Disney's Leadership book: Creating Magic, since we were at "The Happiest Place on Earth". One of the first "nuggets" that I got from Lee Cockerell was; to look for lessons in leadership; EVERYWHERE. So that is what I decided to do this weekend. Observe through a leadership lens. And boy, I was not disappointed! There were leadership lessons flying left and right. I couldn't wait to get home to write a blog post entitled: Dance, Disney and Drama: Lessons in Leadership! I had soooo much material!
Imagine my surprise when my daughter decided to do some reflection as we took our final walk to the parking lot. "Well, the season is over. It was fun, it was hard...but it was a learning experience." Wait...what? My 12 year old daughter just floored me! We then had a fantastic discussion (led by her) about being a team member, humility, friendship, leadership, integrity, failing forward and reflection...all of my observations, what I was going to write about...came out of her mouth! So I will share some of these "learning experiences" here and how they relate to leadership.
My daughter dances with a few different groups, but the one that we have had most discussions about was a "trio". This trio really struggled this year.
1) Teamwork can be hard, but it is vital.
Right before they were about to perform, one of the trio kept repeating "We are going to do terrible, I don't even want to try." Hello...fixed mindset! Anyway, this caused Leslie to repeat this to me, over and over again...right until they went on stage. Needless to say, the team did not perform at their best and fingers started pointing. The teacher did not help the situation, in fact, she fueled it. (More on that later).
"I learned that in a team, we need to be positive and not blame each other. It is a team effort. When "Sarah" kept telling us how bad we were going to do, it made me feel bad and I didn't do my best."
We discussed, that it is also important for team members to be encouraging and build each other up. Unfortunately, this was not shown through the leadership (teacher).
Leadership Lesson: Lead by example. A successful leader needs to model being part of the team. He/She needs to monitor the climate of the team and help team members to work through the inevitable bumps in the road.
2) Encourage and grow your people.
about you, it's all about me!"The whole year, rather than work with the girls to fix or improve, she would take parts away and blame them for not "sticking it". She would make changes from week to week and even changed a turn, right before they walked on stage.
So, of course...there were many areas of the dance that didn't go right. The girls walked off the stage defeated and were met with criticism and finger pointing from their "leader". They were told that they were a "hot mess" and proceeded to hear the laundry list of everything they did wrong. My daughter took this particularly hard and I walked her away from the public shaming.
Leslie started to play the "blame game" to me and blame her mistakes on her team mates. She said the last minute change was because they could not do something that she could do.
In our parking lot discussion, she reflected: "I learned that in a team you have to be patient and kind. Not everyone can do the same things, at the same time. And not everyone will want to do what you want to do." I told her that this is about communication, patience and compromise.
At this point in our discussion, I asked my daughter if a strong leader would have helped. Her answer was "Yes. We shouldn't have changes made on us at the last minute and be blamed for them and the mistakes. Also, we heard other teams (from her studio) getting their pep talks, and they were positive and encouraging and we got...She never has anything good to say to us, only talks about how we mess up."
Leadership lesson: Have faith in your team and lead. An effective leader doesn't point fingers or place blame. An effective leader accepts responsibility and works with the team to make changes for success. A leader does what is best for all, not just to promote him/herself. Encouragement and support work better than blame and shame.
3) Integrity is everything.
I have been privy to many "discussions" between these group members. To me, it sounded like a lot of "bad mouthing" of whichever girl didn't happen to be around. I always took these times to talk to the girls about not talking negatively about others, building each other up...all that good stuff. But here is what I found interesting. I heard similar discussions among the moms (not just the teacher)! Adults, talking about the children. Pointing fingers!
I lost a lot of respect when I saw that the adults were modeling this behavior. I can not look at them the same. Of course the girls are acting the same way.
I had my own experience with a leader, who went around and talked behind staff's backs to each other. Ours was an extremely tight knit group and word of that behavior traveled fast. Integrity for that leader was lost along with trust and staff morale. Loss of trust and integrity is really hard to come back from.
a team can grow. Accentuate the positives but support and help improve on any struggles. Model the behavior you expect from your team, and watch your words. People are always watching, listening and learning from you and about you.
