Sunday, August 31, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 244

If we can't be ourselves, then who will we be?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend Electric Zoo, a festival for EDM (Electronic Dance Music), the progeny of house,trance, trip hop, and everything else that was "electronic niche" in the mid- to late nineties.  I was an early fan, but most house music festivals at that time were really underground.  Not being much of a "raver," I was content to listen to tapes that I got my hand on from others.

Fast-forward twenty years later, and EDM is now as mainstream as many other music genres.  Electric Zoo is a three day festival, but seeing as how I'm thirty-five, and not quite as "capable of hanging" as I was in my teens and twenties, one day was about as much as I could handle (not to mention that I have other responsibilities now, like a wife, and a family :) ).

So this year, a buddy of mine, his wife, and I went to the Saturday session of Electric Zoo, where we proceeded to listen, dance, and have a great time.  While we tended to enjoy some of the "old school" acts better than the "newer" artists, and while we were clearly towards the older end of the attendee spectrum, none of that mattered.

Because we were there to just be us.

As leaders and learners, one of the most important steps we can take is to make sure that in all of our actions, in all that we say, we are being ourselves.

By acting like who we really are, we encourage others to do the same, and when everyone is truly transparent, then we know we can have deep conversation and make effective decisions, as there are no hidden agendas or covered attitudes.

We have to be us, not only for those we serve, but also for our own well-being.  If we can't be ourselves, then who will we be?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 243

Never say "No." #QuoteADay #Day243 #edchat #edu #ASCDL2L #MakeItHappen #satchat #satchatwc

Yesterday, as the day was wrapping up, our department ran into a fix.  We needed some technology assistance with one of our programs, and our tech liaison couldn't assist, and wouldn't be able to for a number of days.  Since this was a time-sensitive problem, and since I'm one of the more technologically-focused members of our department, everyone looked to me to take care of the situation.

At first, it seemed like an easy fix.  But, when I asked a couple clarifying questions, I found out that the problem was much, much, bigger, and would require a significant amount of my time next week.  My first response was one of fear: "How will I complete this in time?" and "But what about all my other work?"  Happily, I didn't ask these out loud, as I'm a firm believer in always being outwardly positive.

Instead, I said, "That's a big job.  Let's find a way to make it work."  So, we worked together to modify our schedules, and I blocked off significant time early next week to make this happen (I've been doing some of it so far this weekend too).

We should never have to say "no."  In fact, we shouldn't even allow it to be an option.  Even in those situations where a "no" would be appropriate, we should always strive to find a way to make another option available.

By its nature, a response of "no" takes the wind out of any set of sails.  But, on the other hand, if we say something like, "Let's see what options we have," we can keep everyone committed and engaged.

So let's remove "no" from our vocabulary.  The goal is to always find ways to keep moving forward.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 242

The mark of a great #leader is knowing that everyone around you can do their jobs better than you can. #QuoteADay #Day241 #edchat #ASCDL2L

Yesterday our agency held our annual administrative retreat at West Point.  The views and setting were fabulous, and so was the conversation.  Along with doing some deep goal work and reflection, our district superintendent (who is a phenomenal speaker) spent some time talking to us about leadership.

One important idea he shared is that he always took pride in the fact that at a certain level, when the capacity of those around him had been built up enough, he could happily say that everyone in his organization could do their jobs better than he could.

This got me thinking about the power of true leadership.  It seems to me that the best leaders are able to turn the communities they serve into enclaves of expertise, such that at some point, the leader him/herself is, in many ways, the weakest link in the chain.

This seems like a true tenet of servant leadership.  A question we should always ask ourselves is, “How do we get our team to the point where we are deferring to their expertise in their specific areas, rather than the other way around?”  “How can we strive to become the weakest link in an organization?” 

That last question sounds counter to what we imagine good leaders are, but it makes sense when you think about it.

If one of our main goals is to strengthen everyone around us to the point where we could never hope to do what they have learned to do, then we are, in fact, the epitome of the servant leader. 

