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

Sunday, December 31, 2023


Jake, our 90+ year old ranching neighbor, made the following observation several years ago while visiting with us on the country lane that separates our properties: "If you can't find something wrong, you ain't lookin' very hard."

True, and instructive. On the ranch, and in organizational work, there's ALWAYS something that needs fixin'. It is not rocket science to identify the problems.  

When we perseverate on what's wrong, however, we generate some very negative energy and a mindset of UNgratefulness. Vibes and mindsets are both contagions.  

What if our Team learned to expect from us a steady stream of gratitude, appreciation, acknowledgement, and praise. Rather than "Yeah, BUT..."

We can start today. It's the perfect day, actually.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023


I've been pondering about What's Next for me. How should/shall I spend my time/effort/energy in the coming days and new year? A few guiding questions keep bubbling to the surface:

As my faith is built on the foundation of LOVE, how can I more effectively become it's embodiment?

What do I need to learn next, to make me a better servant leader?

How can I be a better caretaker of the small piece of the planet Moe (my lovely bride of 46 years) and I call home? 

What things can I do/say that will serve to unify folks rather than divide them?

How can I improve my teaching "craft," in the interest of making better futures for my students, and, subsequently, the gazillion children they serve?

Looks like I have a busy year ahead of me... 

Sunday, December 24, 2023


I recently read The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen (1994).

HN was a Harvard professor and priest who, in later life, chose to serve in an institutional setting for mentally handicapped folks. 


In this book, HN teaches us the lessons of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son through the lens of Rembrandt’s famous depiction of same. 


My top takeaways:

Ø  Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son embodies far more than meets the eye.

Ø  Allowing ourselves to be loved is more difficult than teaching about love.

Ø  The monumental challenge: Seeing others and the world as God does.

Ø  BOTH sons in the parable needed, and received, healing, forgiveness, acceptance, love…unconditionally.

Ø  As was the older son in Jesus’ parable, it is quite possible to be “lost” while still “at home.”

Ø  To truly surrender to God’s love, I must let go of comparisons, rivalries, jealousy.

Ø  God does NOT compare us to one another, ever.

Ø  Cynicism and Joy may, in fact, be opposites; we choose one or the other each moment.

Ø  Regardless of whether we identify as the younger son or older (or both), we are called to move into the spiritual maturity of the father. 

Ø  Jesus’ parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son all point to an all-forgiving God, perpetually in search of “the lost.”

Ø  To become more like God, we must embrace fully Grief, Forgiveness, and Generosity. 

Ø  Our ultimate choice: to accept or not accept God’s all-forgiving love.


My favorite quotes:


“I am constantly surprised at how I keep taking the gifts God has given me—my health, my intellectual and emotional gifts—and keep using them to impress people, receive affirmation and praise, and compete for rewards, instead of developing them for the glory of God.” (p. 43)


“What I do know with unwavering certainty is the heart of the father. It is a heart of limitless mercy.” (p. 75)


“There is an Estonian proverb that says: “Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.” (p. 86)


“I now see that the hands that forgive, console, heal, and offer a festive meal must become my own.” (p. 119)


“The great conversion called for by Jesus is to move from belonging to the world to belonging to God.” (p. 125)


“As I look at my own aging hands, I know that they have been given to me to stretch out toward all who suffer, to rest upon the shoulders of all who come, and to offer the blessing that emerges from the immensity of God’s love.” (p. 139)


This book is one of the most compelling of my reads in the last 20 years. It was reflective, analytical, invitational, convicting, insightful. It calls me to be a better version of myself, one that more closely mirrors the God of my understanding.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023


Anderson and Adams (2015) argue that leaders develop -- IF they develop -- through a well-defined sequence:

Egocentric Leadership 

    >> Reactive Leadership 

        >> Creative Leadership

             >> Integral Leadership 

                   >> Unitive Leadership

The good and bad news is that the teams we lead are swept along with us on our growth journey.

The addendum good and bad news is that WE have immense control over the speed and efficacy of our growth.

What, How, and How Fast we choose to LEARN the craft of leadership is fully within our decision matrix.

Time's a wastin'. Let's roll... 

Sunday, December 17, 2023


I learned the calculus concept known as inflection points while studying to be a math teacher (many years ago). Inflection points are those at which the trajectory of a curve changes directions.

Our lives also experience inflection points -- points at which the trajectory of our lives change directions.

WE have the power to affect those inflection points within ourselves. Our inflection points can also have powerful and positive influence on others, and on the world. "Bending" toward better versions of ourselves is a most worthy undertaking.

