Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 366 :)

If you want to get better at something, you can never allow yourself to run away from it. #QuoteADay #Day366 #edchat #edu #satchat #NYedchat

Over the course of the last year I’ve thought a lot about what it means to “get better” at something.  Not just continue spinning the wheels, mind you, but to really get better.

This year was an experiment in that.  Would pushing myself to write a blog post every day make me a more experienced writer?

A deeper thinker?

A more effective leader/learner?

A better person?

While I would like to think the answer to all of these is “yes,” I also understand that answers rarely come when we want them to, and they rarely come in the form that we most expect.  Maybe I’m a better writer, and maybe this will help me to reach a dream of eventually writing a book on leadership in education. 

But maybe, it won’t.

Instead, maybe I’ll write a book, but it will be a work of historical fiction, or a children’s book (certainly illustrated by someone else; my artistic skills have not improved this year J).  That’s the funny thing about the future.  We never know what it will bring.

Regardless of how, when, or if answers to those questions ever come, one thing I do know definitely is that I’ve reflected regularly and learned lots, especially about myself.

When I began this process, there was doubt that I would have it in me to come up with 365 different “quotes” and blog posts to capture what they mean.  But, if there is one overarching idea this whole experience has taught me, it is that if we want to become better at something, we can never allow ourselves to run from it.  Even on the worst days this year, when I was sick and couldn’t get out of bed, I still found ways of getting to my goal of completing a #QuoteADay post, each and every day.

The learning/leadership value in this process is simple to see: Every initiative is reachable; we just need to be willing to put the time and effort into constantly striving for it.

What’s next for me?  What goals will I set for myself in 2015?  I plan to write more, that’s for sure, but beyond that, I’m happy to say “Who Knows?”

Because you know what?  I’m confident that after reaching my writing goal this year, there isn’t much that I can’t accomplish.  365 days of staying a course in which I was only accountable to myself is enough to make me say, “Yeah, I can do that” (“that” being just about anything).

Thanks to all who played a part, read these posts, and provided support and constructive criticism.  You all helped me reach this benchmark, and I’m happy to return the favor in any way I can.  J

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 365

Are you a goal sprinter, a goal pacer, or a goal laggard?

Goal Sprinters tend to be those of us who push hardest right as they are about to reach a goal.  Regardless of how long it has taken them to get there, Goal Sprinters push and push and push as the goal horizon gets closer.  There are advantages and disadvantages to this.  One advantage is that the power of the goal increases as more effort is invested (usually).  This tends to build greater capacity for the goal, so much so that when reached, the community has already acclimated to the necessary changes.  A disadvantage is that we tend to focus solely on the product and start to lose sight of the process.  Since there is always much to reflect on when it comes to our procedural moves, this can be a major loss for us as leaders.

Goal Pacers are those leaders who set goals, keep to the timetable, and move at a pace that is steady.  Whether fast or slow, Goal Pacers rarely deviate from the path, constantly moving forward, regardless of how many steps back are taken during the process.  The great news here is that Goal Pacers have the internal willpower (and have built the associated capacity) to make sure that the goal is reached, and can use the balanced workflow that has already been put in place to help others see that getting to the finish line will require no more additional work, but also no less than what is taking place.  A downside to pacing is that it can feel very “status-quo-ish” and can sometimes feel like the rotation of the Earth; even though we’re moving forward, we can’t really tell we are.  For goal doubters, this is a wound that can be picked at constantly (sorry for the fairly graphic comparison).

Goal Laggards tend to slow down as they reach a given goal or benchmark.  Regardless of the speed gone to initially start the goal setting process, laggards tend to take their time as the finish line appears.  This can be good as they may want to make sure things are “just right,” but in so doing, Goal Laggards run the risk of tiring everyone out, and overstaying the welcome of the entire process.
So which goal personality are you?                                                                                                               
Currently, I’m a pacer.  It fits my planning nature, and provides me (and those I work with) the opportunity to see a timeline and the assurance to know we’ll meet it.  There are times, however, when I need to do a better job of pushing harder to either meet goals sooner or build up additional momentum prior to full-blown implementation.  Sometimes a steady pace isn’t enough to showcase the importance of the work that is being done.

One of the best parts about knowing our own goal personalities is that we can make adjustments to put emphasis on the advantages and to soften the disadvantages. 