So, let’s strive to build others up so that we may be surrounded by those who can do their jobs better than we ever could.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 240

Not knowing that which you are capable of is many times worse than not being capable of that which you know of.  #QuoteADay #Day240 #edchat #edu #ASCDL2L #ReachForTheStars

Let's face it: we'll always be stronger at some things than others.

And, it is good to know that, because if we know what we tend to be best at, we can seek the help of others who can assist us with what we're are not so great at.

The worst possible scenario is to not know what we are capable of.  When we don't have any idea of what we can and can't accomplish, that is when we stand to lose the most.  Since time is a finite resource, if we waste it trying to accomplish those tasks which we are not well-suited for, we miss an opportunity to excel in those areas that we display the necessary skills for.

This doesn't mean that the unknown is bad.  Instead, it means that if we have a good idea of what works for us (and what doesn't), we'll be best able to lead in a way that benefits the greatest number of people.

So, don't be disappointed that you aren't capable of everything.  Be pleased that you know exactly what you are capable of, and what you are not.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 239

There is always enough time to make a difference. #QuoteADay #Day239 #edchat #edu #ASCDL2L #MakeADifference

This morning I was thinking about the “idea” of fifteen minutes.

It isn’t a particularly long-time, and in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t occupy a large portion of our day.  In fact, if I do the math, a fifteen minute block is roughly 1% of a day (give or take a bit). 
While 1% of anything might be considered small potatoes, it is more than enough time to make a tremendous difference.

Consider this. . .

You’re a building principal and you decide to wake up fifteen minutes earlier so you can arrive to work fifteen minutes before you normally do.  With those extra fifteen minutes, you take a walk around the halls to greet early arriving teachers, and are able to pop into three classrooms and chat, leaving a smile on the face of three of your colleagues.

Or this. . .

You’re a curriculum director.  By arriving at your office fifteen minutes earlier, you are able to move a meeting up by fifteen minutes, providing you with an extra fifteen minutes to tack on to the end of your day.  With this extra fifteen, you stop by one of the elementary schools for a visit on the way to a meeting at the high school.  During this visit you spend a few minutes with students in the lunchroom, talking with them about what they’ve learned that day.

Or this. . .

You’re a teacher.  With the extra fifteen minutes you’ve provided yourself, you’re able to finish setting up for a lab the next day.  This means you won’t have to rush through setup the next morning, and you go home feeling stress-free.

Fifteen minutes isn’t much.  But it is more than enough to make a difference in the lives of others and ourselves.  Never balk at even the most “insignificant” amounts of time.  There is always time to make a difference.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 238

There is no such thing as a good surprise. #QuoteADay #Day238 #edchat #edu #ASCDL2L #BePrepared

I know, I know.  You’re asking, “But what about surprise parties?  They’re good, right?”
And on some level, they certainly are.

But, all surprises are unexpected, and if I’ve learned anything in my years in education (or in life, for that matter), it is better to expect the unexpected, than to be caught by it.

When it comes to the profession of education, getting surprised can have a real negative impact on the work that we do.  Our profession always works best when we have structures in place and things run smoothly.  Like with a car, too many bumps in the road can leave things permanently damaged.

Since we can’t escape from the unknown, and since we have to assume we’ll be surprised by situations from time-to-time, we have to shift our thinking to preparedness for any given situation.

How do we get there?  One of the easiest ways is to never assume that certain scenarios couldn’t play out in your school or district.  When it comes to life, everything is fair game; even the most peaceful institutions can be rocked by violence, for instance. 

By reading, researching, role-playing, etc. we can make sure that we expose our stakeholders to what could happen (even if it never does).  While it is never good to think about what could go bad, it is a necessity as we’re always best informed when we admit to ourselves that we’re not exempt from the negative factors in this world.

Another way we can always be prepared?  By staying up-to-date with what is happening in the world, and requiring our community to do so as well.  A good example of this ties back to edtech.  What’s new in the tech world?  What should we know about how learners are using these tools?  How can we best protect our stakeholders and still allow these tools to be used to maximize learning?  Asking these questions and more provides us with necessary information to plan, and just as importantly, to create a Plan B (and C, and so on).

