Monday, March 28, 2011

Does great have to be the default?

by George Couros

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Daquella manera

"Bosses ought to be judged by what they and their people get done and by how their followers feel along the way." Robert I. Sutton, Good Boss, Bad Boss

Reflecting on the weekend about a presentation that Patrick Larkin and I did on Connected Principals and how we can start movements based on passion, and then reading Larry Fliegelman's post on the Status Quo, I have thought a lot about leadership. In my position as principal, I want to do my best. I understand that by doing my best, this will ultimately result in the people I serve doing great things.

When I first started in educational administration (often people refer to this as leadership, but there are SO many people in education that are leaders that are not principals, and unfortunately, many believe the opposite could hold true as well), I found that "my work" always came secondary to the work that impacted others in the building. I always made sure that they had everything they needed to be successful. This often caused me to fall behind in some personal areas, but I knew that I would be able to catch up at another time. Holding back my staff was never something that I wanted to do.

This want for "being great" in an administrative position does not mean you have to be arrogant, although you will need confidence. Leaders that inspire greatness are often very humble and quiet (anyone heard of Ghandi?), yet always know their vision.

If you are not in your leadership role to create greatness, the concern would then be that you are simply in it to be "the boss". When you are dealing with the lives and careers of others, it is imperative that you provide them with opportunities to do amazing things.

"People in power tend to become self-centered and oblivious to what their followers need, do, and say." Robert I. Sutton, Good Boss, Bad Boss

Although I know that I can continuously grow in many areas, here are some things to consider if we want those around us to be great.

  1. Listen. We have to know the wants and needs of the people that we serve. It is essential that we are always listening and hearing what people in our organization are saying. One saying that I have in my own school is, "I don't want my ideas; I want the best ideas. It doesn't matter where they come from." If we are listening, we are more likely to find or together create these "best ideas".

  2. Say yes WAY MORE than you say no. In a time where budgets are continuously cut, those that manage buildings are found in situations where they have to really tighten up. Leaders, however, find ways to provide these opportunities. If the ideas that are presented are beneficial to your students and your organization, you should find a way to bring ideas to fruition. There are times when I have to say no to things, but those are rare occasions. Also think of times when staff come to you and want to try new things. If they are willing to put in the time, and their ideas won’t harm anyone, say yes. We want to not only encourage innovation in our schools, we want to create a culture of it. If you are giving your staff opportunities to be innovative, you will see an amazing trickle-down effect to your students.

  3. Connect people. When I was a kid, and also when I first started teaching, the principal seemed like the person who knew everything. Now being in that position, I know for a fact that is not true. What I do need to know, however, is where my experts are, and to be able to connect my staff to them. Find these people that will help out others on your staff and connect them. Don't limit the connections within your building, either. If you are on any social networking sites, you will find so many experts in different areas that the amount of powerful connections you can make will astound you. The principal needs to be a connector and has ample opportunities to be so.

  4. Get to know those you serve. This ties in with the point above. First of all, we need to find the strengths of those in our organization and empower them to use these. If you tap into the passion of people and help them find purpose within your school, your entire organization will benefit. Also, one "leadership style" is not enough. If you really know those you work with, you will find that different things will work with different people. I guess we could put this in the category of "differentiated leadership".

  5. Realize that you are surrounded by leaders; empower them. You are not the only leader in the building, but if you believe you are, then you just might not be a leader. Find ways to have others take on initiatives in the school based upon their strengths. The more leaders we have, the better we all do. "Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders." Tom Peters

There are many aspects of leadership that are not listed above (please feel free to add in the comments). As leaders, we need to ensure that we have a clear vision and ensure that we are all on the same path. Once that is clear, you need to create continuous opportunities for everyone in your school to achieve their best.

"Level 5 leaders are differentiated from other levels of leaders in that they have a wonderful blend of personal humility combined with extraordinary professional will. Understand that they are very ambitious; but their ambition, first and foremost, is for the company's success. They realize that the most important step they must make to become a Level 5 leader is to subjugate their ego to the company's performance. When asked for interviews, these leaders will agree only if it's about the company and not about them." Jim Collins, From Good to Great

So to revisit the question that titles this post, "does great have to be the default?" In my opinion, you may not crave that, but if you are in a position of leadership, this is something that needs to happen. As school administrators, to do our best, we need to ensure that everyone else has opportunities to do their best. We really don't have much of a choice. Our schools and students depend upon it.

