Monday, April 16, 2012

Vision, Urgency, and Measuring Effectiveness

I've been involved in several discussions about leading change, which started with vision and urgency. Everyone needed to be on the same page about the vision (the what), have a sense of urgency (the why), and know how we'd measure progress towards our goal.

Having the vision relevant, tangible with benchmarks, and feedback reminded me of successful classroom practices. In the classroom, I made sure my students knew what we were learning, how it was relevant to them, how we'd measure progress towards our goal (the what, why, and how), and involved them in the process. I realized leading change had some of the same foundations, such as starting with the vision.


In order to be purposeful about change, the vision for what is wanted must be clear by everyone. If I asked, "What does it mean to be a 21st century, student-centered school district?" the answer must be clear in the minds of everyone. It must be clear to the administration, the teachers, the staff, the students, the families, and the community.

What does it mean to be a 21st century, student-centered school district?

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of facilitating discussions with our Collaboration Coaches and Principals about what a 21st century, student-centered district looked like. We set goals to improve our school's professional development and coaching by focusing on what it meant to be a 21st century, student-centered district.

I used Donald Clark's review of Kirkpatrick's model to create our template for setting these goals.

In a few months, we'll gather back together and collaborate to create a tool to measure growth towards our goal.

Final thoughts

This was uncharted territory for us, and I'm confident that we won't be doing business as usual. Instead, we'll be evolving and growing into the 21st century, student-centered district our learners deserve.
  • How does a clear vision eliminate the distractions, and help you move forward?
  • Change is a risk, and a leap into the unknown. How does transforming and learning together empower us to make the necessary changes for achieving our vision?
  • How else did this post (or training) connect with you?
This was a continuation I mentioned in "Lead, Coach, and Build Capacity."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Working through Conflict

Conflict can either break people and teams apart, or it can bring productivity and innovative solutions to move forward.

The types of conflict that break people and teams apart are the interpersonal conflicts that occur. However, cognitive conflict is the disagreement about approaches and ideas. If the team recognizes and understands the types of conflict, it can be a resource to nurture productivity.

Building teams and building trust

The most constructive ways to deal with conflict is to use great communication skills, and connect with others to build trust and stronger relationships. By paraphrasing and asking questions, the issues stay separated from the person.

Communication skills

Shelee King George & me 2010
I once heard Shelee King George explain communication skills in an analogy of a phone call and call waiting:
When we are listeners, we have three inhibitors that get in the way, so we need to put them on call waiting:
1) Autobiographical Listener (the ME TOO listener), who is constantly thinking of their own story, while it would be better to focus on the other person;

2) Solution Listener (the Mr./Mrs. Fix It Person), who offers solutions, however it would be better to paraphrase first then ask questions;

3) Inquisitive Listener (has personal questions that are unrelated to the topic), this person is easily distracted, therefore needs to work on focusing on the message of the other person.

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Shelee then reminded me that paraphrasing serves two purposes: 
  1. For myself, to clarify and summarize in my head what I heard, then usually clarifying questions follow.
  2. Paraphrase for the speaker, to help the speaker summarize his/her thoughts. This is followed by probing questions for the speaker to help shift the conversation to where I want it to go, or to move it on.

We often fall into one of the three categories, so it's important to know which one is my own inhibitor, and to work towards being a better listener and communicator. By working on these skills, it helps foster trust, clarity, and it can keep differences in opinions focused on the issues rather than becoming interpersonal conflicts that separates teams. 

I'd like to hear from you:
  • How do you build trust and build your team?
  • How do you identify the types of conflict? 
  • How do you turn conflict into productivity?
The word cloud was created on Tagul, with the descriptions from my Year 1 Collaboration Coaches on how to build a team.