Thursday, November 28, 2013

5 Steps to Wrapping Up Collaborative Meetings

The countdown has begun for the number of days until Christmas. We are making our list, checking them twice, so we can fill up the Christmas tree and make everything nice. While we know how many days there are until Christmas, some of us will invariably be stressed out because there won't be enough time to buy all the presents and get them wrapped in time for Christmas.

The real issue is not that we don't have enough time to buy and wrap our presents. After all, we have known for 365 days when Christmas Day will be here. The real issue is that we waste too much time by doing things that detract our focus from getting ready for Christmas.

When it comes to collaboration or working with others, the same principle applies. We know when and how much time our team has to meet together every week.  We know that there are specific outcomes that must occur in order for our teams to be effective. Some teams get it all in and wrap up the meeting like a beautiful little package with a perfect little bow, while other teams can't seem to find the tape or the scissors.  Even worse, they don't even know what present they should be wrapping.  If they finally wrap the present, they forget who the present was for; therefore, they don't know whose name to write on the name tag.


Teams waste time not because they can't finish something, but because they can't figure out where to start. How do teams begin the process of wrapping up their collaboration in a focused, quick, and efficient manner?

Steps to Wrap Up Collaborative Meetings

1.  Start with the Present
If you haven't picked out a gift, there's not much point in trying to wrap it up. Teams need a focus for coming together, and they need to stick to that focus throughout the meeting. The present boils down to this idea:  "What is the most important thing we expect all kids to learn?"

2.  Measure out your Time
If you don't measure out your paper, chances are you won't have enough paper to wrap your gift. The same principle goes with allocating time. How much time does the team need to focus on the most important issue? Teams must create an agenda and designate enough time to align everyone's understanding of the standard.  If the team sets aside time, chances are they'll have enough time to accomplish the meeting's objective. 

3. Cut and Tape
Once teams have an agenda, it's time to get to work. The cutting and taping of the paper represents the team focusing all dialogue on the most critical learning standard with the following questions:

  • What does the standard look like when kids master it?
  • What prerequisite skills do kids need to begin learning the standard?
  • What questions, activities and language will we use to get them to mastery?
  • How will we know when students have mastered the standard?
  • When kids struggle, how will we remediate immediately?
  • When kids master the learning standard, how will we extend and enrich them?

4. Inspect and Fix
Once you have wrapped your present, it is important to inspect it to make sure that it looks nice and that the present is completely covered. If something is wrong, the present needs to be fixed. The same idea applies to collaborative teams. If there are issues that are wasting the team's time, the team needs to work together to identify those inefficient practices, repair them or remove them all together. 

5.  Repeat and Reflect
The great thing about wrapping gifts is that the more gifts you wrap, the better you get at wrapping. Teams are no different. They have to practice the process of working together over and over to get better.  Leaders need to remind teams that it takes time to get better at maximizing their time as well as creating highly effective core instruction. 

The Purpose of Wrapping Up Meetings

Wrapping up collaborative meetings is not about ending them.  It is about the entire process of starting them, managing the clock wisely, and ensuring that every minute is maximized. Teams that are the best at wrapping up meetings are the ones that capitalize on their time together to generate outstanding products.  These products deliver results because the team believes in them and most importantly in one another.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The 4 Pitfalls to Pride

Pride is an important element to leadership. Leaders must exude confidence in order to get results. They should use their charisma to build relationships and a culture of commitment. They can use their self-esteem to build confidence in others.

But sometimes pride has a negative effect on leaders. When pride is all that the leader knows, he will not be prepared for times of crisis, failure and personal errors. In these times, leaders who fail to drop their displays of boastful self-pride succumb to the 4 pitfalls to pride:

  • Conceit - an excessively favorable opinion of one's own ability or importance
  • Arrogance - offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride
  • Gall - bitterness of spirit; impudence
  • Egotism - excessive and objectionable reference to oneself in conversation or writing (sidenote - I found it interesting that the origin of this word was idiotism.)

These pitfalls represent  the 4 prison walls of self-worship for leaders who are inherently incapable of relinquishing their pride.

How can leaders avoid the pitfalls of pride?

