Tag: #climate

Ambition

Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher

Cultivating Healthy Ambition

Ambition is an essential element to an organization and individual. Ambition begins with understanding the desires, aspirations, and goals you have for yourself and your team. What exactly are your desired outcomes for yourself and those of your team?

Knowing and understanding how far to reach is key to harnessing healthy ambition. Setting goals that require just the right level of difficulty push and struggle helps ensure to reach beyond your current abilities. Suppose the challenge is too great; a risk of giving up or becoming discouraged when target goals fall short happens. If the challenge isn’t significant enough, a risk of disconnecting, not being engaged, and never reaching the levels of total performance is accomplished.

I worked with a young ambitious leader who was very talented. His desire to accomplish was greater than the skill levels of himself and his team. They pushed full steam ahead, but lacked the ability to sustain all of the components of their plans. Piles of data was collected, but being able to utilize it wisely with a targeted purpose was missing. They could accomplish some small wins, but the frustration levels grew with trying to maintain the action plans. Creating the action plans was difficult to establish because the data seemed to become outdated by the time they reviewed it together. It became overwhelming with the stacks of data collected.

There is more to accomplish than performance with ambition. We need to think about growth, achievement, sustainable and solution-focused ambitions. Each of these requires more in-depth conversations we can continue in future blog posts. We need a balance for ambition to find the formula for success. In the meantime, ponder these questions with your purpose of performance:

Questions for Focus

  • What are our current performance goals?
  • What goals can you reach with your efforts?
  • What goals can you help guide your team in accomplishing?
  • How can the efforts of “all” work together to accomplish the goals?
  • Do the goals need to be prioritized?
  • Have you assigned timelines, responsibilities, tasks, or other ways to accomplish them?
  • What do I wish was different today?
  • What frustrates me the most?
  • Have I asked the team any of these questions?
  • Do I listen to the team, data and information?

When we work only on performance ambition, our teams may look to us in different ways. If our goals seem unattainable, they will look at us as being “unrealistic.” Maybe you have set too many or too high of goals. The team believes you are setting them up for failure.

What if you do not take any risks and have too few of goals? The team thinks you do not believe in them, you are not a risk-taker and you have low expectations.

We do not want to lose our sense of purpose. Our team must believe in the goals, values, and beliefs we establish. It is essential to keep a check on the level of ambition we have and to maintain high sustainable energy to develop the accomplishments we want to achieve.

Critical piece

"The miracle is not that we do the work, but that we are happy to do it.”-Mother Teresa

Leaders provide lots of information, data, strategies, and models for success. As a leader, you have attended workshops, webinars, read books, and researched all of the knowledge of “what works” to achieve success. Still, after all of this, you scratch your head when you see the data come in with results you think should reflect better outcomes.

Why? All of these efforts and the same results. How can we explain this? “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.”-Craig Groeschel. Training, strategies, looking at data, and utilizing models proven to be successful should help us see growth and positive outcomes.

“You cannot solve a problem at the same level it was created.”-Albert Einstein. It is finding solutions to problems or issues we face that are complex at times. It isn’t that all of the things I listed are not necessary, but what is missing that is critical to ensure positive results?

It is a culture with a clearly defined mission, vision, and values. Leaders can explain the purpose of the organization in one sentence. Meetings, conversations, and communications refer to the mission, vision, and values frequently. Decisions are based on these as well. However, is it talking points and papers in a binder?

Ask these questions to reveal the answers to help guide in the understanding of the culture you have, what you should have and cannot have to thrive.

Culture Questions

  • Does your team enjoy being together?
  • How do staff interact together?
  • Do you have a process for the continuous development of staff?
  • How do staff feel about their job?
  • Do leaders model and encourage self-awareness and intentional personal development?
  • Are you able to have open discussions about the work environment?
  • Do you handle conflict?
  • How do you monitor or know about the culture?
  • Do you trust one another?

“When we have to protect ourselves from each other, the whole organization suffers. But when trust and cooperation thrive internally, we pull together, and the organization grows stronger as a result.”

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek pg. 16

If you have ever tried to work in a toxic culture, you know first hand it is exhausting, and nothing can be accomplished. When individuals feel safe, comfortable with their team, and valued by everyone, they are inspired. We want to have these kinds of cultures as individuals love what they do, where they do it, and most importantly, “why” they do it.

What Matters Most?

As a leader, especially during this time, the importance of “what we do,” “how we do it,” and “why we do it” are critical questions to ask. We have asked them before, but how does it help us to answer the biggest question of all? What matters most?

“Mother Norman, I am so sorry for the loss of your husband.”

“Oh daughter, I know, let me introduce you to my son.”

