Superintendent of Schools – One of my favourite business/management-type authors is Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni has written 11 books, many reaching the national best seller list for his genre. His most ‘famous’ business book is likely The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, but other popular titles include: Silos, Politics and Turf Wars; Death by Meeting; and The Advantage.
Lencioni typically has about two-thirds of the book written as a story/fable with the final one-third connecting the story to research/practice. His books address leadership practices, how to enhance organizational health and build effective teams. I’ve read almost every one of his books due to personal and professional interest.
In the last month, I powered through (on a bus trip to/from Lethbridge for hockey) his latest book – The Ideal Team Player. It was an easy read as Lencioni used his fable approach to walk through a fictional situation whereby a new leader had to hire a new member to their leadership team. At the end of the book Lencioni circles back and tells readers what he believes are the three most essential virtues that an effective teammate must demonstrate. He shares his thoughts on the best way to identify if a person possesses those traits and how you can develop/enhance those traits if they require strengthening.
So, what would you describe as the three quintessential virtues that an effective team member must possess to be part of a high functioning team? What should we look for when trying to bring new people into a team? We all know people who a natural team players, but what do they demonstrate that makes us feel that way?
Lencioni boils it down to three critical virtues: humility, hunger and people smarts. If people demonstrate those traits then he says they will be a team member that others will embrace and collaboratively they will produce results. These ideal team players take every opportunity to praise and recognize others and shy away from the limelight. They are driven and highly self-motivated to take more things on, help out in different ways, and fill gaps in the team. They just “get” people and know how to get the best out of them while maximizing the effectiveness of each individual. Lencioni contents that when you can find a person that is humble and hungry with people smarts then you want them to be on your team.
If you want to borrow my copy, send me a note and you can borrow it. Want to learn a bit more without reading the book? Follow this link to find some resources -> https://www.tablegroup.com/books/ideal-team-player.
Principal, W.G. Murdoch School – This fall I’ve had the opportunity to transition into one of life’s most challenging roles: Hockey Dad. In between scoping out potential homes once my son makes it to the NHL (kidding) and running him around to rinks on Sunday morning at 7:00 AM, I’ve learned some important lessons.
Two times a week, Harrison takes the ice with 15 other keen five and six year olds to go through a variety of skating, shooting, and other drills intended to teach the little ones the basics of hockey. As parents, we’ve been encouraged to put our phones away and enjoy watching our kids play hockey. After a couple of practices, I see why. If Harrison got a nickel for every time he looked up at me or my wife for affirmation that what he was doing was special, he would be a rich man. Every circle of the ice, every shot on net, every time he catches a glimpse of one of us, the eyes go up to the stands, making sure we are watching.
Enjoying the groundbreaking ceremony at Building Futures
On one of those mornings, I reflected on how important giving students that same authentic audience is. As teachers (and parents) we’ve all been guilty of giving our kids ‘busy work’ to simply entertain them so we can have some time to ourselves. In my experience, the difference in the work received from ‘make work’ projects varies immensely from tasks that are designed with an authentic audience. Whether that audience is a potential client (like three of our students get to do this year with Building Futures) or an engaged classmate or teacher, ensuring timely, intentional feedback that occurs both during and after the task is critical. To relate it to the analogy of my son’s hockey, specific feedback about what I observed him doing on the ice, rather than “you did well son,” goes a long way.
No matter our age, we’re always looking for a level of affirmation that the work we’re doing matters. In the busyness of our days, let’s remember that our students care what we think about their work and that taking the time to show them that not only makes them feel validated, it also improves the learning environment.
W.G. Murdoch students learning about chemistry through hands on experiences with watermelons
Using Play Doh to learn about Plato in Origins of Western Philosophy
Getting to Second Order Change and Beyond
Director of Schools – The world in which we now live is no longer as predictable and constant as it once was. Welcome to the ever changing 21st century.
Education has not been spared in this wind of change driven by exciting new research, the move towards the creation of information and knowledge, advances in technology, instructional design and how people learn. Schools are being tasked to prepare our young people for the future that possesses no boundaries and limitations. Faced with this daunting challenge, are we ready to reach beyond what is merely simple, traditional and customary? Can we truly make extraordinary changes in our schools and classrooms that are meaningful, inspiring and engaging? This will require a shift in our thinking and mental models.
So how do we this?
This type of change requires systemic thinking, not individual or siloed thinking. The power of a collective group of people is immeasurable and as groups of people journey forward, we will need to better understand how to get to second order change and beyond.
First order change consists of improving what already exists. With little learning required, this change is consistent with our current behaviors, beliefs and values. The changes are low level, do not challenge practice or the organization in any significant way, and can be reversible. For example, in the case of an orchard tree, it’s like reaching for low-level fruit that can be collected without much effort.
Second order change is creating something totally new. This is characterized by a fundamental redesign and a new way of thinking and doing. Although there is still some resemblance to the previous state of business, there is clearly a state of disruption that is evident and welcomed. When we think back to that orchard tree, this requires reaching for fruit at the top of the tree with determination and great effort. The stretch to reach this height creates synergy, and breaks us out of our old patterns and experiences. It is here that we look upward and truly see opportunities.
