Monday, October 19, 2015

One Minute Praisings

Have you ever tried to catch people doing something right?  We have principals that do this; they reward students for behaving appropriately.  Adults need praise, too.

Today, everyone should try a one minute praising. One minute praisings include:

The first half-minute
  • Praise people as soon as possible.
  • Let people know that they did right and be specific.
  • Tell people how good you feel about what they did right, and how it helps.
  • Pause for a moment and allow people time to feel good about what they have done.
The second half-minute
  • Encourage them to do more of the same.
  • Make it clear you have confidence in them and support their success.
Why do one minute praisings work? Let’s consider a very simple example. A child does not learn to walk straight away. When you teach a child to walk, you don’t expect him to start walking as soon as he stands up. He first toddles, and then he tries to stand up and falls in the first few attempts. Then he wobbles a few steps and you cuddle him and hug him, making him feel that he has done something worth praising. He then tries to do more of the same and finally learns to walk. In the same way, one minute praisings is a way of encouraging your staff/colleagues/students.

One minute praisings show that you are genuinely interested in your people and care for them and their success. One minute praisings aim at catching people ‘doing something right’ rather than catching them ‘doing something wrong’ like most other organizations. Although the two might seem to be the same thing, there is a lot of difference. If you emphasize on catching people doing something wrong, their main aim is simply to do no wrong, not necessarily go above and beyond and produce great results. This produces mediocrity because everyone will tend to walk the middle line.  For exceptional results, we need our people to put in their best.  

I hope you all give and receive a "Caught being Good Award" today.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Red E in Me and The Red E in You

- From Daniel Pink, Author

Your ME Instructions were
Raise your dominate hand. Take your index finger and draw a capital E your forehead.  Remember how you drew it.  Don’t google this.  I will follow-up around lunch on Monday.
Drawn for Me

Is the letter drawn so that it faces you – that is, backward to a person looking you? Or is the letter drawn so that the viewer can read it? Neither way is right or wrong. But the direction of that letter might tell you something about your disposition.

This seemingly innocent parlor trick is actually a method social scientists have used for more than a decade to measure perspective-taking – the ability to step outside one’s own experience and see the world from someone else’s viewpoint.

Drawn for Others
People who write the E so that it’s backward to themselves but legible to their partner have taken the other’s perspective. Those who draw the E so that it’s readable to themselves but backward to others haven’t bothered to consider the other person’s point of view. In an intriguing set of experiments a few years ago, a group of American social scientists led by Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management used the “E test” and some other techniques to investigate the connection between power and empathy. They found that while most people seem naturally inclined to take the other’s perspective, providing people a dose of power correlated with their being less likely to draw the E in the perspective-taking way. In other words, a surplus of power seemed to be connected, and perhaps even led, to a deficit of empathy.

As the researchers wrote: “Across these studies, power was associated with a reduced tendency to comprehend how others see, think, and feel.”

This finding might reveal what’s gone wrong with leadership at every level. On the altar of action orientation and tough-mindedness, we’ve sacrificed the fundamentally human quality of empathy.

To be sure, empathy shouldn’t be the only quality of leaders. If an executive is too worried that a decision might hurt Caroline’s feelings or make Rajiv sad, he’ll never get anything done.

Thinking strategically and acting vigorously are essential.

But action orientation without sufficient empathy has at least two flaws. First, people resist going along with proposed actions, which can impede progress. It’s a sturdy principle of organizational life that people quit bosses, not companies. Second, if people do go along, they do so reluctantly, leading to an atmosphere of compliance rather than engagement.

The key is to strike a delicate balance between action-orientation and perspective-taking. It’s not a matter of deciding between hitting your numbers (test scores) or drawing the E. It’s a matter of hitting your numbers by drawing the E.

What’s more, unlike many technical skills, empathy is extremely difficult to shift to low-cost providers and nearly impossible to reduce to lines of code in a computer program – which makes it a scarce, and therefore more valuable, commodity.

That’s why empathy is racing into many other business functions. For instance, medical schools, especially in the US, are using questionnaires to measure empathy levels of young physicians because scores on this empathy index correlate with patient outcomes in ways that traditional metrics do not.

Designers are donning thick glasses to distort their vision, sticking cotton in their ears to reduce their hearing, and slipping on garden gloves to limit their dexterity – all in an effort to design better products and services for the elderly by empathizing with what it’s really like to be old.

And when so many consumer transactions can be executed online, learning how to see the world from the perspective of customers and prospects has become integral to customer service and sales.

Yet somehow in the higher reaches of business, even in our supposedly more enlightened era, empathy, when it’s discussed at all, is often dismissed as frivolous or, worse, “soft.”

