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Marceta Reilly

Hurry, Scurry, Wont & Worry

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So much to do… so little time! You are running around in circles, making impossibly long lists of “must do’s,” and sleeping restlessly at night. You’re grouchy and grumpy with the kids, and short on humor with your spouse.

What is going on here? I believe it may be a sign of stress. At this time of year there is so much to do…

  • Spending too much money on gifts you need to buy
  • Decorating your home and putting up outside lights to keep up with the neighbors
  • Writing, posting, and mailing the annual Christmas/Holiday letter
  • Planning, buying, and cooking a family feast that is over in less than an hour

It’s supposed to be a joyful, family time of the year. So why are you feeling so empty and stressed out?

I believe it’s because we let ourselves get focused on the wrong goals. Marshall Goldsmith calls it “Goal Obsession.” We want to have a lovely, joyous winter holiday, but we get so focused on doing things to make it perfectly lovely, that we lose all the joy in it.

So how do you change this?

First take a deep breath… or two… or three.

Then listen to your heart.

What is your heart telling you that’s the most important among all the possible things you could do to make the holiday lovely AND joyous?

Your heart knows what to do if you take time to listen.

Then let go of any tasks that take away the joyous part of the holiday for you.

  • If you don’t get the cards sent, maybe you can send Valentine notes instead
  • Only put up the Christmas decorations that really hold special meaning for you and let go of the rest
  • Provide your favorite items for the family meal and ask others to bring their favorites to share. Then have each family share why their dish is a favorite

So take a step back and feel into your real goal for the holiday. That is where you will find the “sweet spot.” It is at the intersection of lovely AND joyous!

May this holiday be a time for filling you and your loved ones up to the brim!

Warm regards,

Marceta

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Saying what you mean without being mean

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Coffee Cup FeedbackIt’s human to want to feel competent. No one likes to be criticized, and we sometimes push back when we get feedback from a co-worker that suggests our performance leaves room for improvement.

But the truth is, feedback is essential for individual growth and development. Without feedback, we really don’t know whether our own perception of our performance is accurate or whether we’re truly having the impact we desire.

If you focus only on content in delivering feedback, you may deliver a message that’s too unfiltered, laying it on the line in a critical or judgmental way. Yet if you focus only on the relationship your message may get blurred and not heard at all. So how do you give feedback that will both promote change and preserve the professional relationship?

I suggest giving reflective feedback. This approach works well for opening up difficult conversations and is an especially useful tool to give feedback after walk-arounds or informal observations.

The reflective feedback frame uses three steps:

  • Offer a clarifying question or statement connected to your colleague’s practice. Clarifying questions and statements emerge from curiosity—something you are concerned about or want to know more about. They seek to make underlying assumptions explicit.
  • State the value or potential value of the person you are talking with or the idea under consideration. With a value statement, affirm a specific strength you have observed and make your own opinions about the topic explicit.
  • Pose a reflective question or possible action to stimulate thinking. Reflective questions engage the other person’s thinking and request a response. They help the other person think more deeply, creatively make new connections, and see other points of view.

These three steps open up a conversation for giving constructive feedback. And the beauty of it is that all three steps should take no longer than one minute to say! There is no long list of examples justifying your observations or presenting your ideas for change. The conversation is about engaging the other person in thinking about his or her practice and owning its effect on students.

This kind of feedback is specific and builds on people’s strengths. It changes the conversation from one in which the observer does all the talking (and thinking) to a dialogue. The person giving feedback speaks less than the person to whom the feedback is addressed.

To read some examples of how this feedback approach looks and sounds in real practice, go to my full article in the December issue of ASCD’s journal, Educational Leadership at http://bit.ly/1PO2uNH.