Going to the visitation of one of my co-workers from my early years was just like going to a family reunion to see relatives you haven’t seen in a while, even though you may not live that far from each other. “Mother Norman, ” as I have called her for years, was the teacher who I looked up to as I learned to be a teacher. She was one of many who helped prepare me for my journey through education. Her brother would become our Superintendent. He hired me for my first teaching position and then in my first administrator position. So many great learning opportunities and training. Thank you Mr. Tate.

I left the comforts of my hometown to travel a short distance to a larger school district up the road. My first year as principal was terrific. The staff, students, families and everything felt just right for me.

“Mr. Denman wants to see you in his office.”

I can remember hearing those words coming from the phone and the echoes of the voices telling me all day of the sudden leaving of the middle school principal. My heart sunk to my stomach. I could not let anyone see my feelings.

As I arrived to the office, it was true; I needed to move to be the principal of the middle school. I left the building headed back to my school processing all that needed to be done, when a call came asking me if I could return to talk to the Superintendent.

I entered Mrs. Mellen’s office, and she said, “ I am so sorry; I know I told you I would not move you, but I had no idea something like this would happen.”

I understand. Leaders have to make decisions based on what they believe is best. As part of this team and organization, I have to choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. A great deal of work has to be done. One thing I ask is to have permission to talk with my current staff first before they hear it from the news.

“I don’t think you can get that accomplished before the board meeting tonight.”

I can and I will, if I have permission. “I will check with board president and a few others to get this approved.”

Thank you! Trust, my word and helping to guide them through this transition is essential to me. It will provide a better transition for all of us.

Telling news you do not want to give

  • Practicing solution-focused leadership provides a systematic approach to communicating any form of news you need to deliver.
  • First, identify the problem the organization faced. Point out the importance of the time of the year and the needs of all involved.
  • Then provide the possible solutions the organization could have selected from and weigh against outcomes. (In this situation, I was able to pull from the information I thought could be used. I had four years of positive middle school experience previously. Our team worked to secure a grant successfully to change the school to a middle school concept and turned it from failing to succeeding.)
  • Decision made and moving forward. Clear communication of the decision made and how you support being part of the solution is stated. We all must do this to continue the great work we are doing. Provide the connection between them and the decision and the overall mission. (In this case, the school was a feeder school to the middle school I was moving to.)
  • One last thing to remember!
  • We do all of our work together in all of these buildings as one. Students and sometimes staff move around from time to time, but one thing remains the most important. What matters the most? We love what we do for those we do it for and those we do it with because, in the end, what matters the most is the relationships we build along the journey.

Take-Aways

  • Practice solution-focused leadership
  • Relationships matter
  • Clear communication
  • Remember the what, how, who and why to understand What matters most!

Cultivating Culture with Gratitude

Many of the posts and articles I have written speak about gratitude. One of the most important aspects of a leader’s responsibility is providing, modeling, and supporting this character trait.

Authenticity is the approach to everything you do. The worse thing you can do is to fake your approach to an appreciation for others. Then next is to overdo the gratitude approach by making it feel “expected” or “not special” and just like saying “great job.”

The following article from Edutopia is a great one to read as you look to add gratitude to your culture. In my history of gratitude, I have done:

  • Shout outs by email about individuals to all staff
  • Personal notes, cards, and gifts
  • Pictures in positive cards home!
  • Poems created for individuals
  • Mailed home personal postcards over Christmas break to all staff and students (675 postcards handwritten)
  • Themed celebrations

Share your gratitude ideas with us as we lift all in times of critical need.

https://www.edutopia.org/article/cultivating-culture-authentic-gratitude

“Art-full-heart”

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”-unknown.

When dealing with trauma, difficult stress, and many unknowns, we need to find ways to reduce these levels from harming our health. Many are providing ideas for self-help, but one of the universal ways to help all ages is through art.

Art is an expression of our emotions or a way to release the tensions we have. Everyone is an artist! It is connecting with something you love to do! Like baking, sewing, painting, drawing, construction, being a good friend, solving puzzles, playing an instrument, and my list could go on!

Experiencing art produced by someone else is an opportunity to experience life through their lens, explore their time, learn about their culture and history. Art provides unlimited access to learning if we open our hearts, minds, and imagination.

One of the first things eliminated during educational budget cuts is the art programs. It is encouraging to see more creativity, engagement, and opportunities for expression be included in the offerings for children. Children need hands-on learning with ways to be able to express themselves.

Take away thoughts

  • No matter what organization you are in, try this activity to create an “Art-full-heart” to support you, me, us!

Give each staff member or student a piece of paper. (Before you give out the papers decide where this big heart will be displayed. You will have an outline of the heart. Inside the heart will be what the individuals design. You will then place them inside the heart.) at the top of the display will be your title or message. You can use my suggestion above or one you prefer.

Shape your paper to fit inside your heart to equal the number of people making one. The instructions for making the design can be this:

As we begin to work together, we still have Covid-19 and the variant causing health issues. The paper you have provides you with an opportunity to send a message to others on how to__________during this time. Use any prompt you want to help share a message you want and to help others in need.