It helps a LOT if we have carefully considered what we want that betterment/influence to look like, and align our daily habits to cause those changes in trajectory.

Sunday, December 10, 2023


Lots of competing forces seek to define us. IF we succumb to that legion of definitions imposed on us by others, we are tossed around as a cork on a stormy sea.

It is well worth the effort to define ourselves. And to revisit that self definition often. The late Dr. Clayton Christensen wrote a book and did an excellent TED Talk titled "How Will You Measure Your Life?"

IF/WHEN we carefully explore that question, then make very conscious decisions about apportioning our finite time, effort, and attention along those "metrics," we have taken the most meaningful steps in defining ourselves.

It makes for a much steadier and self-actualizing journey....

As always, today is an excellent day to start.

Sunday, December 3, 2023


Our best team members -- regardless of skills, intelligence, or motivations -- often end up in the weeds (or headed that way). The best leaders I know are masters at Weed Mitigation.   

What do those wise leaders do to help us all stay out of the weeds? Here are some examples of their work in that regard...

  • They keep us hyper-focused on the BIG PICTURE stuff. They constantly explain and communicate that BIG PICTURE and help us channel our time, attention, and effort in that direction.
  • They put systems in place that are aligned to that BIG PICTURE. Stuff that ain't....goes. They seek out and happily remove distractions, trivialities, and redundancies in the workflow.
  • They paint that BIG PICTURE and monitor the progress, but stay out of the way of those who are diligently pursuing it. 
  • They coach people...UP (for those who embrace the BIG PICTURE) or OUT (for those who don't/won't).
  • They connect the team, across divisions and functions, internally, and with valuable resources externally.

Sounds easy, huh? Some make it look so....

Sunday, November 26, 2023


I recently read The Power of Making Thinking Visible: Practices to Engage and Empower All Learners by Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church (2020). 

This book is a follow-up to one printed about 10 years prior by Ritchhart, et al. The authors assert that Making Thinking Visible (MTV)… “has the power to: Foster deep learning; Cultivate engaged students; Change the role of students and teachers; Enhance our formative assessment practice; Improve learning (even when measured by standardized tests); and Develop thinking dispositions.” (p. 6)


My top takeaways:

·       Thinking is more process than product.

·       Deep learning is the result of both understanding and thinking. 

·       Engagement occurs on three levels: with others, with ideas, and in action. 

·       Understanding requires both “digging” and sense making.

·       MAKING THINKING VISIBLE is a set of practices: Questioning, Listening, Documentation, and Thinking routines.

·       Robust thinking only happens when the content is also robust.

·       The quality of the questions drives the quality of the learning.

·       Professional development events too often focus on training teachers in a set of tools or practices, but ignoring the deeper learning of the skill set and cultivation of mindsets needed to deploy those tools most effectively. (p. 226)

·       Three teaching inhibitors: The rush toward quick judgment and evaluation, the tendency to predict what students will say before they say it, and the desire for closure.  

·       A powerful facilitative question: “What makes you say that?”

·       Teaching is a complex undertaking, precisely because learning is a complex outcome.


My favorite quotes:

“These opportunities [for deep learning] are infused with critical thinking, grappling with complexity, challenging assumptions, questioning authority, and embracing curiosity – all core elements of what it means to learn deeply.” (p. 6)


“Formative assessment lives in our listening, observing, examining, analyzing, and reflecting on the process of learning. Even then, our assessment becomes formative only when we use that data to inform our teaching and students' learning. Formative assessment then is driven by our curiosity about our students' learning and the desire to make sure our teaching is responsive to their needs as learners.” (p. 12)


“As the feminist poet Alice Duer Miller observed, ‘Listening is not merely not talking,’ it is ‘taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us.’” (p. 26)


“Poet Judy Brown writes that it is the space between the logs where the fire grows (Brown 2016)”. (p. 218) 


RR and MC embed in this work several teacher moves (technical applications/strategies) to foster deep learning and make the thinking of the learners public. 

This is one of the best books on the teaching-learning process I’ve read in recent years. An excellent option for team studies by those who want to push their instructional A-game higher.  

Wednesday, November 22, 2023


I don't run as fast as I used to. I have to drive a little slower at night these days. I allow a bit of extra time for almost any kind of activity. Both my hearing and eyesight are waning. Too many of my friends/family are dying off. And some of my former students and athletes are, as well. On the surface, it seems a lot has changed. But...............

