Category: Ethics (ISLLC 5)

A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of the students by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner.

7 Ways to Practice/Model Effective Leadership

 

Some Thoughts and Ideas

I’m pretty sure that the whole “apple and tree” thing comes up so frequently because there’s some truth to it.  The apple really does seem to fall pretty darn close to the tree.  Remember though, apples do come in all shapes and sizes, they are unique from one another in many ways (even those from the same tree), and they have the capacity to grow, and to change.  I think I’m not talking about apples any more.  Regardless, I would argue that modeling plays a big part in growth and development.  Furthermore, I find modeling to be an invaluable practice of leaders who seek to influence positive development within the communities that they serve, and among the populations of those communities.

Like apples, leaders come in all shapes and sizes.  Isn’t it cool when we see a kindergartener being kind to his peers in overt and intentional ways?  A kid is showing his leadership value when he makes sure that everyone get’s a turn, or shares some of his snack because someone else forgot to bring one, or takes the time to build friendships with those who are to shy to reach out.  Education thrives when leadership is not only distributed, but also recognized in all of its myriad forms.  Below are seven ways one might consider modeling effective leadership.  I assume that many leadership/education blog readers are already doing these things in their personal and professional lives.  I would suggest that insomuch as you are (and whether or not you intend to), you are working to guid others down a path to productivity and wellbeing.  By being prescriptive about the ways in which you lead, you are well positioned to perpetuate a positive culture of distributed leadership.

1.  Stay Grounded In Your Core Values

Covey relentlessly reminds me of this important leadership practice, and I appreciate it!  The first step to making this happen is to clearly articulate your core values in one form or another.  Even a quick list scratched out on a legal pad will do.  What do you hold sacred?  Why have you chosen a career in education?  At he end of each day, if you accomplish one thing, what would you like it to be?  A few concepts that come to mind as I scratch out my list are kindnessopen-mindedness, reflective thinking, autonomy within collaboration, progress, and patience.  There are more, but simply articulating this group gets my wheels turning.  How am I functioning as a school leader within these categories?  What could I do to enhance the connection between my work and my core values?  Is that connection impacting the community that I serve in positive ways?  Where could I shift my thinking/practice to gain positive momentum toward collective outcomes?

I recently had a meeting with a mentor who reminded me how important it is to be authentic in my convictions, and to see them through.  Our discussion brought to light the often-difficult nature of facilitating cultural shifts.  He is currently engaged in an ongoing process by which the school community he leads is updating their strategic plan.  He has committed to developmental structures that give voice to the community.  Those who are served by the plan will develop the plan.  It resonates deeply with me because our district is doing the same.  To that end, our superintendent has worked hard to design and implement a process based his clearly articulated core values of collaboration and stakeholder ownership.  He has invited the gamut of our community members to contribute through varied means.  He has made clear that this is to be “our” plan, and that every voice will be listened to, heard, and valued as it unfolds.  A great way to model leadership and build enthusiasm for positive progress!

2.  Keep Moving Forward

It ain’t always easy to stay the course.  Especially because we’re fallible, and there are many bumps, twists, and turns along any given trail we attempt to tread.  Education provides us with lots of opportunities to feel that throwing the towel in is an option.  However, we know full well that it isn’t.  Re-consider, adapt, change your mind, shift your thinking, stomp your feet and pound your fists if you must…but never give up!  Simply the modeling of optimism, and a commitment to positive forward progress toward any goal, with any group, in any situation, can mean the difference between growth and stagnation.  A lot of “any’s,” no doubt, but I’m standing by it.

3.  Trust Your Gut

Remember “Raiders of the Lost Ark?”  The scene where Indiana Jones stepped off what appeared to be a menacing cliff, into what appeared to be a gigantic abyss?  I don’t recommend that.  However, I do appreciate the decision as it relates to leadership modeling.  Dr. Jones (while a fictional character) was well read in biblical history and lore; he studied countless texts, paintings, and artifacts, had critical conversations, taught college level courses, and was guided by his father’s detailed journal.  In the end though, he had to make a decision based on a feeling.  The feeling was generated in large part by his extensive preparation…but it was still a feeling.  Do you ever have a feeling about the right thing to do and the right way to do it?  I do.

