YOU can be the one to STAND OUT!!! And we can help you to do that! Interviews of any kind can be nerve-wracking! That's not unnatural or uncommon. EVERYONE experiences a little nervousness or anxiety when it comes to interviews (even if you're someone who, like me, LOVES interviews ). But your nerves don't have to keep you from STANDING OUT! After this session, we hope you'll have strategies and tools to help you feel confident as you prepare to interview (whether it's now or well into the future)!!
Be sure to grab the resources at the end of this post!
According to C. Heath & D. Heath (2010), one surprising truth about change is that what looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. In their book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, these authors explain the importance of providing "crystal-clear direction". They aren't the only experts to make this claim. THOUSANDS of leadership gurus make this claim about vision and clarity. In this live session, I want to provide a couple of ways instructional leaders can vision cast and script critical moves in order to bridge the gap between chaos and collective efficacy!
At the crux of making change happen is DATA- more specifically, the emotions tied to data. Unfortunately, a preoccupation with data itself can have negative side effects of decreased commitment and burnout as teachers relentlessly chase targets that are ever-moving or obscure. But what if we could leverage data in a way that creates a sense of purpose and direction, creating alignment and inspiring people to collectively move forward? This episode is designed to equip instructional leaders with a strategic planning process that allows them to capitalize on data reflections and make teams a part of the success story.
So often, we are encouraged to separate ourselves from the data and not take data so personally. However, to see data as only numbers and targets is like separating characters from a story. Not only is it imperative for students to be a part of the stories data tells, but it's also crucial for teachers and staff to be a part of those stories. But people cannot see themselves as a positive part of these stories without a clear instructional focus and vision. And we cannot have a clear instructional focus and vision without the data. Therein lies the change we so desire to achieve in schools. I hope this episode will help administrators and instructional coaches navigate the process of crafting successful, positive "change stories" beginning with data reflections.
For just a moment, I want you to imagine you're in the beginning phases of what could turn into a crucial or difficult conversation. You feel yourself getting offended. Maybe you notice you're beginning to disagree with what's being said by the other participant in the conversation. Your heartbeat begins to increase. You feel heat creeping into your earlobes or neck. You know that you WANT and maybe even NEED to say what's on your mind, but you just don't know how (without it being a complete bust). Chances are, if you're having the feeling of NEEDING to say what's on your mind, it's a gut instinct you should listen to. But actually following through with this instinct in an appropriate and positive way is challenging IF you don't have the right tools and strategies to practice! In this live, I'll be sharing about one of the most effective ways to "say what can't be said". More often than not, we feel we CAN'T say the things, when in reality, these are the things that SHOULD be said. And it CAN happen with the right strategies!
This is when you need to try "PERCEPTION CHECKING"! Check out this episode to learn about how to use perception checking to say the things your gut is urging you to make public. Scroll down to get the two resources mentioned in this episode!
But seriously... this is probably one of the biggest assumptions made about #teams and #collaboration. It's just not true! It is WONDERFUL when a team gets along- in fact, we WANT teams to get along. But we have to remember that just because a team "gets along" does not mean that true collaboration is taking place OR that they are being productive.
Catch yourself making this and other assumptions using "Assumption Look-For's"! Alissa Crabtree and I share in this LIVE Collaboration Convo all about other #assumptions people make AND what to look for to ensure you're NOT making these assumptions. Join us on YouTube to find out more!
Are you ready to talk about the "seven deadly assumptions"? Wondering what I mean by that? Let's see if any of these statements ring true for you or your teams:
☠️ Team gatherings feel like a waste of time because they are unproductive.
☠️My team spends the majority of our collaborative time together chatting about personal experiences, opinions, and personal plans.
☠️There is someone on our team (it could be me) that always has the best solution or idea.
☠️My teammates are late to meetings, unreliable, and/ or lack collaborative courtesy.
If you can say "yes" or "kind of" to any of these statements, assumptions may be getting in the way of cohesive teams and true collaboration! In this LIVE session, Alissa Crabtree share about the first four of the Seven Deadly Assumptions! Our hope is that you learn how to raise your awareness of assumptions that get in the way of collaboration, even when you THINK things are going well for teams! Be sure you grab the FREE download below!
