Thursday, June 20, 2013

Measure Twice, Cut Once


Carpentry is the most critical skill in building a house. The gap between an architect's plans and the skeletal frame of a house lies in the skillful hands of the carpenter. He has to be able to read house plans, interpret scale, cut lumber to precise lengths and angles, and hammer everything into an amazing yet intricate frame of a soon-to-be home.

How does he do that so quickly? I mean in a matter of weeks the house goes from  a foundation to being enclosed in no time at all. The success or failure of a carpenter lies in his adherence to one concept:

Measure Twice, Cut Once

This trust but verify mentality makes the difference between a strong and sturdy home and a house that will eventually crumble to the ground.  The carpenter knows that lumber is very expensive and when it is cut hastily, it triples in value.  Mistakes are not only costly to the carpenter but to the strength of the frame. So he must ensure that before he cuts a piece of lumber, he must measure once to get the correct measurement and measure it a second or even third time to verify that the first measurement was indeed correct.  Once his measurement is verified, his steady hand must carefully saw the wood.

Lead like a Carpenter

Making decisions to move an organization forward requires the same mentality. Before deciding on the next steps, leaders must employ the precise analysis of a carpenter to build a transformational organization.  Essentially, more time is spent in reflection and analysis than actually making things happen.

Measure Twice

Leaders must gather data to verify the organization's current reality.  The first measurement requires leaders to gather student performance data (quantitative) as well as perceptions and gut reactions from all members helps leader make a plan of action.  The second measurement requires leaders to enlist followers to verify that the plan of action is the best and most precise plan to address the issue at hand.  Once the plan is created based on data and verified by all who are affected by the plan, the plan is ready to be executed.

Cut Once

The plan is created, so now is the time to saw into the lumber.  All members of the organization must follow the plans that have been collaborative created in order to make a change that will guide every member to collectively build a strong house of success.  Failure to execute a plan is the same as measure a board correctly, making your mark and then cutting the board in a completely different place.  The board is now useless.  The same result follows for precise plans that aren't followed with precision or worse are ignored all together.

Build the House

People must realize that each change in an organization is one more stud nailed into the frame of an organization.  We have a choice to make.  We can build a house that all would be proud to live in, or we can build a house that will crumble before our very eyes.  Leaders must be committed to linking the planning process to focused action if they desire to build an estate of excellence.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Squeezing the Tube of Communication

I love my kids, but they drive me crazy sometimes. When they were little, I could always bank on the fact that their sink would be messy with toothpaste. When they squeezed the tube, toothpaste would invariably go everywhere. Why couldn't they just squeeze the toothpaste like I did?  After all, it's ridiculously easy.  Oh wait.  I used to get it all over the place, too.

The interesting thing about toothpaste is that once it comes out of the tube, there's no way to put it back inside. No matter how much you try, it won't go back in, and there's nothing you can do about it. And if you think deeper about this subject, our words are just like toothpaste. Once they come out, there's no going back. 

The reason toothpaste gets all over the place is because we don't take enough time to carefully squeeze the tube. Our words are the same. When we don't use caution or think through what we want to say, our words will get messy and offend others. 

So how can we clean up the messes that our mouths make?

Think through Emotions
Have you ever tried to put toothpaste on your toothbrush when you're in a ridiculous hurry. Chances are you're going to miss your toothbrush. Choosing words in the heat of the moment is no different. You must make sure that you calmly think through your emotions before choosing the words that you're going to say. Think before you speak.  

Use your Words Wisely
Toothpaste was designed to keep our teeth cleaned, not get our clothes dirty. By selecting words that help us focus on the problem and improve our situation, we use our words wisely. We build others up. We build trust. We build stronger lines of communication.  We keep our relationships in good standing. 

Brevity is Golden
Nothing is more annoying than someone that talks on and on and on. Brevity is the equivalent of putting just the right amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush. Too little and the job won't get done. Too many words, and everyone gets annoyed with you. Too many words is like having too much toothpaste. Get to the point!

Ensure Accuracy
Never in the history of the world have we had so many words to use.  The problem is that with so many words, there are so many different interpretations of what each word means. Take time to make sure that your words accurately describe what you are thinking and feeling. By making this effort, it is certain that communication will clear up any ambiguity.

My kids finally learned to squeeze the tube correctly. Their dexterity improved. Their patience grew, and most importantly, they remembered to clean up after themselves. They matured from their repeated practice. 

To become successful with the tube of communication, we, too, must get messy before we can learn to communicate clearly. Making mistakes improves our verbally dexterity, and cleaning up our own messes prepares us to be more effective communicators in the future. Communication is never easy, and it never will be, but with repeated practice, it can become a little easier every day. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The 5 Fingers of Leadership

The most unproductive leadership action is pointing the finger at someone. We've all done it at some point in our lives. We've said, "He did it. It wasn't me!"  And let's face it, it absolves us from responsibility and makes us feel better to know its not our fault.