Preacher Andy Stanley tells the story of an inspirational parishioner who continued to faithfully serve others during his last years, despite dealing with an insidious terminal illness. When Stanley inquired of the gentleman about his continued servant leadership, even under extreme duress, the response was, "Nothing has changed; God is still in charge."

I am blessed beyond measure, and WAY beyond merit. But if it all ended today, nothing will have changed. The God of my understanding (as feeble as that understanding is) remains in charge.

For that....................I am thankful. 

Peace and blessings to you as we pause ever so briefly to give thanks

Sunday, November 19, 2023


Anti-example is a powerful a teacher.

Some common behaviors we see from not-so-emulatable leaders look like this:

  • They perseverate on short-term goals/gains, instead of long-term outcomes.
  • They seem to believe pushing gets better results than pulling.
  • Their talking-listening ratio is in the 60-40 zone or higher.
  • They focus disproportionately on what's going wrong.
  • They rarely notice good work, and rarely praise good effort.
  • They spend a lot of language on I/Me, and very little on Us/We.
  • They demand loyalty...to themselves, instead of to noble and worthy goals.

As we work steadily to improve our leadership skills, learning NOT to do those things is an excellent space for growth.

Sunday, November 12, 2023


Many of us have landed in leadership roles for which we were completely UNprepared. In some cases, we may have even started out completely incompetent. 

The response we make/made to that circumstance makes all the difference in world. The wisest folks take the following steps:

  • Embark immediately on a self-directed learning journey. Read, consume, listen, observe....always aiming to get better, every day, on purpose. 
  • Seek and engage with mentors experienced in our area of service....always aiming to get better, every day, on purpose.
  • Build a network of wise and valued others within our field and up/down the food chain, and engage with them regularly....always aiming to get better, every day, on purpose.
In short, these wise folks build for themselves a LEARNING system and network....always aiming to get better, every day, on purpose.

Starting out UNprepared is not all that uncommon. Staying UNprepared is nothing short of irresponsible. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023


The labels: Cowboys, City Slickers, Rednecks, Yankees, Hillbillies, Cajuns, Straight, Gay, Bi, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Conservatives, Liberals, Moderates, ...........

On and on it goes. The promulgation of labels seems bent on division, with no interest in harmony.

The very moment we hang a label on someone, we quit viewing them as individuals. We immediately saddle them with a plethora of assumptions and adjectives that may or may not apply.

Worst of all, we quit seeing and we quit listening to them as individuals.

The cost is so very high.  

Think of me, and engage with me, as Nelson. I'll do my dead level best to return the favor.

Sunday, November 5, 2023


Full disclosure: I guilty of driving in the wrong lane as a leader. (Mostly before I learned better.)

What does "driving in the wrong lane" look like? WrongLaners most often jump into action upon hearing of a problem. Of course, problems and bad news have an insidious way appearing at our doorstep (or inbox). 

BEFORE we leap into action, we are wise to enact the following recipe:

  • Identify the folks on the team closest to the problem and ask some clarifying questions. It is highly likely they're "already on it."
  • If not, make sure you're all on the same page about "the problem," and assign the folks closest to it the task of running point on the solution crafting.
  • Provide the resources, support, and "cover" for those teammates to work on the corrective action.
  • Flag our calendar for regular follow-up and monitoring.
  • Get out of their way as they untangle the skein.
  • Heap praise on the Team when the issue is resolved (which it usually is).
Putting the right team in place, and letting them do the work, is one of the best lane-driving strategies we leader types can deploy. It also increases the likelihood that the best ones will STAY on our team.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023


When we ask impactful questions, we send some very powerful messages. Well-phrased questions can and should signal to others that we...

  • Value what they know.
  • Are genuinely curious and want to learn more.
  • Respect the need for various viewpoints/perspectives.
  • Desire discourse and dialogue (as opposed to divisive debate).
  • Might be wrong, ourselves, and are willing to reconsider our own position(s).
Leadership thought leader Dan Rockwell suggests that we use the One Question Challenge: Ask at least one question before making statements.

Seems like wise counsel. Think I'll try to make it a habit.

Sunday, October 29, 2023


Most of us come to believe that Offense is about scoring -- points, dollars, clients, etc. And, Defense is about protecting something -- property, goal lines, savings, market share.

Much has been written about Offensive and Defensive strategies, whether the topic happens to be football, finances, politics, or war.