We’ve got an interesting #collaboration convo for you in this session! I'm joined with my sons, Brian and Hayden, to hear their teenage perspective on what interests me most- #cohesive, vision-driven #teams. To make things fun, I've allowed them in this session to ask some personal questions that are completely unrelated to the work I do. This episode may or may not, but definitely does, include raw garlic…
Here are the questions we ask:
There is definitely a deleted scene in this episode! If you'd like to know what was deleted, comment below!!
Do you wonder sometimes why people put their time and effort into certain things? Things that you believe may not yield the greatest impact? What can we do to help #teachers and #instructionalleaders focus on what matters?
Join me as I chat with Amy Mason, former principal and founder of Aim2Educate, about time-sinks that get in the of way growth and impact. You'll leave our conversation reflecting on the right questions that help #educators take charge of their time so they focus on what matters most!
This session may help you consider:
?why teams and individuals put their time and effort into nice packaging but thin content
?what things leaders *believe* are impactful but reflect mismanaged time
?questions to ask to coach individuals and teams to de-implement practices that have little impact and, instead, focus on things that have a greater long-term impact
Are Schools a Circus?
Schools are often referred to as a "circus", by those outside of schools but most often by those within them. For most of us, a circus conjures up images of comical animals, call-outs for peanuts and popcorn, perhaps risky rides that groan and creak, and loud crowds. In fact, if you search images for a "circus" on Google, you'll see such images. I've included a screenshot of my own image search here:
And if you've ever worked in a school, you probably have joked about your own circus-related experiences. Much of the time, a circus is accompanied by feelings of joy, laughter, and excitement. For some, it can bring about feelings of anxiety, treachery, or dread.
It's true. Schools absolutely can feel like a three-ring-circus at times with the hectic and flexible schedules, the overwhelm of endless to-do lists, the many meetings that overlap, the performances put on day in and day out, the drama that, at times, is as entertaining as a soap opera, and so on. But is this version of a circus really how we want our schools described?
What if a different kind of circus came to town?
What if, instead of the kind of circus we tend to assume, was actually more like Cirque Du Soleil. You see, this brings on a new image. An image of quiet crowds staring in awe, extremely well-choreographed and over-rehearsed acts, settings of remarkable creativity and beauty, and the feeling of being part of something uniquely beyond yourself.
There's a reason Cirque Du Soleil allows us to envision a circus in a completely new and different way. It is still, in fact, a circus. However, this circus is an orchestration. Here is the vision posted on the Cirque Du Soleil website:
We are more than a circus. We are rule breakers & moment makers. We create the most audacious reality.
Rule breakers! MOMENT MAKERS! How is this audacious reality made possible? Yes, by talented individuals, but also because these individuals work extremely intentionally as a team of teams. Every team is reliant upon its team members, of course, but every team is also reliant upon other teams in order to create an extraordinary experience. And it is imperative for each team to see itself as integral to other teams in order for the whole team, the whole organization, to succeed.
What if schools functioned in this way? What if we were able to envision our schools more like a Cirque du Soleil versus a Ringling Bros Circus? What if schools truly functioned more as a team of teams and less as individual groups with varied goals? Because in all reality, I believe most schools function as the latter. What evidence suggests this? In my experience, it seems that more schools than not:
What does it take?
What does it take, though, to become the "Cirque Du Soleil" of schools? What does it take for our schools to function as a "Team of Teams"? I believe there are six critical components of cohesive teams. There are three internal components, and three external components. In order for schools to function as a Team of Teams, both internal and external components need to be activated and present.
If your school can function as a Team of Teams with the internal components (self & social awareness, collaboration, and reflection) and the external components (conditions, models, and protocols), then you might see this evidence of success:
What kind of circus is your school?
So I leave you with this: how do you currently envision your school? Are you imagining a Ringling Bros Circus or a Cirque Du Soleil? Perhaps you're noticing both in different areas? What components could be missing in your circus? What components exist, but could use a bit of tweaking? What components are alive and well? Comment on this blogpost and share your thoughts!
Want someone to help your school become the "Cirque Du Soleil" of schools?
You’ve probably heard the term PLC (professional learning community) as referenced in many educational settings. Generally, professional learning communities are groups of educators who work together toward a common goal or solution. Author’s of Learning by Doing (2016), a Solution Tree “bible for PLCs”, explain PLCs as “educators who are committed to working collaboratively in ongoing processes of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.” But what are PLCs really all about?