This becomes more than an art lesson. It is so much more. It is about the history of the pandemic, social and climate changes, power struggles, and dealing with mental health needs.

We have used art (painting, drawing, poems, and other forms) as ways students can open up about mental health suicide, drugs, alcohol, and more. It is therapeutic for all involved.

There are many ways to support others through the use of art! I hope you try out this and other ways to boost support, understanding, and encouragement. Helping to make mental health needs a priority and not something to hide helps everyone.

Because I am Happy

Pharrell Williams’s song Happy is great! Tap your foot, clap your hands, smile, and sing along. However, are people happy? Did we forget what it is that makes us happy?

How do you define happiness? The dictionary simply defines it as “the state of being happy.” Happiness is that feeling that comes over you when you know life is good, and you can’t help but smile. It’s the opposite of sadness.

Do you relate to any of these definitions of happiness?

  • Making six figures before I am forty years old.
  • Knowing I made a difference in the lives of others.
  • Living a good healthy life.
  • Enjoying family.
  • Having a home, food to eat, clothes to wear, and family to share it with.
  • Hearing my children laugh.
  • Watching the birds, smelling the flowers, and the warmth of the sun.

How do you define happiness? We live in a world where people perceive happiness in terms of wealth, status, or title. People tend to look at material things for happiness. What is the longevity of happiness? Can happiness be defined in one sentence, or do you need many components to your happiness?

“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living, focusing on both individual and societal well-being. It studies positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions…it aims to improve quality of life. It is a field of study that has been growing steadily throughout the years as individuals and researchers look for common ground on better well-being. Positive psychology began as a new domain of psychology in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association.” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Can we teach happiness? “People are only as happy as they make themselves be.”-Abraham Lincoln. I believe we can help provide the teaching and experience of the components to lead to sustainable happiness. We can do this by teaching gratitude.

Gratitude is defined in many ways, but let’s focus on gratitude—the act of giving back to acknowledge what we have received. When we can connect gratitude with action, it becomes authentic and benefits us at a deeper level. There is one book our team did with our middle school students called: We Beat the Streets by Sampson Davis (Author), George Jenkins (Author), Rameck Hunt (Author), Sharon Draper (Author). These three boys grow up to become doctors and give back to their neighborhood. We used it to talk about bullying, social issues, hope, and many other aspects.

Today, we face many barriers, challenges, social issues, and darkness of negativity slipping in the cracks of our lighted homes. Can we teach happiness? We seem to be teaching negativity, contempt, dislike, bitterness, and animosity.

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Can we teach happiness? Smile, let’s give it a try!

Obligations, we all have them

Nobody needs to tell you about having obligations; we learn this as a child. We have responsibilities to ourselves, family, community, country, and let’s not leave God out. But when it comes to meeting these obligations, what takes priority?

In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people.”-Colossians 3:23

Whatever your plans are with life, prioritize! Life brings many opportunities, disappointments, celebrations, and achievements. It is in taking the directions, turns, and roads before us that lead us to the spot we are right now. However, as we all know, we keep moving. It is all of the choices and reactions we make to help us as we move.

Jon Gordon and P.J. Fleck have released a new book, Row the Boat. It is an incredible story for you to read! You will learn how this coach turned a tragedy into a choice of not being defined by life journeys, events, and circumstances beyond his control—turning to a strategy. He choose to place into practice in life the “row the boat” to guide with enthusiasm and optimism. P.J. takes you through the process to discover how to put the “row the boat” components into practice. So pull up the anchor and set sail on the best book you will read this year.

Our obligation to ourselves is to invest in learning as much as we can to help ourselves and others. “Do all you can to give more than you take because serving and giving is key to life.”-RTB.

Think about the obligations you have today. What is your priority? The direction you are headed is decided by the compass you carry. “Live with a compass of faith.”-RTB. When you fulfill your obligations based on your priorities, you will count blessings not troubles.

Many times my staff and students would hear me repeat things over. I believe repeating consistently helps to cement it into our thinking. So I would say:

  • Watch your thoughts; they become your words
  • Watch your words; they become your actions
  • Watch your actions; they become your habits
  • Watch your habits; they become your character
  • Watch your character; it becomes your destiny

“Trained behavior creates boring habits, boring habits create elite instincts.”-RTB It is training of the mind and our mindsets that help us focus. Set your priorities to meet your obligations. Your destination is ahead!

Thank you for being the solution daily. Model for others as you are the standard of what we need to be. Let your light shine to brighten the darkness in the world.

Pop’in back, Getting to know you!

Relationship building is a priority for every organization during this time. Our world has experienced a great deal of stress, and we continue to have changes made to our daily lives. Bringing fun into the work environment and getting to know those we share time with are helpful in many ways.

