I heard the words on a song this morning, “Why do we dream, when our thoughts mean nothing?” I really got to thinking about this and it is so true. Think about it, if there is no action our dreams and thoughts really do mean nothing. This really hit home with the two books I read this week – It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff and What to Ask the Person in the Mirror: Critical Questions for Becoming a More Effective Leader and Reaching Your Potential by Robert Steven Kaplan. I learned so much about what both authors call actionable leadership. Captain Abrashoff’s ship the USS Benfold is pictured above.
When coaching and leading those we serve have dreams and we must give them the actionable feedback necessary to enable them to carry out the actions of making the dreams happen. As Kaplan stated, “Is your feedback specific, timely, and actionable?” This question is very important to me as a teacher and department head. As I coach younger teachers on effectiveness I must always remember that the feedback must be constant, not just when I have time and it must be actionable. If someone I am coaching can’t act on the goals, then my coaching has no value.
Another point Kaplan made that was of particular interest was when he said, “Excellent companies view being a great coach as a criterion for promotion to higher managerial levels, as well as an important determiniant of compensation.” I believe that with the implementation of Senate Bill One in Indiana under the leadership of State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett and Governor Mitch Daniels dealing with teacher effectiveness we have also made this a criterion in education. We cannot look at teacher evaluations as a once a year punitive act, but a yearlong coaching opportunity to move all teachers into the category of highly effective.
When we think of using actions to turn dreams and thoughts into reality we must also do what Captain Abrashoff recommended, “Now more than ever, we must stop preparing for past battles and prepare for new ones.” So my final thought for this post is let’s keep dreaming ourselves and encouraging those we lead and c0ach to dream and let’s provide others and seek for ourselves the actionable feedback to make those dreams a reality.
Winston Churchill once said that he had become a little bit of everyone he had ever come in contact with. How true this is. Today marks the last of our activities we are conducting for our FFA Chapter’s October Anti-Bullying Campaign. If you remember last week I wrote a post “What If We All Wore White T-Shirts.” This week everyone was to take their white t-shirt from last week and decorate it to show their own personality. Let me tell you it has been fun to see everyone’s shirt today.
For my shirt (see picture), I chose to have all of my students (161 to be exact) put their thumb print and signature on my nice white button-down shirt. I wanted this to represent, and for them to understand, that I believe, as did Winston Churchill, that we all become a little bit of everyone we associate with. We can choose for that influence to be negative or positive. By placing their thumb print on my shirt I wanted them to realize what influence each of them has on me and anyone else they come in contact with is as personal as their thumb print.
So please remember that you are putting your thumb print on everyone you come in contact with, teach, mentor, lead, or coach. Make sure that thumb print is one that is helping to lift that individual to a higher level.
Last week I wrote about our Anti-Bullying theme of “Accepting and Appreciating Differences” for our month’s campaign to make bullying extinct. Well this week my students had another great idea. Today, all students were asked to wear a plain white t-shirt and jeans to school. We also had many of our staff who wore white shirts and blue dress pants/skirts today in honor of this endeavor. This was to represent how vanilla the world would be if we were all exactly the same.
I am calling the event a success. I do not know official data on the entire school, but my classes had 76.8% participation and I had one class that had 100% participation. Let me tell you it was very interesting to look at the class and have them all look exactly the same. Actually, a little boring. In fact we got into a discussion about how great it is that we are all different.
With his passing, Steve Jobs has been on our minds a lot this week. He certainly was different. In fact there were those who called him one of the crazy one’s. Think back, however, to his advertising slogan for Apple back in 1997 – “Think Different.” In fact in the commercial they showed pictures of Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Branson, John Lennon, Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Maria Callas, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Alfred Hitchcock, Martha Graham, Jim Henson, Frank Lloyd Wright and Pablo Picasso.
I don’t know about you all but when I look at that list of names I am sure glad they were exactly what the first three stanzas of the voice-over said, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The one’s who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for status quo.” You can see the whole commercial here.
I am proud we are “Accepting and Appreciating Differences” and I for one want to facilitate learning in such a way that all of our students “think differently.”
Last year my son, Heath, received a small Pin Oak tree to plant at home as part of a fourth grade project. We planted the little 18″ sprig and it is now a little over five feet tall (see attached picture). Heath is proud of his Pin Oak tree and and has watered it every day, has kept it staked and even put in tree fertilizer stakes for it. Needless to say, it might be the healthiest tree in Indiana.