George Couros is currently school principal of Forest Green School and Connections for Learning, located in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada. The schools are from ages K-12, and he loves working with kids of all ages. He is passionate about distributed leadership within his school, and believes that creating a collaborative environment with all stakeholders, will help to ensure that educators meet the best needs of all children. You can learn more about George on his own blog entitled “The Principal of Change”. George is also the creator of the “Connected Principals” site because he knew that we can learn so much from a strong team of educators with different backgrounds, as opposed to the view of only one. It is imperative that as educators, we are learners first.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Use Your Gifts

by Bud "The Common Sense Guy" Bilanich

The other day I saw a great tweet on career success that is simple common sense…

Everyone is gifted, but some people never open their package.

I love this idea. We are all gifted in certain ways.

My question to you today is simple. With what are you gifted?

Tweet 60 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Take stock of yourself. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Confident people emphasize their strengths.” In other words, they unwrap their gifts and use them.

I saw a great quote on line a while back…

“What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.”

It was from Eleanor Powell. If you don’t know Ms. Powell, she was a well known dancer and actress who appeared in many musicals in the 1930s and 1940s. She was a good dancer, but an amazing tap dancer. In her day, she was known as “the world’s greatest tap dancer.”

I love her quote – it gets at the heart of the tweet with which I began this post. God (or the universe, if you are so inclined) gives each of us certain talents and abilities. It is up to us to take the talents and abilities that we have been given and develop them, make full use of them. This is our gift back to God (or the universe).

Eleanor Powell was given the gift of dance. She began dancing in Vaudeville when she was 11 and was on Broadway when she was 17. She developed her dancing talent to a very high level.

I have been given several gifts – the ability to write clearly, the ability to simplify the complex, empathy and common sense. I’ve worked hard to develop these gifts. I use them to help others grow and develop and to create the life and career success they want and deserve. I believe that I owe it to myself, God and the people who read the career advice I write and those who avail themselves of my career success coach services to keep learning, growing and developing my skills.

That’s why I started blogging. That’s why I write books. Both give me the chance to use and develop my writing skills, and my ability to simplify complex things, like how to create the life and career success you want and deserve.

When you focus on your strengths, you’re emphasizing what you do well naturally. And this important. When I was young, I realized that my strengths lie in my ability to think and communicate. I could always write clearly and persuasively. I wasn’t so good at math and science. For a long time, I focused on my weaknesses – taking advanced placement chemistry, physics and calculus courses in high school. I didn’t enjoy these courses, but I suffered through them – and did OK grade wise too. I did this because in those days, I was the Protestant Work Ethic in overdrive. The less I liked something, or showed a natural talent for it, the more I chose to master it.

What a waste! I should have been spending my time on the things I liked – and for which I have a natural talent. My four years at Penn State cured me of my tendency to focus on my weaknesses. That was the best thing I got out of my time there – the idea that I should focus on and develop my strengths -- the things that came naturally to me, the things at which I could excel because I enjoyed them and they were easy for me.

That’s what you need to do too. Unwrap the gifts you have been given. Focus on your strengths. Build on them. This will help you build your self confidence and create the life and career success that you want and deserve. Don’t ignore your weaknesses – do what you can to improve on them, but don’t make them the focus of your self improvement work. My best career advice here can be summed up in four words: “Focus on your strengths.”

The common sense career success point here is simple. Successful people commit to taking personal responsibility for developing their self confidence and for using the gifts they have been given. They apply the advice in Tweet 60 in Success Tweets. “Take stock of yourself. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Confident people emphasize their strengths. As Eleanor Powell said, “What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.” Ms. Powell took personal responsibility for using her God given dance talent to become the world’s greatest tap dancer, and a vaudeville, Broadway and Hollywood star. What are your God given talents? What have you done to develop them? Commit to taking personal responsibility for developing these gifts. It’s the best way to give thanks for them, to help others, and to create the life and career success you want and deserve.

You can download a free copy of Success Tweets at

Bud Bilanich, The Common Sense Guy, is a career success coach, management consultant, motivational speaker, bestselling author and blogger. He helps his clients succeed by applying their common sense. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Success Magazine, Fast Company and Self Improvement Magazine.

Dr. Bilanich is Harvard educated but has a no nonsense approach to his work to goes back to his roots in the steel country of Western Pennsylvania. His approach to career success is a result of over 35 years of business experience, a lifetime of research and study of successful people and the application of common sense.

Bud is the author of 16 books including Success Tweets: 140 Bits of Common Sense Career Success Advice All in 140 Characters or Less and Straight Talk for Success. He is a contributor to six other books including the recently released 101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career.

His clients include Pfizer, Glaxo SmithKline, Johnson and Johnson, Abbot Laboratories, Merck, several health care ad agencies, PepsiCo, AT&T, Chase Manhattan Bank, Citigroup, General Motors, UBS, AXA Advisors, Cabot Corporation, The Aetna, PECO Energy, Olin Corporation, Minerals Technologies, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America and a number of small and family owned businesses.