And what about those surprises that actually benefit people? 

Being prepared for anything makes these situations even more powerful.  When something great happens, we can all take a step back and breathe easy, if only for a moment.  Being prepared for anything makes it easier to smile when the anything that occurs is a treasure for all.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 237

If we're part of the status quo, we're part of the problem. #QuoteADay #Day237 #edchat #edu #ASCDL2L #MakeAChange

This morning I happened to be working out about fifteen minutes earlier than usual.  I was checking my phone, and I noticed a new (or what I saw as new) hashtag, #BFC530. 

The gist is simple.  A fifteen minute convo at 5:30 AM ET around one question, seemingly to get the brain juices flowing at that early hour.

And a great discussion it was.  I engaged with some incredibly intriguing, interested, and excited educators (many who I had yet to connect with), all who were willing to share their thoughts around a question of what boiled down to what makes success, and what makes failure (and is there, really, any difference).

I’m always happy to try new things, and whenever I get the chance to attend this chat, I will excitedly engage, simply because it was one of the more different chat formats I’ve explored in a while, and the sheer energy that many had that early in the morning was phenomenal.  Truly.

One piece this mini-chat made me think about was the fact that when it comes to success and failure, it is all about taking risk.  And, as I tweeted out, “If we’re part of the status quo, we’re part of the problem.”
I truly believe that if we’re happy with continuing the way things are, then we aren’t challenging ourselves as much as we need to.

One of the best tweets of that fifteen minute time period came from Kelly Stidham who wrote, “Passion doesn’t live in stagnant water.”  Again, the idea that when we let things sit, we tend to quell creativity and innovation.

I’m a firm believer in taking risks and making change regardless of the outcome.  We need to constantly be upsetting the apple cart if we’re going to find both the ripe and rotten ones.  There is no other option.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Quote-A-Day: 236

Nothing says "commitment" like taking action. #QuoteADay #Day236 #edchat #edu #ASCDL2L #TakeAction

Yesterday, I was participating in #satchat, something I love to do when I can steal a few minutes on a Saturday morning (which both unfortunately and fortunately, is a rare thing).  The topic of the conversation was on PLCs, what they are, and how digital PLCs are different from face-to-face ones.

One of the areas I was wondering is how do we go from PLC (Professional Learning Community) to PAC (Professional Acting Community)?  This is an important question in my eyes, as one area I've always struggled with regarding chats is how to go from having amazing conversations to using what I've learned to do amazing things for learners.

While I've found myself putting things into practice from face-to-face interactions and other PLC modes (like Voxer chats) I haven't had as much success with Twitter.  I'm not sure what it is.  Maybe it's the speed of the chat.  Maybe it's because there are so many people that I don't really know. Or maybe it is just me.

Regardless, I was thinking about how to give Twitter chats an action boost.  So, I'm wondering about the creation of a #ChatAndAct, a chat where participants would engage in a discussion and then some would put an instructional change into practice.

A structure could look like this: thirty minutes of discussion around a timely topic.  Two or three participants would then volunteer to put some sort of change into practice based on the chat.  During the next chat time, the volunteers would share what they've done using any media they like (Google Hangout, Voxer chat, screencast, etc.) during the first thirty minutes of the chat period.  All participants would then explore a different topic during the second thirty minutes.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 235

A friend is someone who will help you learn from your as well as your .

My wife and I had a great date night last night with a couple we haven't gotten together with in a while.  We tried a new restaurant in our area that was excellent; the food, drink, and conversation were truly fabulous.

This couple are true friends for a few important reasons.  First, when we're around each other, we're all real.  There are no hidden agendas, no need to act differently than we would normally, and no pretending to be people who we aren't.  This is so important, as a goal of friendship is to be open about both the good and the bad.  If we can't do both, then we have to wonder if we are, in fact, truly friends.