There is a whole bunch of grey in education.  I believe that’s one of the reasons we spend so much time thinking and talking about failure as a path to achievement.  Edison knew something about how a light bulb would eventually hold and project sustained light.  He wasn’t going in to each of thousands of experimental attempts blind, but he did need to trust his gut to some extent.  He knew that the thing he aimed for was possible, just as Indiana Jones new that something was going to prevent him from falling as a result of his “leap of faith.”  Sometimes it doesn’t matter that we can detail the “why” or the “how” of a thing.  It’s fine line though.  As leaders (even if we’re only leading ourselves down life’s path) we have to hone our gut-trusting abilities.

As with any aspect of life, in leadership, degrees of caution are required for progress.  We can practice by taking reasonable risks.  Reach out to someone who you feel would be interested in collaboration.  Implement an after school program that gives some student group a voice in your school improvement plan.  Offer selected teachers, students, and parents learning tools that you may not fully have vetted yourself.  Try Stuff when your gut tells you it’s good stuff to try.  The more you do it in non-earth-shattering situations, the better you will be at doing it when the ground threatens to shake a bit.  Also, the modeling will help to generate a sense of value, autonomy, and even enthusiasm in those who you serve, and those who share leadership responsibilities in your organization and in your community.

4.  Be Reflective (Learn)

It tends to be much easier for me to dole out advice that to take it.  I’m getting better though.  I’m becoming increasingly reflective.  Occasionally I find myself working to help others through challenging situations by reminding them that patience is a virtue, or that it takes two people to have an argument, or things usually work out better when you think before you speak.  During many of those occasions I realize that the same advise would work well for me.  I feel a bit silly at first, but then I realize the opportunity I’m facing.  I can take that advice.  I can enter any advice into my paradigm of regular reflection, and I can use it to help me develop in to the kind of father, husband, educator, and person that I’m constantly aiming to be.

Life is filled with chances to think about what you might have done.  I would suggest that the most effective reflective practices take it in a bit of a different direction, asking:  What will I do know?  What will I do next?  Organizations, systems, programs, and people are ever-evolving things.  When leaders model the ware withal to move through their own individual evolutionary processes as reflective adapters, they stand to perpetuate cultures that are capable of the same.  If you value growth and development born from reflection, model it.  You will find that people appreciate the open-minded, adaptable, forward thinking practice of truly reflective leadership.  I believe that reflective leadership can dig deep in enhancing organizational outcomes.

5.  Commit

Stuff takes time!  If you believe in one or more of the practices outlined in this post, make a commitment to incorporate it/them into your leadership practice.  If not, make sure that you do know what works for you, and re-up your commitment to that/those things.  If you are already deeply committed to the leadership practices that fit you and your community, and need no further development…well done.  You can take a nap now.

Of course, there are varied levels of commitment.  Some commitments are intended to last for a lifetime, while others are meant to be relatively short-term and experimental.  The key is to see things through to their end.  Don’t be wishy-washy.  Your population of students, parents, and colleagues will appreciate your well thought out & decisive nature.  They will come to understand and feel comfortable that your word is your bond, and that things get will get done when and how they are supposed to.  When I do this well, I always see positive results.  When I drop the ball on this (which unfortunately happens), I tend to experience disappointment from others, and myself, along with a diminished enthusiasm for progress.  While those things can be repaired with authentic and sympathetic communication, it’s best to avoid them when possible.  When leaders regularly model fulfilling intentional commitments to things that they can handle well, they promote a relaxed sense of comfort among those they serve.

6.  Believe

I would not presume to tell you what you should believe; just that believing seems to be a good way to go, and therefore, a good thing to model.  I happen to believe that big dreamshard work, and wellbeing are three essential ingredients to a productive and joyful life.  I end my blog posts by asserting “Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.,” specifically because of that belief.  Take it or leave it.  However, it’s been a great practice as I reflect through this blog.  It repeatedly grounds me in that set of beliefs, and while they are already deep-seeded aspects of who I am and how I function, I find the reminders helpful.   Some educators believe that all students can learn, some believe that the ‘good’ in everyone will eventually shine through, and some believe that every integration is a pathway to learning.  Making your belief system overt in your words and actions helps people understand who you are and how you operate.  When leaders are intentional about modeling this practice they are likely to enjoy the reciprocal benefit of similar output from others, which enhances relationships and generates companionate communication, development, and growth.

