The Field We Love Playing On

May 13, 2018 at 11:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi

The quote above has stayed closely with me ever since I first heard it many years ago. It’s a theme that I strive to personally embody (imperfectly) and professionally foster (again imperfectly) each and every day. Our individual and shared journeys of potential can at times feel littered by judgement and competition (a combination of our own and others). Whether that judgement and competition is real, perceived or feels embedded and immovable, it’s presence can have a significant impact on our ability to lead and make a difference in our own and others lives.

“Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” – Virginia Burden

Cooperative advantage for us is how we change the game. Unpacking, fostering and leveraging it within our own and others lives opens up pathways to purposefully reconnect with the field we love playing on. Interconnectedness is our innate way of being as humans. It’s also how we most effectively bring leadership to life. This past week I got to witness another inspiring example of what’s possible when we consistently reflect on, practice and celebrate cooperative advantage within our spheres of influence.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry S Truman

The Year 6 students were completing their 9th L.E.A.D. with Me weekly session. The three classes have only got one more program day this week that will conclude this part of the program. The reason I say this part of the program is we are always committed to connection to meaningful action beyond all our program experiences, whether it’s through ongoing communication, reflection opportunities or the continued practice of the student’s developing skills, attitudes and behaviours. That’s why last week’s session was all about how do we bridge the gap, between where we are and where we can be.

“The real challenge is for each of us to determine where we feel we can make the most impact.” – Jay Samit

In a particular challenge two groups became one. They weren’t told to. They didn’t need to ask permission to. And they certainly weren’t looking for recognition from others for doing so. They just noticed, and then acted on, that the combination of people, resources and time would be so much more effective this way than trying to go it alone. It was powerful to watch. Especially because in the now bigger group no one needed to be in control. There were invitational questions, each group member was heard, everyone bought in, everyone played a role, and really importantly everyone celebrated the journey up to and post completion. It was cooperative advantage in action.

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilisation work.” – Vince Lombardi

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Which Question?

April 29, 2018 at 11:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I love asking questions. The potential responses they open up, the responses themselves and the subsequent questions inspired by those responses give me such a buzz. I tell this to participants all the time, I’m a full bodied learner. On many occasions the buzz created within me by questions and responses becomes visible so others can see it as well. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

“I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.” – Lou Holtz

About a month ago a friend and I spent the weekend on the Royal Coast Walk, camping overnight at the picturesque North Era. It was all up about 30km walking over the two days, so there was plenty of time for questions and responses. We had great conversations around a number of areas but it was one particular question I asked my friend that’s had me asking a lot of other people the same question since. ‘What is the most important or valuable question that you ask yourself or others each day?’

“We live in worlds our questions create.” – David Cooperrider

I loved his response. It was a work related one for him, with its perceived simplicity getting me hooked straight away. My friend shared the potential gateway his question opens up to so many positive, connection filled and empowering thoughts, words and actions for their students that can follow because of it. Within lives an invitation to get playful, curious and engage with self, others and the world around them. I love the power of questions.

“Questions are the engines of intellect – the cerebral machines that convert energy to motion, and curiosity into controlled inquiry.” – David Hackett Fischer

It’s been so much fun asking many people this question over the past month. There’s been such a variety of responses, and a million subsequent questions arising from those responses. There have been some similarities of course, but mainly it’s opened up for me a greater understanding of what uniquely makes each individual tick. It’s such a privilege to listen. So what would your response be? There’s no right or wrong, just an opportunity to reflect on what role questions play within your individual and shared journey of potential.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” – Albert Einstein

 

How Important is the Spirit of the Game?

April 23, 2018 at 5:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Listening to someone share their passion can be such a joy. Time can almost stand still in those moments as you get swept up in the depth of connection that person has to their particular interest. And when it’s also resonating with those around the person sharing, well that’s where great conversations, engagement and learning really live. One particular example of this from last week still has me buzzing.

“When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.” – Howard Schultz

The passion was Ultimate Frisbee. The person sharing was one inspiring 18 year old girl. As she spoke more and more questions began flying around from the group as we pulled apart and got playful with what had each of our curiosities piquing. One central theme had hooked me though. The deep respect for and intentional processes created to support embodying the Spirit of the Game. Whether it be before the game, within the game or after the game. To be honest, from what I was hearing it felt like it rippled right throughout a players life.