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Taking Time to Savor our Lavish World

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It’s time to stop…

Take a deep breath…

Consider the things for which you are thankful…

So many…

  • For me, I live on a hundred acre ranchette. It’s simple and rural, but lavish with natural wonders…
  • Hedgerows of trees that whisper in the wind
  • Nests under our eaves filled with swallows that keep our population of mosquitos down in the summer
  • Sunrises that burst forth most mornings in dramatic pinks and oranges and purples
  • Cattle grazing peacefully as they walk a predictable path around the pasture each day
  • Stars that spread across the universe like millions of diamonds in the sky
  • My porch swing that beckons me to sit and savor my morning coffee

It seems that all these things have a natural order and rhythm.

I hope you take time during this season of gratitude, to carve out a moment away from the stresses.

Look around.

Become aware of the simple things so easily available to you.

Take a deep breath… or two.

And open your heart in gratitude to Life. It’s never perfect and sometimes very hard.

And yet… there is so much to thank God for in the natural order.

This is the season to remember and savor those things.

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The Neuroscience of Gratitude

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Thanksgiving TurkeyAs the Thanksgiving season nears, it seems appropriate to talk a bit about the important role gratitude plays in our lives. Neuroscience is showing that gratitude can actually make us healthier.

Several recent studies have concluded that the expression of gratitude can have profound and positive effects not only on our health, but also our moods and our relationships. The more we think about things we are grateful for, the more our brain looks for things to be grateful for in our environment.

Feeling grateful activates areas of the brain associated with the neurontransmitter dopamine. Getting an increase in dopamine makes us feel good and want to be more positive with others in order to keep that good feeling going. So we are happier, feel less depressed, and are kinder when we consistently practice the habit of feeling grateful.

So how do you make gratitude a habit? Here are three ways:

  • Keep a journal. Write about things you notice that make you happy. Remember one thing each day that you are grateful for.
  • Look for the positive in other people and assume they are kind and charitable. Tell them what you see as their strength.
  • End each day thinking about something you’ve done well or some surprise that happened. Even if something bad happened during the day, what is the good that it brought out in you and others?

Gratitude doesn’t have to be about big things. Simple things have the same good impact as profound ones. What is important is that gratefulness becomes a habit. Something we intentionally do every…single…day.

Practicing gratefulness helps you develop into the kind of person people trust and want to follow. At the same time, it makes you a healthier, happier person. What could be better than that?

For more about this interesting topic and the neuroscience that supports it, go to these articles:

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Why marrying Knowledge with Wisdom gets you to better solutions

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OwlSeveral years ago I read a very enlightening book. It was entitled Women’s Ways of Knowing, by Mary Field Belenky et al. The premise was that adults go through stages in the kind of knowing to which they give the most importance. For women, the stages often begin with knowing from their own personal experiences (intuition), moves to knowing from experts (knowledge), and integrates by knowing what research confirms their lived experience (wisdom).

I often see these stages emerge when I’m working with groups on big, messy issues. For instance, a frequent issue for school boards and administrative teams is grappling with how to determine a technology plan for students that meets their learning needs and has a high level of security for the district.

The groups studying this issue often get confused about the difference between knowledge and wisdom. They want to move immediately to talking with experts, looking at appropriate policies and regulations, and digging into details like what are the best hardware and software products to purchase. These are all “knowledge parts” of the issue and when they find out all they can from this perspective, they think they are done.

But they have not yet considered the lived experience of this issue. What are the “people” aspects that could arise?

  • How will this new emphasis on technology bump up against a teacher’s personal belief about instruction?
  • What are the new skills, habits, and attitudes teachers will need in order to implement the changes?
  • How will the new plan affect routine instructional habits?
  • Will the plan make instruction easier or harder for them?
  • How will you get teacher commitment to implement the changes?

These are the tougher aspects of the issue to resolve. It is “wisdom work” and calls for leaders to think deeply, feel into the perspective of another, and remember their own experiences with implementing big, new changes. It often leads to outside-the-box solutions in order to understand what is going on and develop new tools, methods, and practices to make the new plan really work.

In the end, working through both the knowledge and the wisdom aspects of challenging issues pays big dividends for the school district. Not only is the planning technically sound, the implementation is brilliantly wise!

Where have you seen the right blend of knowledge and wisdom working well in your district?