There is much, much more, but I am physically and mentally exhausted from this long weekend. Who would have thought, all this from a weekend of Dance, Disneyland and Drama?
Which of these pictures best describes a leader you know? Which one describes a leader you are? Which one describes a leader you want to be?
I have recently had to examine my weaknesses and strengths, as well as define my leadership style. This has not been an easy reflection, but it has been a powerful one.
I was asked the other day "Do you realize that you have areas in which you need to grow?" My humble answer; "Of course, everyone has areas of growth." Response "Do you really believe that?" ...."Yes". In my head, I am checking off my mental list of weaknesses. Check, check, yes I need to work on that, I know I struggle with that, check, check, check....I left that conversation really down on myself. What am I doing? Who do I think I am? I can't be a leader, I have so many things to work on. Yada...yada..yada.
Ok. Here is where I make the choice...do I go down this rabbit hole? I choose NO, because it does no good. Instead, I choose to dig myself out and use that as a foundation in which to build. I chose to take this time to reflect on some strengths; I've got to have some. Time to think about what attributes I CAN bring to the table as a leader. Instead of falling down that hole, I dig myself out and build myself back up.
What kind of leader would I be? Could I be? I would be the kind of leader that builds relationships first. These are formed through trust and communication. I will be the kind of leader that recognizes that everyone is different, and through relationship building, I will get to know what makes people tick. I will work to enhance people's strengths and help them grow in their weakness. I will be the kind of leader who is approachable and helpful. I care deeply about people and want everyone to be at their best. I would be the kind of leader that asks and responds to input. I will create a shared vision and ensure my team that we are all on the journey together.
I would be the kind of leader who is in a constant state of learning and will share my learning, freely and often. I will encourage and support my team to do the same. I will encourage the people I work with and lift them up. I would encourage them to lift up and support each other. I will build capacity within my team. I will find that spark, that one thing, and help it grow. I will support my team members wholeheartedly. I will be the kind of leader who is transparent and takes risks. One who is not afraid to fail, but when I do, I fail forward. I will be the kind of leader that people can count on, I will do what I say and say what I do.
I did not focus on "tangible" things such as: knowledge in curriculum and instruction, tech skills, budgets, LCAPs, SPSAs, discipline...because those are all things that I have either learned or can learn. Doesn't mean those things are easy, by any means. It's just that the other ideas are the ones that I feel strongly about. My leadership values. They were at the core of my leadership style within my classroom, within my family, and will continue to be at the core of my leadership style moving forward.
Whatever your leadership role is...there are going to be days that you will fall down that rabbit hole. It is important on those days to look up and see the bright spots. Celebrate those bright spots, they are always there, you just need to look for them. They are around you and they are within you. Believe in yourself and keep building sandcastles!
I was a shy girl, so looking back, it is awfully strange to me that I could get up in front of large groups of people, and be comfortable. I guess it is easier, sometimes, to be someone other than yourself.
The director of those plays was always the same man, he was actually a friend of my grandmother. For my very last summer play, I had the lead in Midsummer Night's Dream. Big deal, right? Well, this director, friend of the family, Mr. H., the director I had worked with for SIX years; didn't even recall my name! He called me "Lori" the WHOLE summer. And guess who didn't correct him...ever? ME! Sometimes I forgot and didn't answer him. It was hard keeping up, but sometimes it's easier being someone other than yourself.
Fun fact: I even took this acting thing so far as to be in a real movie!
My assignment is to write an essay to get me through a "paper screening" for a job interview. Basically, sell myself in about one page. No problem...I can BS pretty well in writing. I know exactly what they are looking for. I can just write my "character" to fit neatly into their little box. I could also choose to "act" my way through the interview. Again, play the role of whoever they are looking for. I could probably even "play" my way through the first few months of the job. I have seen others do this, it doesn't end well. When someone shows up that is completely different than who was interviewed...not good. Jekyll and Hyde.
*Disclaimer: I would NEVER do that. Here is why: So say I get the "job", that was easy...I would live happily ever after....right? NOT. Why would I want to be in a position, where I have to act like someone other than myself? That would make a difficult job, even more difficult. Just like I forgot to answer to "Lori", I would get mixed up and not remember who I was supposed to be. Doesn't work for me. I haven't seen it work for anyone.
