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.

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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

The Heart of Leadership

March 13, 2017 at 6:30 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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“Compassion is a verb.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

I absolutely loved this video above when I watched it last week. It made me stop. It made me think. It made me feel. And then most importantly it moved me into action. All week since I first watched it I’ve been hyper aware of the role of compassion in leadership. I think it lies right at it’s heart.

“True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it.” – Daniel Goleman

We’re all navigating complex and challenging journeys of potential. Some of that complexity and those challenges are visible for all to see. Some of that complexity and those challenges are shared with only those closest. While some of that complexity and those challenges are kept within. No one in our global village gets a free ride. So how we grow our awareness around, foster and practice compassion towards self, and then let it ripple out to those within our spheres of influence is so important.

“The best leaders blend courage with compassion.” – Robin Sharma

Leadership is purposeful. And that purpose comes to life when we use our thoughts, words and actions to make a difference in our own and others lives. It’s vulnerable to put yourself out there like that though. To notice. To care. And then have the courage to act from that heart space. It’s in the ongoing micro moments, day after day, week after week, month after month, that we’re able to embody the quote, ‘leadership is action, not position’. That’s where the magic happens.

“Compassion is the ultimate expression of your highest self.” – Russell Simmons

What connects with your highest self when you watch this short video? How do you want others to feel after you’ve interacted with them? What daily thoughts, words and actions might require courage if we are to lead but create the types of ripples that help ourselves and others to ‘be the change’? What do you believe is at the heart of leadership?

“Compassion doesn’t weaken leadership, it makes it stronger.” – Rudy Giuliani

What Happens Next…

February 13, 2017 at 5:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I often express our belief that leadership is a shared endeavour, not a solo sport, to the participants we support. As the lens is widened to the difference we can make, instead of just focussing in on the position might take, a diversity of opportunities to engage, challenge and inspire are opened up (both for us individually and collectively). Our learning and leadership environments play a big part in our growth and development as well. This is why environments like the one I walked into on Thursday excite me so much. It has a lot to do with the quote below.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

At the beginning of each year a large group of schools in a particular area of Sydney send their school leaders away for 3 days. Amazingly dedicated teachers organise a diverse and meaningful program at the camp that empowers and strives to set up for success the Year 6 students for the year ahead. They’re interested in action, what happens next, but most importantly they’re interested in also creating support networks around these leaders so that they can confidently stretch, grow and contribute within their home school environments. I love having the opportunity to facilitate two half day sessions amongst the incredible schedule they’ve created.

“The role of leaders is not to get other people to follow them but to empower others to lead.” – Bill George

The sessions were such a pleasure. Watching, listening to and sharing amongst these student leaders had my inspiration meter peaking. But what happened next tipped me over the edge. It was the final circle of the day. 80 students invited to finish the session as it should be, in their hands. How they did this, what it looked, sounded and felt like, and what was shared was up to them. I stepped out and was privileged, along with the teachers present in the room, to be apart of something special.

“The task of leadership is not to put passion into people, but to inspire and elicit it, for the passion is already there.” – Ty Howard

Moderation, if required, was a shared responsibility. Inclusiveness and contribution were celebrated. When one girl stumbled sharing a quote she thought was important, the next to share compassionately related her reflection to without mistakes we can’t ever get to success. It was dynamic. It was authentic. And most importantly it reminded us all of what’s possible when we hold space for, foster and then embody the vision of ‘informed, connected and empowered individuals believing deeply in their own and others potential’. What happens next is absolutely in their hands. I can’t wait to hear about the ripples that are created as each student explores the possibilities, discovers potential and acts authentically each and every day.

Seasonal Reminders

November 14, 2016 at 7:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” – George Santayana

I’m very lucky that I get to see many participant cohorts on multiple occasions within a year. Some client schools I am even lucky enough to work with students right throughout their Primary School journey. It really is inspiring to be a piece of the educational puzzle within the growth and development of these incredible individuals and groups. It’s just funny though that the tree pictured above got me reflecting on this privilege last week. It jumped out at me as I walked through a school courtyard.

