Sunday, February 28, 2016

4 Easy Steps to Become a Smarter Leader

When we go on trips and vacations, we constantly need directions to find a store or restaurant.  We simply fire up an app to help us find the destination.  When we want to see a menu before we go to a restaurant, we go to the restaurants website and look at their menu.  When we want to buy clothes but don’t want to go to the store, we access our favorite stores app or website and purchase the clothes.  We use technology everyday (almost every hour) to find almost all of our information.  It literally has become almost too easy to get information.

Let’s admit it, not everyone is connected with technology.  Even those who are not connected can still get information in a variety of ways to help themselves get better.  We all have to find a way to become more knowledgeable; it’s the society in which we live.  Gathering information and knowledge allows us to educate ourselves and share it with others.  Some are better at it than others.  The ones who are really good at educating themselves do it for a variety of reasons, but ultimately, they are dedicated lifelong learners to help others and their organization. 

Leaders who don’t consistently educate themselves don’t learn for a variety of reasons too.  Many times, their reasons consist of many excuses.  Excuses hurt a number of people besides the leader.

So where do those leaders go to eliminate their excuses?  I believe following the principles below can eliminate the need for excuses while making each leader smarter and helping their organizations:

As leaders, we need to focus on connecting with people.  It really is up to us on how we are going to connect.  I know for myself, I find it easier to utilize the great resources on the Internet and social media to help me grow as a leader.  Connecting with others who are also using social media to grow and enrich lives inspires me to continue to search for knowledge.  Building relationships with other leaders at conferences and workshops also helps fuel the passion to get better.  Building connections and networking with others allows us to find out what others are thinking and gives us feedback for our own learning.

As you continue to connect with leaders and staff, there is nothing wrong with asking for help.  Bouncing ideas off of your connected colleagues creates a clearer vision.  Even asking for an opinion from someone who is not related to your organization can produce positive results.  As Jim Brett, president of West Elm a home-furnishings retailer, states, “You just have to believe good ideas can come from anywhere.  Don’t stick to people who think like you; creative conversations are not meant to be lovefests. Engage with people with aren’t afraid to challenge your thought process or criticize your ideas.”  Working with others and sharing ideas is powerful for leaders.  Connecting and collaborating will make you better each time you take advantage of both.

When you have knowledge, you have confidence to do things differently.  When a leader has confidence, the organization is simply better.  The confidence flows to others.  What staff member doesn’t want to follow a confident leader?  When confidence is knowledge-based, it will help an organization even when things aren’t going well.  Confidence helps grit shine.  Every leader will have confidence when he or she knows how and where to get information to help their knowledge grow.  This confidence allows our creative juices to flow.

It is imperative as a leader to create and innovate to make a difference in an organization.  Creating will help a leader’s drive and passion.  When we create anything, it fuels our search for data so we can sustain success.   When we continue to want to have the best product and organization, we strive to be our best.  A continued push to acquire knowledge only benefits a leader’s ability to be creative and innovative. 

As leaders, we have to want to get better.  We have to want to succeed.  We have to want to grow and become smarter. 

The opportunity to get better for every leader is right there in front of us.  Don’t wait for the right time.  Do it now! 

Use your daily opportunities to connect, collaborate, build confidence, and be creative and innovative to fuel your growth as a leader.   The next time you go to a website to peruse a menu, find what you want to eat and find the time to become better as a leader.  With the available resources, we know how easy it is to do.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The 5 Most Effective Tactics to Implement Technology

How many times have you thought about building something after seeing a video or picture of it on a social media site?  I know for me it is almost a daily occurrence.  I see someone build a table and I say to myself, “I can do that.”  Watching the video or seeing the picture allows you to visualize yourself building the product and using it one day down the road.  Most of the time, after you get started, you realize it’s more difficult than it looked on social media. There are more the details that are necessary.  You’re lack of experience begins to play a role.  There was planning that wasn’t captured in the video and/or picture that is vital for success.  Then it hits you, “I think I’m in over my head.”

While having lunch with some colleagues recently, we were discussing the integration of technology in schools.  It seems many districts today are purchasing technology and worrying about planning on how to use it after they have the technology.  The focus needs to be the other way around.  You can’t go into it like I did when I thought I could build the table as mentioned above.  There are 5 factors that must be present to lead technology integration in an organization:

  • Have a Plan Not Centered on Technology
This may sound counterproductive.  Your plan can include the use of technology, but it needs to be focused on the broader scope of the organization.  Your use of technology should be a road on your overall journey.  The technology is just a tool, it shouldn’t be your organization’s vision.