PLCs are TRULY all about bringing cohesivity and clarity to an organization and the work an organization decides to do in an effort to build collective efficacy. In fact, it would be fair to say that professional learning communities in schools work to cast a vision for student learning and set goals. For, without a vision and goals, no one moves forward. To move students forward, most PLCs center their work around a common set of questions that take on a logical progression. The most frequently used questions come from the work of Richard DuFour, followed by work from Corwin authors Nancy Frey, Douglass Fisher, et. al, of PLC+: Better Decisions and Better Impact By Design.
If PLC questions are such a popular practice for teachers, meant to analyze student learning in order to maximize growth and achievement, couldn’t it also be that these questions could impact team growth and transformation? If we are not intentionally talking about the way we function as teams, individuals and organizations will remain stagnant and problems of practice will remain cyclical. In this article, I’m suggesting variations of the most commonly used questions in PLCs in order to analyze, transform, and inspire teams.
4 Questions, Plus 1
Regardless of your team’s current reality, these questions have the power to unlock potential that may not even be currently recognized. Even the most successful teams can benefit from exploring these questions together. On the flipside, even the most dysfunctional teams can benefit from this work. To be answered truthfully in a way that transforms teams, there must be a certain level of trust, vulnerability, and space for crucial conversations. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use the questions if those things are not evident, just know that the responses and the growth of your team will be vague or minimal until the process becomes familiar. Therefore, there will inevitably be models or protocols you decide to put in place before jumping into the questions with your teams.
These questions may be asked in one team session or across several. They can also be revisited and repeated frequently, although they do generally follow a consistent order. Some teams may use these questions to support their work together in general or when taking on a specific project or goal. Without further ado, here are the four mortar questions, plus one to support continued transformation:
Where are we going?
This is quite possibly the most important question. Simply put, a team cannot move forward if they do not know where they are headed. Too often, people ignore the vitality of vision casting because it is a broad, futuristic task that takes time to craft and hash out with team members. Sometimes, large assumptions are made about what teams are working toward or their understanding of the stated vision (if there even is one). But, vision casting is one of the most important things that should be done regularly in any organization. It is what helps us to think in steps, not programs. It also helps us to take those steps collaboratively as a team. Because schools function as a team of teams, each of the teams may have its own vision or mission that supports the overall vision of the organization.
When asking the question, “Where are we going?,” you should consider the vision of the organization as a whole and the team. This subset of questions can help guide the respondents:
Where are we now?
You may be familiar with the familiar phrase, “What are you pretending not to know?”. When teams are asked, “Where are we now?,” there is a high possibility that it will create discomfort. While the leaders and change agents of the world may accept that there is growth in discomfort, it’s not so easy for others. Because of that discomfort, a certain amount of denial may be uncovered. Team members may pretend not to know there are areas of their work together that require growth, or they may pretend not to know what could be causing the obstacles in the way of growth. It is also almost certain that assumptions will be made about the team- assumptions from each individual about how they function together, about strengths (that perhaps aren’t really strengths), or how people contribute. This is common, but it is not something we should settle for. Again, it will be important for the right conditions, models, and protocols to be in place to support the team’s movement toward transparency and vulnerability.
Here’s how you can encourage discussion around this question:
How do we move our team forward?
It’s one thing to have a vision, another to discuss where the team is now, and yet a completely other thing to actually determine steps to move the team forward. This question will require the team to compare where they are going with where the team is now. Like the previous question, it has the potential to strike a nerve in some team members. If you have set norms before beginning this questioning process, perhaps you have agreed as a team that you would leave the feeling of being personally attacked at the door. It will be important for team members to keep the vision at the forefront of their mind, a vision that is not about them as an individual, but is about the team and organization as a whole.
When asking, “How do we move our team forward?,” encourage celebrations of what currently exists that is working well before probing with other questions:
What did we find most useful today?
