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

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The Most Challenging Part

March 19, 2018 at 4:37 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I love and am constantly inspired by the honesty of the participants within our program experiences. They’re always reminding us why courage is so important within our individual and shared journeys of potential. As the quote below so eloquently shares, if we are to practice the purposeful skills, attitudes and behaviours of leadership (honesty, kindness, love, acceptance, compassion, etc.), then courage will definitely play a pivotal role. This is especially true if we’re interested in really bringing leadership to life, embodying it within our daily thoughts, words and actions.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” – Maya Angelou

Honesty involves the yin and the yang though. How often can we get caught up in only wanting to explore the positive side of something? This is why we purposefully embrace, get playful with and practice a variety of ways we can navigate the challenges that leadership presents within the experiences we facilitate. We want to be honest about the full spectrum of what’s involved in making a difference. Without taking appropriate risks and then learning from the successes and failures that will inevitably happen we’re not going to be able to most effectively be the change we wish to see.

“If you want to make everybody happy, don’t be a leader. Sell ice cream.” – Steve Jobs

It’s also why a particular question we pose and the responses we get during a program day always open up such interesting discussions (What is the most challenging part of leadership?). The other week a Year 6 boy’s answer to this really showed his depth of understanding and the courage associated with purposefully choosing to lead. He came up to me during the reflection and said, ‘Can I tell you what I wrote for that one?’, pointing at the piece of butchers paper where the question was written. With wisdom he then shared, ‘That some of the decisions that we’ll have to make as leaders won’t make everyone happy’. Absolutely I thought as I processed what he’d said, before we opened up a conversation around his thoughts.

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.” – Stephen Covey

As leaders we’re all about creating ripples. Some of the choices we’ll make though will challenge, confront, take out of their comfort zone, etc. others within our spheres of influence. As leaders we’re mindful of not intentionally using our thoughts, words and actions to negatively impact these people. Instead we’re prepared to stay aligned for long enough to navigate our own and others feelings of uncomfortableness and vulnerability because we’ve taken the time to work out what’s most important (individual and shared values). It’s not easy, but it’s how we really bring about change.

“Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.” – Chinese Proverb

A Year 6 girls honest response last week really got to me as well. She said, ‘But how will we know it’s the right way?’ It was another one of those deep breath moments, the juiciness and depth that I love when facilitating. It’s only through courageous practice that we’ll work that out though. We’re all very human and will doubt, second guess and question right throughout our lives. But as leaders we’ll also have the courage to consistently practice what’s most important (individual and shared values), knowing that our thoughts, words and actions matter, as we respond within the challenges that we’ll navigate. It’s definitely a journey, not a destination.

“… What I can do is offer myself, wholehearted and present, to walk with the people I love through the fear and the mess. That’s all any of us can do. That’s what we’re here for.” – Shauna Niequist

Our Leadership Muscle

March 12, 2018 at 12:05 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Leadership is like a muscle, it has to be worked if we want to be able to build up, maintain and have access to its purposeful skills, attitudes and behaviours throughout our journeys of potential. This takes effort, practice and consistency though, just like regularly going to the gym to develop any of the muscles that are in our bodies. This is why I was left feeling so humbled and inspired by a particular reflection from a Year 6 participant last Thursday. What she shared at the end of her classes L.E.A.D. with Me Program session summed up so beautifully our hopes for all the students we have the privilege to support.

“People tend to believe that practice makes perfect. I however believe practice makes progress. There is no perfection but there is progress.” – Unknown

It was week 2 of 10 with the cohort’s three classes (each class completes a 90 minute session per week). She hadn’t been at the first session the week before so this was her first time participating within the various games, challenges and reflections that we use. From the beginning she’d shown a willingness to share her thoughts, but during the first half of the session she seemed to be very aware of the potential reactions of others as she spoke. She soon realised this was a safe space to dig deeper and was very open about the successes and challenges she and others were navigating. Our final reflection had just finished, I’m just about to pass the students back to their teacher, then her hand shot up one last time. “I feel like we’re going to be stronger at the end of this program”.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” – Art Williams

We know that leadership is a verb, not a noun. It’s why we use, ‘Leadership is action, not position’ (Donald H. McGannon) as the quote that underpins our leadership development programs. We’re in the leadership muscle building industry. We love hearing all about the different ways that participants go on to use their developing leadership potential to make a difference in their own and others lives. The Year 6 girls remark last Thursday reminded me of another L.E.A.D. with Me Program participant’s reflection at the end of the 10 weeks last year. When asked to describe in what ways she felt she’d most grown and developed throughout the L.E.A.D. with Me Program, she wrote; ‘Confident and I feel so much nicer now… Don’t exactly know why’. We know why, she put in effort, practice and consistency to build up her leadership muscles.