“Your opponent is your partner, not your enemy. Honor him and the game by giving him the respect of your best effort. Together, push each other to play the game as well as you can play it so that when it’s over, no matter who wins, both of you can be proud of the excellence your competition created.” – Matt Weiss, Shady Side Academy Boys Division II

No umpires or referees. Advisors strategically placed around the field who can be called on for their perspective if it’s required. The ability to in an empowering way make known when you feel possession has been impacted in a way that’s outside of the rules. Then the ability to in an empowering way challenge that call that’s been made against you. Processes that support the constructive and effective resolution to these calls or challenges. The list could go on and on. But then I heard about Spirit Captains and Spirit Time Outs and the game transformed. It reminded me of what true leadership looks, sounds and feels like.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

How often in sport, work, learning or our home environments do we feel ours or others thoughts, words or actions shift or slip away but we haven’t established the processes to purposefully pause, connect and realign to what’s most important? How often do we separate, isolate and exclude ourselves or others as we navigate the inevitable challenges, conflicts and misunderstandings that have to be navigated? How often do we feel that we’d love to be able to live up to our individual and shared code (values that guide our purposeful thoughts, words and actions that allow us to make a difference in our own and others lives) but winning has got to take precedent as that’s what success is? So many thoughts came to mind as I listened and asked questions last week, and subsequently have pondered it since.

“The real goal of what we’re doing is to have a positive impact on the world.” – Ed Catmull

I loved that there were Spirit Captains. Leaders who not only can make a difference within their own team when it comes to embodying the Spirit of the Game, but also when interacting with the other team’s Spirit Captain when a Spirit Time Out is called. I loved that when a Spirit Time Out is called both teams circle up in the middle of the field when the conversation is being had. Not one team on each side of the circle, instead all players intentionally intermixed to represent what they know to be true. I loved the emphasis on the Spirit of the Game. They’ve worked out their why, and it’s definitely bigger than winning and losing. Nothing is perfect, that’s for sure, but there was plenty to love from what I was listening to last week.

“Leaders have three fundamental responsibilities: They craft a vision, they build alignment, and they champion execution.” – The Work of Leaders

 

Leaders are Readers

March 26, 2018 at 6:47 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This past week I found myself again immersed in a thought provoking book. The book in question had been a recommendation from a friend. As I sent multiple text messages throughout the week reflecting on what I was reading and thanking him for the loan, I then received an email from an Assistant Principal within one of our client schools. It read, ‘I wanted to say thanks for suggesting reading that book. I read it over the weekend and couldn’t put it down!’

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” – Harry S. Truman

I love conversations that turn into book recommendations. They’re opportunities to be inspired, challenged and changed by the learning that lives within its pages. Not every book will grab you the way I and the Assistant Principal felt this past week. But each book we chose (or chooses us) has the potential to open us up to another way of being in the world. The funny thing is I haven’t actually read yet the book that I recommended to this Assistant Principal. I’d heard about it in a podcast and told him that, but I can’t wait to get to it over the coming weeks.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

I’m a serial highlighter in the books that I read. Because last weeks book was a loaner though I reverted to taking notes as I read instead. I found myself busily writing as there were many things that jumped out at me within the pages of ‘Utopia for Realists’ (written by Rutger Bregman). There’s one particular quote though I’ve found myself coming back to each day as I reflect on this book. In sharing an example of a pilot program that was happening in London Rutger Bregman provided a quote from an Aid Worker involved, ‘It’s quite hard to change overnight the way you’ve always approached this problem. These pilots give us the opportunity to talk differently, think differently, describe the problem differently…’

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” – Margaret Fuller

This might just be what books do for leaders as well. We are all navigating lenses that are clouded by our own experiences, biases, etc. When we are able to lose ourselves in another persons perspective, research or storytelling we get the opportunity to as I mentioned earlier be inspired, challenged and changed by the learning that lives within its pages. What are you reading at the moment? And what books would you recommend to others?

