Leading From the Edge

Many people like to live life in the center, choosing to stay away from the unfamiliar or the extreme. There is something about being in the mainstream, and going with the flow that feels “nice.”  There is a certain comfort afforded with this perspective.  However, what begins to develop over time, especially in organizations, is group think; or worse unquestioned conventional thinking that arises.  It becomes easy to hang out in the middle, not pushing back or making waves.  Questioning is replaced by complacency, an acceptance of business as usual.  In time organizational morale and engagement suffers.

As leaders, our ability to influence growth and change doesn’t happen from the center, but the edge.  Though the edge brings uncertainty, it also has the opportunity to bring clarity when we have a well-defined purpose and established values to lead others forward.  The edge affords a particular vantage point for effective leaders that differentiates them from managers or maintainers.

b2ap3 thumbnail Comfort zone

Vantage Point 1:  People Over Programs

You affect change or culture by impacting people, not programs. We miss when we spend time and money trying to motivate students and teachers through programs. School initiatives come and go, but what will always endure is the relationship potential that walks through our doors daily. Leading from the edge is an uncompromising commitment to develop your top talent.  In the era of high stakes testing and teacher accountability, there is a significant amount of time spent on developing the marginal amount ( 1-5%) of teachers who are in need of improvement.  Leaders should challenge this conventional thinking.

What if we invested the majority of our time in our most effective leaders?  Consider the multiplying effect of influence that result in developing those top people who in turn develop others.  Leading from the edge means-growing people, not bigger programs.  Your number one job as leader is to grow the capacity and skills of your top people.  In turn, as you grow your teacher leaders – student achievement rises as well.

Vantage Point 2:  A Culture of Permission

As leaders, one of the most powerful words we can ever say is “yes.” Our school cultures begin to thrive as leaders give permission and ignite ownership Effective leaders hire well from the beginning, ensuring they have only the best people and BELIEVE the best about their people.  In turn, it is easier to trust teachers to lead initiatives we believe in and can support.  Today’s leaders serve less as supervisor’s and operate more as coach.  Autonomy begins with supporting our people to have not only self-direction but also decision making.  Leading from the edge requires that today’s educational leaders are not managers of people but connectors.  Our job is to help our teams effectively connect, collaborate, and support them with resources necessary to thrive.

In the 21st century, edleaders are rejecting compliance-based systems because they realize how unmotivating it is for themselves and students.  If the goal is for self-efficacy of students and staff then our practice must reflect the rhetoric.  Students and educators alike increasingly want to be a part of a bigger story, to add value.  Leading from the edge means giving up control so that others can thrive, explore, and discover how they can leave an imprint.

Vantage Point 3: Risks Are Rewarded

Our culture does not stand up to celebrate failure.  We give trophies to winners and feel sorry for the loser.  This win/loss mentality is not an indicator of leading from the edge.  We are most effective when we foster a mindset that rewards risk.  As a leader, do you focus more on the problem or solution?  Solution focused leaders identify the issue and develop processes towards a solution.  By asking guiding questions such as –  “What do you need to do next time?  What do you need to do to move this forward?  What do you think we need to do to be successful?” allows an individual/team to feel supported and take next steps.  Great leaders will spend their own capital to support others failing forward on the road to success.

Are you willing to stand on the edge?  Standing on the edge can get windy, even downright frightening at times, but the view is worth it.

Advertisements

How Voxer Supercharged My PLN

Voxer JHVeal

     I was first introduced to the Voxer app fall of 2014 at a Saturday PD I attended near my home town. It was described in a “this app is on its way out” way because, at that time, Apple had just released iOS 8 which possessed competing voice messaging features in their new updates. Fellow workshop attendees briefly described Voxer’s attributes and dismissed it as quickly as the app had been brought up.  

     In short, Voxer is a walkie-talkie app that allows users to communicate via tap-to-talk voice recorded messages, unlimited length texting, and picture posts too. Despite the dismissive nature of my introduction to Voxer, I decided to investigate it anyway, especially after hearing how a connected educator in my school district used it to connect with her PLN. I downloaded the app along with a colleague and thus began my Voxer plunge!  

     My first forays into Voxer started off by joining a pre-existing group of educators. Over several weeks, I listened in on the conversation, feeling more like a voyeur, and left a few Voxes (that’s what you call a voice message on Voxer). My first impressions with Voxer left me thinking several things: This is remarkable, but who has time for this; I’m so nervous leaving a voice Vox; I don’t know these people, but they seem to be pretty connected. I ended up leaving that group and joining a few different groups, committed to giving it a fair shake at finding a group I connected with. I also used Voxer to communicate directly with a college who was a Voxer newbie. We eventually stumbled upon a newly forming group doing a book study on Eric Sheninger’s book Digital Leadership. We both joined the new Voxer group at the start of 2015, engaged in the book study that ended up lasting several months, and from that point I was sold on Voxer!  