Bud received a BS from Penn State, an MA from the University of Colorado and an EdD (Doctor of Education) from Harvard University.

Bud is a cancer survivor and lives in Denver Colorado with his wife Cathy. He is a retired rugby player, an avid cyclist and a Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers fan. He enjoys independent film, live theatre and crime fiction.

Reinvention: Define Who You Are

by Will Deyamport, III, MSEd

Branding Strategist and Reinvention Specialist, Robin Roffer says "Reinventing yourself is not about blowing up everything you ever were in your life or career and completely starting over. It’s about building on your passions, strengths, talents and past successes to redefine you in a fresh new way."

At my core, I am an educator. No. I don't mean in terms of reading, writing, or education in the traditional sense. I am the kind of educator who aims to inspire, empower, encourage, and impart onto individuals the tools, knowledge-base, and skills necessary to live their best lives. Strip away the superlatives and what I do is about getting individuals excited about their lives.

I am no Tony Robbins or Dr. Wayne Dyer. I am more of a strategic planner or thought leader - a recruiter and a net-worker. I like to think of myself as a Digital Thinker or a curator of ideas, experts and dynamic educators whose subject area knowledge far exceeds my own.

No matter happens of which direction I take, I know that digital and social media will be apart of what I do.

Robin Roffer has a 4 step plan for reinventing one's self. Over the next few months, I will be working through the remaining steps and blogging about it. I hope you continue this journey with me. Feel free to ask questions along the way.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Strengths as a Weakness

by Will Deyamport, III MSEd

Over the past few months, several experts across several fields and disciplines have written about the need to work from one's strengths. As I started to think about what I would write for The Strengths Project series, I thought about my own strengths and the times in which I've soared and the times I've fallen on my face. Unlike the experts, I come to you as someone who is still trying to find his place in this world. What you are about to read is an epiphany I had when I stared at the hundreds of jobs listed on a job site...

Each of us are born with innate and unique gifts. Whether if it is how we communicate with others, how we view the world, how we process information, or how we complete tasks or even how we learn, our actions illuminate our strengths. Which is why discovering, building upon, and seeking out opportunities that allow us to maximize our strengths is so important. However, just as our strengths is our greatest asset; they are also our greatest weakness.

Since earning my second bachelor's in Child and Family Studies, I have been on a never-ending mission to find my niche. Along the way, I have taken the StrengthsFinder Profile, the Enneagram, the MBTI, and the Holland Code. As it turns out, I am passionate about people and their stories - a natural at networking, strategic planning, coming up with ideas and creative solutions, inspiring and empowering others, and I am driven to get things done. Conversely, I also loose interest in projects that gone on without seeing progress, impatient with people who don't have that internal motivation, get bored with mundane, routine tasks, and I feel trapped within rigid, inflexible systems.

Ironically, the most poignant thing I've learned from those assessments is that my strengths and my weaknesses are different sides of the same coin. By that I mean in the right position and organization, my successes will only be limited by my effort and my imagination. But, in the wrong position and organization, frustration and failure is a sure thing.

I have a year and three months left in my doctoral program. So, as I move forward, I have to keep in mind how my strengths fit with an organization's culture. Wish me luck. I don't want to be Dr. Will and broke.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Interview Yasmin Shiraz

My interview with author, activist, and filmmaker Yasmin Shiraz:

Will: Who is Yasmin Shiraz? Why activism? Why choose the arts to make a

Yasmin: People have said that I’m a visionary, young people say I inspire them, but my kids call me mom. Deep down inside, I’m a writer that believes that my gift is to bring my words to the people. I’m an activist because I’m a passionate writer. There is no issue, no subject that I write about that I’m not passionate enough to go and do something about. I chose the arts because music, words, expression—they all move people. Life is too serious not to be moved.

Will: You started out as an author. You’ve written 6 books. What got you into filmmaking?

Yasmin: I actually got started as a magazine publisher. Shout out to all the 4 million Mad Rhythms readers. But, yes, I’m a writer and I wanted to see my screenplays on the big screen. So, I started Still Eye Rise Pictures so that I could put my words on the big screen. I was tired of waiting on someone to discover me when my fans had already discovered me.

Will: Where did you study film?

Yasmin: I have my master’s degree in Sociology. I studied sociology at Hampton University and Morehead State University. If you see my film work, you’ll see that I put social issues on film. I was taught about what the important issues are and how to analyze such issues. My body of work will always showcase the most important social issues of the day. I’m not a filmmaker in the traditional sense, I’m a filmmaker in the sociological sense. However, I have taken several film classes to learn the technical aspects of filmmaking—a master’s workshop that I took with John Singleton changed the way I looked at being a Film Director.