But let's get real. If all we had was 1 finger, our lives would be pretty difficult.  We wouldn't have the dexterity to get things done.  

So here's my question, how many fingers do you have in your leadership?  The picture above shows the analogy how leaders should use all 5 fingers to empower excellence and use them not to point at the right person, but to the right problem. 

The least threatening finger of all is the greatest digit. It is the pinkie of positive presuppositions and trust (have you ever pinkie sweared?). Leaders must assume that people give their best even when they fail. Leaders must also assess the trust factor in the situation before moving to other fingers. 

Ring Finger
This finger of commitment is often lacking especially in leaders that constantly find fault in people. A true leader displays true commitment is times of adversity. Before resorting to pointing the finger, real leaders turn to their commitment to help people first and then to finding the fix second. Commitment is about supporting people in solving their problems.

Middle Finger
The middle finger is responsible for 35% of the entire hand's grip strength; thus it is the finger of teamwork. Leaders must analyze if there is a support issue when problems arise. Without teamwork, problems persist. Before finding fault, search for support and build capacity in teams to repair mistakes. 

The strongest and most unique digit of all is the thumb. The thumb doesn't point at the accused or the accuser. It points upward to a place I'd like to call opportunity. The greatest leaders look at every obstacle as an opportunity.  Leaders search for a bigger issue that could be the root of the problem?  The thumb will always point you in that direction. 

Index Finger
The most destructive and productive finger of all is the index finger. It can offend, but it can also affirm. Real leaders  use this finger to confront only after they have exhausted all other options.  Powerful leaders use the index finger to build people up. They point to others and say, "You Rock!"  They point out expertise, celebrate strength and encourage others. 

Don't Forget...
When you point the finger at someone, you have 3 pointing back at you. So if you're going to point the finger, you better make sure you have assumed the best, demonstrated commitment and built teams of support first. Next, look to your thumb to ensure you've identified the right problem.  Finally, if you employ all 5 fingers of leadership, you'll always be pointing not at the right person, but at the right problem. 

4 Gifts that ALL Kids Deserve from their Dad

It's Father's Day Weekend, and I want to take this opportunity to remind you and me what Father's Day is all about. We often get so covered up trying to provide for the family that we often forget what our kids need from us the most. They won't remember how high we climbed on the career ladder. They won't value our accolades and accomplishments like we do. In fact they really don't care that we work, but there are 4 gifts that every child deserves to receive from their dad.


This is the number one thing all kids need from dad. Kids value quality time spent with their dad. No matter what happens, kids want to spend as much time as possible with their dad. The way we spend our time builds or tears down their self confidence and ultimately tells them just how important they are. 

Spend lots of time with your kids!

Dads play a huge role in education. We place the value on education. If kids see that their dad is involved in their education, they will place a high priority on it as well.   The key word is involved, not aware. Dads need to be actively involved (doing something) in order for their kids to see its benefit. If dads aren't involved in helping their kids learn, the kids won't be involved in learning or see its value either. 

Teach your kids to love learning.

All children are born into this world with an innocent spirit. It is the dad's job to protect and nurture their children's spirits. That means dads must develop their own spirit first and then show their children how to discover and build their faith. 

Pray for and with your kids.

Faith, hope and love are the greatest gifts, but the greatest of all is love. Real dads drop the bravado and show their children love through both word and action. Children who hear and see their daddy's love will have the greatest gift that no tangible item could ever replace.

Hug your kids, and tell them you love them. 

The older I get, 
The more I reflect on whether or not my kids are getting enough of their real needs met by me. One day they will be on their own, and they will not need their dad.  I hope I will have done the best I could to teach them the value of time well spent, the importance of a great education, the positive impact of spirituality, and what love truly is.  If I did my job, there's a strong chance that I will have succeeded as a dad in preparing them for the crazy world that awaits them. And if I'm really lucky, they won't need their dad. They'll want him. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The 6 C's of Collaboration

Every team desires collaboration. Every leader preaches collaboration. But the question remains, is collaboration more of a new buzzword in our work or truly an actual practice.

Below are the definitions of and synonyms for collaboration. What I found particularly interesting was the 2nd definition of collaboration. Collaboration is a product as the result of collaboration. To me that would be the pinnacle of collaboration. Obviously, there is a lot that must take place before a collaborative team can develop a collaborative product. 

What are the 6 Cs or the 6 Conditions necessary for a collaborative team to move to this level of interdependence?