A dean of an American business school stated that when alumni return to campus to guest lecture, the current students invariably ask them a version of this question: As you think back on what you learned in B-school, what do you wish you had paid more attention to or had studied more?

And invariably the answer is the same.

“I’m glad I studied finance and accounting and the quantitative subjects,” the graduates say. “But I wish I had taken all that soft stuff more seriously.”

After they left the orderly farm of a case study for the roaring jungle of a real business, it turned out that what seemed superficially soft – organizational behavior, psychology, people smarts, communication and, yes, empathy – were crucial. Spreadsheets are easy. Spreadsheets never get bored, call in sick, or lose their motivation.

But influencing people requires more than simply putting the correct number in the proper cell and applying the right formula. And since most leaders have reasonably sound technical/managerial  skills, as well as access to the same information and tools, mastery of these nominally soft aptitudes is creating a fault line that’s separating who moves up and who
stays put.

So if you’re a leader, and we all are, especially a new one, sprinkle a few seasonings on your newly acquired bowl of power. Talk less, listen more. Treat everybody with respect. And if one of your employees asks you to draw a vowel on your forehead, you know what to do.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Law of Intentionalality: Growth Doesn’t Just Happen

Life is in session.  Are you present?  

Are you painting the right house?
Growth does not just happen.  You, an organization, must plan for growth. Hard work does not guarantee success.  You may paint all day only to step back and realize you have been painting the wrong house.  We can be active and not improve.  What is your, what is our plan to get better?

“Ridiculous, not rigorous,” was shouted from the curriculum agnostic.  My retort, “So what is your plan for improvement?”  Please, describe for me your, our, current status (ARMT/Aspire scores, ACT score, graduation rate).   The STEMnostic replied, “More of the same, please; more hard work.  We need to keep doing what we are doing and things will improve; we’ll just hope that it happens.”  My friends, hope is not a strategy!    To continue to do the same things over and over and expect the results to change is by definition insane.

I am reading one of John C. Maxwell’s latest books entitled, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, in which he describes 8  misconceptions about growth.  Today, we will look at 3. 
  • The Assumption Gap – “I (We) assume that I (we) will automatically grow.”
"You are going to get bigger."
I have been as tall as I am today since the 8th grade.   I assumed that I would just get taller ever year, but I did not.  Many carry this mindset into adulthood; that somehow mentally, spiritually and emotionally, we will continue to grow.  Charlie Brown once said, “I think that I have discovered the secret of life --- you just hang around until you get used to it.”  Or, as a colleague described to me last week, you just hang around until the person in front of you retires or leaves this world.    Michael de Montaigne state that “No wind favors him who has no destined port.”  Personally and professionally, growth is not automatic.  Our students are depending on us, therefore, we must plan and prepare for growth.
  • The Knowledge Gap --- “I (We) don’t know how to grow.”
Take Control of Your Growth
Do you have a growth plan?  Does the organization have a growth plan?  I formerly bragged that I was from the school of hard knocks; I had to learn things the hard way.  Things changed; they sometimes got better and sometimes got worse.  Then I took control and began to plan. The is but one decision that has impacted my life more than my decision to grow.  Since then, the stage has expanded and the opportunities have increased. Today, be that person that wants to improve, that has a desire to grow. Never become satisfied with the status-quo.   Take responsibility for that growth. 
  • The Timing Gap --- “It’s is not the right time to begin.” 
You snooze you lose
Why do we work so fast?    The Law of Diminishing Intent says, “The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.”  Every job that I have ever taken was somewhat beyond me.  Each challenged me as never before.   And I know, that if I do not get better as a leader, I (we) will fail (though we will fail forward and not backwards).    Know this:  Life lived for tomorrow will always be a day away from being realized.   The reality is that you will never get much done unless you go ahead and do that which needs to be done before you are ready.  If you are not already intentionally growing, you need to get started today.  If you don’t, you may reach some goals, but you will eventually plateau.  Once you start growing, you can keep growing by keep asking “What’s next?” Inquiry-based pedagogy? DOK? Effective questioning? iPads where?  STEM what?  Mastery who?  Carnegie why?

So what is next?  PCBOE will always have fluid goals with an overriding notion to positively change the school environment to better prepare students for college and careers.  Our desire is to become schools of inquiry, innovation and impact.  We will continue to knead the implementation of standards based instruction and inquiry-based pedagogy, knowing that research shows that 80 hours of professional development per individual is needed for sustainable change.  We will continue to expand our partnership with Discovery Education, higher education and other stakeholders.  We will begin STEMifiying our system with STEM-formational leadership development in October and expand to certified staff sometime next calendar year.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Carrot, Egg or Coffee - Which Are You?

A colleague of ours shared this with me and I am sharing with you.

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as soon as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, ‘Tell me what you see.’

