Monday, February 29, 2016

Opportunistic

Opportunity is not a coincidence.  When we wish, or wait, for "an opportunity" we may as well be wishing upon a star. 

Opportunity (like luck) most often visits those who have prepared themselves, who have invested the "sweat equity" ahead of time, who have worked to build the network, who have done their homework, who have practiced with intention. 

Doing all those things doesn't guarantee that opportunity will come our way, but it puts the odds squarely in our favor.  More importantly, doing all those things greatly enhances the likelihood of success when opportunity does comes knocking.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

39

Thirty-nine years ago today, Moe (my lovely bride) said, "I do."  Uncle Bascom Chesney performed the ceremony and Aunt Barbara (now Davis) served as witness to the blessed event, in the living room of their home.  We only gave them three days advance notice as we decided to get married on the cuff.  A very cheap apartment in San Angelo was coming available and we wanted it.  Ms. Wyatt, the owner of the apartment, agreed to let us rent it with the understanding that we would be married by the time of occupation.  So, married we got.  (Note: we had been in love for two years already.)

Over the last 39 years, Moe and I have shared some remarkable experiences:
  • Raised two beautiful, smart, and resilient daughters.
  • Welcomed five grandchildren into our lives (and a couple sons-in-law).
  • Built two homes with our own hands.
  • Grown and shrunk (several times).
  • Bounced around Texas working in schools (in the country and in the city).
  • Purchased and grown a working ranch.
  • Garnered and fostered innumerable friendships with valued others.
  • Got a lot smarter and felt a lot dumber.
  • Mourned the loss of several pillars of our lives (yet they live on within us).
  • Enjoyed the continued blessing of parents who are yet alive.
  • Laughed, cried, and worked - a lot.
  • Grown closer to each other, to the Earth, and to the God of our understanding.
The journey continues (for a few more moments? a few more decades? who knows?).  Life and marriage are both fragile, and we are keenly aware of that fact, which makes this day even more blessed.   

Moe's touch still warms me, her kisses still thrill me, her mind still amazes me.  I think I'll keep her (and hope like hell she feels the same way, too).   

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

BadMagnet

It is in our nature to gravitate toward "bad" instead of "good."

News outlets report the bad stuff WAY more than the good stuff, because they understand that disposition.  Gossip is rarely focused on good stuff, almost always pointing us toward the bad or sordid.  When judging the work/behavior/thinking of others we almost always notice the bad stuff disproportionately to the good stuff.

The best leaders I know are extremely disciplined when it comes to how they focus their attention in this regard.  They purposely and persistently notice the good stuff at a much higher ratio than the rest of us.  It's not that they're not aware of the bad stuff, but rather, they know that the folks they work with respond better, work with more commitment, are more loyal, and engage with far more creativity and zeal when the leader notices and acknowledges the good stuff.

The best leaders I know understand that the bad stuff only gets fixed when a fully appreciated and affirmed team invest themselves in fixing the bad stuff.  Focusing on the good stuff is the most effective way to get that ball rolling.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

RainwaterHarvesting

I recently read Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster (2013).  


In this very thorough edition, BL does an excellent job of laying out the rationale and the processes by which we can harvest rainwater to enhance our living spaces, reduce erosion, minimize wasteful runoff, and propagate our communities with lush and healthy vegetation.  

BL addresses the construction of Earthworks like berms, infiltration basins, terraces, check dams, imprinting, and diversion swales to aid in the capture of rainwater and affect its passive soaking into the local landscape (rather than running off the property).  He also provides guidance on mulching and the strategic planting of trees, shrubs, and cover crops. He also dedicates one chapter to effectively reusing household greywater. 

This book was very useful in adding to my education on the ecologically sustainable practices of permaculture.  

More work to do now...

Monday, February 22, 2016

NoToYes/No

Engaging team members in meaningful and consequential dialogue is almost always triggered by powerful questions.  

Not just any question will do.  Some questions hem up the other person(s) into pre-defined answers.  Yes/No questions are a classic example of such thought-stopping responses.  Here are some examples:

  • Are you pleased with the way our enrollment procedures are working?
  • Have you been using your talent to the fullest in your job assignment?
  • Do you think we're on the right track with our organizational goals?
These questions call for a simple YES or NO answer, and do little to generate deep thought and rich conversation.  They allow folks to pick a response then "retreat."

