Tag: Leadership

Do you have a sense for solutions?

When we begin to discuss problems, solutions are not the first-word selection used to describe the next steps. Often a few sentences full of explanations, excuses, and finger-pointing or blame are used. When you try to make sense of issues you face, utilizing some of your senses is needed!

Our senses can help with many aspects of our problem-solving and solving issues before they develop into bigger ones. Can you think of a time you utilized your senses to find solutions?

One of my former bosses and mentors told me I was a good listener. As we discussed listening to stories of upset parents or others, we identified how vital listening was to these situations. Individuals needed to “see”; we were “hearing” them.

When you find yourself in a situation where an individual is upset and wants to explain their position, let them. Please provide them with your full attention and listen to them. As they finish, I have a statement I feel is the best way to begin your response. I have shared this with my staff and other leaders; the best way to start is: “I am sorry you feel that way.”

I am sorry you feel that way is a great way to begin. This does not admit blame or acceptance but validates the individual in front of you. You have demonstrated your willingness to listen; you validate them by making the statement, and you have calmed the environment with these steps. The tones are softened; you have touched the individual’s heart by providing full attention and time. Now the solutions can begin.

During the listening, you have taken notes of the content revealed. You can begin to help connect the dots as together you retell the story without high emotions, but with facts to help design a solution to the issue. Always reassuring, understanding and providing a solution helpful to all parties. Pay attention to unspoken language. Your senses help you recognize the needs others are not able to communicate. There is always, as I say, a “trigger” for all of us that flips on our anger.

Our senses provide us with the guidance we need. However, not everyone has all of the senses available to them. When this happens your senses naturally accelerate to compensate for the missing sense. Nature knows the significance of having these to support us in our journey. Our brain is our central control center, activating them.

I have shared before that I survived a near-death accident leaving me with lifelong injuries. I have a traumatic brain injury which leaves me without my sense of smell or taste and also a lack of emotion. There are more damages, but these are hard to accept. However, I have learned to accomodate. The brain is amazing so I do have periods where I may be able to smell an odor if it is strong, taste a very seasoned dish or feel a burst of joy. Never consistently.

My message is to be a leader with a heart. I am thankful each day for all the blessings before, during, and after my car crash. Use all of your resources available to you as you lead and serve. Thank you for being part of the solution daily.

Steps with Senses to Solutions

  • See- Identify the body language of the individual, have personal pictures, collections, or special items identifying yourself
  • Hear- Listen to the individual with full attention.
  • Smell- Utilizing our ability to help reduce stress, provide an environment of comfort, or to keep the area your meeting odor-free for safety. (Fresh flowers as an example)
  • Taste- Candy bowls, other treats, water. Consider having something to offer.
  • Touch- Stress balls, gadgets to hold and move, any items to help with various textures. (clay, sponge, etc.)

In addition to the items above, my office stocked pens, journals, snacks, and anything I found to add! Your office or meeting area should bring out the senses in everyone!

I hope I helped in making sense to solutions using senses.

The value of engagement to success

“Those who find true purpose in the workplace and who are committed to their work and those they work with, ”according to author Robertson Hunter Stewart, are engaged employees. In his book One to One: Managing Quality Time with individuals for engagement and success, he explains his ideas on implementing a framework to meet with successfully all employees one to one.

“Having scanned the majority of the information and statistics currently available on this subject (as of June 2020), recognition and appreciation are the two factors which appear to have the most impact on improving employee engagement.”-One to One, Robertson Hunter Stewart

Leaders and managers face many complex challenges as the global pandemic changed the “ how” we do things and even “where” we do it in some situations. Creativity, innovation, and lots of flexibility provided us with new ways that may stay.

An important factor we know to have success is building a solid foundation. I love the story of the Three Little Pigs! The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, written by A. Wolf, is a fun read with a different view. Let’s not forget The Fourth Little Pig either! Building their homes, they each had their ideas until the wolf showed up and blew their dream home away. I believe employees feel like this as well. They picture their work to be a second home. They want to feel safe, trust, comfortable, and eager to be part of the family. How can we help employees? What steps can we take to improve? Working to build strong relationships is a priority.

Invest time to build relationships. Also, we offer a clear communication plan involving a clear, concise, and consistent message. Listening is the best form of engagement communication. Active listening, where individuals know you hear what they are saying-provides a bridge to action steps to success. This validates individuals and recognizes them as an essential part of the team.

In the book One to One, you will find how to conduct a one-to-one meeting, and I am providing a link to his website that contains short video clips to assist you.

There are many tools and resources to help in your success. Every day is another opportunity to make a difference; you have to decide what kind of difference it will be. Thank you for being part of the solution daily.

RESOURCES

https://www.robertsonhunterstewart.com/videos-and-multimedia

I am known as the Hallmark, Pollyanna, and on my best days, Oprah! I love to give things away. So when you put all of this together, I believe it equals FUN! Fantastic, Unique, Needs! Employees have them and need these things. Like a packet of flower seeds to tell them, “Thank you for planting seeds to help us grow this week with your ideas!” Change the wording, but you get it. Here is a link for more ideas!

https://snacknation.com/blog/employee-engagement-ideas/

The Choice is Always Yours to make

As I was talking with my friend last night, I discovered something about choice. In my career over the past decades, I have been saying the choice is yours to make may not be the entire picture.