The best tacticians don't look at Offense and Defense as mutually exclusive constructs. They understand how to deploy Offensive measures with Defensive outcomes as the objective. Similarly, these wise strategists also figure out ways to apply Defensive measures as tools with Offensive efficacy.

Winning, regardless of the competition in which we are involved, cannot be viewed only through a dichotomous and bifurcated lens of simply playing Offense for awhile, then shifting to Defense for awhile. Life (and, in reality, most games) require that we be playing both at the same time. 

Almost always, using Offense as Defense and vice versa, has to do with managing the clock or the calendar. TIME is a resource, too.

We are wise to understand the tactical advantages of being ambidextrous in the application of Defensive and Offensive measures. 

Be warned: Continuous LEARNING is required...

Wednesday, October 25, 2023


Leaders burn out, a LOT. We cannot do great good for others if we do not take care of ourselves. If we deplete ourselves, we and many that depend on us pay a price.

Just as we are responsible for the health and wellbeing of our stakeholders -- internal and external -- we are also responsible for our own. 

That means attending to our own health and wellbeing on three fronts: 1) Intellectual/Cognitive, 2) Physical, and 3) Emotional/Spiritual.

Knowing who we want to be has everything to do with how we take care of ourselves. If we do not embed habits of self-care into our daily lives as leaders, we will most certainly burn out (or in some cases, burn "through"). With that, our opportunity to leave the world a better place is lost.

TODAY is a good day to abandon bad habits related to self-care. TODAY is also a good day to adopt some healthy ones.

Sunday, October 22, 2023


Rituals have a binding effect on us. One of my former pastors claimed rituals as the "thread" that binds us to our ancestral "tribe," whatever beliefs that tribe subscribes to.

Certain faiths have well-established rituals, certain universities have long-standing rituals, certain fraternities/sororities have deeply entrenched rituals, and even certain families have powerfully engrained rituals.

When our rituals serve to bring us together around highly moral tenets and noble aspirations, they can serve as powerful attractors. That magnetism "pulls" us toward higher thinking, exemplary behavior, extraordinary effort, and relentless commitment.

When the rituals of social groups are intended to bind us in healthy ways, to do good to/for others and the earth, and to serve humankind in positive ways, they are worthy and noble undertakings. Sign up, invest, and play hard.

When the rituals of social groups are intended to do harm to others, or exist solely for the self-interests or positive outcomes for that particular group......................................consider resigning from the group and finding better ways to spend your time.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2023


Two of the hallmarks of exemplary leadership are Vulnerability and Transparency.

Being Vulnerable as leaders does not make us "wobbly" (to channel Margaret Thatcher). On the contrary, it positions us to more authentically engage with both our internal and external stakeholders.

Vulnerable Leaders look/feel/sound like this:

  • They openly share what they DON'T know, expressing a deep desire to learn more (from whomever and wherever that learning can emerge).
  • They know they can't do it all, and thus, freely ask for help from others.
  • They LEARN constantly, which signals to others that continual learning is both OK and an expectation.
  • They model that leadership compels one to be a servant, not a master.
  • They emanate the understanding that we are all intertwined and interdependent on one another. 
When I was pretending to be an athletic coach (decades ago), I noticed that the preponderance of the individual accolades that flowed once a season was over went to those athletes on successful TEAMS

We, as individuals, are most successful when we are contributing team members. Leaders are only one component of the TEAM. Being a Vulnerable Leader accelerates TEAM performance.

Sunday, October 15, 2023


I recently read Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison, by Shaka Senghor (2017). 

In this book, SS takes us through his life journey from a middle-class neighborhood in Detroit to the downward spiral he experienced as a crack dealer and his subsequent imprisonment in the Michigan correctional system.


My top takeaways:

·       I hear often hear urban settings referenced as “food deserts.” It seems to me they may also be “hope deserts.”

·       The need to survive drives ALL of us. Some have a very short menu of options to achieve that end.

·       Anger and despair are two of the most powerful motivators known to humankind.

·       Seven years in solitary confinement: I cannot imagine.

·       The ability to read and access to literature are exit tickets for many (or any) who are trapped in desperate situations.

·       Redemption is like an open door, there for anyone. The choice to enter (or not) is ours alone.

·       Love, exhibited through kindness, has power we cannot imagine.


My favorite quote:


“That’s why I’m asking you to envision a world where men and women aren’t held hostage to their pasts, where misdeeds and mistakes don’t define you for the rest of your life.” (p. 263)


I cannot remember how/why this book came onto my radar screen. It will forever live in my memory.