Second, we can promote each other's successes, and be truly happy for what has been accomplished.  We've known each other for quite a while, and understand the professional and personal struggles we have each been through.  So, when we experience a success, we can understand how it came to pass, and what it truly means.  Just as importantly, we can ask questions and offer suggestions to help the success have an even larger impact.

Third, we can help each other learn from our failures.  Critical feedback, and constructive advice are welcomed, and sought.  We can use this feedback to become better individually, and as a group.

Finally, we can stand the test of time.  Regardless of whether we get together again in a month, or three, we'll be able to engage in conversation that truly supports our growth as people and professionals.

We need to always remember the importance of true friendship, and make sure that our friendships are based on helping each other learn more, and more effectively.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 234

Lifelong impressions can be set in an instant; make every second count. #QuoteADay #Day234#edchat #edu #Lead #Learn #Live
Isn’t it amazing how even the smallest actions can have massive impacts?  Granted, these actions can have both positive and negative effects, but how wonderful that very small moves can leave a tremendous impression on the lives of those we serve.
That means we need to do all we can to lead to make every second count.  Every action we take, every word that we say, needs to happen with an understanding that it can, and likely will, have an impact on those around us.
Therefore, every waking moment that we are leading and learning, we have to lead and learn like every second will truly make an impression on the lives of others.  Because for many, it does, and it will.
We need to understand that the impressions we leave greatly impact the lives of others.  Therefore, we need to always remember that all we need to make or break a life is a moment. 
Let’s treat each moment like it matters.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Quote-A-Day: 233

We can only continue on the right path when we've first taken the time to let our minds wander off of it.  #QuoteADay #Day233 #edchat #ASCDL2L

It's 10:10 PM on Wednesday, August 20th, and I'm sitting in our hotel room at Port Orleans French Quarter.  I'm in a chair by the bathroom with the door cracked open, while my daughter is snoozing in her bed.  I'm typing this post up the day before (tomorrow is a travel day, and I'm not sure how much time I'll have once I get home), and prior to typing this post, I've been sitting and reflecting on the last six days down here at Disney.

Sure I've been thinking about work, but mostly I've been thinking about family.  And often, I feel like I haven't been thinking much at all.

We need those opportunities for some of the neural pathways in our brain to be turned off or shifted.  We need a chance to decompress, think differently, and step off the beaten path.  We need the time to think about nothing, or think about things so different from our normal thinking patterns that it actually feels as if we're "living a different life."

I've had an amazing year in a new position, and I'm about to begin my second year in this role.  I've had the time this summer to reflect on the work I've done, and consider changes I want to make to keep getting better.  And now, I've had a number of days to not think of any of that, and just, be.

As I head back to the "real world" tomorrow, I feel prepared to jump back into the driver's seat on Friday, get my hands dirty right where I left off, and delve into a few new areas, all with a renewed emotional, physical, and social sense.

While we always want to continue on the right path, we'll never get anywhere if we don't give ourselves the opportunity to step off it every so often.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 232

You can't have #success without #sacrifice.  #QuoteADay #Day232 #edchat #edu #ASCDL2L #GiveToGet

I've talked about success before in these Quote-A-Day blog posts.

And, I've been thinking about another aspect of success over the last few days. 

I've mentioned before that success should never be easy, and when we fail, we need to use that failure as the first step towards future success.

And yet, this evening, as I was reflecting on the last few days of vacation, I started to think a little differently about success.  I thought about what the minds behind Disney (not just Walt's) must have gone through to create such an intricate system of entertainment, culture, and revenue-generation (not to mention non-stop marketing).  

The success of the Disney franchise (or empire, depending on which side of the fence you stand on) was no doubt built on the blood, sweat, and tears of many whose names we don't know, and likely never will.  And to get Disney to where it was, these people likely worked unbelievably late hours (watch Saving Mr. Banks for an example of this re: Mary Poppins), and likely sacrificed  family, friends, and physical and mental well-being to make the Magic Kingdom a reality.