So, rather than write up a fake "character", I will just write about the real me. Well, what if the real me isn't "good enough"? What if I'm not what they are looking for? Fear kicks in.
Well, this is the time when my own words come back and bite me. A good friend reminds me ....
"Take risks, dare greatly!" Yikes! Yeah, I've said those words...those words have come out of my mouth, many times!
I even went so far as to make plaques and pass them out. Time to walk the talk!
So, I have decided to take my own advice and "dare greatly".
"It is not the critic that counts...the credit goes to the man that is actually in the arena."-From one of my favorite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt.
Time for me to enter into the arena. Me: not a version of me, not a fictitious me. Not me in a mask or even a red feather. Just me!
If I am me, and me isn't what they want, then I don't want them. So, I have chosen to write about myself, wholeheartedly: MY leadership values, MY leadership style...ME. And if I don't get past square one, I will take it as an experience and learn from it. Fail Forward and Onward!
So my advice:
1) Get to know the true you.
2) Be you, and only you!
3) Remember that words have power...they come back to you.
4) Take Risks.
5) Dare Greatly.
6) Learn from experience.
Warning: Every once in awhile, we do come across those individuals that seem to have an inflated view of themselves. This distorted view is not the one that I write about, today.
When I was in the classroom, I started each year with the story: Have You Filled a Bucket Today? The premise of the story is: Have you shown kindness today? Have your words helped to lift someone up today? It is a great book for children and adults, alike. It makes you become cognizant; to think before you speak. Words have power. They can be used to build someone up or tear someone down. We have to choose. I always say: Choose kind! I wear a bracelet that a good friend gave to me, that sums it up:
Be True. Be You. Be Kind.
Sometimes, people need you to be their mirror. To reflect back to them; their true selves. Be that mirror for them; until they can begin to see it themselves. People are like butterflies...
This is why, anyone that knows me, knows that I share compliments and encouragement,
often. I try to celebrate others as much as I can. BUT, it is always authentic. I do not blow hot air. I also make it a point, to share any affirming words that I hear about someone else. For some reason, people give kudos about an individual, to others, but that individual never hears it. Ex: "I really liked how Jim spoke with his staff at his staff meeting. He really has connected with them!" Well, does "Jim" ever get to hear this? Hmm...
I have learned that some people get uncomfortable when they hear good things about themselves. I am one of them. My first thought is: "Yeah right, what do you want from me? Why are you buttering me up?". But this does not deter me from continuing to encourage or motivate others. On the contrary, people should not be second guessing motives. They should get used to hearing good things about themselves and just say "Thank you" and take it in.
Even though, I first doubt the words; if it comes from a genuine place, it is greatly appreciated and makes a difference. I know that we should be intrinsically motivated but...sometimes it's nice to hear it from an outside source. I took The 5 Love Languages Test a few months ago (if you have never done this, I suggest you do). I didn't even need to take it because I already know what makes me tick: Words of Affirmation. I know this is the reason that I give them out, often.
So, think about your interactions with people today. Colleagues, friends, family, students, strangers. Are you "filling their bucket"? You may just be the only person that does such a thing. Your words may be the only kind thing that individual hears today. You might just be the voice that makes a difference in that person's life. You could be exactly what that person needs at that time. Words are free and quite effortless, but can make a huge impact. Words have power, choose them wisely.
Confession #1: Somehow, Cup 'o Noodle has found it's way into my house. Confession #2: I told her to make it herself. She is very smart and capable, but...
The strangest thing was not the fact that the house smelled of burnt styrofoam and noodles, but it was my daughter's reaction. "Sorry, sorry...I'm so sorry! I can't believe I am so stupid!" What? What? This came out of the mouth of MY child? How could I have done such a disservice to my own daughter? I make it a point to talk about making mistakes, failing forward, growth mindset..how did this message get lost on my own child? Did it?
First I explained to her that she was NOT stupid and to never say that about herself, because it is very far from the truth. She just kept saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." It got to the point that I told her if she said it again, I would make her eat it (in jest, of course). Why did she feel the need to apologize? Where is this coming from? I am unsure, but I do know this about this particular child. She puts undue stress on herself. How shall I handle this? I know...story time!