“The best leaders are the most dedicated learners. Read great books daily.” – Robin Sharma

Planting Seeds

November 13, 2017 at 3:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It’s spring time here in Australia and the gardens are blooming. I love this season, warmer weather, being back in the ocean and of course the incredibly beautiful flowers, plants and trees that are in full bloom. It’s had me thinking though about the journey through the various seasons to get to this point. Seeds need to have been planted and tendered to if we want to reap the benefits when it’s finally time for them to blossom.

“Leadership’s not a title. It’s a behaviour. Live it.” – Robin Sharma

I love how we’re able to plant seeds right throughout our program experiences and within our ongoing communication with our client schools. There’s nothing like the feeling of creating fertile soil as participants open up to the key messages and themes that are explored within the day. You can see it in their eyes, body language and engagement, when something resonates deeply there’s a physical response. One such example in the last few weeks or so has reminded me why we’re so passionate about the development of leadership potential in Primary Schools. What a privilege being on this journey is.

“Leadership is about the decisions you make, and the actions you take each day. The world is waiting. Leadership is a choice – and it starts with you.” – Alyse Nelson

It was the end of a great day with 113 Year 5 students. I’d been so impressed with their engagement, depth of thinking and contributions right throughout the program. As the students began moving back to their classes at the end of the day a few came up to me to shake my hand and say thanks. I was incredibly grateful for all their reflections but it was the final boy who had hung around who really humbled me with his heartfelt remarks. He said, ‘I just want to say thank you because before you came I thought leadership wasn’t for me, now I want to put my hand up and lead’.

“Recognise that every interaction you have is an opportunity to make positive impact on others.” – Shep Hyken

Wow, I could tell this had taken a lot of courage for him to come up to me like this and share his reflection. I was so humbled and thanked him for that, as well as his efforts throughout the day and the difference he’ll be apart of making as a leader. How often do we get trapped into thinking that something isn’t for us because of a perceived lacking (a particular skill, attitude or behaviour), rather than owning that a leader uses their daily thoughts, words and actions in purposeful ways to create ripples (e.g. not just standing on a stage giving a speech at assembly because you’re wearing a leaders badge). When we embrace and make real anything it comes to life, and the energy that’s created throughout that process will inevitably be felt by others.

“When I found my why, I found my way. When I found my way, I found my wings.”

We don’t need to be elected to be a leader. Leadership isn’t a badge or position. As the John C. Maxwell quote suggests, ‘It is about one life influencing another’. I really am so privileged to be surrounded by so many inspiring leaders each and every day.

It’s Not About Arriving

October 30, 2017 at 7:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I can’t believe that we are almost at the end of our year long leadership program for young adults within SCARF here in the Illawarra (Strategic Community Assistance for Refugee Families). What a ride it’s been, and such a privilege to spend time with incredibly inspiring difference makers each month. We’ve had the opportunity to pull apart what leadership is, and then over the months develop transferable skills, attitudes and behaviours that will assist us all along our journeys. Saturday’s session was definitely no different, but with an added bonus thrown in.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.” John C. Maxwell

We were delighted when we heard that Manal Younus (http://www.manalyounuspoetry.com) would be in Wollongong and joining us within our Let’s L.E.A.D. session on Saturday. She was a special guest for SCARF’s major fundraiser over the weekend (Art for Refugees) and graciously made time to join in on our learning and also share her gifts and talents as well. I love spoken word poetry, and Manal is so talented in it. Our whole group was transfixed as she shared a few of her pieces of work at the end of the session and then created a discussion that supported the learning and leadership journeys that we’re all on.

“Spoken word poetry is the art of performance poetry. I tell people it involves creating poetry that doesn’t just want to sit on paper, that something about it demands it be heard out loud or witnessed in person.” – Sarah Kay

One line in particular from the first poem Manal shared really resonated deeply with me. I couldn’t, and still can’t, get it out of my head. It comes from the poem linked in the YouTube clip above from her first ever National Poetry Slam entry a few years ago. The line is ‘… and prefer to be in planes that are taking off than ones that are just landing’. It couldn’t have come at a better time as I’m thinking about this idea of ‘the end’ of this year long leadership program. Leadership, and this process, is definitely not about arriving.