7.  Appreciate Adapted Outcomes

It doesn’t always work out the way you intended, but it does always work out.  The train is going to keep moving whether or not you’re on it.  It’s all right to be disappointed in outcomes, but it’s not all right to dwell.  One good way to be all right with the way things work out (when they don’t work out the way you wanted them to) is to appreciate it.  Adapted outcomes can be very useful to organizational leaders.  In part because they have hence become the reality of things, and in part because they can provide great insights as to how things have evolved.  Model excitement over outcomes as points along a path and you will be modeling patiencegenuine learning, trust in the process of growth, and comfort with change.  All important leadership concepts to keep in mind as you work to fulfill you individual goals and address the vision of your school and district communities.

So What?

In writing this post I’m suggesting that any one of the above ways is a decent starting point for a brainstorm regarding leadership.  However, while I have a long way to go, my development has led me to consider that any and all combinations therein could be useful as scaffolding for quality leadership and leadership modeling (arguably one in the same).  That in mind, I think any and all advice should be dissected.   I think it should be broken down to its smallest parts, questioned and even denied, laughed at, kicked around, and crumpled up into little bits of unrecognizable fire fodder.  Then, if an inkling of connected interest remains, it should be considered in whatever ways the considerer feels comfortable.  Only if that process ends with some sort of “aha” moment should the advice be adopted.  So do what you will with what you just read, and please keep in mind that I’d love to hear about it!  As always, your input is welcome and appreciated.

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Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

 

STILT: Patience, Compassion, & Calm

Today I was reminded how important patience, compassion, and calm are in making sure that those you love understand how much you care about them.

This morning my two year old was not thrilled.  He’s going through a bit of a thing, which kids do.  I understand.  He called out just after seven o’clock (better than just after four o’clock).  “Mommy…Mommy!”  Technically, that’s better than “Daddy…Daddy!”  However, given that my incredible wife does the great majority of the “wake up in the middle of the night and service our children” duty (and that seven o’clock slept me in for two hours as it was) I headed to the scene.

For any two-year-olds reading this post, you understand that Daddy is an entirely deficient substitute for Mommy.  For those of you who are not two…take my word for it.  Regardless, I wasn’t met with, “Thank you for coming to my aid father,” or, “welcome to my room Dad, it’s a pleasure waking up with you…shall I give you hug?”

Instead, a nasally, screeching bellow forcefully rose from beneath the covers of my darling child’s bed.  “No,” he protested (with considerable fervor, if I hadn’t made that clear), “I want Mommy!”  On it went from there.  Turns out, he came around after a while, some apple sauce, a cup of milk, an English muffin with grape jelly, and lots of patience from his mother.  And guess what…we still love him – maybe even more!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the learning that accompanies life.  I’ve been working to reflect on, synthesize, and communicate that learning as it relates to me, my personal and professional paradigms, and anyone else who wants to share it.  I’ve been using this blog, Twitter, conversations, and varied other forms to engage in that communication.  I’ve played with multiple formats.  You are reading the latest incarnation of my growth, development, and wellbeing process.  I’m calling it STILT (Something That I Learned Today).

The word stilt has multiple definitions, including one about a bird with long reddish legs.  However, there’s a common theme among those definition, and that theme is support.  A stilt is a thing that supports something else.  Critical reflection has been an incredibly important, impactful, and significant support for my personal and professional learning, growth, and wellbeing.  It is a stilt.  So, after about a full year of following through with my self-commitment to blog regularly, I’ve decided to take it to the next level.

Look for regular STILT posts right here on Berg’s Eye View.

Join me for #STILTchat, a new half hour Twitter chat (short but sweet – and, if all goes well meaningful) on Sundays from 1-1:30pm eastern standard (nap launch for the brood).

Tweet your daily learning anytime using the hash tag #STILTchat (if you don’t mind me stockpiling and sharing it out via the brand new Berg’s Eye View STILT archive at http://bergseyeview.edublogs.org/category/stilt/)

Follow this simple format (and adapt to meet your needs):

1.  Briefly explain something that you learned (or were reminded of) during any given day.  It can be something momentous, something lighthearted, or something that falls anywhere in between.  Just make it something that you find meaningful.

