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.

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

Me Too

October 8, 2017 at 9:39 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Recently during a program experience, as a Year 4 girl was sharing a reflection, suddenly five other kids hands started shaking in the air (thumb and pinky up, other three fingers down). At first I was a little distracted as I tried to listen into her learning, curiosity was kicking in. I just couldn’t work out what was happening. And then I got it.

“When one teaches, two learn.” – Robert Heinlein

These kids weren’t trying to get my attention because they wanted to speak. It was the complete opposite. They were enthusiastically indicating that this peer’s reflection was resonating so deeply with them as they were listening. I immediately loved this empowering ‘me too’ signal within their learning journeys. I’m a full body learner as well.

“Learning is a social process that occurs through interpersonal interaction within a cooperative context. Individuals, working together, construct shared understandings and knowledge.” – David Johnson, Roger Johnson and Karl Smith

So as school goes back this week for the final term of the school year I hope that each student, classroom and school community remain open to and excited by exploring the possibilities, discovering potential and acting authentically as they navigate the inevitable successes and challenges that learning presents. We can’t wait to again share our program experiences and ongoing communication with our client schools over the coming months. We’re definitely all in this together!

“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” – Brian Herbert

Why?

September 4, 2017 at 8:38 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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On Wednesday, as I was facilitating, I was asked multiple whys? Why is a big part of leadership and so I’m always pleased to hear that word bouncing around. Quite a few of them though came from one particular conversation with a teacher who was experiencing one of our programs for the first time. I loved her curiosity. It’s not surprising though, I love all types of curiosity.

“Curiosity is the compass that leads us to our passions. Follow it and you won’t be disappointed. The future belongs to the curious.” – Skillshare

This teacher had so many questions for me. When had I started Explore Discover Act? Who were we working with? What had I done before Explore Discover Act? But the biggest part that was intriguing her was my passion for what I was doing, why, why, why, why? It opened up such a deep conversation about various aspects of my journey of potential, as well as where she is at the moment and where she sees that she’d like to journey towards. Passion is such an important word to me and I was so pleased she was noticing that through my thoughts, words and actions on that day.

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.” – T.D. Jakes

The deeper I delved into the conversation though, more and more comments and feedback from over the past 5 years came flooding into my mind. We’re most interested in and committed to creating purposeful change and action beyond our program experiences. That’s why this feedback (below) from a Year 5 student at the beginning of this term came to the front of my mind as we spoke. I was inspired when I first read it, and remain feeling that same way every time I reflect on each of the participants authentic feedback that we receive. It’s such a privilege to support the development of leadership potential within our client schools.

‘The thing I enjoyed the most was the challenges, not just because they were fun, but because now I realise that leadership is something I can do everyday, even without a badge. I also really liked talking to other students about what they think, not what just I think. I then realised, leadership is not about the leader, it’s about the team.’ – Year 5 Participant in our  L.E.A.D. with Courage™: Stage 3 Leaders Program

 

Can you give me an example?

August 14, 2017 at 4:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I love listening to the lived experience of leaders. It’s definitely an adventure when we purposefully use our daily thoughts, words and actions to make a difference in our own and others lives. It’s so inspiring to hear about all the ripples being created through a particular individuals and/or groups efforts. And of course hear about what passion, energy and courage lies beneath all of that.

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what type of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall

The other week I got to spend a day facilitating at a new client school. What was really fun was that the Assistant Principal had organised for this years elected leaders (Year 6) to learn beside the whole Year 5 cohort (105 students) on the day. This opened up the privilege of chatting to the elected leaders about their experiences so far this year. What they shared at different times throughout the day summed up beautifully the full spectrum of our learning and leadership journeys.

“It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.” – Jillian Michaels

Many spoke about how at the beginning of the year leading things like assemblies was challenging, but as they did it more often and realised they could support each other it got easier. One girl spoke about how a challenge was other peoples expectations of them as they navigated the year, like if they made a mistake another student might remark, ‘Aren’t you meant to be a leader?’ Others shared how much of their time they had to commit to meeting, planning and preparing for various roles and responsibilities that they had, but overall they were glad they were doing it. But it was one boy’s story in particular that became a powerful connection on the day about how we can bring about change wherever we may find ourselves.

“I want to make a difference with people who want to make a difference, doing something that makes a difference.” – John C. Maxwell

This Year 6 boy is ranked highly in Australia in skateboarding and was so clearly passionate about it as he spoke. He started thinking at the beginning of the year that others might enjoy and get something out of the activity as well, so he took the time to research it further so he could take a proposal to the school. He was able to, through negotiation, have skateboarding added to the list of sports the school does, with the response being really positive so far from both students and teachers. It was a powerful reminder to himself, and others, that if you care about something deeply, and the ripples created by your efforts will make a difference in your own and others journeys of potential, then the daily thoughts, words and actions involved to bring about change are most definitely worth it.

“Leadership is no longer about your position. It’s now more about your passion for excellence and making a difference. You can lead without a title.” – Robin Sharma

This boy, just like the other elected leaders at the school, didn’t need a badge to be able to lead. The position may open up opportunities but it’s what we do that brings leadership to life (‘leadership is action, not position’ – Donald H McGannon). This is why I love being involved in the development of leadership potential within Primary School settings. It’s inspiring how many school communities are looking at how they can empower their student cohorts through exploring, practicing and celebrating the purposeful skills, attitudes and behaviours of being a leader. Below is the feedback we received from the Assistant Principal on that day. Thank you for the opportunity to help make leadership real at your school, we look forward to again supporting you soon.

“From the moment Cameron started the program our students were engaged. He shared a clear message about what it takes to be a leader and showed our students that they all have the potential to lead. Thanks for a fantastic day!”