“Real leadership is less about seeking applause and rewards and more about doing the best work you’ve ever done and having an impact you’ve never imagined.” – Robin Sharma

Each moment is a new opportunity to take off. Each moment is a new opportunity to learn. And most importantly, each moment is a new opportunity to contribute. We’re not reaching ‘the end’ of our year long leadership program because that’s not what leadership is about. I can’t wait to continue being a support to, and being supported by, these incredible difference makers. As leaders do!

A Piece of the Puzzle

October 23, 2017 at 4:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It’s such a privilege to be a piece of the puzzle within so many educational journeys. As I’ve written before, we understand the amazing commitment schools and educators have for the welfare and educational opportunities offered to their students as they progress through their school years. Education is a complex and interdependent journey, with many important pieces of a puzzle supporting students, staff and school communities to achieve the best outcomes for each individual. It’s so humbling to be reminded of the positive impact we are apart of creating as we explore the possibilities, discover potential and act authentically, together.

“An extremely important and beneficial program for all students in Year 5, 6 and beyond. Our Year 5 students were fully engaged in every session and couldn’t wait for the next Friday! Cameron is an enthusiastic, positive, approachable and kids relatable presenter. The success of this program is attributed to him and his interactions with our Year 5 students! Thank you Cameron.” – Year 5 Teacher at one of our client schools

The feedback above came from one of our client schools at the end of last term. We were so humbled by the beautiful words that the organising teacher left us with on that final Friday. The 80 Year 5 students we got to work with were incredible. I can’t wait to hear about the ripples they create as leaders of their school community next year. More importantly though, I can’t wait to hear about the ripples they create as positive difference makers each and every day as leaders (not needing to wait for a badge or to be the eldest in the school to be called a leader).

“I haven’t had this class for quite a while, the changes are just incredible.” – Comment from a Casual Teacher who was present within a program experience last week

Our new L.E.A.D. with Me Program is providing us with the opportunity to have ongoing contact with a cohort over a longer period of time. Each class completes sequential weekly sessions of 90 minutes in length over the course of a term. The comment from the Casual Teacher above came last week as we worked with the Year 4 group for the 8th of 10 sessions. The growth and development within the 3 classes has been fantastic, and it’s so humbling to not only have this noticed and reported back by their classroom teachers, but also by others within the school community.

“Absolutely fantastic and worthwhile day…. This will give all teachers at our school leadership techniques to inform their students. Thank you!” – Year 5 Teacher at one of our client schools

Something that we love about our program experiences is that learning is not just for students. We are constantly learning from the wisdom and contributions of the participants, but also the teachers are constantly learning as well. What we’re most passionate about is meaningful connection to action beyond the program day. And for that to happen we know that the teachers play a really important role. It’s so humbling to receive feedback like the one above from a new client school last week who’ll have teachers within the school creating new leadership ripples after those who were apart of the experience share with other teachers as well.

“One of the Year 5 parents I was speaking to was wondering whether you offered any small group outside of school programs?” – Email question from a Principal last week after beginning an ongoing L.E.A.D. with Me Program

We love hearing from school communities about how much students share with home about their experiences. It’s great to know that the participants want to pass on information about what they loved, what they learnt and what happens now. We were also really humbled by the email enquiry above we received last week looking at ways we can further support the learning and leadership journeys of students within our programs. It’s an exciting development that we’re looking into as we journey towards our vision of ‘informed, connected and empowered individuals believing deeply in their own and others potential’. Thank you to all those we have the privilege of sharing this journey with.

Brought to Tears

August 21, 2017 at 6:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As I looked around at the school’s staff members in the room they were all welling up. We were closing in on the end of the half day program experience that I was facilitating and one of the Stage 2 boys had just shared a connection. This last big challenge they were undertaking was very playful and had the students moving right around the open space. I had just brought all the participants back in to reflect before they’d have some more time to experiment and play.

“Teaching is more than imparting knowledge, it is inspiring change. Learning is more than absorbing facts, it is acquiring understanding.” – William Arthur Ward

‘You wouldn’t believe how far we’ve come with him’, is what some of the teachers and support staff emotionally shared after. His connection was to do with his challenges of being very sensitive, but through support he has become more comfortable over time with being him and completing his learning. The boy had been so engaged throughout the whole session, contributing significantly through his thoughts, words and actions. This honest reflection though had brought these educators to the brink of tears.