1. Exude Humility

People are more responsive to humility than egotism, especially when the leader is the cause of failure. Leaders must display their vulnerability to followers, and this act will create more trust in the organization and a deeper belief in the leader.

2. Give up on Shameless Self-Promotion

When the leader attempts to right the wrong by bragging about how great he is and how much he has done for the organization, everyone gets the message that the leader cannot accept his own imperfection. Prideful leaders should stop propping themselves up on a pedestal and accept that they're human like the rest of us.

3. Overcome the Fear of Imperfection

Leaders are human; thus they are fallible. Sadly, our world doesn't accept imperfection even though no human is perfect. The ultimate leader embraces his imperfection and uses it to model humility for his team. It takes courage to stand out there and say you're not perfect, but great leaders do it all the time.

Pride is great in good times and destructive in dark times. Leaders must understand that pride is a double edged sword that can help the organization grow or kill the leader's future with the organization. The very best leaders balance pride with self-actualization and own the mistakes that they make. They do all this because they understand and respect the pitfalls to pride.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

6 Ways Leaders Win over Whiners

Whiners plague every organization. They wear down others with their laments of underwhelming stress. Even though they drain, we must never lose sight of the fact that every whiner has the potential to positively impact the organization.  The key is that leaders must remember to address their needs as opposed to their wants.

What is a whiner?  A whiner Is a person who wants the focus to be on them and their plight. They use whining as their chief form of communication to seek the following:

Sympathy - Whiners want people to feel sorry for them. It elevates their sense self-importance. 

Attention - Whiners want the spotlight on them and how bad their life is. They don't like for others to get attention. 

Pity - Whiners want people to feel compelled to drop what they're doing and feel sorry for them. 

In short, whiners suck every ounce of life out of the creative potential of an organization. 

So what do whiners need?

Whiners need leaders who will move them from sapping the life out of others to focusing on helping the organization move forward. Leaders challenge whiners with the following:

Calculated Ignoring 
Leaders know the difference between whining and legitimate concerns, and leaders ignore whining. 

Leaders exhibit their heart of courage by confronting and redirecting the whiner's focus from his personal needs to what is preventing them from supporting the organization's goal. 

Leaders engage whiners by asking them for solutions. Whiners don't want solutions, but leaders force the focus to stay on solutions. Leaders engage by keeping the focus on improvement. 

Leaders shut down whining when it is detrimental the organization. A whiner's behavior must be challenged, and expectations challenge whiners to get their behavior in check. 

Specific Feedback 
Leaders identify when whiners truly don't know what to do and give them specific feedback to help them move toward viable solutions. 

Leaders understand that whiners ultimately lack emotional stability, and they regularly encourage whiners through personal attention and regular conversations.   Leaders also know that they can accelerate whiners with each positive interaction.

Whiners are easy to avoid, but the greatest leaders realize that whiners are the missing link to the organization's success.  They know that avoiding whiners impacts the organization negatively as whiners can eventually make the culture toxic. Since whiners are the missing link in the chain of systemic improvement, winning them over is a necessary action that ultimately strengthens the system as a whole. 

Giving Thanks for Horrible People

In life we come across some pretty awful people. They have made our lives miserable.  They have tested our intestinal fortitude and even brought us to our knees. Regardless of how bad they have affected us, we shouldn't wish we never discovered them.  We instead need to be thankful that they were placed in our pathway and here is why.

The Wolf
We have all encountered her. She is usually wearing sheep's clothing. She makes us feel comfortable, and then out of nowhere she attacks us. Thank you for showing us how manipulation actually works.

The Yeller
He comes in using the power of uncontrolled volume to get what he wants. Yelling and screaming, he intimidates and forces people to cower as he attempts to get his way Thank you for teaching us how to stand firm in the face of unbridled lunacy. 

The Liar
She makes others believe complete falsehoods about you in an effort to turn people against you. Thank you for reminding us the importance of living life in a transparent fashion that is impenetrable by rumors.  

The Fake Face
This one smiles in your face while he tells you what you want to hear.  As soon as he leaves you, your good name and work are talked about negatively to others. Thank you for teaching us that lip service is of no service at all. 