How do you address your goal personality?  Feel free to let me know in the comments section!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 364

A leader’s best friend must be a mirror; “This is who I am” is the only way to stay grounded. #QuoteADay #Day364 #edchat #NYedchat #satchat

I’ve been thinking a lot about the benefits and disadvantages of social media lately, and how I’ve changed, and how others I know have changed, because of it.

One of the areas I’ve seen the most change in is reach and networking.  I know many more people than I did just three years ago, and I “know of” even more people.  I’ve also found myself in additional leadership roles due entirely to the networking and connections I’ve made through social media (as opposed to the true merits of my work, as great as they may be J).

These are all tremendously positive outcomes, and this connected aspect of social media (Twitter in particular) has made me a better leader, a more effective learner, and realistically, a better person over all.
But, for every positive impact, there is an equally powerful negative one.  In terms of social media use, the biggest challenge for me has been remembering that despite all the connections I might make, I am still Fred Ende, and no more amazing or interesting than I was before I was connected. 

This is both a sobering and necessary mantra to repeat. 

I won’t allow any number of connections to make me shift to being someone I’m not, and I find it important to remind myself that I am still who I am on a regular basis; a mirror is good for that J

It isn’t necessarily easy to reduce the pull of letting ourselves believe we’re now “different” than we were previously.  Who wouldn’t want to attend as many conferences as possible, present to large audiences on a regular basis, and, realistically, who deep down doesn’t want to promote themselves to the masses?

The challenge, of course, is that we all have responsibilities that are close to home, and those that are farther away.  Our responsibilities to those we most directly serve must always, always, take precedence, even when those farther away callings seem so enticing.  For if we aren’t truly leading in the capacity we’ve been asked to lead in, then who are we truly serving besides ourselves?

To make sure we never forget that, we always need to intimately remember who we are.  And that can begin with a simple look in the mirror.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 363

Friendship + leadership are very similar. Both require time and give-and-take to be effective.     

Today I have the chance to get together with a very good friend, someone who I have known for over thirty-years (almost my whole life).

Despite what life has brought us (marriage, kids, deaths, relocations, jobs, etc.) we've stayed in close contact, and whenever we're in the same state (which isn't often), we do our best to spend a bit of time "catching up."

Even when we only have  a few hours together, it often feels like neither one of us has left; often the truest markings of friendship are that distance and time don't make a difference.

Friendship is a lot like leadership.  In order for deep friendships to grow, we have to spend lots of time cultivating them.  My buddy and I reach out to each other regularly, forgoing contact through Facebook or other social media for phone calls, texts, and in-person visits.  This all requires time, much more than a "Happy Birthday" wish on Facebook would.  And yet, these types of communication are also much more meaningful than anything I could post on someone's timeline. Leadership is much the same way.  We need to be well-connected, both virtually and face-to-face, and work hard towards maintaining these connections.  We can't afford to lose ourselves in the email list; phone calls and visits need to be a staple of how we lead as well.

In addition, friendships are always about negotiation.  It can't always be your way, nor can it always be about the needs of your friend.  Friends support each other at all times, therefore, whenever one friend feels on the end of a rope, the other friend serves as the anchor.  This means that a friendship is about balance, just like leadership.  When we lead, we must make sure that we're supporting others as much as they support us.  If we remain as the supportive one at all times, we may never be propped up when we need it most.  If we're always the one who needs the support, then we're likely not doing much leading at all.

We must treat our leadership roles like we would a great friend. The investment of time, balanced support, and the give-and-take of negotiation must always be at the heart of what we do.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 362

It's better to be told the power of what you've accomplished than to be the one doing the telling.

This morning, during an excellent conversation on thoughts for the new year during #satchathack, I had an interesting revelation.

Over the course of this last year, I've been writing these daily posts, tied to a quote I've put together.  Throughout my life and career, I've often found myself using the quotes of others, and in thinking about this last December 31st, I wanted to be the creator of a bunch of quotes that others could use, if they were so inclined (not saying the quotes are any good, by the way :) ).

I also wanted to strengthen my writing, and one of the best ways to do this is to simply write more.  I had started a blog a number of years back, and felt this was a good way to resurrect it.