‘Carrots, eggs, and coffee,’ she replied.

Her grandmother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The grandmother then asked the granddaughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, the grandmother asked the granddaughter to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked, ‘What does it mean, grandmother?’
Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity? Do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Leader in Us

In Phenix City Schools (PCS), everyone is a leader.  Regardless of what you do, regardless of title or position, we are all leaders.  Everyone can make a difference.  What we do will have an impact, even to point that our actions will be reflected in our collective legacy. 

On this third Monday morning of the school year, think about your personal-best experiences; experiences that reflect your best individual standards of excellence.  What did you do? What did you say?  How did you act? 

In PCS, for us to make extraordinary things happen, and this is true in any organization, we must:
  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart

Model the Way
Leadership is not about who you are but it is about what you do.  Titles are granted, but it is your behavior that earns you respect.  At all times, we are expected to act like leaders; to model the way.  We are expected to lead by example and not command.   The number one key to successful leadership is credibility.  Make certain that your actions add to your stature and do not take away.

Inspire a Shared Vision
Every organization, every social movement, begins with a dreams.  The dream, or vision, is the force that creates the future.  Leaders envision the future by imagining exciting and enabling possibilities.  As we STEM-form our system, just as an architect draws a blueprint or an engineer builds a model, we all need to have a clear vision of what the results should look like before starting the project.  Do not worry if the vision is not clear.  We are a work in progress and will continue to build and reveal our vision.  Also, know that you cannot command commitment; you have to inspire it. Have the vision (Schools of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact) in mind and be clear about why it is important to you.  Be able to tell others why it should matter to them, as well.  Clear goals, vision and a positive difference are necessary to get others to buy in.

Challenge the Process
To achieve your personal-best, you must change from the status quo.  No one claims such success by keeping things the same. (We know that we must stop the trend – meat, poultry and fish cutters and cashiers. We can and will STEM students out of poverty!) Our challenges have been implementing innovative technologies (iPads grades 6-8), inquiry-based pedagogy via Investigations math programs, cutting-edge curriculum per Carnegie Learning, and unique progress monitoring and student tracking of standards by means of MasteryConnect.

All successful leaders had to overcome uncertainty and fear to achieve their best; so must an organization.  Leaders must venture out; not sit idly waiting for fate to smile on them.  Be a trailblazer; a pioneer.  Make something happen.  Be STEM-tastic at what you do.  Become the STEM boss of your hall.  Take risk.  Do not be afraid of failure (FAIL – first attempt in learning).  It is a given – if you try, you will fail.  Proceed anyway. Stay the course.  Generate small wins.  Move methodically. Incrementally move tasks and projects forward. 

Digression of a methodical nature:  A colleague of ours wanted to know where the STEM-ology came from and in to being.  I took him back to Perdido Beach and an informal, less than a quorum, inquiry of Board Members, summer 2015.  From Perdido to Dr. Marcia Burke, to Savanah’s STEM Academy, to Fort Payne, to Piedmont, then to Board in December 2014, request to the City in the winter of 2015, formation of the STEM Committee, consultation with architects which moved from wall-removal to new 10,000 square foot facility, visit with STEM vendors, creation of FOPCS to raise $50,000 which ballooned to $1.1 million, to meetings of 30 on June 2 and 100 on June 18,  pasted with professional development, new hires, mucho research and gift giving.

Know that the best leaders are the best learners and life is their laboratory.  Be ye doers!

Enable Others to Act
We must lead by empowering those around us.  Give power away.  Show trust in others in order to build their trust in you.  Constituents will neither perform at their best nor stick around if you make them feel weak, dependent or alienated (teacher retention). If you are the one doing all of the talking and demonstrating, learning is limited. 

Encourage the Heart

The climb to the top is arduous and steep, but the views are STEM-tacular!  You will become tire, frustrated, disenchanted and may be tempted to give up.  Genuine acts of caring draw people forward.  Recognition is the most powerful currency you have and it cost you nothing.  We must recognize others and celebrate victories and do so often.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sharpen the Saw

A colleague of ours gave me a thumb drive this summer.  On it was the last chapter of  Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Sharpen the Saw.” An excerpt from the chapter reads:
A woodcutter strained to saw down a tree.  A young man who was watching asked “What are you doing?” 
“Are you blind?” the woodcutter replied. “I’m cutting down this tree.” 
The young man was unabashed. “You look exhausted! Take a break. Sharpen your saw.” 
The woodcutter explained to the young man that he had been sawing for hours and did not have time to take a break. 
The young man pushed back… “If you sharpen the saw, you would cut down the tree much faster.” 
The woodcutter said “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw. Don’t you see I’m too busy?”
(Ouch! That smarted, so I took a day of vacation.)