“Earn your leadership every day.” – Michael Jordan

Leadership is a journey, not a destination. It’s also not a competition to see who has the ‘biggest’ leadership muscles. It’s an invitation open to us all to own that our thoughts, words and actions matter, and when we purposefully use them we have the potential to make a difference for self, others and the world around us. But as the quote above explains, it’s an every day thing. We’re so fortunate to be walking this path alongside such inspiring students and their teachers. Participants who are open to, honest within and most importantly courageously take on practicing the skills, attitudes and behaviours that leaders have access to. What a journey it is!

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.” – Stephen Covey

Our Commitment

March 5, 2018 at 6:37 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We’re called Explore Discover Act. Not Explore Discover Stop. So the commitment that comes along with this is to open up for our clients and the participants we work with meaningful connection to action beyond our program experiences. This is what excites and inspires us most. How individuals and groups use their learning and their developing leadership potential to make a difference in their own and others lives.

“Just as a pole vaulter uses a pole to catapult themselves over a horizontal bar, learning can propel an individual forward and upward.” – Emma Weber

Last week I had a conversation with a participant who completed our 10 week L.E.A.D. with Me Program last year in Year 4 that reminded me of this process. I was at the school again to work with their Year 6 students now over the coming 10 weeks. So many of the Year 5’s (the cohort I worked with last year) came running up to me at various times throughout the day to say hi and chat about what’s been happening since the last time I saw them. One particular boy’s comments really jumped out to me though.

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” – Dr. Denis Waitley

As we spoke I asked him who his new teacher was this year. Then on hearing his answer I enquired whether he had a lot of his friends from last years class in with him again this year. His response was so inspiring. He quickly said, ‘Remember what we kept saying last year about stepping out of your comfort zone and connecting with different people, well I’ve made so many new friends because I’m in with so many new people this year’. The practice he’d been developing was now a practice that is being used.

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” – John Holt

This is why experiential learning is our vehicle of choice as we deliver programs. We want to give the participants the opportunity to learn by doing, with reflection. It’s also why we provide ongoing communication to our clients. We want to give the participants the opportunity to continue building their leadership potential even after we’re gone. But most importantly though, it’s why we so passionately deliver the experiences that we have the privilege of facilitating. We want to give the participants the opportunity to be engaged, challenged and inspired as we and they explore the possibilities, discover potential and act authentically.

“Thought and learning are of small value unless translated into action.” – Wang Yangming

Thank you to all the leaders we have the pleasure of supporting who remind us daily what it means to courageously use your thoughts, words and actions to make a difference in our own and others lives!

Probortunity

February 26, 2018 at 6:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I love learning new things. Especially when it’s as simple as a word, phrase or quote that has the potential to act as an anchor for myself or others as we navigate our learning and leadership journeys. This past week I was gifted a good one. A Stage 3 teacher enthusiastically chose to share it during one of our reflections around embracing challenge.

“Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.” – Richard Bach

‘We use a particular word for what you’re describing in our classrooms’, he responded, ‘probortunity’. He, like the students in the group, were making connections from their experience to the various learning environments that they’ll continue navigating beyond the program. I loved the words reframing application straight away. What’s the probortunity? Shifts my focus instantly.

“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein

As the saying explains, ‘where attention goes, energy flows’. We’d all have experienced becoming fixated on the things we can’t control. That quicksand feeling, sinking deeper and deeper into the perceived problem that’s in front of us. But what’s the opportunity that lies within the situation, interaction, etc.? Now that opening up to possibility has a different feeling completely!

“Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together.” – Robert Redford

One new word definitely doesn’t fix everything, that’s for sure. But luckily we as leaders are more interested in building anyway. So this new word could become part of a practice, like the students and teachers have done at our client school last week. A helpful way of navigating the inevitable ups and downs that we all encounter each and every day. Because our thoughts, words and actions do matter!

“Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

An Attitude of Gratitude

February 19, 2018 at 6:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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The groups I get to facilitate for constantly amaze me. Inspire me. Challenge me. Remind me. Motivate me. Empower me. Teach me. And above all else leave me feeling so grateful that I get to do what I do. Today’s group was definitely no different.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ― G.K. Chesterton

As I set up this morning in the hall of the client school I was working with I was enthusiastically greeted by one of the Year 6 students. She told me she’d been looking forward to today through these first few weeks of term, then she paused, actually, she said, she’d been looking forward to this day since the last time I worked with her. We discussed what she’d loved from their Stage 3 Leadership Day at the beginning of 2017, and also what she’d loved from when I worked with her Academically Gifted class at another school setting mid way through last year. But what she said next was the most important part to me.

“It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy!” – Unknown

‘This year I’m so excited to be a mentor, I get to help so many more people’. Her attitude of gratitude was continuing to open up opportunities for her to grow, develop and really importantly contribute. All three times that I’ve worked with her over the last year I’ve been so inspired by her embodiment of thankfulness. It was great to hear now how this student also plans to pay that thankfulness forwards to more and more people as she gets older. It’s hard to keep gratitude in when it so desperately wants to get out.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” ― A.A. Milne

One of our closing activities today focused on how there is so much that we can’t control within our learning and leadership journeys. Certain challenging cards can be dealt, but what we do with them is then up to us. An attitude of gratitude seems like the perfect companion for each of us on this journey. It keeps things in perspective and grounds our thoughts, words and actions in what we’re so fortunate to have, rather than any perceived lacking that we believe in that moment is missing. What are you grateful for today?

Greener Grass

February 5, 2018 at 6:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Ever get grass envy? It’s the middle of summer, your grass in the front or back yard has yellowed and sounds a bit crunchy to walk on. Then suddenly you notice Joe Blow’s lawn on the other side of the road and it looks incredible. ‘The grass is always greener on the other side,’ you guess. But then you remember, Joe spends a lot of time watering to keep it looking that way.

“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.”

The quote above is one that I reflect on regularly. We all can get distracted with what our minds tell us might, could or should be, but how long do we choose to stay in these sets of thoughts? One of my favourite quotes that compliments this idea is, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. It reminds me that gratitude, happiness and contentment live in the acceptance of what is, not in what my mind is ruminating on might, could or should be.

“When you realise there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu

A leader sees, embraces and celebrates enough. From this place they purposefully use their daily thoughts, words and actions to make a difference in their own and others lives. They’re not perfect, that’s definitely for sure. But when they feel their energy being drained or pulled away from where they can actually ‘be the change’, they choose to remember that, ‘The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it’. Then they water it!

“The mind is malleable, our life can be greatly transformed by even a minimal change in how we manage our thoughts and perceive and interpret the world. Happiness is a skill. It requires effort and time.” – Matthieu Ricard

I love being inspired daily by the groups I have the pleasure of supporting. I’m consistently reminded of the multitude of ways we can choose to explore the possibilities, discover potential and act authentically as leaders. It’s a privilege to be journeying beside others who also view leadership as a verb, not a noun. It’s a doing word, and with practice we see progress. What do you purposefully choose to water each and every day?

“The real winners in life are the people who look at every situation with an expectation that they can make it work ot make it better.” – Barbara Pletcher

 

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.

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.

Don’t Forget Your Opal Card

October 16, 2017 at 7:40 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I never grow tired of listening to the responses of the participants within our programs. Each individuals articulation is an opportunity to add layers to my own understanding, growth and perspectives. One such response recently has really gotten under my skin and stayed with me over the past month. I find it keeps popping up as a reminder of the choice I have in front of me in any given situation.

“Leadership is action, not position.” – Donald H. McGannon

To lead or not to lead, that is the question. In any given moment that choice is available to us. A Year 5 girl summed it up beautifully the month or so ago when she said, to her leadership is like an Opal Card (transport payment card), available to use if she chooses on whichever mode of public transport she finds herself on. Bingo, I loved that she was recognising that regardless of where she finds herself she’d have access to purposeful skills, attitudes and behaviours that would assist her to most effectively navigate the challenge.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John Maxwell

Maybe it will be as an encourager. Maybe it will be as an idea sharer. Maybe it will be as a courageous voice. Maybe it will be an engaged team member. The list goes on and on and on. The thing is, leadership isn’t just one particular thing. But rather the use of our thoughts, words and actions, in any given moment, to make a difference in our own and/or others lives. As the first quote says, ‘leadership is action, not position’.

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” – Warren Bennis

Just like an Opal Card leadership is open to all of us. Just like an Opal Card it’s important that we recharge regularly. Just like an Opal Card we may forget to use it from time to time. Just like an Opal Card if we lose it or it stops working then we can ask for support. What connection could you make?

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” – Douglas MacArthur

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