Posts Tagged renewal

Motivation & Daniel Pink

It seems fortuitous that I wrote last night on Mike Rowe and then found Daniel Pink shortly after to reflect on the nature of motivation.  These are two very nice videos back-to-back and tell us much about the new age of work and accomplishment.  Similar to the theories (dare I say facts) presented by Pink, I’m writing this instead of the paper that is due in my doctoral class – my incentive, “grade” based class where I do work for the carrot of a piece of paper that somehow distinguishes me from everyone else – hogwash!

In reality, much of what Pink describes is true for me – I select projects where I can be creative and add to the base of knowledge rather than looking for the position with the greatest pay potential.  Performance has always been a motivator and I read about Google’s 20% only to say “Yeah!” and “Right On!!” and “That Makes Sense!!!”

The fact that we have had it wrong for so long is what amazes me.  In schools especially, we seem all too caught up in a Pavlovian reality and stretching to a different kind of conceptual framework seems unreachable.  Could it be that our most difficult students are trying to tell us something that has nothing to do with their “condition?”  Maybe we have so tightly closed the lid on our children that they have no choice but to move constantly amongst realities – one after another in quick succession – to the point that we no longer understand them because of their divergence from our norms.

Pink may have the new age of motivation in his pocket, and his dialog on the topic has inspired some divergent thinking at the very least.

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Which path to take…

Two Million Minutes

A debate continued to brew regarding the general focus of education and how to reconcile the differences between schools in three distinct cultures and two significantly different dichotomies.  It’s western vs. eastern philosophy about eduction and the case is being used to both deride American education and highlight the realities behind the 21st century brain drain that is emerging in the United states.  Robert Compton says we should fear India and China.  Michigan State Professor Yong Zhao says “Wait one minute.”  So what now?  Where do we begin to reconcile this and what next in the debate?  These two points of view will generate the next decade of debate while schools languish in static complacency with teachers feeling more confused and disheartened than at any time in history.  Where do we turn for leadership in an environment where we are still debating Nation At Risk 25 years later?

Robert Compton Makes His Pitch

Yong Zhao’s Response

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Student learning and the new era of professional development…

I’ve been impressed with my re-introduction to educational reform in Washington through my Superintendent Leadership Seminar (first in a year long series).  The concept here is personalizing student learning and this is far beyond earlier concepts of differentiation or individualization.  Personalizing has more to do with the involvement of the student in understanding the process of their learning through learning targets and meaningful, relevant learning episodes.

In this professional development series, there are 6 elements of positive impact on student learning:

  1. Student learning is structured for understanding
  2. Student learning experiences are designed to engage and support all students in learning
  3. Student assessment is used to direct learning
  4. Students participate in maintaining effective environments for learning
  5. Students prepare to live and work in a multi-cultural world
  6. Teachers develop the art and science of a professional educator and are active in the profession to positively impact student learning.

No rocket science here.  Just foundational look at the continued development of best practice.

Source:  Dr. Marilyn L. Simpson, OSPI, Washington State

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In reflection on Jeffrey Canada…

After discussing the Harlem Children’s Zone…

What would you rather have, a blanket of mediocrity, or a quilt of excellence?

This American Life Podcast – Interview of Jeffrey Canada

Baby College – where it really starts.

Bringing the best of understanding childhood to the parents of Harlem.

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Team Leadership

dysfunctionLencioni (2002) paints a wonderful picture of the development of teams that captures a valid representation of team renewal that also serves as a reflection on the key components of ongoing team development.

At the foundation and consistent with my own beliefs is the critical need for trust at the base of a team’s pyramid.  But, as Lencioni points out, these layers of concerns must be seen as interrelated in order to get at the core of team development.  Trust, by itself, is insufficient for achieving the kind of team dynamics that result in accomplishment beyond expectations, which serves as the definition of a high functioning team.

The purpose of this blog entry is not to recount all aspects of this model of team assessment.  In my own recent experience I have been involved in two ways with teams that provide diametrically opposite examples of teams at their best and worst.

As a member of a larger logistical team, I have been both frustrated and frustrating because of an absence of the foundational trust aspect that is required for team development.  While I value that I have a role to play in this team’s success or lack thereof, it seems outside my power and control to initiate actions aimed at resolving deficiencies at multiple layers of the pyramid.  At the core, this team has little trust due to a top-down management style that is inherently paranoid.  With many demonstrations of a sincere lack of trust, it is clear that what follows is a general fear of conflict and a generative focus on individual well-being.  Thus, few members of the team have the ability to commit to the team and half of the team has tendered their resignation.  This act of exasperation is the ultimate demonstration of avoidance and, by virtue of this, despite commitments to the contrary, there is no clear indication that results are in anyone’s conscious focus.