I started by assuring her that everything was OK and that this was not called a "disaster" but it is called a "mistake". I asked "What is the purpose of mistakes?" With invisible fingers crossed, I hoped she had the answer I was looking for. She answered "To learn and not do it again." I said "You got it, to learn and make a change if needed." She continued to beat herself up, so I told her "Everyone has done something similar." She didn't believe me. So, I started by throwing her brother under the bus (I chose him first because she looks up to her big bro). When Trevor was about 10 years old, he wanted to toast his own bagel. He put it on a paper plate and proceeded to put the paper plate into the toaster oven. I told her how there was smoke everywhere, the same smell and even a little flame. She smiled. She said "But you have never done something like that." That was such a funny statement to hear, because as much as I love to cook, I am a disaster in the kitchen. So, I proceeded to be vulnerable with my child and tell her about the time, when I was pregnant with her brother, I microwaved a Wendy's cheeseburger (with the aluminum foil on). I told her about the small explosion and fire in the microwave. She loved that one. I gave her a few more anecdotes of how her mother has flubbed and that it's OK.
Here is the deal. Sometimes, unbeknownst to us, people, look up to us. It could be our students, our colleagues, our own kids...anyone. They think, for whatever reason, that we have never been in their shoes, when quite the contrary. This is why I feel so strongly about being vulnerable and honest about how we have all fallen. Because everyone has. I have found that people feel very comforted knowing that they are not alone, in making mistakes or otherwise.
A friend of mine had a child who was struggling with a particular subject in school and feeling really down about it. My friend decided to share some stories with the child, about similar struggles from childhood. The child had the same reaction as my daughter. It is comforting to know that others, especially parents/teachers, have been where they are. I applauded this friend for being vulnerable and showing that it is OK to struggle and keep moving forward.
Another friend of mine, that I used to teach with, switched schools. She had planned to do an art lesson with her new crop of students. She called me afterwards because she came across a strange phenomena. The students were paralyzed with fear. Literally. They wouldn't make a mark on their papers. I think they were supposed to be using paint. They said things such as "What if I do it wrong?". "What if I get dirty?" "What if I make something that isn't what you wanted?".
That was about 6 years ago and anytime I go visit that classroom, it is very obvious that those students embrace risks and are not afraid of making mistakes. It is a fantastic place to visit!
In my current position, I often train other adults in various things. I NEVER claim to be an expert and I don't think I have made it through one such training without making at least one mistake. But when I do, I call myself out on it. I just naturally do it, because I would do that in the classroom. Show students that everyone makes mistakes and it's OK and how to use it as a learning experience. Here is what surprised me. My adult learners have said on quite a few occasions: "Oh I am so glad to see that you have the same struggles as me!". My answer "Of course I do, we are the same!"
So, lesson learned:
1) You can find a teachable moment in the most interesting situations.
2) Model the behavior you want others to emulate.
3) Acknowledge, even celebrate mistakes.
4) Always be willing to laugh at yourself.
5) Share your stories if it can help someone else.
A few years ago, I was, what I would like to call an "avid" hiker. By avid, I mean I would hike on Saturdays. When I would hike, it would just be me and my dog...out on the open trails. He was typically a pretty good sport, did well on his leash. Didn't complain the numerous times I got us lost. He trusted me.
But there were three very specific times when I was hiking on my merry way...and we stopped, dead in our tracks. I was leading but when I turned around, he wasn't following me. He wouldn't budge!!
The first time this happened, it really caught me off guard. We were cruising along when all of a sudden...he stopped. No coaxing, no tugging, no pulling would work. This was such odd behavior. I am leading, why is he not following? Well, what Buddy saw, and I didn't, were the two coyotes staring at us. Luckily, they were far enough away, but Buddy wasn't having it and now, neither was I. We took off running, together, faster than I knew we could.
The second time this happened was one of those many times when we were completely lost. I don't know how I managed it, but the only ways out were to either to climb through a hill of cactus or hike backwards for a good hour and a half. I was hesitant, but went for it, we were taking the hard way...Buddy wasn't having it. No coaxing, no tugging. He thought he was smarter than I was, he thought he knew better. But I was determined. So, I picked up that 30lb. dog and climbed through the cactus to the other side of the mountain. In about 15 minutes, we both emerged, covered in cactus spines. We weren't pretty, we were a bit hurt, but we were fine. That dog still trusted me, I had his back (although that back was covered in spines).