I know there have been lots of writing using trees as the analogy, but I couldn’t help sharing my son’s reflection. This weekend he was standing next to his tree and he said, “Dad this tree and I are about the same size. I guess I have done a good job of taking care of it. You told me if I did everything right that it would put down good roots, grow fast, and be strong enough to last for my kids to see someday.” Then he made the profound connection. He said, “I guess that is really what you’ve been doing with me, huh?”
This became one of those “Touchpoints” for learning as Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard called them in their book Touchpoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments. As Conant and Norgaard (2011) pointed out, these interruptions (or little conversations) can be both planned and unplanned, but give us the opportunity to lead. For these touchpoints to be effective Conant and Norgaard (2011) posited that leaders must “listen, frame, and advance.”
I did the listening, and Heath had framed the learning perfectly. All that was left was to advance. So we talked about how this nurturing did not just apply to father son, but to any time we are able to help someone, whether it be a classmate, teacher, or anyone who needs our expertise to be lifted up. We discussed how he has the chance to be a role-model and how others can learn from his example.
Finally, I learned from Heath that, “the action truly is in the interaction,” as pointed out by Conant and Norgaard (2011). So let’s all make sure we take time to listen so we can make something of our interactions.
Our FFA Officers got our local Dairy Queen (thanks Jeff & Carol Whitaker) to donate 900 Dilly Bars in a selection of all five flavors (chocolate, butterscotch, cherry, mint, and Heath). Our theme for our month is “Accepting & Appreciating Differences.” Appreciating that everyone has different tastes, makes different choices, and we are all different.
Then during lunch all students got their choice of Dilly Bar. How cool is that?
What was really appropriate was this morning’s reading in John Maxwell’s The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You. The title was “Accepting the Fact that People are Different.” How appropriate for today!
John Maxwell summed it up best. He said, “you cannot win with people if you secretly harbor the belief that everyone ought to be more like you. Accept that people are different, and celebrate that God made us that way.” If we all practiced this wouldn’t bullying become extinct? Let’s try!
In doing some research this morning I came across the work of Lick and Kaufman (2000) and it was too good not to share. Lick and Kaufman (2000) asserted that,
Change creation is the process whereby an organization and its people:
- Invite, accept and welcome change as a vital component in defining and achieving future success.
- Define the future they want to design and deliver.
- Create the designed future and continuously make improvements while moving ever closer to the desired future. (Chapter 2)
When organizations enact change creation, they intentionally move from being victims of change to becoming masters of change. I don’t know about you, but I want myself and my school to be masters of change.
Lick, D., & Kaufman, R. (2000). Change creation: The rest of the planning story. In J. Boettcher, M. Doyle, & R. Jensen (Eds.), Technology-driven planning: Principals to practice. Ann Arbor, MI: Society for College and University Planning.
You’ve heard of “Soccer Moms,” now your going to hear from a “Soccer Teacher.” I’ve always recognized that I learn from my students every day and am proud to have formed the positive relationships with my students to have that learning. Last night was no exception. Nine out of the eleven starters on the Lebanon High School Men’s Soccer Team are students of mine and 4 of the other players are also students, so I love to attend our soccer games and believe it is important to support them. Last night was sectional and unfortunately we lost to Westfield 4-0, but that’s not the point of this post.
The point of this post is “Attitude.” During my morning personal leadership/devotion time I read the October 6th entry – “Your Attitude Influences Others” in John Maxwell’s The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You.“ The part that stuck out to me was when Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence. People catch our attitudes just like they catch our colds.”
One of my students, Garrett Breedlove (pictured above with Trey Hendrix), passed his attitude on to his teammates last evening just like a cold. With about two minutes left, down 4-0, Garrett ran across the field with the passion and energy of a beginning of the game play. The crowd was enthused and so were Garrett’s teammates. This took tremendous attitude and character to still be playing as hard down 4-0 with only 2 minutes left as at the beginning of the game. I can only imagine how tough it would be to still play with attitude and passion in a game situation like that.
As a pro-youth athletics person I believe that Garrett and his teammates are learning a tremendous lesson in passing on a contagious attitude. No matter what our circumstance, we must work to have a great attitude – realizing we are passing that attitude – good or bad – on to others with the contagiousness of a cold.
Thanks for the lesson Garrett!