Far better to ask questions that "pull" the team into substantive discussion.  Questions like:
  • What are our highest aspirations for the future of our organization?
  • How might we improve our service to customers?
  • In what ways have you been using or might you better use your talents in your job assignment?
These questions invite us to think about possibilities and betterness, and they induce us to share our thinking publicly.  From this sort of dialogue ideas begin to surface and solutions get refined.  Thoughtful inquiry, prompted by high quality questions, is the leading edge of continuous improvement.  

Getting better, everyday, on purpose...

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Mayday

I recently read Mayday by Nelson DeMille and Thomas Block (1998).  



This novel is a good 'un.  A supersonic commercial jet is hit by a military test missile, causing complete decompression at 60,000+ feet.  A handful of passengers and crew are in isolated enclosed spaces that held air pressure, and thus, are the only occupants which avoided brain damage and/or physical debilitation.  

Ultimately one amateur pilot, one flight attendant, and one child are all that is left to land the crippled plane.  As if the forces of nature alone are not enough to bring them and the 300+ incapacitated passengers crashing to the earth, the airline executives and military leaders on the ground are working diligently to limit their own political and financial liabilities by trying to disable the damaged plane.  

If you like cliff hangers, this one will tickle your fancy.  (I'll read anything DeMille writes.)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

ImaginationGrab

I was once advised to NEVER give a speech; rather, I was told, I should tell stories.  The wisdom of that sage advice has been proven over and over, in my experience.  

Similarly, a colleague of mine with whom I workded several years in the challenging endeavor of "rescuing" at-risk youth was fond of saying, "We've got to grab 'em by the imagination."  Truer words have never been spoken.  

Both strategies speak to the same dynamic:  In order to get our message out (whatever it is), we must make an emotional connection with our audience, somehow.  Stories work nicely, teasing the imagination works well, triggering curiosity is a great strategy.  Regardless of how we do it, we must tug on the emotional strings of our intended audience in order to get their attention.  THEN and only then might they be receptive to what we're trying to teach or tell them.  

But, haven't we known that from our earliest learnings?  "Once upon a time..."

Thursday, February 18, 2016

ThePrincipal'sCompanion

I recently read The Principal's Companion by Pam Robbins and Harvey Alvy (2014). 



In fact, I used this book as one of the required readings in a graduate class of principals-in-training that I was teaching.  

The authors did a very nice job of taking a 360 degree look at the contexts and requirements of the principalship in the 21st century.  They addressed the wide array of roles that current school principals must play.  The authors provided guidance on using collaboration to collectively craft and deploy a school vision and mission.  They discussed strategies to help principals stay focused on the most important thing - LEARNING - while attending to all the other stuff that comes with the job.  Ideas for increasing and improving the school-parent-community relationship were provided.  Finally, the authors spoke to the difficult challenge of maintaining "balance" between the principal's personal and professional lives.  

This book was written as a textbook, but reads in a more relaxed fashion than most textbooks.  Glad I read it.  And, my students indicated they were glad they read it, too (which is not a common expression).  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

WaterTreading

We sometimes find ourselves treading water, either as individuals or as organizations.

Usually, we tread water (metaphorically speaking) to stall for time, to rest a bit, or to survive in overwhelming conditions.  We want/need to do something that will keep us afloat until we've decided on a course of action, or until someone comes along to rescue us.

However, water treading as standard operating procedure is not in our best interest (either individually or organizationally).  It's not a viable way of being.  It consumes energy and gets us nowhere.  It keeps us focused inwardly rather than outwardly.  

Far better to pick a direction and start swimming.  Once we've started in some direction, we can monitor and adjust as conditions/circumstances dictate.  At least we are headed somewhere, making some kind of progress, and gauging that progress against our goals (which can then be modified as needed).

Finally, water treading makes us easy targets - both from above the surface and below.  That's probably not part of our plan. 

Get ready!  Get set! .... Swim!

Monday, February 15, 2016

LearningJourney

If we're not learning, we're dying (or already dead).

Learning can come from:

  • A book/article/blog we're reading.
  • Screwing something up monumentally.
  • Watching an expert practice his/her craft.
  • Seeking tutorials from knowledgeable others.
  • Soliciting the advice and counsel of a wise mentor.
  • Paying attention to the cycles and rhythms of nature. 
  • Asking consequential questions, of ourselves and others. 
  • Trying to get better at something (e.g., fishing, physics, etc.).
  • Reflecting on the "why," "how," and "what happened" of a previous endeavor. 
  • Observing someone make a mess of things (e.g., their job, their life, their children).

LOTS of ways to learn, but remember - stop learning, stop living.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Relevance

Great teachers make the relevance of the content they are teaching a priority.