2.  Describe the situation in which the learning took place.

3.  Give one or more suggestions as to how you (and those who read/hear about your learning) can apply it.

Above, I described a situation in which I was reminded that children don’t always ask for our love, attention, guidance, or compassion in direct ways.  Sometimes they scream, throw things, and act out.  As a parent and an educator, it’s my job to remember that they need to know how much I care about them through it all.  In fact, maybe even more so during the rough times.  Some suggestions:

Be patient

Listen well to the message behind the noise.  People from two-years-old to ninety-two-years-old get frustrated.  They feel frightened somtimes, they’re sad when they feel lonely, they might have trouble expressing themselves in kind ways when there’re tired or hungry.  Patience and understanding go a long way to confront those and other challenges with positive relationship building and emotional growth opportunities.

Show Compassion

We are more alike than we are different.  Be relatable to students, friends, and others that you spend your time with.  It could go a long way to foster growth, productivity, self-actualization (for all involved), and even joy…a wonderful thing to feel!

Stay Calm

Whatever is happening is happening whether you’re overwrought or calm.  If you’re like me, you think more clearly, act more decisively, and simply feel better when you’re able to stay calm.  Be intentional about your mood, energy, and attitude at school, at home, and everywhere you travel.  It could make a positive impact on your life and the lives of others.

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Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

 

Kindness is Awesome – Get it, Give it, Good!

Today one of our counselors sent the link below via e-mail.  She wrote that she wished she had sent it during Kindness Week, and that teachers could use it as a follow up with their classes.  After watching the video, I wondered how often kindness week comes along.  I feel like we might consider having at lease one kindness week each month.  Maybe two?  What about three, or even four?  How about an ongoing series of perpetual kindness weeks that run congruent to one another for an extended period of time…like possibly forever; just a thought.

The clip reminded me of the power of kindness.  It made me think about the emotional charge that kindness offers those who give and receive it.  I thought about the people I serve.  There’s a great song by James Taylor called “Caroline in my Mind” (you may have heard it).  In the song, Mr. Taylor sings, “there ain’t no doubt in no ones mind that love’s the finest thing around,” and goes on to reference kindness as a way to communicate love.  The implication is that being kind to someone, saying kind words and acting in kind ways, communicates that you care about him/her…and doesn’t it?  Furthermore, wouldn’t we all (or at least most of us) agree that caring for each other is one of the finest things around?

As educators, we know that the lives of those we serve are enhanced when they realize that we care about them.  When our caring is overt, our students learn better, our faculties have a more harmonious workspace, our parent populations feel increased confidence in the fact that we work day and night to provide the highest quality academic and social growth environments and experiences for their children, and that we do it because we care.  Kindness expresses caring.  Kindness is truly powerful.

At the end of the clip, where the middle school student explains how deeply impactful a simple act of kindness was to him (with tears streaming down his face) I couldn’t help but feel that power.  What a great feeling.  What an awesome thing.  I recently wrote about being kind to yourself, and I still think that it’s important.  However, this clip reminds me how profoundly important and gratifying it is to be kind to others.  Being kind lifts people up.  It pulls people together and causes extraordinary things to happen.  It helps people believe in themselves and in one another.  Kindness is as much a gift to the giver as it is to the receiver…if not more.

If you have three and a half minutes, watch the video below.  Absorb the feeling it generates in you.  Think about how kindness contributes to your life in any and all roles in which you function.  This clip makes me take stock, go back to the basics, and seek growth in my ability to shower those I serve and care about with kindness.  It makes me want to work harder through frustrations and disappointment.  It makes me want to remember my core values.  It makes me want to grow.  What does it do for you?

Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

 

 

Kindness in Communication

This week I’ve had some cause to think about kindness in communication.  I’m always talking about how incredibly busy the business of education is.  There is literally something happening at every moment during the day.  Something needs attending to around every corner.  We are each running at an extraordinary pace.  At the same time, we’re attending to the incredibly important task of being patient with our outcomes.  Learning and growth takes time.

Even in the midst of an arguably frenetic pace, educators are required to be thoughtful.  We have to be.  The required envisioning, planning, processing, implementing, critical thinking, adapting, re-envisioning, innovating, and implementing (again) cycle is dizzying.  Ironically, we seem to love it.  We thrive on the challenges we face.