The third time this happened was when we came to a small river crossing. It was an extremely shallow river, with a fallen tree to walk on. Nope, Buddy sat down and wouldn't budge. This was ridiculous...it's just water! So you get a little wet, you will be fine. I began to walk across...I got resistance. I coaxed, I encouraged, I let the leash slack a bit, but never let go. "Come on, I'm with you, you will be ok!" It was a long stand off, but guess what? I did not have to carry that 30 lb. dog across the river. He did it, we did it...together.
Why am I sharing these stories? They came to mind as I was talking to a colleague today. She was looking for a way to get her new partner to try some new things, get on board with some changes. To me, the partner sounded like Buddy. Digging her heels in, sitting down and not budging.
Here is what I have learned about talking to someone about teaching practice. It is extremely personal! Teaching is extremely personal. When someone asks you what you do for a living you say "I AM a teacher" not "My job is teaching". We own this profession, as we should.
When a change is suggested, regardless of the intent, walls almost immediately go up. Thoughts of: "Well if someone is suggesting a change, then I must be doing something wrong" or, "This has always worked for me, I don't need to change." Whatever the words are that go through that person's head, I can almost guarantee it all boils down to what Buddy was feeling: FEAR. Fear of not being good enough, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of not being in control, fear of unsteady ground or any multitude of fears.
When we think a change is needed, how do we handle it? It is all in how you frame it. I learned from Buddy, that someone can not be forced to change. They must decide to make the change, themselves. Just like my first situation with Buddy...are you leading, if you turn around and no one is following? That is a team of one.
So my advice, when faced with such a situation; think of Buddy.
1) You could choose to run...either with that person or away from that person. Now may not be the right time.
2) You can pick them up and climb through that cactus with them. Get stuck, get dirty, get messy together.
3) You can be the early adopter, start on that walk across that river and take that person with you. Encourage, support and lead the way.
If you want to make a change or have been energized by a change you have made...you want to share it. It is best to share it with someone who trusts you. This is important. Use your passion, your excitement to spark something in them. There will always be that first follower, you need to be that leader.
Do you ever get a song stuck in your head? No matter what you try to do, you just can't shake it? A friend of mine told me that it is called an "ear worm". Not the most attractive name, but I thought it was interesting, none the less.
Well, the same phenomena happens with thoughts and ideas. At least, I hope that I'm not the only one who has reoccurring thoughts. One such idea has popped back in and out of my head many, many times over the last two years being out of the classroom. It has been happening more often as I read a colleague's blog post: That Kid by Diane Csoto. About two days after I read this post, I ran into my version of "That Kid". This is who I write about today.
Whenever I feel like I am on shaky ground, I always start with the "why". Why am I where I am? Why am I doing what I'm doing? Today, as I am contemplating my future, I ask myself the question that a good Admin. friend asked me on an evening of self doubt "Why did you get into education?"
But this story explains it so much better. A few years back, as I taught fourth grade...I met a young man named "Sam". I had heard about Sam in previous years: "Sweet kid, troubled kid" "In first grade, her ran out of class and hid under a car." "Be careful what you say to his dad, he is extremely hard on him."
I took everything with a grain of salt, as I do not like to judge and especially not children. I would wait to meet Sam and go from there. Well, Sam entered the class, seemed quite pleasant, quite cooperative, but there was something behind his nervous smile. I quickly realized that Sam had very, very low self esteem and an extremely fixed mindset. Somewhere, along the way, someone told Sam that he was "stupid". Sam believed this. Although he put in effort, there was a definite block. So, I made sure to give Sam some extra time and encouragement. I worked on building a connection. He seemed to be making some progress, but as soon as something didn't go right, he would shut down.
