Friday, March 27, 2015

The Hidden

Can leaders ever really feel the pulse of their organization? 

There is so much that is hidden from our view.  This is largely due to the position that we are in.  Most people naturally aren't going to come to the leader and tell them the reality.  The reality that is often communicated to the leader is sugar coated and the edges have been sanded down.

Ed Catmull explains a transformation that all leaders can relate with as they've moved up the chain.  
"I don't think my actions changed in a way that prompted this; my position did. Gradually snarky behavior, grousing, and rudeness disappeared from view - from my view, anyway.  I rarely saw bad behavior because people wouldn't exhibit it in front of me" (p. 171)
In a healthy culture people feel comfortable airing their frustrations with the leader.  The leader seeks out opportunities and creates structures that allow honest and candid conversations to occur. I am far from perfect in finding my own blind spots. I believe it begins with an awareness that not everything may be as we think. I think self awareness is an important leadership component. We can't assume that all is well. We have to actively seek out "the hidden" that lurks in our organization.  

Catmull uses a metaphor to explain this process.  There is a door and on one side we see everything we know - the world as we understand it. On the other side is everything we don't know and can't see. He explains, 
"The goal is to place one foot on either side of the door - one grounded in what we know, what we are confident about, our areas of expertise, the people and processes we can count on - and the other in the unknown, where things are murky, unseen, or uncreated" (p. 184). 
Whether we want to believe it or not power comes with a leadership position. People unfortunately behave differently in front of leadership. Its up to the leader to be aware of this and promote an open candid environment.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Education, The Land Of Nice.

Let's face it if we are in the business of education, we live, eat, work, and play in the land of nice.  It is difficult for us to be frank or candid with each other.  Dennis Sparks was right when he said, "schools are in trouble if the most honest conversations occur in the parking lot." We have to find a way to have honest and candid conversations when it counts. In a work environment there are times when we choose not to say what we really think.  

That means that we as leaders need to not only encourage candor, but create systems that make it happen.  The problem for many leaders including myself is that we may not want honesty, because honesty can hurt.  It can mean that our pet projects and initiatives aren't as effective as we think.  We want to assume that the change initiative is going well. It's easier that way.  


Ed Catmull the leader of Pixar and one of the creators of Toy Story found that problems are often hidden within an organization, and the good stuff often hides the bad stuff.  He explains, 
"When downsides coexist with upsides, as they often do, people are reluctant to explore what's bugging them, for fear of being labeled complainers" (p. 63)
So...How do we create systems that allow people to be honest and candid?  I think it starts with visibility, and actively willing to hear what we don't want to hear.  Catmull insists that the mark of a healthy culture and environment is one where,
"People feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Lack of candor, if unchecked, ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments" (p. 86)
I am seeing this first hand with the individual meetings we have setup for our PLC groups. It would be easy to sit in my office and assume things are going well, but any time you initiate change there will be varying levels of buy-in.  This is clear in our meetings so far.  We have had honest conversations about improvement and how we can better support our groups. These conversations at times have been very frank, but have been very beneficial for our leadership team.  

How do you foster an honest and candid environment?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Final Blog: Teaching with Poverty in Mind

We will wrap up our discussion on poverty in our district within the next month.  I believe that this book and our discussions have raised awareness regarding this issue. Take a minute to review their reflections of our latest discussion regarding Eric Jensen's book Teaching with Poverty in Mind.











Monday, March 2, 2015

Join the conversation - It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens



The Parent Advisory Committee and I will be discussing It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd on Thursday night (3-5-2015) in the Rugby High School Board Room beginning at 7:00PM. Below are list of questions to ponder or comment on for Thursday night.

1. Teens often get caught in collapsing contexts. Boyd defines this thought below.
"Many teens post information on social media that they think is funny or intended to give a particular impression to a narrow audience without considering how this same content might be read out of context" (p. 44).
We run into this issue all the time when dealing with different issues in regards to social media. What may seem perfectly logical in one context can be illogical in a different context.

How do you help your child understand that what may be appropriate within their circle of friends may not be appropriate in another context?

2.  What is privacy anymore? How do you balance giving your child the privacy that he or she requests with being aware of their actions online? How do you show trust? 

Boyd's definition of privacy: A space where they aren't scrutinized by adults and peers.
"Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity." Mark Zuckerberg (Founder of Facebook)
3. Many believe that being a "good" parent means being all-knowing.  When the internet and social media is involved does this mean violating their privacy? How do you balance invading privacy and being a responsible parent? 
"Surveillance is a mechanism by which powerful entities assert their power over less powerful individuals.  When parents choose to hover, lurk, and track, they implicitly try to regulate teen's practices.  Parents often engage in these acts out of love but fail to realize how surveillance is a form of oppression that limits teens' ability to make independent choices" (p.74).  
4. Social media can be addicting for both parents and their children.  Boyd explains that parents of previous generations worried about the hours spent on land lines.  They aren't spending hours on land lines, but they are still conversing.  Boyd suggests that most teens aren't addicted to social media, if anything, they are addicted to each other.  Do you place limits on social media/internet/device use?

5. Boyd argues that teenagers have less freedom to wander than any other previous generation. We often communicate to our children that danger lurks everywhere.  Boyd explains that parental control, highly structured environments, and over-scheduling encourages the use of social media to escape control. Reflect upon your child's weekly schedule - how do you encourage balance between structured and unstructured time for them?

6. There is a common belief that the internet is full of sexual predators and danger. Boyd explains,

"When parents create cocoons to protect their children from potential harms, their decision to separate themselves and their children from what's happening outside their household can have serious consequences for other youth, especially those who lack strong support systems. Communities aren't safe when everyone turns inward; they are only safe when people work collectively to help one another and those around them" (p. 126).

Should we be actively censoring/shielding our children from outside influences?

How do you respond to questionable posts/images from other children other than your own?

7. Has social media amplified meanness and cruelty?  

Please take a minute to review a previous post on this topic.

I would love to hear your responses to a few of these questions!