We were catching up on lots of things when I said, “I had an off day today; I just could not get into writing.” She said, “I have days I don’t feel like going to work, but I don’t have a choice.” Now, this puts a spin on things!

My husband and her husband join us in the kitchen area later. As we enjoy dinner and conversation, they bring up more ideas about choice and work. Zeke says, “My sister told me that many times new nurses would call-off work because they need a day to go get nails done or something. They have no regard for the level of need for the care of others.” Our friend said, “Yes, workers do not have the work ethic that is needed.”

Reflecting on all of the conversations and thinking about my statement, I still stand by it. It is our choice in what we do. We have freedom of choice. We decide how we react to situations. It is our morals and values that determine our choices.

In our society, right now, we are faced with unusual circumstances. We have a global pandemic we have been going through, raising our fear levels, sparking anger from decisions being made, dealing with isolation, depression, and other mental health issues. The violence, riots, killings, stealing, and the list can go on—all choices in response to other choices, a chain reaction.

The choices we make always affect others. They affect us, but others as well. We have to and must learn from the past. History is so vital because of choice. We learn from it as we study the choices made by those in the past, leading us to what we have today. Our world is changing daily.

Another blogger Steve Keating wrote a piece on five choices that change everything I have included for you also to check out. I believe it is essential to surround yourself with others who can lift you, help you question, support you, and encourage you. I may not have many friends in my little circle, but they keep me focused on my values, morals, and what is important to me. Thank you for being part of the solution daily.

https://stevekeating.me/2021/03/25/five-choices-that-change-everything/

Through the window

“The good things in life are better with you in it.” These are the words on the heart sitting on the ledge of the window next to my chair. I love to sit in my chair and watch the clouds, blue skies, birds flying, rain as it waters the grass, or snowflakes as they dance in the wind. No matter the season, the view from the window provides me with the heartfelt warmth I need! I reflect on the things that are important in life as the birds sing. Sometimes I will see deer, rabbits, and other animals, but it is interrupted by the traffic or tractors during farming times!

We planted two trees just outside my window. One I can see now as its branches reach up towards the heavens. It reminds me of the tree we planted for my mom for her birthday before I was married. I can remember looking out of the window at that tree right before I went out to hug everyone goodbye. My new husband Zeke and I would be heading to the state of New York as he reported to the Navy to finish his training. Did I mention I was 19 years old and had never been away from home? It was kind of a big scary moment for everyone, I think! The tree seemed to understand as it stood up tall and did not make a move. Branches are reaching up as a reminder to stand tall, keep your head up and always look to the heaves for your guidance. I have followed those rules for 36 years and counting!

This is the window my grandkids look through at my house. It is a reading space with crates of books, pillows a set of binoculars to watch the birds and a place just for them.

When you look through your window, what do you see? If you do not see things clearly or something to encourage, lift or provide guidance, move; look through a different window. Maybe you need to get in the car and look through those windows. Go to a favorite place and look out of their windows. Find the windows that provide what you need.

Do you ever wonder what kind of windows your staff looks through? It isn’t easy to see all points of view when you have always looked through the same window. What do we see when we look through your classroom windows? Office windows?

When your students walk into your classroom or school, have you ever thought about their windows, and perhaps they do not have any? Can they look through a window? Is the bus window the only one they can look through, or the one in the classroom? What do they get to see?

Curiosity, imagination, hope, dreams, and so much can be lost if we do not take the time to learn to turn off the noise and turn on the mind to learn to see through all of the windows we are provided in life.

We have many opportunities to help those we serve each day to expand their well-being and provide resources to encourage them to always believe in more. A door never closes until we shut it. We can always look through the window to see things differently, and sometimes we may need to open it to new possibilities! Together in working, achieving, and believing, we can do all things.

Front door may close but through the window you can always see opportunities are possibilities when we seek to see! #Bethesolutiondaily

Thank you for being part of the solution daily! Help each other daily. Please do not rush to place judgment; gather all of the facts before you react, and the way I look should never define who I am. Mental health needs are what is needed today. If you know someone is in need please call for help.

The Way…Teaching, Learning, Leading

Education is always part of the political arena. Every time a presidential election comes around, education is one of the talking pieces. I selected my words wisely by using “talking pieces.” It is used as a piece in their puzzle to shift the pieces around to gather more votes, and once the political parties gain power, the pieces begin to move, and the talking never stops.

Temporary success and long-term problems of schools seem to be the pattern. Schools have taken on the responsibility for decades to be the reflection of the societal shifts and changes. However, I ask to what cost are we going to continue down this path that our children pay not only in our financial blunders but in our decision-making process overall.

I love to read, research, ask questions and ponder from my own experiences. If you have not read the work of Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley, please do. The Fourth Way was introduced to me as a middle school principal. We made significant changes to the school I was serving. Another book, The Fourth Global Way, came out after and was just as impactful. As a leader, you need to keep yourself informed, renewed, reflective and innovative in how you think, speak, and do.