Third and fourth order change means going deeper with tremendous creativity. At these levels, what comes to exist does not resemble past models. There is a disposition to inquiry and change in beliefs, values and our understanding of “school” and “learning”. Problems are reframed as possibilities and viewed as positive. The status quo is not accepted as routine. Here, we no longer have a single fruit tree, rather an orchard of rich and diverse vegetation, plants and trees.
There is clearly a transformation taking place around the world and schools have a moral imperative to be front and centre, supporting students as citizens of the future. Educators must take a pivotal role in the determination, design and implementation. If we do not step forward and take a lead role, others certainly will on our behalf. In order to be successful, we need leadership that is open, transparent, engaging and listens to the various voices, and yet able to make the call to move forward. It is about transforming learning – for every student – everywhere.
All great things take time and energy. The change we are talking about is worth it. If we want better for our schools, our classrooms, our teachers and ultimately our students, we all need to say yes to change.
Are you ready to reach for the top fruit? Let’s all reach together.
Superintendent of Schools – On Monday, Oct. 16, voters from across Alberta elected new mayors, councilors and trustees and the shape of local government changed. In RVS, due to ward boundary changes and incumbents choosing not to seek re-election, we were going to have a minimum of five new trustees on our Board of eight. A few of us waited up until the wee hours on Tuesday, Oct. 17 to see the final results. At that moment we had three acclaimed trustees and five trustee elects, and within those eight we had three veteran trustees (we don’t call them “old” trustees) and five first time trustees.
On Friday, Oct. 20, the results became official and our eight trustees were sworn in / affirmed at a public ceremony at our Education Centre on Tuesday, Oct. 24. Upon swearing in, the “old” Board finished their work and a “new” Board was formed. Congratulations to our new trustees and thank you so much to our former trustees.
While the eight officially were trustees on Oct. 24, the work had already started. Emails were flying around 1 a.m. on Oct. 17 as I congratulated them on their elections/acclamation and asked them to book a bunch of dates in their calendar. We had two orientation type events prior to the election date for all candidates. We had our first official orientation session on Thursday, Oct. 19 where we spent time getting to know each other, walked through the orientation plan, dealt with some of the required paperwork and forms, got them setup with technology, and walked through the swearing in ceremony.
Our second full day of orientation was on Tuesday, Oct. 24 where we discussed topics such as: trustee code of conduct, conflict of interest, organization meeting, how board meetings are organized, their role in emergency school closures related to inclement weather, how to do their own timesheets/expenses, and previous motions from the past couple of years. Then they had pictures taken. It was an incredibly busy day and we ran out of time so some other topics will need to be rescheduled.
The third orientation day was Thursday, Oct. 26 where the Board and myself spent the majority of the day with Dr. Leroy Sloan. The focus was on discussing what makes effective governance and clarifying the roles of trustees, the corporate Board and the Superintendent. Leroy connected the legislative framework that boards operate under along with a governance framework. A number of key policies were discussed, all intermixed with a bunch of interesting stories from Leroy. Trustees were also introduced and had a brief “meet and greet” event with Education Centre staff late in the day.
The orientation work continues with three days of Alberta School Boards Association work in late November followed by specific orientation meetings in December and January. We also integrate at least one orientation item after every Board meeting starting on Nov. 16 until April.
Being a trustee is tough work and, as staff, we work hard and spend lots of time early in the term to help trustees get off to a great start.
Technology for Learning Secretary – As a teenager, I can remember laughing at my parents for being stuck in a ‘rut’ – always having the same routine, making the same meals, rarely venturing outside their own bubble. It was even more amusing when something unexpectedly changed, such as going from VCR and beta machines to DVDs and how it threw them for a loop, the world seemingly coming to an end. Fast forward 30 years and I seem to be suffering from the same condition, not nearly as funny now.
Change is inevitable; it happens all the time whether it be big or small and yet many of us seem so ill equipped to deal with it. One small bump of turbulence and everyone is screaming that the plane is going down. Many of us naturally go to the worst case scenario, that whatever the change is, it’s going to be too hard, it’s going to ruin everything, and so on. Fear of the unknown affects not only us, but our reactions directly impact and influence those around us – our children, coworkers, friends and family. People, especially children, adopt the same views on change that the adults in their world project outwardly, which can cause a snowball effect of negativity.
Maybe think about it like this: You are the pilot of the Boeing 747 and all of the passengers and crew are your family, coworkers, and friends. To keep the plane in the air, you must remain calm during bouts of turbulence and be flexible and adaptable when there’s a change in path. This keeps you steady and calm. Knowing the ins and outs of your plane helps you make decisions. If you don’t know something, you research it. Change is absolutely the same.
If you are a prepared and unruffled pilot, your passengers and crew will remain calm as well. If your plane needs to be routed to another airport due to bad weather and turbulence, assuring your passengers that everything is alright and that they will make all their other connections will help ensure that they aren’t having meltdowns and scrambling for the oxygen masks. Change doesn’t automatically mean negative things. Often it can lead to very positive outcomes and experiences. By embracing the beast called ‘change’, you are preparing yourself to handle it successfully and be a model for those around you.
Education and technology are constantly evolving and changing. By embracing advancements in curriculum, teaching, and technology, the end result will be a better educational experience for students. By communicating those changes and making the transitions seamless, both staff and students will be better equipped to embrace them as well. By working collaboratively, we can tame the scary beast and transform it into a fuzzy, purring kitten.