Success without sacrifice likely isn't worth being celebrated, as it means that the success has really not been met, or was so easy, that no challenge was gained from it.  Sacrifice doesn't have to be seen as a bad thing, but rather, an opportunity to see that our actions always reap consequences, and whether good or bad, we can't be the same person we were after things in our lives have changed.

We shouldn't expect success to continue to bring the status quo.  In fact, we should welcome the fact that with each success we encounter, we have to sacrifice something that currently exists in our lives. It is this duality of purpose that makes us as reflective as we need to be.  

Is it better to reap the benefits of success, or avoid the pitfalls of sacrifice?  This question is always an important one to ask, regardless of whether we currently know (or will ever know) the answer.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 231

"Me Time" is needed time.  Don't let anyone ever tell you it should never be about you.  #QuoteADay #Day231 #edchat #edu #TakeCareOfYourself

Yesterday morning, my daughter had a date with her aunt (my sister) and her fiance to get her hair and nails done at Downtown Disney.  What started out as a morning where I was going to have a leisurely breakfast with my parents changed quickly as my parents decided they wanted to accompany them to the "princess salon."

I decided to stay back at the hotel.

And I'm glad I did.

It isn't that I didn't want to see how cute my daughter looked during the process of getting her hair and nails done.  Nor is it that I didn't want to spend time with my family this morning.

It was much, much, simpler than that.

I simply needed some "me time."

After they left, I took a nice run, came back to the hotel room, showered, got a light breakfast, and took care of some work.  This was therapeutic for me, and necessary.  Since my wife is home with our younger daughter, I'm on call 24/7 down here, and while that's part of being a parent, another part of being a parent is knowing when you need some alone time, and taking advantage of it, when you can.

And that's what I did.

The same is true for us in our roles as leaders and learners.  We  need to be able to feel as if we can take a bit of time to take care of ourselves every so often.  It is rarely "about us," but every once in a while it needs to be, if we are to be as effective at leading and learning as possible.

For me, this alone time often looks like me getting in to work very early to reflect and take care of some items without yet having to focus on other tasks.  Or, it could be me waking up earlier to go for a run and head to the gym before work.  Or, it could simply be me grabbing the paper early on a weekend morning and sitting outside and reading it.

Whatever the context, without this time, I would certainly not be as good a leader (or parent, for that matter) as I believe I am.

Make sure you make time for yourself.  If you don't, then who will?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 230

The worst told truth speaks louder than the best told lie. #QuoteADay #Day230 #edchat #edu #ASCDL2L #BeTruthful

The best leaders are also the ones who have the most difficulty telling a lie.

In fact, for these leaders, it physically and emotionally pains them to engage in lie-telling behavior.  These leaders strive to always tell the truth because it is the right thing to do, and because it feels much better than the alternative.

That doesn't mean that telling the truth always leaves everyone happy, but it does mean that we should engage in truth-telling (and encourage the same for everyone else) for the simple reason that the pain we or others might feel when the truth is told is much, much less than the pain felt when we discover someone has been lying to us (or worse, when we, ourselves, get caught in a lie).

No matter how little or insignificant the situation might seem, there is never a good reason to lie.  Even the smallest lies can snowball into a much larger issue, and even the truths that lend the largest heartache can say more about the character of the leader than a lie that is well-told, and therefore, less likely to be discovered.

A simple rule of thumb?

The more you're worried about how people will react to the truth, the more important it is for you to share it with them.  We should never lie; truths can lay the building blocks for open and honest conversation, while lies do one thing, and that is push people to believe that trust cannot exist.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day229

Your goal as a leader?  Help others to make their dreams a reality. #QuoteADay #Day229 #edchat #edu #ASCDL2L

I'm typing this blog post up after the first day we've spent down in Disney World.  After arriving in Orlando, we headed to Epcot, where we enjoyed a number of rides, the usual Orlando thunderstorm or three, and the Disney meal plan (something we haven't done in a long time).

We had dinner in the Norwegian Pavilion, at the princess banquet, which was a fabulous experience for all of us, especially my daughter.