So, I began this #QuoteADay blog, and as of today, I'm just a few days from completing my goal of a year of quotes/blog posts.

This has been a challenging feat for me, and one that I believe has drastically helped my writing.  That being said, I haven't thought of it as being extremely powerful or out of the ordinary.

That is, until a number of folks (both friends and acquaintances) have mentioned what a big deal it is.
I've had the chance to chat with a number of folks who have tried monthly and weekly blogs only to find they couldn't make the time, or couldn't think of topics that worked.

In no way does that say what I've done is special, but it does make me think that 365 blog posts in a year was a great challenge for me to take on (i.e. it was a tough goal, but one that could be met) and will be a nice achievement (assuming I finish up the next few days).

This also made me reflect on another important point for leaders:

It is better to be told of the power of what you've accomplished then to go around bragging about it to others.  I'm happy to share the blogging work I've done, but will only do so when the conversation moves towards long-term blogging.  I rarely bring it up outside of those circumstances, and usually just tweet it out once a day, in the event where anyone might be interested.

Sure I could do more self-promotion, but for what?  The purpose of the blog was, and is, to share, not smother, and as such, if only a few people find out about it, but find out somewhat organically, then I've done a better job as a leader than if I would have forced it down the throats of others.

As leaders, we're doing the best job when our work is discovered organically, or so I think.  What do you think (assuming someone is actually reading this :) )?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 361

Success in life as a  is directly tied to life that is led with success.       

I've been thinking a lot over the course of this last year about what makes for a successful leader.  I'm still not entirely sure I know the answer to this (I fully expect to never really know).  But, I have come to one conclusion, and as I scan back on the posts I've written over the last (almost) year, I think it is an underlying theme.

To be successful as a leader, we have to live the lives we lead successfully.

"Success" means different things to different people, I agree, but the most successful leaders aren't necessarily the ones who work seventy-five hours a week, or are on conference calls with business partners all day Sunday.  That may be a measure of success, but it doesn't necessarily typify a successful "life."

For us to truly be successful, we need to be successful in all that we do in the lives we lead.

And this often means internalizing a very important word:


The most successful leaders I have ever met have discovered ways to give their professional lives all the time, effort, and energy that is needed, and still have more than enough for their personal lives.

This balance between two sometimes competing "Ps" in our lives is incredibly important.  Yet, the most successful leaders have found ways to move beyond the "competing" and instead see the professional and personal as two sides to the same very important coin.

Being successful is about more than how hard we work "on the job."  It's about making sure that we live for our friends and family, and importantly, ourselves too.

It also means understanding that finding and keeping this balance is a work in progress.  At times, we're going to lean in one direction or the other.  And yet, if we've led with balance in the past, those around us will understand when we topple, knowing it is just a matter of time for us to find our balance again.

I'm still searching for the perfect balance, but happily, over the last few years, I've become closer to finding it.

And guess what?  Everyone in my life is happier (and more successful) for it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 360

The best are never afraid to live in the moment.

As leaders, we often spend a good amount of time planning for the future or reflecting on the past.  Both of these are necessary ingredients to being a strong leader; by planning we lay the ground work for what is to come, and by reflecting on what has occurred, we make sure the groundwork we're laying isn't going over the exact same spots.

I've been thinking a lot about the importance of planning and reflecting over the last year.  While its true that we need to do this, and do it regularly, I think it obscures the importance of another way of leading.

The importance of leading (and living) in the moment.

This morning I took my two daughters to the park.  Not surprisingly, with it being Christmas, nobody was there.  But it was a perfect day to visit the park, with temperatures in the metro NYC area being around fifty degrees Fahrenheit (crazy, right?).

After I had been watching my two girls play for a while, I realized that during that time I wasn't thinking of anything else.  I was truly "in the moment."

There's something special about allowing ourselves to be overtaken by an activity or event so deeply that we think of nothing else.  It is almost like we're allowing our whole being to focus in, and the life of the "average" leader rarely allows us to truly do this.

The best leaders, however, understand that this type of leading and living is a necessity, and do it regularly, realizing that there will always be time to plan and reflect, but we may not always have time to live in the now.

This is an area I need to work on.  I tend to plan and reflect often, but don't always allow myself to become absorbed in what is happening around me as much as I should.

The best leaders are those that are ever present.  For if we're not there, where are we?