The Negative Naysayer
"Nothing is possible" is the mantra of this person. Always dragging us down, the negative one kills dreams with the very sound of his voice. Thank you for instilling in us the valuable skill of ignoring our skeptics and critics.

Horrible People Help

There's no doubt. Horrible people ruin our days, but they don't have to ruin our lives. They are selfish and insecure people that don't want to see anyone exceed their own current lot in life. Instead of wishing they never entered our lives, we should be thankful for them. If it weren't for them, we would never have grown this far.  

Happy Thanksgiving

Friday, November 8, 2013

The MEAT of a TEAM

Teams excel, and teams fail.  Some teams thrive, while others struggle to survive.  Some are led by talented individuals, and then there are teams who fall apart because the talented one makes himself the focus.

We have been conditioned to believe that 'there is no I in team' and 'teamwork makes the dream work'.  To be honest with you, I believe in these statements, but I want to challenge you to look at your ideas about team a little closer.  The strength of a team is found in its meat.  If there is no meat, there is no muscle.  If there is no muscle, teams can't accomplish meaningful goals.  You can't have a TEAM without MEAT.

What builds the MEAT of a TEAM?


Without a unified purpose, teams easily lose focus.  With each selfish word or selfish behavior, teams disintegrate.  The most effective teams have a goal, and they let nothing deter them from achieving the goal.


The most successful teams are focused only on actions that guarantee results.  They show discipline by not allowing unhealthy behaviors to manifest themselves in the work of the team.


If a team expects to win, every member must own a piece of the plan.  Ownership in power teams is shared by all, and leadership is dispersed based on the need of the team and the expertise of the members.


What gets celebrated gets accelerated.  Thriving teams have members who encourage one another and who celebrate each improvement.  


Teams that excel hold themselves accountable to high expectations.  When they come together, they have a purpose, and they generate meaningful products that achieve results.  Team members set expectations for their work behaviors and the caliber of quality work necessary from every member.


Members of a powerful team depend on one another.  No one person can win for the team; therefore, meaningful interactions between all teammates and dependence on one another occurs constantly. 

No Excuses

Excuses are the stumbling blocks to progress.  That is why the best teams don't allow them to be a part of their work.  When words like can't, don't and won't begin to surface, high performing teams ignore them and look for possible options.

Teams need Protein

Protein is essential to build strength and muscle mass.  Teams gain strength through the exercise of their daily actions and interactions.  They become more successful with each selfless act and less effective with each selfish decision.  In the end, teams win when they are Motivated, Engaged, Accountable, and Tethered together.  These are the things that bind and ultimately endure.

Vince Lombardi, one of the best coaches of all time, said the following about teams:
  • "People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society."
  • “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
What do you do to build the meat within your team?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Collecting Thanksgiving Data

This month, we give thanks. For centuries this long-standing tradition encourages us to pause and reflect on the many blessings that often we take for granted. On social media, many post their thanks each day for all the world to see, and it has a positive affect on those who read them. 

But in the workplace do we give thanks? Are we truly thankful for the people who contribute and support us in our career. At work, we spend half of our waking hours interacting with the same people everyday. We take our colleagues for granted, and we come to expect them to be there when troubles in our work arrive. But are we truly thankful for the people that affect our work and more importantly our lives?  We collect data on our product, but do we collect data on our appreciation for our coworkers?

This month, our art teachers created Tom the Turkey and placed him on the front whiteboard in the office where we often display data or schedules. This month, we will be promoting a different type of data, Thanksgiving data. We challenged the staff to give thanks for the people who affect them the most. 

It's pretty simple. You take a feather and write a word of thanks for a fellow employee on campus.  It can be someone you work closely with or someone that brightens up your day. Then you place the feather on the board. 

The hope is that by Thanksgiving break, Tom's plumage will completely develop and fill up the whiteboard. We also hope that the kind words from everyone in the building will reinvigorate spirits and remind everyone why we are here and how important each member of the staff is in our school. 

If every staff member truly matters in the success of the organization, then is your organization collectively giving thanks for each one of them?