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Welcome to nc’s blog. Read, comment, interact, engage. Let’s learn together - recursively.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022


The best leaders I know serve largely as Architects of organizational culture.

In very overt and transparent ways, these Architects are:

  • Futures-oriented -- They focus constantly on the "horizon" and help those around them do the same.
  • Clarifying -- Even when the ambiguities and contradictions of contexts muddle things up, they keep their attention on worthy and noble driving principles.
  • Relational -- They understand that how we treat each other is a powerful "attractor" in creating a sense of safety, belonging, appreciation, effectiveness, and value among/between organizational members.
  • Outcome-focused -- They provide operational discretion and support and forgiveness in abundance, so long as folks are achieving results (or authentically trying to).
  • Continually improving -- They invest heavily on better getting ... personally and professionally and collectively.
Architects understand that what is left behind is the legacy of what is being done today. 

What we build can and should convey beauty, resilience, ecological sustainability, social efficacy, and positive contribution.

Back to the drafting table...

Sunday, November 27, 2022


I engaged an 84-year old cowboy (Ben) in conversation during a luncheon not long ago. Ben was an interesting character, with bright eyes and a quick wit. He had been a working cowboy his entire adult life and a ranch manager for over 40 years.

Ben told me that he had "recently" quit breaking horses because he "didn't seem to bounce" like he used to. WHAT!?, I thought. Still breaking colts (and getting bucked off) in his 80s???

Though age (and wisdom) had called upon Ben to adjust his behavior and thinking to account for the realities of life, he was still exhibiting curiosity, vim, and vigor. He was, however, wisely aware that changing contexts require us to adapt.

A good lesson for us all: Get better at adapting to evolving realities/contexts. But never QUIT contributing and serving. 

How best can I continue to "bounce," even when some of the former "bounciness" is not available to me?

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


Every organization has its contrarians. 

Contrarians are habitual resisters. They disagree, oppose, block, slow, argue, distract, and disrupt...................simply for the sport of it.

Contrarians are not interested in outcomes or improvement. They are interested in "likes" and attention, more entertainers than contributors. 

The organizations that make consequential and consistent improvements, that change the world for the better, that are focused on serving well and pervasively and NOW...............somehow keep the contrarians on the margins (or in the closet).

A powerful contrarian repellant boils down to the cultural behavior leadership is willing to tolerate.

Sunday, November 20, 2022


According to leadership guru Dan Rockwell, "Wisdom is practical know-how. (Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.)" 

From observing others over the years it appears to me that wisdom gatherers fall into three categories:

  • Happenstancers  - With this group, little morsels of wisdom "stick" on and to them as result of simply living life. 
  • Attenders - This group shows up for "class" every day. They take the trouble to actually pay attention. They watch, they learn, and they apply the learning when appropriate. Their wisdom grows incrementally. They are present, and accounted for.
  • Seekers - This group adopts and embraces the HABITS of wisdom acquisition. They read purposefully, they watch intently, they tinker persistently, they listen deeply, they relentlessly engage with many wise others (across learning disciplines), they are on a continuous mission of "connecting the dots." They have learned the financial lesson of "compounding interest" and apply it adeptly to their wisdom "savings accounts." In short, their "nutrition" is LEARNING and their "exercise" is the application of that LEARNING.

You know the next question...

Wednesday, November 16, 2022


Oppressive environments mean one thing: lack of freedom.

Oppressive environments look like this:

  • Fly-under-the-radar syndrome
  • Commitment-less
  • Lack of energy
  • Risk aversion
  • Protectionism
  • Isolationist

Free environments look like this:
  • Energized
  • Transparent
  • Enthusiastic
  • Collaborative
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Innovative and creative

Talented folks have the FREEDOM to work where, and with whom, they choose.

While high quality systems are good and needful, they can never replace talented folks.

Leaders.............................take heed.

Sunday, November 13, 2022


ALL of us are teachers. Regardless of age, regardless of title, regardless of station in life.

Someone is always watching us. And they learn.

Our Watchers glean numerous things from that watching:

  • Ways of Thinking -- The way we think impacts our behavior. It has the same effect on our Watchers.
  • Ways of Behaving -- The way we behave impacts the way we think. It has the same effect on our Watchers.
  • Ways of Symbolizing -- The way we think and behave is modeled by exemplars we have chosen to emulate and manifestations/processes we have chosen to embrace. The same dynamic occurs in our Watchers. 
Through that triad we give our Watchers both permission and encouragement.

Whatever we decide to think, however we decide to behave, whichever symbols and exemplars we choose to highlight..............................is best done intentionally.

Someone is learning from our teaching. What we teach our Watchers, we teach their Watchers. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022


We all deal with problems -- in our personal lives, in our family lives, in our organizational lives.

Problems that are not addressed become an insidious drag on our resources -- mental, physical, emotional-spiritual.............whether we address them or not. 

In that case, why not pick one and address it?

Here's a good start. Ask and answer the following questions:
  • What is THIS problem?  (In just a few words, not more than one sentence.)
  • What is this problem keeping me/us from accomplishing?
  • What one action can I/we realistically take to diminish or eliminate this problem?
Today, take that step. Move the needle, just a little. Make it a habit. Repeat tomorrow.

Problem mitigation is 1/2 of the Continuous Improvement Process. 

"There's no crying in baseball!" (Tom Hanks, from the movie "League of Our Own")

Friday, November 4, 2022


I recently read Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes by Jimmy Casas (2017).

JS speaks to strategies that school leaders can enact to positively impact student learning outcomes, along numerous dimensions. He focuses a great deal of the book on concrete moves leaders can make.

My biggest takeaways:

·       A conversation is not just words flying – it’s body language, smiles, eyes, pacing and pausing…

·       Definition of Culturize: To cultivate a community of learners by behaving in a kind, caring, honest, and compassionate manner in order to challenge and inspire each member of the school community to become more than they ever thought possible.

·       Fairness necessarily means treating others differently.

·       Providing clarity lowers anxiety.

·       Power and rightness are not the same thing.

·       Tricky conversations are best had in person.

·       There is no excuse for not contacting the parent of a failing student.

·       Leaders own their morale.

·       Awfulizing is the habit of verbally bashing others, circumstances, decisions. 

·       Awfulizing = unwelcoming, rude, critical, provoking, cruel. 

·       Awesomizing = inviting, civility, accepting, deterring, compassionate.

·       Great change begins with self-change.

My favorite quotes:

“To often, however, we get stuck in the habit of simply managing a mediocre culture.” (p. 9)

“Your culture of your organization will be defined by the worst behavior you are willing to tolerate.” – Todd Whitaker & Steve Gruenert (School Culture Rewired). (p. 97)

A very nice read in relation to leadership moves dedicated to improving organizational culture. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2022


Those in leadership roles frequently feel the burden of that responsibility. It is real! To whom much is given, much is required.

Being the best leaders we can be requires us to spend some of our personal resources on self-care. If WE are not healthy and well, what makes us think we can lead entire organizations toward health and wellbeing?

From my observations of some particularly "well" leaders over the years, I deduce common forms of Leader Think in which they engage. 

Particularly "well" leaders...

  • Hold zealously to their principles.
  • Remain relentlessly committed to acts of service.
  • Doggedly pursue continuous improvement, personal and collective.
  • Engage in disciplined "exercise"_intellectual, physical, and emotional-spiritual.
  • Ask excellent questions, grounded in curiosity and in relationship building.
  • Engage and meaningfully connect with many others.
  • Model and expect respectful behavior.
  • LEARN daily.
How leaders think is how leaders lead.