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Tuesday, December 30, 2014


One of my sons-in-law has a deer feeder set up near a game camera on his ranch.  The picture he captured below in pre-dawn Christmas morning 2014 reminded me of two of the types of people we often encounter in life.

As you can see one of the raccoons has climbed up the tree, is hanging upside down by hind legs only, and is shaking corn out of the deer feeder.  The other raccoon is on the ground enjoying the fruits of the other's work.  Via the time-lapse component on the field camera, this same scenario played out multiple times, with each raccoon playing the same roles.

One was the risk taker, the other the reward seeker.

We see the same types of roles played out in humans.  Certain folks seem to revel in the joy of taking the risk, climbing the tree, challenging some unknown device/problem/dilemma.  Other folks see the opportunities for such adventures but assign themselves to the sidelines, waiting patiently to see if the risk-takers manage to "shake something loose."  If so, then the reward seekers happily partake in the benefits of such risk-taking (without having taken the risks themselves).  They don't have to climb the tree, they don't have to hang upside down, they don't have to reach out and engage some unknown and potentially dangerous creature/challenge.  They simply wait for the rewards to rain down.

We get to choose whether we want to be the adventuresome risk taker, or the play-it-safe reward seeker.

I'll take the former for my role.  Risk be damned!

Monday, December 29, 2014


The principal of the school I serve (Guthrie Common School District in Guthrie, Texas) are in a continual book study.  The book we have most recently studied together is Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson (2014).

This work is a narrative of PJ's life in basketball, during which he won eleven National Basketball Association (NBA) championships.  The book is chock full of nuggets of leadership wisdom and guidance.

Some of my biggest takeaways (though not nearly all of them):

  • The more one tries to exert power overtly, the less powerful one is.
  • Simplicity, patience, and compassion are fundamental pillars of leadership.
  • One can't lead (or coach) effectively if "being liked" is the primary objective.
  • Foster an environment in which each team member can develop creatively and autonomously.
  • Living fully in this moment is far more important than living in the past or pining about the future.
  • Chop wood, carry water.
  • EVERY organization/community/family/team has it's share of inflated egos (though the NBA seems to have a disproportionate share); effect leaders must be students of psychology.
Good book.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


I recently read Leading School Change by Todd Whitaker (2010).

I have been a fan of TW's thinking and writing for many years.  This work only reinforces the rightness of my fanhood.

My big takeaways from this TW work:

  • There are three levels of change possible in organizations – Procedural change, structural change, cultural change.
  • Employeees/teachers come in six varieties
    • Superstars/Irreplaceables 
      • 1. WOW – walks on water, the role model
      • 2. Impacter – great in the classroom
    • Backbones/Solids
      • 3. Stabilizer – solid at everything
      • 4. Dow Joneser – pluses and minuses
    • Mediocres/Replacement Level
      • 5. Harmless – no complaints, little benefit
      • 6. Negative Force – addition by subtraction
    •   Seems like have have played all those roles at one time or another. I'm working diligently to stay in that top tier.
  • Start somewhere, not everywhere.  Yep. Somehow, someway, just get off the starting line.
  • Squint if necessary.  Great advice for taking the big picture view (and avoiding micromanagement).
  • Include in your toolbox these simple but effective strategies: weekly staff memos, frequent classroom or work site visits, thoughtful meeting room arrangements, notes of appreciation connected to improvement of climate/culture, positive phone calls to parents/customers.        

My favorite quote:
“Managing change in schools [organizations] is never straightforward. It’s much more like playing chess than like playing checkers.” (p. 2). 

Another good work by TW.  I highly recommend. 

Friday, December 26, 2014


Gaining new insight into well-being, with respect to individual and organizational health, has been a critical part of my learning in recent years.

One of the most profound nuggets of learning has been laying right under my nose the whole time.  I was just too busy to notice it.  That nugget:  When we focus on treating symptoms we end up ignoring the root causes of illness.

To our own demise.

I recently heard an analogy used to accentuate how we have come to conventionally combat disease or ailments of one kind or another:
Most of us drive vehicles electronically equipped to activate the "check engine" light when something is amiss.  While annoying, that "check engine" light is an alert, a warning, that there is someone wrong "on the inside" that will eventually cause significant compromise to our/organizational health (and probably cost us a lot of money, ,too).  Not one of us (that's an assumption) would promptly take a hammer to the check engine light on the dashboard, in belief that if we simply eliminate the symptom the problem is solved.

Yet, that is exactly what we do so often with our individual and organizational health.  We attack the symptoms, with drugs, with initiatives, with surgery, with new regulations, with...  We can most assuredly make the symptoms go away.  We have not, however, addressed the underlying causes of those symptoms.  Unaddressed, those root causes will cost us a high price down the road if we choose to believe that, since the symptoms are temporarily gone, the problems have been cured.

I have developed,
                             am developing,
                                                      and am revising,
responses/remedies that I believe cut to the root of our ill health (both as individuals and as organizations).  It's a process of continual monitoring, learning, adjusting, observing, and learning some more.  As I learn, I share that learning with you in this blog.

For now, please consider how that analogy above applies to your personal health.  And, consider how it applies to the health of the organizations/communities to which you lend your efforts.

Drop the hammer, and move away from the car.