I will state I am not seeing or hearing the moves in education I believe will help all of our children. I see divisions when I hear the talk of equity. We are continuing a negative dialogue. Let’s cultivate actual readiness to thrive in a diverse and changing world. I was a white female principal in a school with 40% black students, 7% Hispanic, 8% multi-racial the rest caucasian. At that time, 85% of our students qualified for free-reduced lunch. I also had seven registered sex offenders in the school as students and one female with an ankle bracelet reporting to a parole officer. We were experiencing some challenges, you can say, like our current one on our border. I knew and know my students and families. I visited their homes, spoke to them often, and joined in community events. We cried together at the loss of a family member; we worked together on issues, and together we did many things. We achieved success.

I have always stood for equity, diversity, the whole child, safety, belonging, responsibility, and continued growth. We need to continue to challenge our children to foster diversity, equity, and belonging. Our schools need to be places where we create conditions that empower learners, support communities, and build-up leadership in all areas.

“Shortly before the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, the chair of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee proclaimed that the “No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act had “become the most negative brand in America.” Eighty-five percent of surveyed educators agreed the NCLB was not improving schools, ”-The Fourth Way, pg 1.

In the quote, it refers to NCLB as a brand. This is exactly right. Politicians often use branding and catchphrases to spark emotions to get legislation passed that usually has many things tied to it that aren’t very helpful. Who would vote no on “No Child Left Behind” and think voters would reelect them?

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed in 2015 to eliminate NCLB but only narrows the standardized testing leaving it to the states to determine standards. We have Common Core and then states creating their standards. Again branding no one would vote against.

“The past shapes our aspirations for and orientations to change in the present and the future. Knowingly or unknowingly, school leaders often take some of what worked for them in one school into the next–even when it doesn’t fit. Their journeys and experiences undoubtedly affect how they approach the Way ahead.”-The Fourth Way, pg.3

We must be clear about where we stand as leaders facing a critical turning point in our history. It is essential to take the most professional approach. Taking the familiar path is easy; it is without bumps and is smooth. It is time to step up and outside of the comfortable space to reach for a higher purpose. Our students and staff need us to climb the mountain with integrity as we reach to get higher achievement levels, success, and overall well-being.

I do not want others to create problems to find solutions to work we are doing. More action, no need to move any pieces around, have talking points for votes, or blow others’ candles out to make yours shine brighter.

Let’s do the work to accomplish what has been started. We have lots of work to do in order to get all of our students to achieve. It can be done with a focused approach.

A link to a short video clip for The Fourth Way. https://youtu.be/1NresL_05Rg

Working together to achieve more!

Can you believe what you see?

“Every day, images pass across our screens. They exist everywhere: on television, webpages, social media, newspapers, magazines, textbooks, mobile phones and more.”-Frank Baker, Teach Kids to Read the Images they see

In our world today of photoshopped and the ability to alter pictures, it is not easy to believe what you see. As an elementary teacher, I loved using picture books in my classroom. My classroom was always full of ways to create and stretch our imaginations. We would take the pictures from the picture book and design a new book with words. Retelling the story was always a fun project!

Teachers helping our students learn how to sort through the pictures they see into learning is a significant need. I have included a video that is very interesting and helpful. Please begin; if you are not already doing it, teach children how to read pictures and determine their credibility.

Activities like this help students think critically, interpret and analyze. If you are not doing, please start, inviting students to read the images they see. Ask questions about the photos. When was it taken? Who took it? What is the purpose? Many questions can be asked and checked to validate the authenticity.

I have provided a vide link that is very interesting on this topic and a great one to share with staff. Pictures are said to be worth a thousand words, let’s see if we can come up with a few!

Seeking Solutions

Students pass through the halls at a Dallas ISD elementary school. (Photo: Dallas ISD)

Dallas ISD reenvisions school year to tackle learning loss by Matt Zalaznick, March 11,2021 in District Administration

As I read from many sources to find solutions to share, I discover educators and leaders seeking solutions to solve issues caused by the pandemic by thinking outside the box.

The pandemic has pushed leaders to rely on their collaboration skills, empathy, and creativity in approaching the needs during this time. Additionally, dealing with mental health, social-emotional needs, and vulnerability. Helping teachers feel safe in taking chances and being innovative in how they approach instruction—allowing freedom for students in making choices. Maybe the camera is on or off during instruction, as an example. Students were learning during this time, but so were all of the educators!

I discovered this article and found it interesting to read about the approaches they have presented. My favorite term they use is “unfinished instruction.”

“Dallas ISD leaders prefer the term “unfinished instruction” to learning loss, and plan to tackle the problem with extended school calendars in 2021-2022.”

“Beginning-of-year assessments showed 50% of students had fallen behind in math and 30% in reading during spring COVID closures and summer 2020, says Derek Little, Dallas ISD’s deputy chief of academics.”

I think you will find the article helpful! Here is the link. https://districtadministration.com/dallas-isd-reenvisions-school-calendar-year-tackle-learning-loss/