“When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts.” – Dalai Lama

Like all of our client schools, we believe strongly in the potential of each of the individuals in their care. We understand the amazing commitment schools and educators have for the welfare and educational opportunities offered to their students as they progress through their school years. Education is a complex and interdependent journey, with many important pieces of a puzzle supporting students, staff and school communities to achieve the best outcomes for each individual. It is a privilege to be able to support and enrich the learning, social and emotional growth and development, and leadership journeys of all the participants that we’re lucky enough to work with.

“Education is transformational. It changes lives.” – Condoleezza Rice

Thank you to all the passionate educators out there who are making such a difference in the lives of students each and every day. It definitely isn’t a sprint, but your ongoing efforts, in diverse and challenging environments, really is transformational. We’d all remember important ‘teachers’ in our own journeys of potential. Those individuals who believed in us (even when maybe we didn’t believe in ourselves), challenged us (even when maybe we didn’t want to be challenged) and walked beside us as we together explored the possibilities, discovered potential and acted authentically. I consider myself very fortunate to be living the saying, ‘It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together’. And more importantly, getting to share it with such inspiring students, staff and school communities.

“Change is the end result of all true learning.” – Leo Buscaglia

Mind the Gap

July 17, 2017 at 3:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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With school going back this week after the winter break we are excitedly getting ready to engage, challenge and inspire again. A break is always a good time to recharge the batteries, but it’s also a great time to see what comes up creatively as well. I had many inspiring interactions and conversations during the past two weeks, with one theme in particular coming up a lot as I now reflect. The theme had a lot to do with a certain phrase that I fondly remember hearing in the early 2000’s as I got on and off the tube while living and teaching in London.

“The greatest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing.” – John Maxwell

The message is iconic, and oh so politely delivered. ‘Mind the gap’ can be heard ringing out right across the tube network of stations as trains roll in and out. It’s also purposeful. Even though we as individuals and groups know that the train and platform don’t line up completely (if we’ve walked on or off a train before), if we’re not being mindful in the moment then a missed step can occur. We can’t ever eliminate risk. But if we are to take full advantage of the opportunities to be ripple makers in our own and others lives then not being ‘stuck between the train and the platform’ might make it easier for us to act.

“I am participating in the evolution of inspired action.” – Steve Maraboli

So as we at Explore Discover Act prepare to assist in the development of leadership potential within our client schools again this term, we will also again prepare to ‘Mind the Gap’. Our own. As well as empowering those we have the pleasure of supporting to do the same. The gap will always be there. The challenge then is in how we choose to navigate it (both as individual and groups). We’re just so grateful to be on this journey with all the inspiring students, teachers and school communities who courageously are choosing to explore the possibilities, discover potential and act authentically with us.

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” – Thomas Jefferson

Embrace

June 19, 2017 at 7:24 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Last Friday night I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of an art show for ASPECT (Autism Spectrum Australia) here in the Illawarra. It was a night filled with great people, great art and great opportunities to support the amazing work being done in ASPECT’s educational settings. There were so many conversations, ideas and goings-on that had me inspired. But it was the speech by one of the featured artists that moved me most.

“Embrace what you were born with because it’s beautiful.” – Shay Mitchell

Cassandra Kavanagh is an incredibly passionate speaker. She’s also an incredibly talented artist. Her presence filled the room as she spoke from the heart about her own personal journey navigating life on the spectrum. It’s such a privilege when people let you in in this way. As we courageously and appropriately share parts of our lightness and darkness with others we can positively impact our own and others lives.

“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.” – Iyanla Vanzant

What I loved most during Cassandra’s speech was when she spoke about one of her wishes for our world. It involved that we don’t choose tolerate when it comes to difference. Instead we as individuals and groups choose embrace. I wholeheartedly agreed with Cassandra’s observations. The magic definitely happens within our homes, schools, workplaces and communities when our thoughts, words and action are wrapped up in genuine, caring and supportive embraces.

“We must not only tolerate others, but positively embrace them…” – Swami Vivekananda

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