     Since that time, Voxer has become a mainstay app for me, soon finding its way into my iPhone’s Dock as one of the four chosen Apps of Honor. I also took the plunge to become Pro, which was probably the most I have ever spent on an app, but was money well spent in my opinion.  

1 Voxer Quote

     When people ask why I’m so in the tank for Voxer I gladly explain that it played a vital role in my journey as a connected educator. It is the tool that propelled my Professional Learning Network into a Powerful & Personal Learning Network. Pre-Voxer, I connected on Twitter much like many other educator. As regularly as possible, I participated in Twitter chats such as #EduCoach and built a traditional PLN by following and learning with/from educators who inspired me and were experts in their fields. I also shared out things I was learning and helpful resources that were meaningful to me with others.

     Twitter was a great place to connect and grow, but I did not recognize what I do now. It was challenging to forge a PLN with authentic community and connectedness via Twitter alone. For me, Twitter was as wide as the east is from the west, but rather shallow when it came to deep connections. I felt limited by the 140 characters and rushed by the fast pace of most chats. So much of the interaction I experienced on Twitter alone was surface deep. Please don’t get me wrong though, Twitter did and continues to play a critical role in my growth as a connected educator, but I attribute Voxer with propelling me to the next level of connectedness. Voxer is where my PLN shifted from being strictly a P(rofessional)LN via single tweets of interaction to being Powerful and Personal, increasing in depth via the variety Voxer provides for communicating and connecting. Voxer has allowed me to interact far beyond a tweet by connecting at my own pace and utilizing a mix of text, voice message, picture, and resource sharing.

     Today, I wouldn’t be the connected educator I am without Voxer. It has afforded many unique opportunities such as growing with the LeadUpNow tribe as a founding member of their Voxer group, co-blogging with Bethany Hill, co-presenting at my state technology conference with Matthew Arend, Ryan Steel (both whom I met via Voxer), and Nancy Alvarez, and meeting  Eric Sheninger as a result of the Digital Leadership book study Voxer group (which is now reading his new book Uncommon Learning).

2 Voxer Quote

     I can now say I know, I really deeply know the people who make up my PLN. We aren’t just a brief bio and profile pic to one another, but friends who share about our families, our personal hurdles, our professional triumphs, our areas of growth, and our dreams and work as educators.

     Have I mentioned the incredible growth Voxer has afforded me? Thanks to Voxer, I experience powerful, impassioned, just-in-time professional growth from educational thought leaders across the country on a daily basis! I equate it to on demand PD, anytime and anywhere! All these reasons combined lead me to believe that Voxer is an app that is here to stay for quite some time.

I want to share some of my favorite ways to use Voxer and why I think it’s an app that could help propel your PLN too!

Groups

Collaborating in groups is my favorite way to use Voxer! I participate in several groups on a regular basis, but my core PLNs are the ones I spend the most of my time interacting with, those being the ECEchat and LeadUpNow groups. As a Voxer Pro subscriber, I am able to create and administrate the groups I create. I also connect with my own campus’s Leadership Teams as well as the Assistant Principals in my district via a Voxer group. We are able to communicate and collaborate as a group on an ongoing basis using this versatile and free app.

Book Studies

Voxer is a great platform for a book study! A group can come together to read a book over a period of time. As mentioned, I did a book study with a group reading Eric Sheninger’s book Digital Leadership. He actually was a part of the group too and would chime in from time to time. Recently, the group reconvened to read his second book, Uncommon Learning, and Eric is participating with us again. What an unique opportunity that only Voxer affords! We use a repeating set of questions allowing members to chime in each day to share their response to the question and interact about the content of the chapter for the week. Doing book studies on Voxer has been a great way to gain greater insights into the professional books I read, connect and grow with people in my PLN at a deeper level, and have accountability for reading and implementing new learning.

Email a Voice Vox

Voxer users are able to record a voice Vox in their “My Notes” and email it to another person even though they may not have a Voxer account. The emailed voice message is played through a Voxer web link. I use this feature to record and email voice messages to teachers after I visit their classrooms to give them informal, immediate feedback. I like that they can hear the enthusiasm in my voice after I’ve visited their classrooms.  

