Be that bully that someone else needs to help them be every bit as great as you already know they are and can be.

A few years ago, I was at an EdCamp and met a French Teacher who was doing amazing things in her classroom. She’d never presented at our state’s World Languages conference and I encouraged her to submit a session. When she resisted, I went into full bully mode, insisting that I would show up at her school and call her out in front of her principal if she didn’t share her genius with the world.

Reluctantly, she capitulated.

At the conference, her presentation was voted by her colleagues to be the Best of Conference and she was sent to represent our state at a regional conference. The following year, she presented not once but three times, all to rooms so packed that teachers were sitting on the floor.

I saw her a few months ago and she thanked me for bullying her. “It’s changed my career!” she boasted, sharing that she was now a sought-after leader in her district and beyond, and that she was headed to Canada where she’d been invited to be a featured presenter at a conference.

Another teacher who I bullied reached out more than a year after I’d last seen her and berated her to be more open to hearing “no” so that she could get to the inevitable place of hearing “yes.” Her message brought me to tears:

“Remember when I asked you for advice and you told me to be more audacious? My friend, you’ve changed my professional life. I have been told “no” SO MUCH in the past year but I’ve also had some unexpected support. I’m going places now.

A friendly kick in the butt can change someone’s future. I am fortunate to have a lot of people who care to mentor me but your words were the nudge I needed to stop being so fearful of a NO.”

Bullying can change lives

Bad bullies are people who bully for themselves. Professional Progress Bullies are people who are selflessly bullying for the benefit of another person. I’ve been fortunate to have been bullied by many Professional Progress Bullies and they have all changed my life. Four of the many who particularly impacted my professional progress are:

  • Toni Theisen, for bullying me to put my name up for consideration
  • Shelly Blake-Plock, for bullying me to embrace a role of explaining change that hadn’t yet happened
  • Rich Dixon, for bullying me into believing that things can be greater than they appear
  • George Couros, (without whom this post might not exist) for publicly bullying me in front of entire conference to blog more often

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In addition to following Noah Geisel here on Medium, you can find him at SenorG on Twitter. Some other posts you might like:



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Noah Geisel

Noah Geisel

Singing along with the chorus is the easy part. The meat and potatoes are in the Verses. Educator, speaker, connector and risk-taker. @SenorG on the Twitter