One of the most important lessons I’ve been learning as a new administrator is that none of us do it alone.  I’m blessed to be working in a community where stakeholders in all positions understand that, and they take advantage of the gift of partnerships by communicating with kindness.  In fact, as I’ve been working to keep up with the tasks while keeping student achievement and wellbeing in mind, I’ve heard from a variety of partners…all willing to help, all ready to collaborate, all positive and optimistic – including our incredible students.

In the past two weeks my counterpart and I delivered the Code of Conduct talks to 1150 patience 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.  We focused on our community’s expectations as they relate to the individual and collective, short and long-term achievement of goals for our students.  We spent some time going over the rules and the consequences, and we spent some time relating to the groups that we spoke to.  We addressed concerns and celebrated successes.  We talked about being helpful, accountable, respectful, and thoughtful (H.A.R.T.’s underpinning behavioral guide).  We reminded students that they are each expected to “lead from their H.A.R.T.” at all times.

Today I was in the lunchroom wiping down a table that was left messy by a group of students who rushed off without cleaning.  It was frustrating, especially because we had just spent so much time talking about our responsibilities.  There I was, cleaning up a mess, feeling frustrated, when I was interrupted by a relatively quite…and very kind voice, leading from it’s H.A.R.T., “Mr. Berg, I can help you clean that up.”  The frustration lifted and was replaced with pride.  How cool.  The things we learn from these children, right?  The task was no longer difficult.  I no longer felt rushed.

As I finished the task and chatted about the week with this considerate young man, I thought about how important it is to remember that the challenges of our busy days can be diminished by kindness in communication.  So many people have reached out to me in kind ways over the past two weeks.  I need to follow their lead, making sure that in the mist of all of this busyness, I reach out in all directions with authenticity and with kindness.  Today, one of my students reminded me that it brings us together, makes our challenges seem less challenging, and enhances our days.

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Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

 

 

 

 

Credibility In Leadership via Kouzes & Posner

The Truth About Leadership:  

The No-Fads, Heart-Of-The-Matter Facts You Need To Know

by James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner

Chapter 2 Reflections

Seth E. Berg

Essential Learning:

Chapter Two of The Truth About Leadership cuts right to the point.  The foundation of the chapter is that credibility plays an essential role in effective leadership.  The chapter unfolds around the idea that believing in yourself is a great start, but that until others believe in you you’re not credible as a leader, and therefore not effective.  I appreciate that the authors go on to address the difference between being forced (or feeling forced) to follow and willingly following.  When people are so moved by credible leaders that they follow them “enthusiastically and voluntarily” organization tend to thrive.  Employees who believe in their organization’s leadership feel energized to contribute, they feel as though they have some stake in the outcomes they produce, and they are inspired to make incredible things happen.

Kousez and Posner point out that leadership is a relationship.  As with partners in any relationship, leaders are rightfully held to certain expectations.  Meeting those expectations is pivotal to the success of the relationship.  It is crucial that leaders are good for their word.  When credibility is diminished by consistent miscommunication and a lack of follow through, resentment and disillusion can mount.  Organizations suffer when their leaders are perceived to lack credibility.  Kousez and Posner conducted a pointed survey with tens of thousands of respondents identifying four primary characteristics that people admire in those who lead them.  According to the respondents, people want their leaders to be honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent.  Moreover, the authors contend that those are the characteristics of leaders who motivate people to work with passion and purpose.

Honesty is critical because people have to know that they can trust those who are setting the course.  Change is constant and can often times be intimidating.  Leaders must convey the clear message that they have “ethical principles and clear standards by which (they) live.”  Being honest is a holistic act.  Great leaders are honest with those that they serve and they are honest with themselves.  They understand their needs, their strengths, and their limitations.  They work and live with a deep knowledge of their own circumstances.  When they speak they truly subscribe to what they are saying.  Forward thinking leaders give people a sense that the future is positive and stable, those who inspire help people commit to that future while giving them reasons to feel comfortable in believing that it’s bright, and of course, competency produces confidence.  People especially admire leaders who have the competency to admit and articulate their challenges, and who are able to accept learning as an essential component of growth.