As we embark on this new school year, let us all remember to keep the saw sharp, for to sharpen the saw is to preserve the greatest asset you have–you. We all need to balance the physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of our lives. We should: 
  • eat properly, exercise daily, and rest/recover/relax; 
  • make social and meaningful connections with others;
  • learn something new daily, read, write, and teach others;
  • spend time in nature, expand spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, and/or service
Sharpening will keep you fresh so you can effectively practice the other six habits. "Without renewal, the body becomes weak, the mind mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive, and the person selfish. Not a pretty picture, is it?"

"Feeling good doesn’t just happen. Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. It’s all up to you. You can renew yourself through relaxation. Or you can totally burn yourself out by overdoing everything. You can pamper yourself mentally and spiritually. Or you can go through life oblivious to your well-being. You can experience vibrant energy. Or you can procrastinate and miss out on the benefits of good health and exercise. You can revitalize yourself and face a new day in peace and harmony. Or you can wake up in the morning full of apathy because your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone. Just remember that every day provides a new opportunity for renewal–a new opportunity to recharge yourself instead of hitting the wall. All it takes is the desire, knowledge, and skill.” -Stephen Covey

Sunday, August 9, 2015

5 Things You Need to Know

As those employed in the field of education, know that you have tremendous power to affect the lives of those around you.  Encouragement should be a difference-maker in someone’s day, week, or life.  To this, John C. Maxwell writes in his book, Encouragement Changes Everything, that there are “5 things every encourager needs to know about people."

1.   Everybody Wants to Be Somebody

Believe in Our Students
Everyone needs affirmation.  All want to be loved and considered.  Everybody wants to be somebody.  Every student is and will become somebody. 

How can we help others feel like they are somebody?  By seeing them as a 10 on a scale of 10.  You often get exactly what you expect from people.  In the eyes of every parent, their child is the “cream of the crop,” retorted my father-in-law.  “Parents are not withholding, they are sending us their very best.”  Treat someone as a 2 and they will act like a 2.   The greatest help that we can give others is to believe in them.

2.  Nobody Cares How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care

People do not want to know how smart we are.  They do not want to know what you or I have accomplished.  The only thing that they really want from us is to know whether we really care about them. 

***Sidebar Leaders:  A wise person from within my office once said:  “Rules without relationships equal rebellion.”

This is a difficult lesson for some to learn.  Often we want to impress.  We want to be admired.  We want others to follow.  Most followers do not care anything about resumes and pedigrees. Most of all, followers want to know that leaders care about them and have their interests at heart. 

3.  Everybody Needs Somebody

Coach Boone and Louie
In one of my favorite movies, Remember the Titans, Coach Boone asks bighearted offensive lineman Louie Lastik if he was planning to go to college.  Louie says, “Oh not me, Coach.  I ain’t a brainiac.” Coach Boone replies, “If you don’t go to college, it’s not going to be because you’re not qualified, so I want you to bring me your test scores at the end of every week, and we’ll go over them together.”  Towards the end of the movie, Louie tearfully approaches Coach Boon.  “I got a C-plus average, Coach. I’m going to college.” Because someone took interest, Louie achieved more than he ever thought himself capable.

Look in the buses, the hallways and classrooms.  You will find endless number of people like that.  They are looking for someone to invest in them, to encourage them, to be the person that they were created to be.

4.  Anybody  Who Helps Somebody Influences a Lot of Somebodies
Moon Lake - Phenix City, AL
It is contagious!  Pour effort into someone else, and watch how the encouragement is multiplied. Influence influences!  The greater the positive impact you make on another person or group, the more likely that person or group of people is to turn around and influence others positively.  Encouragement has a ripple effect, like a stone cast into Moon Lake.

5.  Love Everybody

Often we choose those who we encourage.  We may look for others who are like us or we may only help those who believe or think as we do.  This is not how it should be.

A man fell into a pit and could not get out - here is how others treated that person:

A subjective person came along and said “I feel for you down there.”
An objective person came along and said, “Well, it’s logical that someone would fall down there.”
A self-righteous person said, “Only bad people fall into pits.”
A mathematician calculated how the individual fell into the pit.
A news reporter wanted and exclusive story on the person in the pit. 
A fundamentalist said, “You deserve your pit.”
A realist came along and said, “Now that’s a pit”
A geologist told him to appreciate the rock strata in the pit.
An IRS worker asked if he was paying taxes on the pit.
The inspector asked if he had a permit to dig the pit.
The self-pitying person said, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.”
An optimist said, “Things could be worse.”
A pessimist said, “Things will get worse.”
Then Someone, seeing the man, reached down and took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit.

We should love everybody, just as we are loved.  We should treat others as we would like to be treated.  Do that and others will feel encouraged. 

Let's have a GREAT school year!