Keeping in Touch with Friends & Family Across the Miles

Voxer is terrific for keeping in touch with loved ones far away. I specifically use it to connect with my mother who lives states away from me. She doesn’t have a smartphone, but she does have an iPad so we Vox on a regular basis. My kids even Vox her sometimes. They especially love sending her pictures. It’s nice that we can send her a quick voice message or hear from her any convenient time.

How do you like to use Voxer? I’d love to hear your ideas! If you have not tried Voxer, I highly encourage you to give it a go. Check out Cybrary Man’s All About Voxer web page to learn more about Voxer and to find a group to connect with today. Voxer’s blog site is also a great place to learn more about the power of Voxer!

[Less] #Oneword2016

less

The temptation, perhaps human nature, is to always want more. We even tell ourselves we can have it all, only to be sorely disappointing when life doesn’t seemingly give everything we think we should have or deserve. I can remember growing up as a small boy not always having as much as other kids, but I always felt like I had enough. There was always plenty to explore, and I never went without a meal. I had teachers who cared for me and a family that loved me.

As one gets older and wiser to the ways of the world, we easily become intoxicated to a notion that what we have materially, spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally just isn’t enough. I don’t want my two boys or the students I get the privilege to serve each day to never believe that lie.

As I move forward into 2016 I am resolved to experience more life with LESS.

Less…

Stress
Expectations
Worry
Status Quo
Consumerism
Control
Busyness
Stuff
Talking
Excess
Overthinking
Doubt
Mandates
Me!

As a man of faith I don’t believe that there is a sacred or secular divide, it is all sacred. Likewise, we are living an illusion if we believe that our professional and personally identities don’t collide daily to make up the sum whole of who we are. So having said all that, it is important to move into this year making less of me and more of others.

Experience More…

Wonder
Abandon
Contentment
Giving
Listening
Abundance
Resolve
Faith
Freedom
Learning
Risk

Each day will require determination to intentionally be about less in a world awash in more. There is beauty in simplicity – I want to experience the peace of less as a believer, man, dad, husband, friend, administrator, and every other hat I wear. Experience more life…

 

#OneWord for 2016: Significance

#OneWord fo

It’s the very start of a new year. A time pregnant with opportunities and possibilities. What will I make of 2016? What will I do with the 365 days that fill the the calendar? One thing I know is sure, that I am not promised a single one of those days. They are hoped for, but not promised. How will I approach these hoped for days of 2016?

My PLN has challenged one another to choose a single word to encapsulate how we will each approach the new year. I have personally been mulling over what my one word would be for several days now and have carefully chosen my word: Significance. Thankfully, this one word has multiple facets because anyone who knows me knows I could not just choose 1 singular word. I had to chose a word that held multiple meanings. At the heart of it, I chose significance because it sums up my desire to do all things with a deep level of commitment and purpose.

Significance means “Make it Matter”. Whatever I put my hands to do in this new year I do it with the mindset of making it matter. Whether the task is big or small, it deserves my undivided commitment. It all counts, especially the bumps and failures that will, no doubt, come my way. I commit to make it matter by appreciating the significance of each interaction, event, learning opportunity, challenge, and celebration that come my way in 2016.

Significance means “Be Present”. Live in the moment and give full attention to where I am, who I am with, and the why for our time together. Being fully present with my family, my friends, and those I work with speaks value to all the people in my life. Each day is individually important and is non-returnable. I want to live significantly in the space of every day that is given to me because it is a grace and a blessing. These wise words ring true…

Presence

Significance means “Pursue Joy”. Those who know me would say I am generally a positive and optimistic person, but a mindset of joy is not equivalent to a sunny disposition or happiness. Joy has a much deeper root and is not based on emotions. Joy is a choice and it does not happen by accident. Joy is nurtured in giving, cherishing others, and serving. Significance means committing to living in a way that fosters joy.  

Significance means “Pursue Excellence, Not Perfection”. I always seek to pursue excellence in everything I put my time and effort to accomplish. Excellence here means my personal best, but does not mean sacrificing everything for unattainable and illusive perfection. Often times, I find myself spinning my wheels because I am sidetracked by perfectionism. What I commit to pursuing more intentionally is excellence!

IT DOES NOT DO TO DWELL ON DREAMS, (1)

Significance is the one word I chose as a banner over 2016. Through my commitment to significance, I resolve to live this year in a way that matters, with full presence, a mindset of joy, and personal excellence. I challenge you to chose a word and to post it below. Committing to a word over your year could significantly impact your 2016.

                                        Here’s to significance, Heidi