Finally, this chapter illuminates the indelible truth that great leadership is contagious.  Organizations that are well run and guided by people who are credible tend to be filled with credible leaders at all levels.  People in those types of organizations tend to expect credibility from one another regardless of the capacity in which they serve.  When the onus for being honest, forward-looking, credible, and inspiring comes from an effective leader who puts it on himself and lives it, those characteristics tend to spread, creating cultural norms that enhance his community and all of its stakeholders.

Highlights – Ten Quotes To Ruminate On:

1.  Leadership begins with you and your belief in yourself.  Leadership continues only if other people also believe in you.

2.  Leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow.

3.  In every relationship people have expectations of each other.

4.  Before anyone is willing to follow you – or any other leader – he or she wants to know that you are honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent.

5.  Being honest means telling the truth and having ethical principles and clear standards by which you live.

6.  (People) need to believe that you are worthy of your trust.

7.  To be honest with others also requires being honest with yourself and taking stock of what is truly important to you.

8.  You have to be candid with yourself about your strengths and limitations.

9.  If you don’t believe in the messenger, you won’t believe the message.

10.  Do what you say you will do.

Application:

I have worked in many organizations.  For better or worse, leadership has set the tone in each and every one.  The values of those who lead seem to permeate throughout, especially when their actions match those values.  Most recently I have been extremely fortunate to work in two elementary school communities whose leadership is outstanding!  Both communities are lead by administrators who deeply value collaboration.  Both administrations support and encourage leadership at all levels.  It’s exciting and empowering to know that my input is essential to the wellbeing of the community I serve.  I know many teachers in both buildings who spend time and exert energy well beyond what is contractually required because they understand the critical part they play in fostering a healthy and productive learning environment.  The lived values of these incredible leaders makes that possible.  I’ve heard stories of schools whose leaders stifle teacher contributions by micromanaging with an eye on targeting the negative.  Instead, they should be focused on collaborating and highlighting positive development.  In my experience, leaders who overtly addressing challenges as boons for adaptation and pathways to success gain credibility and inspire others to achieve!

Learning 365: Perception Is Reality

Learning 365

(Critical Thinking About What The World Is Teaching Me Every Day)

#40 Perspective Is Reality

[Lesson Break Down]

Communication is beholden to perception.  In every communication there’s output and input.  The intentions of the one producing the output can easily be muddied by the perception of those processing the input.

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The other day I was playing with my three-year-old when naptime crept up on us.   Neither of us wanted to stop playing.  However, I knew that we would miss our nap window if we didn’t take a break and make the transition.  My son is just like Ian Falconer’s Olivia – he’s supposed to take a nap every day but when the time comes he’s “not at all tired.” Anyway, I told him that we could take five more minutes to play before we had to go upstairs.  Being the negotiator that he is, he countered with ten minutes.  I told him that I’d concede to seven.  That’s when it happened.  With pride and resolve he looked up at me and declared, “One!”  His three-year-old mind wasn’t taking the time to care that one minute is actually less than any of the other options we’d discussed.  He was simply determined to win the negotiation.  When I agreed to the one-minute extension he was thrilled.  He smiled an “I got you” kind of smile and continued to play.  One minute later I informed him that his time was up.  He gladly put his toys down and led me to his room where we read a few books before he happily snuggled in for a nap.

Later that day I saw the toddler perception machine at work again.  This time, my clever three-year-old was taking my enthusiastic one-year-old for a bit of a ride.  It was Lego time.  The bin had just been opened and the big guy was divvying up the pieces.  Here’s how it went, “One for you…three for me.”  The thing is, he said, “one for you,” with such enthusiasm it was almost as if he was giving the little guy a cookie each time he handed him his third of the Legos.  He was so excited to be getting what he perceived to be “big boy” treatment from his venerated older brother.  What a thrill!

The combination of these events has me thinking about the power of perception and how frequently it plays into the effects of communication in my personal and professional life.   That power seems to be important both when I’m communicating out and when I’m processing communication that I’ve received.  How frequently are my intentions lost by way of some seemingly unimportant communication misstep?  How often do I attach erroneous intentions to the messages I’m receiving from my colleagues or my loved ones?  What impact does perception-based miscommunication have on the development of relationships, productivity, organizational culture, achievement of goals, etc.?  I’ve brainstormed some scenarios in which perception might have been working against effective communication in my daily life so that I can think critically about enhancing my output and input on a go forward basis.  Here are 5 things to consider about digital communication – specifically with regard to e-mails:

1.  Taking for granted that someone is reading a digital message in exactly the way it was intended can be a mistake.

2. Likewise, making assumptions about potential negative intentions behind a confusing received digital message can lead to further confusion and potential problems.