As nation, we can do better. As a person, I must do better.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023


PLEASE? Don't give us speeches.

I was advised by a valued counselor many years ago that the most effective communicators are not the ones who give speeches, but rather, they're the ones who tell stories. After having adopted that practice, I now know what makes a story so compelling and a speech so mind-numbing: Stories help us make an emotional connection.

When we share three points, a poem, and a prayer (the traditional speech formula).....


When we display spreadsheets full of data and start talking about the shortfalls or shortcomings.....


When we distribute a binder full of information and pablum and history and projections and.....

We pretty much guarantee that we'll lose half or more of our audience.

HOWEVER, when we tell a personal and powerful short story that has embedded in it the point(s) we'd like to make, most of the audience is seeing with their eyes, listening with their hearts, and making connections with their brains. That's because they almost always have similar stories that they have lived, experienced, maybe even survived.

When we tell a story that generates thinking, we activate LEARNING.

Learning is PERSONAL. Always has been. 

Sunday, October 8, 2023


Who we choose to BE is far more important than what we choose to do, and orders of magnitude more important than what we say.

How do we go about choosing who we want to BE?

An impactful guiding question: How will my existence on the planet make it a better place for ALL people?

Once that question has been carefully examined, we can begin scheduling our days/weeks/months/lives. Focusing our time, effort, and resources on the truly important things is the ONLY thing that moves us closer to who we want to BE.

And tomorrow......we ask that question of ourselves again.

Get better. Everyday. On purpose.

Friday, October 6, 2023


Help is hard to find. Good help is nearly impossible to find.

In those precious windows of time when we successfully attract and add exceptional talent to our Team(s), it's an excellent idea to try to keep them on the Team.

Consider the following moves to hang on to talented team members:

  • Early and often, share the WHY of your organization with those folks.
  • Clarify the OUTCOMES you aspire, and have clear metrics around which you are tracking those outcomes. Then, let those horses run.
  • INTERACT often with those players, listening closely to their thoughts. Time is the most precious resource we have as leaders; giving as much of it as we can to valued team members is a force multiplier.
Bonus points go to those of us who can avoid micro-managing. When we engage in that practice.......................we'll be looking for replacements for our talented folks in short order.

Sunday, October 1, 2023


A valued friend of mine shared a lovely concept with me this week. (I'll call him Bob for purposes of anonymity.)

Bob told me that he had been advised at a young age by valued mentor to take the following approach to life:

Whenever you have the opportunity to help someone, take it. For it may never come around again.

Yeppers. A simple tenet to make the world a better place. 

We could begin today...

Monday, September 25, 2023


I recently read The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation of Failure, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathon Haidt (2018). 

In this is book, Lukianoff and Haidt premise what they call the three Great Untruths:

1) The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; 

2) The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings; and 

3)The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

My top takeaways:

·       “Untruths” contradict ancient wisdom, contradict modern psychological research on well-being, and harm individuals and communities.

·       There is great wisdom in the old saying: “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.”

·       There are two kinds of identity politics: Common-Humanity (unifying approach) and Common-Enemy (divisive approach).

·       Words are NOT violence, and telling our children so is not healthy.

·       Definition of Witch Hunt: they seem to come out of nowhere; they involve charges of crimes against the collective; the offenses that lead to those charges are often trivial or fabricated; and people who know that the accused is innocent keep quiet, or in extreme cases, they join the mob.

·       The loss of Free Play time is exacting a heavy and detrimental price on the socio-emotional development of our children.

·       Two common conceptions of justice: 1) Distributive justice (the perception that people are getting what is deserved), and 2) Procedural justice (the perception that the process by which things are distributed and rules are enforced is fair and trustworthy).

·       Four rules for productive disagreement: 1) Frame it as a debate, rather than a conflict. 2) Argue as if you’re right, but listen as if you’re wrong (and be willing to change your mind). 3) Make the most respectful interpretation of the other person’s perspective. 4) Acknowledge where you agree with your critics and what you’ve learned from them.


My favorite quotes:


“… wind extinguishes a candle but energizes a fire.” (p.23)

“A culture that allows the concept of “safety” to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.” (p.29)

“Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.”  -from Eric Hoffer, in The True Believer (p.99)

“Free play helps children develop the skills of cooperation and dispute resolution that are closely related to the “art of association” upon which democracies depend. When citizens are not skilled in this art, they are less able to work out the ordinary conflicts of daily life. They will more frequently call for authorities to apply coercive force to their opponents. They will be more likely to welcome the bureaucracy of safetyism.” (p.194)

While Lukianoff and Haidt get into the weeds a little prescriptively toward the end of the book, I found the premise of their arguments to be sound and consistent with my societal observations. 