Interestingly, however, I also serve as a leader on a more local team that is one step removed from the higher leadership team.  Similar to Lencioni’s example, this departmental team is functioning well within its own context.  As a leader of this team, trust was a critical component of our initial stages of development.  As noted in another text, Katzenbach & Smith (1993) define a leadership style that is effective at addressing the team strategies denoted by Lencioni.  Development of trust is often associated with a leadership attitude that inspires team members.  Leaders must often be seen as vulnerable in order to illicit contributions from other members that develop out of concern for the well-being of the team and organization — and each other.  Thus, this focus satisfies three areas of the triangle – trust, commitment, and results.  Accountability and conflict emerge in the processes once team members are engaged.  Thus, we get a self-perpetuating cycle of commitment and accountability.

As Katzenbach & Smith point out, each team is unique in defining the skills needed to lead.  While in one instance, a leadership style applied as highly management oriented fails, in another example, honest servant leadership leads to distinct gains.  This should not be used as an argument for a more lenient leadership style.  Quite the contrary, this is just a cautionary tale that reinforces the fact that each team of experience needs to be uniquely addressed as to its respective strengths and weaknesses.  The dynamics of team development continue to emerge as unique and interesting in the realm of leadership research.

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Star Trek, CNY, Noah’s ARK, & Leadership

Three interesting events linked in my consciousness and have driven me into inspiration.  Stay with me while I meander through my thoughts.

Celebrating the Chinese New Year for the 10th time in Asia has caused me to look deeper into this phenomenon with each passing year.  The fireworks, the chaos, the calm and the almost surreal intermittent quiet that descends on the city drives one to ponder in more interesting ways about looking both forward and back.  The almost constant fireworks for 15 days and the non-stop celebration bring special focus to the year – more so in many ways than the calendar based version of the “western” New Year.

Stay with me now – while listening to the reverberations of crackling explosions, I remembered an episode of Star Trek entitled “The Return of the Archons” — an a often forgotten scene where computer controled minds of a civilization are regularly released for 12 hours  allowing a rampant expression of destruction and “celebration” by the population – an escape valve that balances against close control and monitoring.  Roddenberry’s depiction of the essence of humanity is played out in this way – under control and conformity of mechanistic intervention “the body dies.”  Human spirit – creativity and inspiration – are the key to life.

Follow on this with an email from AISH ala Bambi Betts:

From Peter Drucker, management guru extraordinaire:

“What is the manager’s job?  It is to direct the resources and the efforts of the business toward opportunities for economically significant results. This sounds trite — and it is. But every analysis of actual allocation of resources and efforts in business that I have ever seen or made showed clearly that the bulk of time, work, attention, and money first goes to problems rather than to opportunities, and, secondly, to areas where even extraordinarily successful performance will have minimal impact on results.”

More accurately, the allocation of resources might be described as going to the status quo in yet another attempt to maintain equilibrium.  Deviation from conformity drives us all to naturally steer the offender back on course through layers of bureaucracy and the subtleties of long standing paradigms.  These limiters provide a powerful lid to exactly the innovation and powerful deviations that are most needed in an age of economic meltdown and global disaster on our very doorstep.

So what does Noah’s Ark have to do with this.  My guess is we are all looking to a higher power in a time of fearful contemplation.  I am not really suggesting a religious theme of Armageddon here.  In the midst of the above musings, I settled in to watch a humorous film (Evan Almighty) on a modern day Noah and his Ark.  The character playing God (Morgan Freeman) in this popular movie posed some particularly thoughtful questions part way through the drama.

“Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”

“How do we change the world?”

“One single Act of Random Kindness at a time. (ARK)”

So how does this connect, you ask?  The theme here is ultimately about breaking down the barriers of conformity. It’s about letting creativity and its random spirit spur us to create that which is not yet conceivable.  The human spirit is about randomness.  Chaos theory reigns supreme when you want to accomplish something beyond the status quo – and this is most certainly true when many fearfully cling to a narrow view of what is right, acceptable, and sustainable.

A complex world with difficult problems requires significant out of the box thinking.  Are we ready to initiate the “Red Hour” to solve them in the most creative way possible?

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Happy Lunar New Year!!

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