My daughter and Cinderella
You see, like most young kids, my daughter has dreams, that in her eyes, are entirely achievable and entirely real.  She wants to be everything and everyone, and believes with all her heart, that she can be like the princesses she meets at Disney World (even if she is beginning to understand that "Cinderella" is very likely just "Cindy" in a pretty blue gown).

When she had the chance to meet all the princesses during dinner, her eyes got wide, and the smile never seemed to leave her face.  A dream, even if a minor one by our standards, had just come true.  Six princesses during one meal?  For her, it was priceless.

As leaders, we should not only relish the meeting of dreams when they come true for those we love (and for ourselves), we should also stop at nothing to make sure that everything we do is all about making dreams a reality for those we serve.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 228

Whether leader or learner, we all need to showcase pride in our work. Always.  #QuoteADay #Day228 #edchat #ASCDL2L

I’m feeling very proud today.  And, the pride that I’m feeling is tied to a huge accomplishment I’ve made.
I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a book for a long time.

Yesterday, I finally submitted the book proposal.

The fact is, while I truly hope I get the opportunity to write the entire book and that it eventually winds up being published, I also understand that I need to feel good about the fact that I put together a proposal.  It’s always a great feeling when we’ve met a milestone we’ve created for ourselves, especially when those milestones don’t “have” to be met (after all, there was no requirement for this book proposal to be written and/or submitted).

And yet, regardless of how large the milestone we meet is, or how many people even know it is a milestone, it is still important to take pride in the work that we complete, if for no other reason than it spurs us to continue challenging ourselves as time goes on.

We don’t live in a vacuum, and we don’t have to “pretend” that we aren’t excited when good things happen to people.  Why not be excited four ourselves (and others), when a feat is accomplished?
Pride is a great motivator, and it really feels good. 

We should welcome emotions in both our professional and personal lives that leave us feeling like superheroes and heroines, even if just for a while.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 227

Every morning we wake up with a choice. Before we go to bed we can make the world a better place. Or not.#QuoteADay #Day227 #edchat #ASCDL2L

Every morning we’re presented with a choice.  We can wake up and go about the day looking to make the world a better place for everyone.

Or, we can choose not do this.

And, each morning, we’re blessed with the same choice.

While I would like to think that every day I leave a positive impact on everyone around me, I am certain that on some days, I fall into that “or not” category.  But, it is a great thing to know that the next morning, we all have the chance to start again.

While we may sometimes cringe at the repetitive nature of some of the work we do, we should never cringe at the fact that we are able to start each day fresh, and hopefully, as we lay down to sleep each evening, we can feel good about the positive impact on the world we’ve had.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 226

It's never about whether you've made a #mistake. It's always about what you've learned from it. #QuoteADay #Day226 #edchat #edu #FailForward

I make mistakes every single day. 

Usually, I make a lot of them.

Right now I’m contemplating two. 

My organization works to provide professional learning opportunities to districts throughout the New York City metro area.  So, we create both a “hard-copy” and virtual catalog of offerings. 

This morning, as I was cross-checking the hard-copy book with the virtual one, I noticed that the hard copy book has the word “coordinator” spelled wrong in one place.  Not a big deal, but our team should have caught that (and, as the “final” grammatical checker, this rests on me).  Most readers won’t pick up on it (after all, we didn’t), and it won’t change how people interact with the catalog.  So, in my eyes, this is a mistake to learn from (triple check spelling next time), and to simply move on from.

I also noticed that one of our workshops (which run Monday –Friday) is listed as running on a Sunday.  In some way, we mislabeled the workshop, and while all aspects of the description are correct, the date is not.  This is a bigger deal as though I can easily change our virtual catalog, it is a little harder to change the hard copy one (after all, many of our books have been printed out and are ready to mail).  This mistake involves a greater number of people, and as such, requires a more thorough thinking strategy to avoid in the future.  This is a mistake to learn from (we need to do a better job cross-checking dates before we print our catalogs), and one to be aware of as it is quite possible we’ll receive a number of calls and emails when folks try and find the workshop online and it is listed under a different date.