Several years ago, Michael Bungay Stanier, author and coaching thought leader, developed a set of seven essential questions that allow us to say less, ask more, and change the way we lead forever. The very last question he shares in his book, The Coaching Habit, is “What was most useful for you?”. It is perhaps the most powerful question one can ask at the culmination of a conversation. This question encourages individuals to leave the conversation considering its importance and usefulness to them. We are, after all, an egocentric people. We want to feel as though what we’ve engaged in is useful for us and that we have contributed in some way. This question allows for that exactly! AND, it should be asked at almost every team gathering. It can be easy to bypass this question, especially in a rush to come to a close. But in doing so, you risk the chance of team members leaving a collaborative discussion ruminating on their negative experiences, their lingering questions or concerns, or leaving ownership behind.
When you ask, “What did we find most useful today?,” you can help your team reflect on their analyses by probing with:
Plus 1: Who benefitted or who did not benefit?
And then there is the “Plus 1”: “Who benefitted or who did not benefit?” This question may not be logical to ask when the team meets to analyze their progress (as a whole or toward a project or goal). But it would be ideal to determine checkpoints along the way as you work toward a vision. This question may refer to individuals of the team that benefited, an outsider that was impacted, or how the team benefited or did not benefit as a whole. It can be easy to focus solely on who benefited, but asking who did not benefit will ensure that the team continuously is working toward something. If the team stopped at the first part of the question, one might wonder if this continued process is necessary. And we know that it absolutely is if we want teams and individuals to thrive in a cohesive environment. At follow-up meetings, discuss how the agreed upon next steps impacted the team:
Clarity and Cohesion
The questions outlined here are common in the instructional work that professional learning communities do together in schools. But they should become common among teams in regard to how they function, as well. Teams can use these questions to bring clarity and cohesion to their purpose, vision, and work. They can be used to propel a team forward, maintain the success of a team, or rally a dysfunctional team together. Clarity precedes competence, and surely we want our teams to be more than just competent. We want them to thrive. If teams are thriving, you know that you’ve created something that is worth being a part of: a cohesive team that’s going somewhere great!
3 Ways to Kill Collaboration FAST
In the world of work, regardless of your type of organization, we rely on collaborative efforts to make things possible. I'm certain we'd all like to believe that people generally collaborate well in our schools or teams. We'd like to believe that when teachers or leadership teams gather together, they have deep, meaningful conversations that ultimately impact student learning. But, the opportunities for true collaboration (ya know, the kind that makes a bigger difference and greater impact) are often killed.
Several months back, I joined forces with Valerie Ayers and Aimee Gilbert to dig into 4 MAJOR Killers of Collaboration and 3 Ways to Combat Them. In this blogpost, I'm jumping back on this topic. Whereas the previous blogpost on this topic was focused more on internal struggles of collaboration, this blogpost is focused on external struggles of collaboration. Without further ado, here are three ways to kill collaboration FAST:
1. Avoiding "time wasters"
While we may not hear this idea explicitly verbalized, many people believe that time spent on self and social awareness is unnecessary or unproductive. But, the opposite is actually true. According to General Stanley McChrystal (2015) these "time sinks" are what imbues teams with high-level adaptability and efficacy, allowing them to collaborate extremely well.
2. Making assumptions
We make assumptions ALL. THE. TIME., whether we recognize we're doing it or not. The assumption made about collaboration is that it is happening where two or more are gathered, and/ or it's happening of its own accord. It just simply isn't. What we might notice instead is often "faux collaboration". Our assumptions prevent true collaboration from being possible.
3. Collaborating without goals or plans
This one may sound like a no-brainer, but approaching collaboration without a goal, plan, or agenda will definitely result in "faux collaboration" or no collaboration at all. Unfortunately, this one happens consistently. Why? Because being the person that brings meaning and purpose to a collaborative opportunity takes courage!
You can, however, avoid these pitfalls that kill collaboration fast! In fact, you can instead find ways to build effective collaboration that supports collective efficacy.
3 Ways to Build Effective Collaboration
1. Dedicate time
Dedicate time, preferably at the beginning of the year, for team members to engage in self and social awareness reflections. The better individuals on a team know themselves and know one another, the more understanding and gracious they will be when expected to work together. In fact, spending time on this will more than double the productivity and impact of teams, leaving individuals feeling valued, empowered, and inspired.
2. Explicitly teach and model
The tendency is often to assume that where two or more are gathered, collaboration is happening. But steer clear of falling into the trap of faux collaboration. Instead, take opportunities to explicitly teach and model effective collaboration skills such as listening to learn, asking clarifying questions, recognizing and provoking others' geniuses, ensuring all have a voice at the table, and handling conflict productively.