Will: Have you shot in digital video? If so, what do you like better about it
than film?

Yasmin: I’ve shot digital video and am looking forward to shooting on The Red camera. I like digital because it costs MUCH LESS than film. Shooting on film is beautiful but the digital cameras are beginning to meet film on look. Many old school filmmakers now believe that The Red camera exceeds film quality.

Will: What is your sort of cinematic signature? What do you want to say with
your films?

Yasmin: My cinematic signature will always be to intertwine hard topics in with an entertaining piece. I like to keep it compelling and passionate. I also like to share the voice of young people as I’ve done with my books. I believe we can learn so much through coming of age stories.

Will: What do you have planned next? Where can people see your movies?

Yasmin: I’m currently promoting my new film, They Call Me Dae which exposes the life of a teen bully. They Call Me Dae will be screening at film festivals throughout the US—and perhaps, internationally through 2011. My debut film, Can She Be Saved? is available on I travel with Can She Be Saved? I hold screenings at middle schools, high schools and colleges throughout the US. Still Eye Rise Pictures has other projects in various stages of pre-production. Please check for updates.

Will: What advice do you have for people interested in becoming a filmmaker?

Yasmin: People who want to be filmmakers should watch a lot of films, should attend film festivals, should take classes on filmmaking and should decide what kinds of movies that they are moved by. Filmmakers should be willing to become writers. The beginning of any great film is a great story. Story starts with writing.

Check out the trailer to Yasmin's latest film - They Call Me Dae:

Yasmin Shiraz is an award winning Filmmaker, an award winning WebTV Producer and an award winning Author. Shiraz is also a highly sought after radio & TV youth expert appearing on FOX, ABC, NBC and CBS news affiliates nationwide. Ebony, Essence, CosmoGirl! and Teen People magazines have featured reviews of Shiraz’s Blueprint books and/or have asked her to contribute to advice articles for teens. Find Yasmin on Twitter here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Finding the right career path...What’s a person to do?

by Helen Antholis

Have you ever wondered if the path you are on is going to take you where you want to go?

Do you know where you want to go?

Lewis Carroll writes about this in Alice in Wonderland. Alice is lost and comes to a fork in the road. She asks the Cheshire Cat, “Which road should I take?” He says, “Where do you want to go?” Alice says, “I really don’t know.” The Cheshire Cat responds, “Well, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

It’s the same for careers. Taking jobs because you are “motivated” by the convenience (“It’s close to home”), the salary (“It’s good money”), the benefits (“Where else can I get health insurance and so many days off?”), the hours (“I don’t have to work overtime”), and other “Hygiene factors,” as Herzberg would say, then you’re not in it for a career.

Careers are not static, one-place jobs. They are a moving series of positions, approaches, plans, and strategies to get you where you need to be. It doesn’t mean that where you think you’ll end up is your goal. It means that your journey of growth is more important than the destination.

Your journey needs to begin with a road map, but that doesn’t mean you will not or should not veer off the beaten path. In fact, it might be better. As Robert Frost wrote in his poem The Road Not Taken, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I...I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Over the decades since I graduated college, I’ve held many positions in various companies and organizations, including running three of my own businesses. Throughout those years, my husband and I raised two children who are now responsible and independent adults pursuing their own career aspirations.

As I reflect on my career, what made me achieve my goals was a willingness to, over many years:
•Seek and try new jobs
•Build relationships
•Gain new skills
•Learn from my mistakes
•Commute long hours
•Work for less than I was worth
•Continue my education
•Build a business on days off and nights
•Volunteer in my community and trade associations
•Take risks with three business ventures
•Shoulder frustrations
•Balance career with a personal life
•Stay close with friends and family, and
•Manage my time in a way that served my family and me well.

It wasn’t always perfect or easy. In fact, it was never perfect and never easy. But through perseverance, hard work, laughter, friends, mentors, and my family’s support, I got to where I needed to be. Did I start out with that goal in the 70s when women were struggling to be treated fairly? No. But a series of twists and turns in the road, not to mention luck, led me here. But you need to be willing to know who you are and be open to new adventures. With that, you’ll find your way. But give yourself doesn’t happen overnight.

Remember too...the road less travelled may make all the difference.

Helen Antholis is president of Performance Advantage Inc, a training and consulting firm specializing in developing leaders and building better workplaces. Check out her blog at and connect with her on Twitter. Subscribe by email to the blog to receive her free eBookette on the four guiding principles for leadership when it first launches.