While I’m disappointed that we made these mistakes, I welcome the truth that they are unavoidable.  While we won’t make these same mistakes next year, we will make others.  There will never be a perfect catalog; something, even very minor, can (and will) always go wrong.

What’s most important is that we learn something from the mistakes we make (we definitely have in this case), and that we work to avoid making the same mistakes over and over (we’ll have to work on a plan to avoid these in the future).

Mistakes should always be a welcome sight.  They let us know that there is still a long, long, road towards additional learning ahead.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 225

You may only be one person, but your actions can affect millions. #QuoteADay #Day225 #edchat #edu #NeverUnderestimateYourself

Sometimes, we forget the impact we can have on others.

Sometimes, we start thinking that we’re just one itty bitty part of a much bigger system.

Sometimes, we ask ourselves, “How can I make a difference?”

And often, we’re having an impact and making a difference with every single thing we do.

As leaders and learners, we have to start realizing the power of our words and our actions.  With every step we take, with every discussion we engage in, we’re influencing others to think, act, and reflect on what they do as learners and leaders.  We are not islands in this world.  In fact, we’re all part of the same giant landmass, working together (or completing against one another) to make the most difference on the greatest number of people.

That inter-connectedness is so important, because it showcases the need to see ourselves as much more than an individual.  We may be a small part of a big machine, but we’re a necessary part, as is everyone else.  Nobody plays the role of the appendix in our society; no one is there just because.

Instead, we have to instill in ourselves (and in others), that everything we do can have either positive or negative effects on many others, and in fact, on many others who may not yet be in our professional learning networks.

It is for that reason that we have to always strive to make those impacts positive.  Anything else is simply unacceptable.  So be positive in all that you do, knowing that surely, each action you take and each word you say, can make the lives of others, better.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 224

A true #community has everyone playing an active role. Always. #QuoteADay #Day224 #edchat #edu #LearningForAll #StuVoice

Why do we use the term “community” so freely?

We tend to think of any grouping of people as a “community,” but in reality, it isn’t the grouping of people that is important, but rather, what they do, and how they do it.

A true community requires at least three characteristics to be in place in order to really operate as a collaborative.

First, communities, like the scientific definition, need to be composed of various different groups (in science speak, it is different species, and while that might exist in an organization, usually we’re most focused on the groups of different people).  If every stakeholder in the community comes from the same stakeholder group, then it isn’t a community, it’s a bloc.

Second, true communities give voice to everyone.  Regardless of whether the person is a leader, a learner, a community member, or something else entirely, every person’s word is welcomed, expected, and respected.  These voices aren’t just puffs of air, destined to float around aimlessly.  Instead, they truly matter, and anyone’s voice can have major impacts on the organization’s direction.

Finally, communities reflect together.  This means that after a community decides to follow an initiative, everyone stops to think about how the process is going, and at its completion, has gone.  This reflection is key, because a community isn’t just about doing.  Often, it’s about thinking deeply so that future “doing” is even more effective.

So, maybe we shouldn’t use the term “community” as freely as we do.  Maybe, just maybe, we should strive to build a community, rather than assume our organizations are already one.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 223

An idea without a voice helps no one.  Never be afraid to speak your mind. #QuoteADay #Day223 #edchat #edu #SpeakUp

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a problem speaking my mind.  Unfortunately, I probably could use a better filter from time-to-time, but I’m working on that.

But just because I can’t keep my mouth shut, doesn’t mean everyone is comfortable voicing ideas and opinions.

But we have to be.

Nobody can speak our minds but us.  In fact, if we constantly hold ourselves back, we may never get to realize all that we are capable of.  While it is challenging to work with those who always have to speak, it is just as challenging to work with those who never say what they’re thinking.

As we learn and lead, we need to create communities where everyone, regardless of role, not only has the opportunity to speak, but takes that opportunity. 