  • Open Discussions About Putting the Proper Infrastructure in Place
After the district’s or building’s vision is established and there is a need for technology to be a part of it, make sure the appropriate parties (technology department, members of the faculty, district administrators, students, community members) provide input regarding what infrastructure is actually needed.  The technology will not be a resource for students and staff if they do not have the capabilities to use it effectively.

  • Provide Support for the Technology
The end user needs to be able to use the tool.  If they can’t use the tools, you will not grow.  In schools, the staff needs to be given professional development so they are confident using the resource with students.  If you expect staff members to use resources for to assist in student growth, you need to provide them with the necessary training so they can determine if using the resources will bolster their instruction.

  • Communicate Expectations
The leader of the organization needs to always remember: do not let the technology guide the learning, let the learning guide the technology resources to use.  That statement needs to be embedded in the culture of the district and/or building.  Remember, if the overall vision for your organization is growth, there are many different resources staff members can use to obtain growth.  If the technology you are implementing happens to be a part of it, so be it.  If it doesn’t, but there is still growth, that is good too.  The staff, students, and community need to recognize the focus is on growth and how we get there (even if we have shiny tools to help us) is not the overall vision of our district and/or building.

  • Be a Leader
In schools, do not let the tool and/or resource run the building, let learning run the building.  Culture starts with the district and building leadership.  The leadership needs to focus on the overall goal, communicate to the staff the expectations for the goals, and model how to reach the goal for the staff and students.  If you are implementing a technology resource in your district or building, build a foundation for the technology to be implementing and used successfully.  Create and sustain a culture where change and failure are welcomed.  This type of culture will help you as a leader implement new initiatives down the road and help staff with their transition.

Implementing technology in an organization is like anything else: you need to have a need and have a plan.  Don’t do it just to say you did it.  Focus on the vision and mission of the organization and then decide if implementing technology tools is what you need to reach your goals.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How to Use Talent To Stand Out

As a high school administrator, I like to reflect on my experiences on what I witnessed during the week and over the weekend.   A couple of weeks ago I was able to see my students accomplish and perform in ways that words cannot explain.  Watching students sing, perform, compete and reach goals fills any administrator with pride.  Afterwards, what really gets you thinking and wondering about the talent you just witnessed is, “How are these kids so successful at what they do?” 

We think the same way outside of education.  When we see people who are really good in different areas, we are amazed.  Once we see the talent at hand, we eventually fall back to the question above.  One could mention many factors that help produce a product of success.  I believe the factors that lead to success are areas that fall under the umbrella of good, old-fashioned talent.

I believe there are 5 factors to making sure the talent you posses allows you to stand out:

1.  Dedication

If you don’t grind or want it bad enough, you won’t achieve it.  If you don’t dedicate yourself to the end goal of what you want, you will not achieve your goal.  It may sound elementary, but it really is that simple.  People who have talent and don’t let it go to waste are dedicated to their craft.

2. “We Talkin’ About Practice?”

Contrary to what Allen Iverson says, practice is vital if you are going to let your talent shine.  If you don’t put the time in, don’t expect much in return.  That goes for a lot of things in life.  The most talented people are always the ones who work the hardest.

3. Use Your Support

It is important to be able to lean on others and pick others up when they need it.  Everyone that has talent will always tell you that they wouldn’t be where they are without the support of others.  Surround yourself with great people to get the greatest results.

4. Nothing Beats Passion

When you have talent, to get the most out of it, you have to love what you do and what you are a part of.  Talent alone will sometimes let you stand out for a little while, but it doesn’t keep you out in front of your competition.  If you’re not passionate, you will be just like everyone else.  If you use your passion and your talent, everyone else will have to catch you.

5. Expect Success

Bruce Lee had a famous quote, “If I tell you I’m good, you will say I’m boasting.  But if I tell you I’m not good, you know I’m lying.”  People with talent expect success.  They believe in themselves, they have an attitude about them.  When you mix talent with the four factors above, why wouldn’t someone expect success?

Many people are talented, but do they have what it takes to extend that talent to transform lives?  As an administrator, I get to see students who transform lives everyday.  Seeing students use their talent to stand out drives me as an educator to try to get better each day.   In my opinion, that’s the beauty of seeing and experiencing talent that is strengthened each day.  It makes us all strive for more.