 

Anybody Got Feedback?

August 7, 2017 at 3:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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During the past week I got to spend two days training 40 Year 6 students who are taking on the role of Ambassadors within their school community. It’s the start of a brand new program that I’m helping the school develop, and what an inspiring two days it turned out to be. I had worked with the whole Year 6 cohort at the beginning of the year (our L.E.A.D. with Courage™: Stage 3 Leaders Program), then reconnected with their 12 elected leaders a couple of weeks after for a day, but now I was back to support those courageous students who had put their hand up to be a part of this brand new school initiative.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates

There were so many highlights that came out of the experience but one particular aspect of the process really shone through as vitally important. Giving and receiving feedback are skills that need to be practiced. Being open to and filtering feedback are also skills that need to be practiced. Carving out time for and then using the constructive feedback we receive are again also skills that need to be practiced. This list could keep going on and on but as the quote above suggests, the reason for this type of practice is that feedback is vital if we are serious about wanting to improve in anything. And these students, and the client school, and us at Explore Discover Act, are definitely serious about continual growth and development.

“Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let people see you value both feedback and ideas.” – Jim Trinka and Les Wallace

Many times throughout the two days the teachers and I were left in awe by the way these Ambassadors stepped out of their comfort zones and made real a piece/s of feedback that they, other individuals or the group as a whole received. They themselves were the catalyst for most of the valuable, compassionate and explicit feedback that was being shared, either through informal or formal opportunities within the program, or through our living walls that were being filled up with questions, ideas and connections. I can’t wait to hear all about the incredible contributions that these students will continue to make within their school community as Ambassadors, purposefully using their thoughts, words and actions to make a difference in their own and others journeys of potential.

“One of the things that I’ve learned is to be receptive of feedback.” – Ben Silbermann

I’d just like to leave you with the reflections of one the teachers who I had the pleasure of working with closely throughout this process, and over the past few years. Her commitment, and the schools, to providing the students with engaging, challenging and inovative learning opportunities continues to energise and inspire me. What a privilege it is to get to do what we get to do!

‘WOW!  What an amazing 2 days. I have walked away feeling energised and inspired, as I know the students have as well (their body language said it all). On behalf on Emma and myself, I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work you did with our students, your professionalism and expertise to get the most out of them was wonderful to witness.

Over the 2 days I reflected on the students responses and engagement and felt proud that they were able to articulate all the passions they have for our school. It was satisfying to hear them talk, discuss and have a valued voice to share what they believe our school to be on such a deep level. It demonstrated that the aspects we have been putting into programs is truly making them confident young people.

Thank you so much again for an engaging 2 days.’ – Year 6 Teacher/Assistant Principal

How often?

July 31, 2017 at 7:06 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” – Brené Brown

It’s Saturday afternoon as I’m writing this. I’ve just finished facilitating the July session of our year long Let’s L.E.A.D. Program with SCARF Youth here in the Illawarra (Strategic Community Assistance for Refugee Families). I’m feeling so inspired (again). But also reflective. So much of what came up within the session today, plus what a Year 5 girl said during one of our program days a week ago, keeps bouncing around my head.

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

As you know I’m passionate about leadership. I love learning more about it. I love talking about it. I love noticing it. But I guess what’s even more important than all that is how often do I embody it and make it real through my thoughts, words and actions? As the Year 5 girl remarked so wisely within our program day last week, if leadership was a form of transport I’d choose a boat, they’re popular but how often do we use them?

“The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own example.” – John Wooden

The challenge of leading inspires me (the purposeful use of my thoughts, words and actions to make a difference in my own and others lives). I love that the Year 5 girl’s comment, the work being undertaken by the participants involved in our year long Let’s L.E.A.D. group and my own reflections on those above are not mired in judgement, but rather are a part of the process of staying curious, compassionate and purposefully aligned (and continuing to realign) along the leadership journey. It’s definitely not about perfection. I’ll take progress and creating ripples over that each and every day.

“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” – Vince Lombardi

Journeying Beside

June 26, 2017 at 8:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As schools around NSW prepare to break up this week for the winter holidays I thought it’d be a good time to reflect on something I think regularly about. I love language. How it sounds. How it connects. What it means (or doesn’t mean). But I also love digging deeper into where it has come from.

“All assessment is a perpetual work in progress.” – Linda Suskie

‘Assess’ is definitely one of those words that is used a lot in educational settings. So as students take home their half yearly reports this week they will include results, observations and findings gathered through a wide range of assessments. Some will have fallen within the general category of formal assessments. While others would of been gathered informally. Putting these categories aside for a minute though, the origin of the word ‘assess’ can really assist us as we navigate its purpose and practical applications.

“Origin and Etymology of assess. Middle English, probably from Medieval Latin assessus, past participle of assidēre, from Latin, to sit beside.” – www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assess

I absolutely love the phrase, ‘to sit beside’. It immediately fills me with pictures in my mind of the most powerful assessment tools that I’ve used myself or witnessed others using over the years. We are all learners. So we’d all know the feelings of when assessment is used to engage, empower and guide the most effective navigation of our individual and shared learning journeys. Unfortunately though, assessment can sometimes feel like a weapon being used to judge, separate and stifle. Reflecting on this original meaning regularly reminds me of the purposeful thoughts, words and actions that make the biggest difference in our own and others lives.

“For teachers, as for students, the most effective evaluation comes from someone who sits beside us and helps us grow.” – Carol Ann Tomlinson

Thank you to all those incredible teachers, students and school communities who have courageously chosen progress over perfection during this first half of the 2017 school year. Enjoy your upcoming holiday break, and we look forward to continuing to explore the possibilities, discover potential and act authentically with you as Term 3 kicks off in a few weeks time.

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