This is a book I’m thankful to have read. And, I’m thankful that my grandchildren are being raised by parents and educators who are teaching them that life is what we make of it, not what happens to us.

Sunday, September 24, 2023


Why does it seem that bad habits are so easy to adopt and stay with, and good habits are so hard? Why is it that good habits are so easy to abandon, and bad ones hang on like dandruff?

Habits seem to anchor to our LEASTness mindset:

What takes the least time? There's habit for that.

What takes the least effort? There's a habit for that.

What causes the least discomfort? There's a habit for that.

What helps us avoid making difficult decisions? There's a habit for that.

What if we made it a habit to think about our habits? And to quite intentionally unhook from some of the bad ones. And to purposefully build into our day/calendar/thoughts/systems/relationships a few habits that move us toward who we really want to be?

No time like the present...

Wednesday, September 20, 2023


As we do work on complex problems, in fluid environments, with people and systems that mightily resist change, leaders can (and often do) succumb to the challenge. The inertia seems impenetrable at times.

Providing clarity of direction is, perhaps, the best service we can provide in "murky" environments.

Consider enacting the following daily strategies of effective leadership:

  • Articulate clearly the Vision of the organization. Tell us WHERE we're heading, constantly, even if the path is hard to find.
  • Pick a FEW measurable and understandable goals we can pursue toward that Vision, then monitor the progress, talk about that progress, adapt to the inhibitors of that progress, and continue making progress.
  • Listen to stakeholders constantly, steadily asking questions about their understanding of the Vision, about their deployment efforts toward that Vision, and about their progress in pursuit of that Vision.
  • Analyze the systems of the organization, weeding out the ones that seem errant to the Vision, bolstering the ones that promote its achievement.
The persistent drumbeat of the Vision and constant, clear communication is the daily work of leadership. Clarity of direction is a powerful accelerator. 

Sunday, September 17, 2023


Leaders in organizations cannot eliminate gossip, but we can mitigate it. How?

  • Don't Participate - simply excuse ourselves from the harmful chatter.
  • Notice - be persistently conscious of the good things people do for the organization and each other. Folks seem always attentive to what the leaders are looking at and listening to.
  • Acknowledge - let others know the good things/people we've noticed -- through personal notes, through public praise, through our affirmations to those up and down the organizational food chain.
  • Amplify - make public affirmations for other folks in the organization a permanent feature on meeting agendas. In church, we used to call it "testifying." Make it a habit to let folks praise each other in public.
We can't completely kill gossip, but we can discourage it. We can most certainly create uncomfortable conditions for gossip -- and gossipers.

Sunday, September 10, 2023


Sometimes we slip into recalcitrant thinking and behavior. The impact of such behavior is defensive, limiting, and "slowing." That impact is especially magnified when the recalcitrance comes from leadership.

What does recalcitrance look like in an organization?

  • Impose layer upon layer of permissions and approval for menial tasks.
  • Talk about data but rarely examine the data with a skeptical and open mind.
  • Discourage risk taking and risk takers.
  • Limit professional development and/or organizational learning.
  • Stay focused on the day-to-day actions rather than on the BIG espoused outcomes.
  • Harden the protocols/rules/procedures.
  • Listen and talk only to the internal stakeholders.
Where recalcitrance rules, obsolesce -- or irrelevance -- soon follows.

Anti-example can be a powerful teacher.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023


What do we want for our children as result of their having been in our schools for 12 or 13 years?

What do we want them to know? What do we want them to be able to do? How do we want them to be able to think? What behavioral practices will serve them and their community for a lifetime? What kind of citizens do we intend to shape?

Those are questions any school community should have. Those are questions that are best fleshed out by ALL the stakeholders in that school community.

Choosing to ask those questions is a bold step. Attempting to answer those questions is a messy and challenging process. Posing those questions and chasing the answers is ideally a process led by the school leaders of the learning community.

For those of us who serve in school leadership, some additional questions follow:

How willing am I to undertake the task?

How well have I prepared myself to lead this process?

How well have I polished up my skills of engagement?

Only when we clearly articulate the aspired PROFILE of the learners we serve can we begin to put some meaningful plan of affectation in place. Without such a plan, we and our learners languish.

It's only the futures of our children, and our communities, at stake. (Time's a wastin'.)