3. Plan intentionally
Collaboration, even between two people, can be messy. In fact, "messy" is often where the great work happens. But there is a difference between "messy" and "sloppy". Sloppy work is the result of a lack of goals and plans. It lacks meaning and vision. True collaboration relies on intentionally set goals and intentionally created plans to work toward a collective vision, keeping in mind that plans can be adjusted accordingly along the way (because success can be messy).
It's high time we focus on building effective collaboration habits instead of killing collaboration. But this takes a great deal of self/ social awareness and intentionality. Partner with me as a coach and consultant and we can combat these collaboration killers together!
Stories of Grit, Grace, & IMPACT
Welcome, welcome!! Today's episode is special to me and is easy to write about as a blogpost along with the recording. In this podcast episode, I take on two roles: the role of an etymologist and the role of a story-teller. Why? Because both roles are necessary if I'm going accurately bring life to the phrase "UNLEASH YOUR IMPACT"- the idea that is the foundation of all of my teaching and content.
As you read or listen in, here's what you can consider and reflect upon:
Role #1: Etymologist
Too often we use words flippantly, without considering the great power they have, or what picture they can paint for us, or what they can persuade and push us to do and become. That's why I find it imperative to pause and decide what we actually mean when we use certain words or phrases. In this case, we're investigating the etymology behind two terms: UNLEASH and IMPACT.
Check out the definitions below from Merriam-Webster Online dictionary! If you think about the term "unleash" in regard to the role we take on as leaders, specifically definition 1, doesn't it almost make you think about a glass ceiling? When we think about "freeing from" something, we instinctively believe there is something holding us back- an invisible barrier, a mindset, a fear, a physical person. And when we "unleash our impact", we are not doing so unintentionally. We are throwing ourselves into the great work, shooting TOWARD something bigger, or setting things into motion with HIGH intent. The term "unleash" has many synonyms, two of which stand out significantly: influence and release. I find it no accident at all that these synonyms stand with this word. To influence means that we have an effect on others. To release means that we are "allowing something to act or move freely". In other words, isn't it true that when we unleash our impact we are simultaneously influencing others to move forward into action?
IMPACT. (NOUN, VERB)
Now let's dive into the term impact. Check out Merriam-Webster's definitions. "Impact" is used not only as a noun, but also as a verb. Many of the definitions here give the impression that an "impact" is a physical thing or action. And many of the synonyms of the term are intense- not necessarily in a positive way. But we know this is not what we're going for. We, as impact leaders, are not going for intensity and force, but instead for subtle, but powerful, effects on others. This alludes to the synonym for "unleash"- influence. It is quite obvious that we're targeting the first definitions for the noun and verb forms of "impact".
BUT here is what's interesting: we sometimes notice people putting on their coats of intensity as defined in the more authoritarian definitions of these terms. Why is that??
Sometimes we have the tendency to believe that people who are able to make a great impact are those who are highly intense: they "go out with a bang"; they are loud and boisterous; they lead people with a charge and stomp grounds to demand change. While it is true that these types of people do in fact have an impact, THIS IDEA IS SIMPLY A LIMITING BELIEF.
Let me caution and charge YOU to remember: there is not a certain type of person or personality that is able to make a greater impact than another. Let's also keep in mind that ANYONE can make either a positive or negative impact. EVERY person, regardless of their personality, has the ability to unleash their impact AND has the ability to do so in a positive way. This is where stories of GRIT and GRACE are important...
Role #2: Story-Teller
As I tell you these stories of grit and grace, I want you to consider what they have to do with IMPACT? Consider the different personalities of the women in these stories. In each of the stories, who has a greater impact?