3. Assuming positive intentions goes a long way when communicating digitally (or otherwise for that matter).

4.  Messages with no subject line or with the entire message in the subject line are easily confused.

5.  It’s nice when people personalize digital messages by including a greeting and signature line.  It really only takes a moment and I think it goes a long way.

365 Lessons: Think It, Say It, Do it.

365 Lessons

(Critical Thinking About What The World Is Teaching Me Every Day)

 #38 Think It Is Great, Saying It Is Wonderful, Doing It Makes It Happen

 [Lesson Break Down]

I have a lot of ideas.  I talk about some of them, write some of them down, and I explore some of them further than a fleeting thought.  The ones that turn into something, for better or worse, are the ones I act on.

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 I’m not getting any younger.  I’m certainly not accruing any extra free time.  However, I have some things that I’d like to do while I’m able.  Because life is fragile and relatively short I have no idea how long that will be.  I read a great quote today in a book called The Element by Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D.  Dr. Paul Samuelson, a Nobel Prize winning economist, said, “Never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work that for you is play.  This turns possible underachievers into happy warriors.”  Not everyone wins a Nobel Prize for the work that he’s destine to do.  The bigger issue in my mind is that not everyone ends up doing that work.  I’m beginning to understand that it’s not necessary to be paid or even recognized for the work that I love to do.  Being a “Happy Warrior” is good enough.  Today’s lesson has me giving myself the following advice:  If I’m driven and passionate about exploring an idea that fits with my goals, abilities, and circumstances – I should act on it.

365 Lessons: #37 Happy To Do It:)

365 Lessons

(Critical Thinking About What The World Is Teaching Me Every Day)

 #37 Happy To Do It:) 

[Lesson Break Down]

I don’t always get to choose what I have to be doing at any given moment of each day.  However, I make decisions that set the framework for what I have to be doing to fulfill my long-term goals and serve the purposes I’ve set out to pursue.  I find it easier and more rewarding to get things done when I set my mind to enjoying each moment.

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If you read this blog you know that I keep myself pretty busy.  I have an incredible wife and a every-growing family with a third child on the way.  I’m chasing this goal of developing myself as a writer, I put a lot of stake in my professional work as an educator, I love to read and research, and I can get pretty wrapped up in the graduate work I’m doing.  I could literally spend every waking moment focused on those things.  Of course, there are other things that need to be done (and I try to just relax sometimes too).  The point is that I’m working to relieve myself of distractions during any given activity so that I can be critically engaged as much as possible.  I’m finding it’s the best way to learn, grow, build authentic relationships, and achieve goals.  Lets be clear that “working’ is a key word in the previous sentence.

An easy one is anything that has to do with my boys.  Yesterday we all had a snow day.  I have no objection to taking a day off.  In fact, I like it as much as the next guy – maybe even more.  However, taking a day off means that I’m not going to get any work done outside of pre-wake up, nap time, and post bedtime (to be fair, my wife and my mother step in when I need them to – thanks!).  On work days I get to spend a few hours in development before and after school, I get to plan and collaborate with my colleagues all day long, and I get to read, research, and write for a few hours before heading home for playing and dinner.

During our snow day play date I noticed that it’s easy for me to get lost in time spent with my boys.  Unlike some other necessary activities, when I’m with the boys I’m not always thinking about what else I need to be doing and where else I need to be.  It hit me like a title wave:  when I’m completely focused on what I’m doing at the time I’m doing it I enjoy it more and assign more value to it.  Totally engaging in each moment makes each moment worthwhile, even the ones that may not seem worthwhile at the outset.  Todays lesson involves shifting my paradigm to match that sentiment.  Sometimes I’m completely disengaged, thinking about deadlines, stressed about needing to get things done, not enjoying myself, not happy, and consequently not learning.  From now on, no matter what I have to be doing, I’m going to try to be happy to do it!