Building relationships build trust, loyalty, and dedication. The stronger our relationships become, the more the work becomes not a what we do but a why we do! Bring fun, trust, validation, and dedication to each other. We need all of this!

I have a couple of games I have used to help with getting to know others. Both are fun ways to bring people back together after a long break like summer, spring, Christmas, or even short holidays and during a conference. These are also fun to do in social settings, in classrooms, or where you need to break the ice to start conversations.

I have provided some brief explanations and listed the materials you need to play the games. The questions to ask yourself are:

  • How many people will be in this group?
  • Which game fits this group setting?
  • How much time do I have with this group?
  • Is this something we can continue over several days?

Once you have answered these questions, you can determine how to set up the game and needed materials. Individuals will write and label their answers on three small pieces of paper. Then insert them into the balloon and blow the balloon up slightly. They place the balloon in the designated spot and when all are completed the game begins. (When I have done the Pop’in back game with balloons, I use a giant garbage bag to put balloons in, or you can utilize a designated area.) Then I can get one out to pop.

*If you are at a conference, make sure to announce only to do a balloon if they will be staying for all of the sessions. You don’t want to pop a balloon and never find out who dated Blake Shelton or is a secret millionaire.

Guidance for games

Questions to use for statements

  • What state are we in?
  • What company or school district do you work for?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children?
  • Do you have grandchildren?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • Do you have siblings?
  • What is your favorite season?
  • Have you been to Disney World?
  • Which would you rather have ice cream or cake?
  • Have traveled by plane?
  • Have traveled by train?
  • Have more than five friends?
  • Many questions can be asked but be aware of what you ask and how you ask? What is the purpose? This is to be uplifting, chances to connect and laugh. Stay away from topics that could cause trauma indirectly.

Please share if you have additional ideas or suggestions. Let us know if you try it out and how it went. I have done this activity with a large group (entire school district opening meeting, my hometown rural school). So much fun with everyone engaged, even those who never want to participate.

The Artifact Bag

The Artifact Bag is a great activity to do as you introduce yourself to new staff, reconnect with the team or a fun way to get to know each other a little better.

Each table receives a bag with items and a clue sheet. They have an allotted amount of time to go through the articles and discuss what each item represents about the individual.

Then one group at a time will give their results to one item at a time. After the groups disclose their responses to one item, you provide the correct response to the item in question.

I have recorded my short version of the Artifact Bag. Before you watch it, if you want to try, take your guesses now. I will provide a little descriptions on a few items because you do not have them to look at.

  • States with ❤️ (Illinois, New York, Virginia)=
  • Fishing Pole=
  • #3 Green Fish=
  • Cheese=
  • Tomato =
  • Ice cream cone =
  • Ship=

I have created presentation slides with the directions for the Artifact game and then revealed the correct answers. I can send it to you if you email me yohobren@gmail.com

My way, Your way, Our way….

I grew up really as an only child. My brother and sister are 16 and 17 years older than me, respectively. I have always said I was a gift from God to make sure someone could help this family.

My siblings, especially my sister, did lots of things with me. I think I was like a doll. The best adventure I can recall was going to see Elvis Presley in concert. I loved his music, but I was more fascinated by the way grown women were acting. So exciting to watch! He did it his way!

Watching my grandchildren play, I learned a great lesson. They span in age from three years, six years, and 13 years old. The two younger boys play together and are not always easy to handle. Their sister is quick to help settle disputes and monitor the playtime.

While vacationing at the beach, everyone found their place. Each one has a special interest in what they wanted to do. There were enough adults that each child had one to help them in whatever they wanted to do.

When they decided to play together after having their time, the conversations were so interesting.

“Hey, look, I found a purple-colored shell. Would you want it?”

“Yes, thanks!”

“Do you want me to help you find more shells?”

Fantastic how they were working together to collect shells. Now it lasted a short time as you know, attention spans do not last long and brothers, well are boys.

We took the shells back to the house to sort, identify and talk about them. We like to do art projects and make things; this is what they do with me. They each had a container to place their shells in, and all was good.

How does your team work together on projects? As a leader, do you begin with your way of approaching the task or situation? Are there opportunities to identify and sort out target points? Can individuals discuss freely and offer ideas?

In dealing with finding solutions, it is essential to have all voices heard and illustrate possible solutions. People need to see, hear, talk, and sometimes “touch”(move items) to understand the process.

If the solution is “my way,” the problem will stay. It stays because, most likely, I am the only one who believes in the solution. The same is true if the solution is “your way,” which most likely comes from the loudest one. It should be “our way,” providing ownership from all.

Think about the structures of your problem-solving teams. How do you handle issues that come up? Do you have a process to follow? Who is involved in making decisions and finding solutions?

Thank you for being the solution daily! It takes each of us working together focused on solutions.