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Rules vs. Routines

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fishing_dock_rules_350Rules and routines are important in all areas of our lives. They set boundaries for our actions and let people know what our expectations are.

Rebecca Alber, a Consulting Online Editor for Edutopia, wrote an interesting back-to-school article about rules and routines for students http://dlvr.it/C3DWmw Rebecca’s ideas are also very applicable for the rules and routines we set for the adults in our workplaces. She said: “Rules have consequences, and routines have reminders.”

That is a good axiom to a follow when making our workplace rules as well. Rules result in consequences while routines result in conversations. For example, if timeliness is important to you, then think through whether you want to handle it as a rule or a routine.

If “Be to work by 7:45 AM” is the rule, then the very first time a staff member is late, the issue must be addressed. The consequences could be to give a first warning, leading to a second warning, and a disciplenary note in the evaluation file for each subsequent violation.

On the other hand, maybe you would you rather handle it as a routine in which you emphasize many variations. The expectation is to arrive no later than 7:45. If a family emergency comes up or you are caught in traffic, let the office know your expected arrival time. If you over slept or are just having trouble getting in gear, then expect to spend extra time after school to make up the lost time at the beginning of the day. If this becomes a pattern of three or more times, then expect a disciplinary note in your file.

So as leaders, a good routine is to think through your rules carefully. What are your beliefs about professional behavior? Make your rules about things you really believe are essential to the workplace. Don’t make a rule when a routine is really how you want to handle a situation.

Be selective. Choose just a small number of rules to enforce and make sure you follow through on the consequences each time it is broken. Leave everything else to routines which can allow for different ways to handle different variations of the situation.

What rules would you would create for your staff?

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How to change when people expect you to stay the same?

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Pup on big bedHow do you change when people around you expect the “old way?” This question comes up frequently in my conversations with school leaders.

Many times a principal new to a school wants to create solutions collaboratively, but his predecessor played the role of chief problem-solver for so long that it has become “the way we do things here.”

Or maybe a participant in one of my workshops wants to try some of the new communication skills she has been learning that are different from her usual habits. Her staff may become confused and give her push-back about her motives.

While the negative reaction to your new behavior may be typical, here are three ideas to help make the transition smoother.

1. Be transparent about WHY you are doing what you do. Then formulate it into a clear message.

Example:

•  I value collaborative solutions because I believe together we develop better ideas than if we were each working alone.
•  When I am asking questions rather than giving answers, I am trying to help you think deeply about your instruction. That way we both learn a lot more than if I just told you what I know!

2. Ask for help to improve the new skill you are learning.

Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly says, “Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process.” (p. 45) Asking staff members to help you become better in developing a new skill shows that you trust them to have your best interests at heart. And in that way, they reciprocate by trusting you more as well.

By asking for help you are modeling that you are a continuous learner of best practices, just as you want each of them to be. So you are building trust within your relationships when you ask for help.

3. Use humor when you make mistakes or things don’t turn out as well as you had planned.

As you practice your new habit or skill you may feel awkward or uncomfortable at times. But giving yourself a gentle “poke” goes a long way in establishing your credibility and sincerity. This helps others understand that you are willing to take some risks to stretch yourself professionally. And when mistakes happen, you see them as “teaching moments” to help you learn how to do things better next time.

It’s never easy being in a vulnerable position, especially when others have different expectations of you. But you establish yourself as a leader with integrity when you stay committed to your own development, and authentic in your responses to others, always assuming their positive intent.

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Who is Driving the Bus—You or your Assumptions?

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In many oFoot on brakef my recent presentations, I have been talking about how hard it is to change—especially when it comes to those adaptive challenges that call for us to change our attitudes and behaviors. Adriano Pianesi at Leadersh1p.com had a good blog on this very topic this week. Here are excerpts below.

Why is change so hard? Why does reading a book, taking a class or making “new year resolutions” have no power to make us better at – say – dealing with conflict or at supervising? Why, despite our effort, don’t we get very far?

What gets in the way in these situations is a mechanism called “immunity to change” and with it, pushing further will make no difference.