One day, I honestly don't even remember what exactly happened, Sam snapped. A little girl in my class, who had emotional issues, made a remark to him and he went from 0 to 100 in about 2 seconds. He yelled out that he wanted to "kill her". So I not only had to deal with her reaction, but his as well. I went into Triage mode. I was able to get someone to watch my class and take Sam outside. He started crying and just said "I'm sorry, I don't know what happens when I get like that. I am just so angry inside and something snapped." He continued to tell me that he hated himself and wanted to kill himself. We had a lengthy discussion and I was so proud of him for being able to voice what he was feeling. He had deep seeded anger towards his father who made him feel "stupid" and "worthless". Somehow, I held back my own tears and stayed strong for him. We dealt with that particular issue, accordingly.
Fast forward, about 2 months later...Every year, no matter what grade I taught, my students performed a class musical. I selfishly did it because it made me extremely happy, but I also saw what it did for the students. This fourth grade musical was a new one and very heavy on singing. I would let any student audition that wanted to, for whatever part they wanted. I was surprised at how many students wanted to sing solo! One such student was Sam. When I saw that he wrote down his name, I was a bit nervous. He was not usually one to join in when our class danced or sang. But, he wanted to do it...so I called him up.
He opened his mouth and I got sudden chills and tears! This kid had a magical voice. It was like all of his feelings, came pouring out through his voice. My colleague happened to be in the room when this happened (she was the chorus teacher). I turned around and we locked teary eyes in absolute shock! When he was done, the class burst into applause, they had felt it too. Sam was even taken aback but had a huge grin, from ear to ear.
Needless to say, Sam got the lead in that musical. But here is the point of this long anecdote...from that moment on, Sam was a changed kid. His classmates looked at him and treated him differently. This earned him "street cred" out on the playground. With every note he sang, you could see his confidence rising. I could have probably charted it on a graph. But two magical things happened, in turn:
1) This confidence that came from his talent, flowed over into his academics! It just happened. He no longer believed what his father said about him. He believed in himself and saw that his peers and the adults in his life, myself included...believed in him.
2)His father came up to me, after the first performance. Tears in his eyes, to thank me for showing him what his son was capable of. He had, had no clue. This man, who has a rough past, Mr. Macho...crying at how proud he was of his boy. That time, I couldn't keep the tears in as I cried along with him. He said "I always wanted my kids to be tough, into sports, but this kid has a gift and I need to support him.". Wow! Just Wow!! Was this really happening or was this and "ABC After School Special"?
I saw him the other day and he is graduating from 8th grade. Just seeing the confidence, the REAL smile on this kid, brought me to tears (I waited until he walked away). He is so excited to start High School and excited about his future.
So why am I in education? I am in education to help people: children and adults, find their thing...their spark...and ignite it. Once that happens, all I have to do is sit back and watch the flame grow (sometimes I have to do a little fanning) and smile. I have been very fortunate to have many, many such stories.
So whatever your role, everyone deals with people. My hope is that you take the time to do this. Make those connections, find that thing and encourage. I always say: "Sometimes the smallest things, make the biggest difference." You may just be what someone needs at that exact time. Don't underestimate your power!
I have this ache, not having these connections with students anymore...does that mean it's time to go back on a site? I don't know. I hope that I have had at least one of these connections with those that I currently work with.
Be the spark...be the light.
I used to LOVE "Choose Your Own Adventure Books"! I would devour them, couldn't get enough! It was so interesting to me how one choice would lead to another, then another, then another...and the story continually changed based on decisions. Quick decisions, not considering the evidence, the facts, the implications kinds of decisions. EASY decisions.
Then I grew up. Life is full of "Choose Your Own Adventures", constant choices, numerous options, alternate endings. But as an adult, these decisions are not to be taken lightly. We talk about giving student choice in class, teacher choice in their own professional learning. Those things, I can do. It's the big deal, life altering decisions that have my head spinning.
My head is spinning, just like this weather vane. My wheels are turning, just like this weather vane.
This is the time to do what my friend calls "adulting". Time to put on the "big girl" pants and make some decisions. Usually, decision making comes pretty easy for me. I am not one to shy away from change, or risk...in fact, I kind of thrive on it. But right now, at this moment, I'm frozen.
I am so proud of the teachers and administrators that I work with and all of the risk taking they are doing. They have made a conscious choice to do something different. To shake things up. I celebrate them! So, why am I treating myself any different?