Voices that are kept to ourselves are voices that never have the chance to help others learn.

Want to increase the varied voice of your community?

First, model taking turns as both a speaker and a listener.  Be clearly comfortable with both roles.

Second, encourage (read: slightly force) everyone to “say” something.  You can use a “ticket out the door” strategy (either verbally or written), or for those who are not yet at that stage, a simple “fist to five” works too.

Finally, act on what others say.  If people are going to take a risk and share their thoughts, you need to do something with them.

We all have important voices.  And, our voices all have important things to say.  We need to make sure that we use those voices regularly, so that others can lead and learn through them.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 222

Better to be remembered for what you've done, then to be remembered for what you haven't.

Leadership isn't easy.

At times, we're faced with incredibly difficult decisions, and sometimes it feels easier (and safer) to take no action, then to step out into the breach and hope for the best.

Of course, as leaders, we're expected to act, and those we serve trust in us to help them take steps towards getting better.  Therefore, action is often the best (and only) course.

Regardless of whether steps taken end in success or failure, if we've done our due diligence, examined and analyzed the data, and proceeded with counsel from those we trust and believe in, then whether we see victory or loss, we'll be remembered positively for giving it a go.

On the other hand, if we wait too long, or simply avoid taking the steps that we know we should, we'll still be remembered, but for our inability to make a difference, and for our lack of leadership.

Leading is like walking through a garden.  Sometimes we know where the poison ivy is, and sometimes we don't.  If we've done our best to map a safe way through, even if we end up in a tight spot (and end up in a painful situation), we all know that it wasn't for lack of doing what we felt was best, and doing it with the best interest of everyone involved.

So look those obstacles in the eye, do your research, and then hurdle those obstacles into the great unknown.  Hopefully you'll land on solid ground, but even if you take a bit of a fall, those you serve will be right there to pick you up (while those who have chosen not to act will be quickly left behind).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 221

A that is not shared is an opportunity that is lost.

Today's #satchat discussion got me thinking. . .

When we set goals, we often think about our own individual steps towards meeting them.  But, goals that aren't shared, goals that are kept inside are opportunities that are lost and that we deny of others.

Shared goals (and shared goal-setting) is an excellent way to not only build capacity for needed change, but to rally those we serve around an idea or initiative that will truly make the community's collective lives better.

When we share goals, and especially when we build them together, we are "teaming up" to reach a common apex.  This makes the potential reaching of the goal, or benchmarks along the way, not only more efficient for everyone involved, but more fun, and more collaborative.

A community that rallies around a common goal is a community that has an identity, and a community with an identity is one that truly knows itself.

After all, if you want to climb that mountain, better to do so with a large climbing party than to go it by yourself with some crampons and a pickaxe. :)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 220

The best way to build capacity? #Believe in what you say and do. #QuoteADay #Day220 #edchat #edu #KeepItReal

Guess what? 

People are very smart.

When you say something that you don’t mean, or take action around something you don’t believe in, people can tell (and, not surprisingly, they can tell easily).

If you’re trying to build capacity for an initiative, idea, and/or process, you have to make sure that you can truthfully represent what that process stands for, and why it is important.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have to work towards initiatives that you aren’t entirely in support of (it can’t always be about us).  However, even in those instances, we have to extol the merits of what those initiatives can do for the stakeholders we serve.

If an initiative has no worth for stakeholders, or, there is truly something inherently wrong with the process being taken, then we need to stand up for what is right, and request to not play a part.  If we do this strategically, along the lines with mentioning we aren’t the right person to speak to this issue or to try and drum up support for this, then our supervisors may see that either the idea is a bad one, or the role of shepherding this given initiative should be passed on to someone else (we don’t have to do everything that is thrown our way).

The key here is that if you’ve developed a collaborative and openly constructive leadership council, then those who have concerns with certain initiatives can speak freely, and those who want to push them through can supply evidence as to why they are worth exploring.

Regardless of whether you support an initiative or not, the only way to help people see its importance is to believe in its merits and speak about it from the heart.