In fact, when change is “adaptive,” if we try to break free of old patterns or habits and create shifts that matter, we can succeed only if we understand fully the beliefs/assumptions competing against our good intentions.

Adriano gives an example:

“John” is committed to becoming a better boss by delegating more, but his staff keep complaining… the issue might not be a matter of skills, so more training won’t do…

What would John fear if he were to – all of a sudden – start delegating? He might confess his worry of becoming less respected at work. Then “Be respected at work” is actively competing with John’s commitment to delegate more.

Like the driver of a car who holds a foot on the brake (be respected) and one on the accelerator (delegating): the car won’t move.

Succeeding with “adaptive change” requires an understanding of the assumptions holding you or your team in place. Only after becoming aware of those assumptions can you “unlearn” them and unleash the potential for new beginnings.

What can you – and John – accomplish if you were to finally take your foot off the brake?

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Stronger Schools, Better Teams

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What a fantastic teleclass group call we had last week! Our group was small but brilliant! The participants were engaged and thought-filled. They shared great insights and built upon each other’s contributions. It modeled exactly the kind of community I like to create in these kinds of events.

So today I am sending the link to the audio recording of the class for everyone to experience. It’s my gift to you!

Here’s that link: http://tinyurl.com/stronger-schools

When you click the link you’ll be taken to my download site.  Just click the title of the recording, then look for the black “download” button at the bottom of the page. Click that and the file will download.  Be sure you click the title of the recording first.

There is so much wisdom in a group of committed educators who are passionate about supporting each other as we aspire to great—transformational—leadership.

Be inspired and join my fall class that will be full of six weeks of “nuggets of gold” from the course material and the insights shared by your colleagues.

The next session of the course begins with a Jumpstart Call on Monday, 9/14/15.

To get more details and register when you’re ready – click here: http://marcetareilly.com/leadership-that-inspires

If you have questions and prefer to talk with me before you register, please feel free to email me at marceta@marcetareilly.com.

I hope to see you there!

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Why Everyday Leadership Makes You a Better Educator.

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I believe in “everyday” leadership. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the kind of leadership in which someone within the group suggests a new perspective, connects multiple ideas, or bridges seemingly disparate positions. It helps people and groups make progress on tough, daunting issues. It may not solve the issue, but it helps get people “over the hurdle” so they can move forward some more.

It’s what I mean when I say that leadership is an activity, not a position. Every educator is responsible for this kind of leadership. It’s not the principal’s job, or the team leader’s job, or the instructional coach’s job to fix problems within our schools. It’s everybody’s job to get involved—to take responsibility—for making things better for our children.

It’s the kind of leadership espoused by the Kansas Leadership Center. KLC says that a different type of leadership is necessary if we want to make progress on our biggest challenges and opportunities. They have developed a leadership model for what I call “everyday leadership.”

They describe four competencies with descriptors under each. The four competencies are:

  1. Diagnose the situation.
  2. Manage self.
  3. Energize others.
  4. Intervene skillfully.

For instance, in the area of Diagnose the Situation, you can be the one to help the group explore tough interpretations, not just the ones that make us look good. What would our detractors say about this idea? How would those with a different point of view respond to this solution?

In the area of “manage self,” you can help the group explore what personal capabilities and vulnerabilities are related to the issue at hand. Or ask, “What’s our part of the mess?”

In the area of Energize Others, you can ask how we could build bridges between the factions. Or explore how we might inspire a collective purpose among the factions.

In the area of Intervene Skillfully, ask if we need to help raise or lower the heat within the group? How can we speak from the heart about what we feel? What experiment might we recommend to begin to move things forward?

Great leadership isn’t ego driven. It’s a mindset. It is the collection of many small experiments, explorations, and conversations that invite and empower others to get involved for a collective, meaningful purpose.

Educating our children is some of the most meaningful work on earth. We all need to take responsibility for being leaders in this kind of work.

For more information about the Kansas Leadership Center, check out their website: www.kansasleadershipcenter.org.

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