“Embrace the current season of your life.” – Gabrielle Blair

It’s leaves were back; so full and vibrant. This was such a contrast to last noticing this tree a few months ago when its branches were so bare and stark. I love seasonal reminders like this one. It’s like a jolt caused by noticing a variation of colour, temperature, loss, growth, or any number of other changes that are always happening. Whether we notice or not doesn’t mean that the subtle or obvious isn’t there. The act of noticing though can definitely assist us as we embrace the present moment without attaching a lens of needing permanence, as the quote above suggests.

“Each moment of the year has its own beauty.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As we enter this final ‘season’ of the current school year I love talking to teachers about all the connection, growth and learning that’s taken place this year. Their pride in their students authentic progress shows up in stories of the ups and downs, sweat and tears, and courageous daily thoughts, words and actions that makes up learning journeys like those occuring in the wholeness of a full year. Schools can be such busy places, with such diverse and complex needs being catered for and navigated, so creating space and time for noticing through reflection, celebration and appreciation can be so important.

“Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.” -Elizabeth Lawrence

Diversity of Needs

August 22, 2016 at 7:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We as humans are definitely not robots or clones. It’s why our program experiences and the ongoing communication that follows fosters exploring the possibilities, discovering potential and acting authentically. This purposeful mission flows from our deep belief in the potential of each individual. Any cohort of participants that we work with obviously is going to contain a diversity of needs. This is something that we really value. We want to meet each of the students (individually and collectively) where they are. Then from this place strive to engage, challenge and inspire, so we can most effectively and holistically support their learning and leadership journey.

“Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day.” —  Author Unknown

A few weeks ago a Year 3 teacher wrote on their feedback form, ‘Children actively engaged throughout. Special needs students catered to expertly’. Then last week we received from a Year 4 teacher, ‘Cameron is a gifted teacher who inspires all those around him to be better people. The children had a marvellous experience’. These examples of the feedback we receive give us a chance to be reminded of some of the amazing students we have the privilege to support. Each participant has an important, valuable and authentic contribution to add within a program day. Each participant also shows us, and all those around them during the day, that we all have a diversity of needs, gifts and talents, that we are all in this together and we are all capable of making a difference in our own and others lives.

“We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity life would be very boring.” — Catherine Pulsifer

First to come to mind as I reflect is one of the children from the program day referred to by the Year 3 teacher above. A boy, who through being positively supported by his teacher, me as the facilitator and his peers, thrived within the program experience. As I observed where he started the day (inside the hall but behind a wall on some stairs with the teacher beside him), to where he transitioned to (his curiosity leading him to begin to engage with me, the space and other students from a chair now in the program area), to where he ended up as the day progressed (fully engaged and contributing within the program), left I and the teacher involved feeling completely energised. It really is a privilege to be given a glimpse into the complexities that make up a students journey of potential. I’m always left feeling grateful, humbled and inspired.

“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” — Max de Pree

Next to come to mind is a boy from the program day described above by the Year 4 teacher. It had similarities but also differences to the one described in the last paragraph. The main difference being his expressing to me the journey that the experience provided for him. As we neared the end of the half day program he explained that he was hesitant in the beginning, enjoyed different parts from then on and now wished he could keep working with me for the full day. I sincerely thanked him for everything that he’d brought to the group (in particular some insightful language choices during our final reflection), enthusiastically explained that we’d have the chance to work together again next year when he was in Year 4, as well as the opportunity of full day programs the following two years when he is Year 5 and 6. I look forward to again being left feeling grateful, humbled and inspired by his, as well as each of his peers, thoughts, words and actions in the coming years.

“For success, attitude is equally as important as ability.” – Walter Scott

Lastly is a boy who completely and utterly floored me with his important, valuable and authentic contribution to a program last week. This boy has profound hearing and language challenges but that diversity of needs definitely did not have any bearing on his attitude or involvement throughout. Whilst completing one of my favourite design and make challenges he kept enthusiastically showing and explaining to me what he and his partner were doing (because of his hearing and language challenges I wasn’t able to verbally comprehend but I could definitely feel it and conceptually comprehend). Then what absolutely left me feeling grateful, humbled and inspired was when his hand shot up during our group reflection afterwards. He confidently rose from his seated position and with such passion shared his thoughts (again because of his hearing and language challenges I and the group wasn’t able to verbally comprehend but I and the group could definitely feel it and conceptually comprehend). What a gift it is to be surrounded by such diverse, unique and authentic individuals each and every program day!

“A lot of different flowers make a bouquet.” — Muslim saying

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