I have heard "Only you know what is best for you.". Do I? Do I really? If so, decisions shouldn't be so hard. A friend repeatedly has told me "You need to be where you can be at your best." Where is that? What is my best? We all have many "adulting" decisions to face throughout our life. We can let life happen to us or we can take the reigns and be in control. Which shall it be?
I am pretty satisfied with the decisions I have made that have lead me up to this point. These decisions have taken me from quiet, insecure teacher to the person I am today, which I feel has come from a lot of growth. The decision to leave my classroom, for a District Office job, was a huge choice...but it wasn't a hard choice. I knew it was what I was supposed to be doing at that time. Is that how it always happens? I am unsure. I want to continue on this path of self discovery and growth. But what does that look like? I honestly don't know.
So I have kept coming back to my 6 word memoir, my purpose statement:
Someone who motivates, encourages and inspires.
Hmm...usually this helps ground me. But that statement IS me, regardless of where I am or what I am doing. So then I have my other go to: "Everything happens for a reason. People cross our paths for a reason.". Do I really believe this? If I do, then I need to just wait and let things play out. I need to slow my roll and focus on the important things.
What does this have to do with leadership? I think it has a lot to do with it. As a leader, any leader...a leader of others, of your own life...we are faced with these "Choose Your Own Adventure Moments", and what we choose may just define who we are.
Protocol and flow charts are words that myself and my team have been saying a lot lately. It's because people thrive when things are in order. If A happens, then do B which leads to C. If there is a logical path, things are much easier, clearer. Unfortunately, there is no flow chart or protocol in life. So...what to do?
When at those crossroads:
1) Recall your purpose.
2) Find your happiness.
3) Consider your strengths.
4) Consider the implications.
5) Consider timing.
7) Gather information.
8) Trust your gut.
9) Get out of your own head.
I don't know if this post will help anyone else, but myself. But there is always hope that others will find something in my story.
The other day, I had to drop something off at a friend's house. This is a house I have been to many, many times. It is literally 5 minutes from my house, yet it took me 20 minutes to reach the destination. Why? My mind was on autopilot and I found myself missing the street, repeatedly. Later, when I realized this, the above scene from European Vacation came to mind. After I had a chuckle at my own expense, I wondered why this happened.
Do you ever find yourself running on auto pilot? Cruising through life, just to get through life? I do. Often times, when this happens, I need to ask myself: "What is my purpose? In work, in my family, in life." This was one of those days.
The first book that I read in my Ed. Leadership program was Drive by Daniel Pink.
In Drive, he discusses the 3 driving factors of motivation: Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy. This post will focus on the first one. I feel without purpose, I, myself, am just driving around in circles.
I know that we all have a purpose, but how often do we actually think about it? I find that when I reflect on this, it helps me focus. It refocuses my thoughts, my actions, my interactions.
I have done an activity with a few different groups, about this very idea. It is based on Daniel Pink's video: What's you sentence.
After viewing the above video, I ask participants to think about why they do what they do (personally or professionally). What gets them up in the morning? I then ask them to write it out in a 6 word memoir. This is a personal purpose statement in 6 words...no more, no less. The word requirement really helps to synthesize and dig deep. At this point, I often see a lot of discomfort and some frustration. But I explain that they should not be afraid of that discomfort, to own it and come up with those 6 words that describe them, their core.
I show them my 6 word memoir and explain that I have it above my desk and that it is what I look to on those days; when I am either on auto pilot, spinning in circles or in those times of self doubt. I read it to myself and then I reflect...have I been driving on that path or have I followed a detour? How do I get back on that course, if needed? These 6 little words, have had a lot of power in my own life.
My 6 word memoir:
Someone who inspires, motivates and encourages.
These 6 little words are what guide me in all of my interactions. I believe that words have power, they must be chosen carefully. Are my thoughts, words, actions helping to INSPIRE, MOTIVATE or ENCOURAGE? If not, it's time for correction. It is my personal check list, to keep MYSELF in check. I have also tasked those with whom I have shared this: if they see me not living up to this; please call me out. A wake up call is probably needed!
So I ask you...what is your purpose? Why do you get up in the morning? What are your 6 words? Feel free to share them in the comment section, below. It just might spark something in someone else. That is why I share this, and I share it often.
Mother, Teacher, Administrator, Presenter, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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