The picture to the left shows my grandmother- she goes by Nanny in our family. This woman is a story of grit. She began her marriage with her husband with not a penny to their name. At a very young age, they bought their first home with a whopping $25 (money they had to borrow). Nanny did anything and everything she could, first, to make ends meet and, second, to make a name for her family. She is loud as all get out (like a lot of my family), strong AND strong-willed, and scrappy as hell! When we were kids, she was always making us do things that pushed us out of our comfort zones, whether it was playing in a murky, questionable mud pit or making friends with strangers (who inevitably became close friends). Nanny let us try on her gaudy, hand-made jewelry and dress up in her fancy business outfits for her job as a treasurer at the courthouse- a job she worked her way toward without even a college degree! When people talk to me about my Nanny, they don't usually say, "She's such a sweet lady..." But, man, am I proud to hear them say instead, "Your Nanny is a spit-fire!" And when I was young, I wanted to be JUST LIKE HER!
The picture to the right shows my aunt- she goes by Aunt Pete. This woman is a story of grace. She is the sister to my Nanny and has a similar story, but with a very different personality. Aunt Pete is the oldest of her siblings. She made sure to take great care of her family while also taking very seriously her schooling. In fact, she made a decision at a very young age to become a teacher and did exactly that. She taught young children, older children, and continued to teach adults well after retirement. She is highly regarded by all who know her because of her eagerness to connect on a deeper level with those she cares about. She has poured into the lives of SO many people, JUST LIKE my Nanny, but has done so in such a reserved and quiet way. I visited her home regularly during college for meals (and to do my laundry) and conversation was never lacking. But she was full of questions that kept her visitors talking and kept her listening. She is truly sweet as honey. And while my Nanny was one to push us beyond what we thought we were capable of, Aunt Pete helped us to remain tethered and conscious of our decisions with her calm, wise words. In my college years, I wanted to be JUST LIKE HER!
Who, of these two women, had a greater impact? The woman who exhibited a great deal of grit, or the woman who exhibited a great deal of grace?
The truth is, they both have exhibited grit and grace over their lifetimes. They BOTH have made (and are still making) an incredible impact, even with their strikingly different personalities. And I find myself now wanting to be JUST LIKE THEM BOTH. Because this is where the greatest impact lies- through stories of both grit AND grace.
UNLEASH YOUR IMPACT
I began this post asking you two questions:
My hope is that you are considering what pieces of the definitions you stand in. What pieces of the definition are you going to clad yourself with as you live out stories of both grit and grace? Who will you influence and who will you release so that we experience collaborative communities of people who feel empowered, valued, inspired, and fulfilled? As a leader, with a whole personality of your own that no one else can claim, how are you going to fully UNLEASH YOUR IMPACT?
If you are an instructional leader or teacher who is eager to amplify her impact, this workshop series about Marco Polo is a perfect start! If you didn't catch the LIVE "crash course", Why & How You Should Be Utilizing Marco Polo as an Instructional Leader, you can watch the replay here: www.catchingupwithcasey.com/blog.
In this live Facebook session, I teach about how to effectively introduce the app to colleagues and teams so they actually will use it.
Here are the five best practices I share about:
To grab the downloadable PDF from this session, simply register as a member here!
Catch the #replay!
Register for or Join the Upcoming Live Events!
This week I was BEYOND excited to lead a live session on Facebook to share about an app that I utilize on a daily basis as an #instructional #leader, #coach, and #consultant.
If you have any desire to foster a greater sense of #collaboration and #collective #efficacy, this is a tool you MUST know about! I'm going to share a few ways it can be utilized so you can capitalize on the thing that sits in your pocket day in and day out- your phone!
What is Marco Polo, anyway??
"Marco Polo allows you to send private video messages at your convenience, and for friends, family members, or colleagues to respond at theirs. More meaningful than text and more convenient than Facetime, Marco Polo is the social app that brings authenticity and everyday joy to your closest relationships." -Marco Polo Team
Why should instructional leaders use it?
Marco Polo can serve as a way to foster a culture of collaboration and promote collective efficacy. It also can significantly help in building teacher capacity. Instructional leaders will find that effective use of Marco Polo can...
How can instructional leaders use it?
Marco Polo can be used in three ways, but all three platforms can be used in tandem.
Connect with individuals to share ideas, questions, or information related to the classroom, school building, district, or community!
Connect with teams of people to collaborate around instructional strategies, curriculum development, program development, and so much more!
Create an individually owned sharecast to provide professional development content, implement flipped faculty meetings, share school news, celebrate faculty and staff!
Catch the #replay here!
Check out the Follow Up Sessions!
Welcome! I am Casey Watts- Collaborative Leader and Culture Changer!