As learners, we all partake of the learning process much more energetically when we can clearly make the connection between what we are learning and how it affects us (either now or in the future).

Masterful teachers (whether they have "teacher" credentials or not) manage to connect the learning and its relevance in one of two ways:

  • They skillfully craft learning tasks/environments in a way that leads us to understand how the learning relates to our lives.
      OR
  • They pique our curiosity by adeptly pulling us into into thoughtful inquiry about how the content might relate to our lives.
Via the internet, virtually ALL content is now freely available to whomever wants to search for it.  Substantive learning, however, always has an emotional component.  The best teachers KNOW that fact and use it to trigger real engagement with the content as well as with our fellow learners.  

The learning experience, far more than just the content, is where the real magic of meaningful learning occurs. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

ChangePrognosis

I frequently field questions from folks who'd like to "get their boss to change."  Sadly, I can't help on this one and here's why.  

Either or both of the following conditions must be met in order for a person/group/organization to significantly change their thinking/behavior.

  • Circumstances are such that the person/group/organization has no alternative other than to seek a change in thinking/behavior in order to sustain their existence.
  • A person/group/organization comes under a deep and powerful conviction that, in order to be all that they want to be, a change in thinking/behavior must occur.
The prognosis for change hinges upon these two elements:
  1. The person/group/organization must possess an above average IQ (either personally or collectively).
  2. The commitment to change must be extraordinarily powerful; powerful enough to compel substantive alterations in the habits embedded in the daily fabric of their lives. 
Externally forced change rarely works (history as my witness).  Intrinsically driven change is doable but difficult (as noted above).

The good news is that impassioned leaders with a powerful vision stand a decent chance of "pulling" others toward meaningful change (per the conditions noted above).  First, however, those leaders must see the need and meet the conditions necessary, themselves.   

Friday, February 5, 2016

TheHarbinger

I recently read The Harbinger by Jonathon Cahn (2011).  


This novel draws rather startling parallels between the calamities endured by the ancient nation of Israel as a result of its estrangement from God, and the United States of America in the 21st century.  JC crafts the story through the narrative of a modern "writer" who encounters a "prophet" which guides him through nine harbingers (i.e., warnings) given to both ancient Israel and the modern U.S.   The nine harbingers called upon those nations to turn from their evil bent and seek again the forgiveness, care, and blessings of God.  Refusal to do so was clearly forewarned to bring catastrophe to each nation.

JC skillfully ties scripture (specifically Isaiah 9:10) to the nine harbingers, and even more skillfully weaves them into both the founding history of the U.S. as well as the ruinous events of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the economic implosion of 2008.  

As with all great fiction, the readers finds him/herself in a constant state of ambiguity - wondering if the work is fiction written to mimic history, or non-fiction written to document history.  

A very interesting read.  Thanks for the recommendation, TC.    

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

TalentBoosters

A fundamental role of leadership (whether it be as a parent, a teacher, a manager, a coach, or a business owner) is to development the talent on our team.

Talent is not created by us; rather, it is a gift of birth, which comes in a billion varieties.  Every team member has some kind of talent, and many of them have multiple talents.   

As leaders we must:
  1. Identify the talent(s) of those within our circle of influence
  2. Help those folks understand, and understand the value of, their precious gifts
  3. Create the conditions in which our teammates can exercise their talents
  4. Encourage a continuous "polishing" of those talents
  5. Celebrate and affirm the successful use of those talents
In effect, we should be talent boosters.  Which, by the way, is a pretty cool job!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

TitheEffect

The Bible teaches a concept called tithing.  The idea is that we should give freely - money, time, effort, service, support - in the interest of making a better future for others.  The derivative of said giving is that it "magically" produces even more prosperity for the giver.  (That's only the thumbnail version, minus the theological contexts and specifics.)

Now switch with me to the subject of leadership.  I believe a fundamental responsibility of leaders is to help others become better leaders, through modeling, teaching, delegating, challenging, facilitating, and mentoring.  In effect, as leaders we are investing (i.e., giving) much of ourselves in the interest of helping others become better leaders themselves.

I am convinced the principle of tithing works in this realm, too.  The more we engage in building the leadership skills of others (whether they be parents, team captains, managers, teachers, or CEOs), the more prosperous and effective we ourselves become as leaders as a result.  

That give-and-prosper mindset will keep replicating, in a self-sustaining way.   The organizations and communities we serve benefit, our mentees benefit, and we benefit.  Hard to see a downside to that kind of dynamic, huh?