Teams must be able to talk openly and honestly about the work that they must do to help kids. Without frequent and focused conversation, teams can't even begin their journey toward collaboration. Members must realize that conversation requires communication that is empathic in nature and supportive in posture. No conversation can exist without intentional listening, so teams rich in conversation don't just hear. They synthesize what each member is saying to ensure that collaboration can reach the deepest levels possible. 

As a result of frequent conversation and their ability to develop trust in one another, coherence in the team's work will emerge. The more clarity that exists in each team member's role, responsibilities, and expectations for contribution, the more coherent the team's thinking, planning and understanding will become. In other words, coherence is best described as logical and consistent interconnection between all members of the team and the daily work that they do. 

As trust and understanding emerge, collegiality becomes a norm of the collaborative process.  Collegiality can best be defined as the cooperative interaction among professionals. Before collegiality can begin to exist, team members must first view one another as professionals and second, depend on each member to possess and contribute specific levels of expertise necessary to make the team better. Without collegiality, collaboration is dead in the water. 

A necessary component of any growth process is conflict. To move from one place to another, friction must occur. Collaborative teams that move quickest realize that in order to minimize negative friction, members must respect one another's values, beliefs and experiences and not allow professional conflict to derail the creative process by becoming personal. Professional conflict is a requirement of the collaborative process, and through open and honest conversation and collegiality, professional disagreements are viewed as a vital component of the collaborative process. 

When one person controls the collaborative process, collaboration becomes null and void. Control on a collaborative team is shared by all. Norms for working together are developed collectively and enforcement of such norms is also viewed as the responsibility of all. Ultimately the buck has to stop with someone, the leader; however, when all team members are committed to the collaborative mission of the team, leaders rarely need to step in to take control. In essence, each member's commitment to the team's purpose and products demonstrates the team's level of shared control. 

Teams that celebrate together accelerate together. Teams that collaborate at the highest levels understand that they must celebrate every achievement, both big and small. But teams also understand that they must celebrate when they fail. Failure is a result of learning and experimentation. When someone fails, the team has the opportunity and obligation to learn from it. When teams engage in high caliber celebration, risk-taking flourishes and the fear factor dissipates. Finally, job satisfaction and commitment to the mission and vision of the campus accelerates when teams celebrate. 

So what do you think of the 6 C's of Collaboration?  Do you agree or disagree or better yet, do you have additional suggestions to add to the Conditions of Collaborative teams?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Build Interdependence in your Leadership Team

In my post on Layers of Leadership, I clarified that leadership teams have layers that go from specific areas of leadership (teacher leaders) to broad areas of leadership (campus leaders). By themselves their leadership potential is not potent, but when the layers work interdependently, their potential grows exponentially. Interdependence occurs when there is a high level of trust, respect and dependence on another.  Leaders on a team with a high level of trust are selfless in their commitment to the cause and will do anything to help their fellow teammates.

Here are some tips that leaders can employ to foster higher levels of trust, teamwork and interdependence.

1. Establish Norms - Just like teams need norms for working together, leaders that work together need to create norms on everything from when to meet to how to resolve conflict. If leaders fail to norm their behaviors in working together, they will not be prepared to get through difficult or stressful situations. In addition, they will undermine their own leadership with the people that they work with.  Successful relationships depend on making agreements of how we will work together.

2.  Respect the Expertise of One Another - Everyone is trying their best to do their part to lead their area.  It is critical that leaders respect one another's ability and effort to lead and not rush to judgement when problems arise.  If leaders rush to judgement, they may cause damage to the team's trust. In summary, model professional courtesy.

3. Celebrate One Another's Successes - Everyone has an easy time finding problems, but leaders must help one another find the small victories along the way and celebrate them together. Leaders that work together are always helping one another celebrate what's going right and motivating one another to stay the course.

4. Learn from Mistakes - Mistakes are a regular part of learning. Interdependent leaders support each other as they identify mistakes and use them as learning tools for improvement rather than a catalyst for placing blame. Managers view mistakes as a problem; leaders see mistakes as the point where improvement can begin.

5. Have Fun - Leading is hard work, but it can be the most rewarding work if you lead with a joyful heart. Leading with a joyful heart demonstrates that you appreciate the opportunity and the challenge that you have been given. Having fun is contagious and motivates everyone around you.  Fun increases productivity and creativity.  Most important adding fun to the mix during difficult times makes the work a lot more enjoyable for all.

When all members of a leadership team employ the strategies listed above, teams excel. They excel because the leaders model how the organization must stay focused on the mission and vision. They stay focused by committing to the team's goal and by doing whatever it takes to support one another in achieving the goal. Leaders who work interdependently show the rest of the staff the benefits of working interdependently also.