Change Agent Champions


So I figured out what was bothering me about the grandstanding in my newsfeed this past week. It’s easy to jump on the latest cause celebre being saturated with media coverage. It requires no effort. People celebrate whatever they like on social media and feel good about themselves. And this past week I was inundated with images of stars-and-bars and rainbows.

dogood1But here’s the rub for me: if I want to make a difference, I can’t just sit on social media jumping on bandwagons that make me feel good about my opinions and biases. I need to get out there in the community and make a difference by DOING something that makes a real difference in people’s lives.

dogood3I know, I know, it takes risk and hard work to help disenfranchised children, the poor, the sick, the unpopular people in my community upon whom everyone looks down….but going out of my way to be champions for them actually will make a difference, as opposed to spouting off on social issues online and changing my profile pic accordingly.

dogood2In reading this, please don’t make any presumptions about my stance on any of the huge issues that received media (and social media) over-attention this past week; because I was sincerely happy with each decision. My point is, it’s not a good use of my time and potential to make a difference safely jumping on bandwagons or settling for attention-grabbing grandstanding.

What have you done to make this world a better place? Do the people who know you right where you live recognize you as a change agent champion for others? If not, may I suggest a little less time online and a little more time doing good…not just feeling good about what others have done to make the landmark accomplishments of the last week a reality.


Creating a New Future


Reposted from Byron’s Babbles:

As an “Energetic Change Agent,” I was really into the week 19 lesson in Maciariello’s (2014) A Year with Peter Drucker: 52 Weeks of Coaching for Leadership and Effectiveness. If you have not begun the journey of reading this book, let me recommend it again. This week’s lesson dealt with identifying emerging trends and how that is different from trying to forecast the future. Identifying trends concentrates on directions and patterns. We must, as leaders, discern patterns from emerging trends, and separate fads from real changes (Maciariello, 2014).

Leaders who are effective at facilitating change capitalize on emerging trends and use them to create a new future for their organizations, thus providing a competitive advantage in times of rapid change, This is proactive, not reactive! Again, as was stated in the Drucker quote, this is an exercise in “seeing the future that has already happened.” To create the future any other way is reacting rather than acting, which is what one does if one grows quickly. We need to make sure to study the trends and look for the ‘certainties’ of the future. One place to look for this is in the demographics.

One important part of change that I believe was left out of this lesson, and may be discussed in future weeks, is how some organizations ability to create the new future will be impaired by legislation and other government misunderstanding or slowness to adjust. An example is my own: education. As I look back to this year’s legislative session here in Indiana there was a lot of work around education. It is interesting to me that our House of Representatives is very pro “school choice” and innovative practices such as online education, but our Senate is not. Some of our legislation passed is helpful toward the ‘new future,’ but part of it still does not necessarily hinder practices for facilitating futuristic change, but certainly does not serve as a catalyst either.

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Can I Buy Your Magic Bus?

magic bus1

A little over a month ago, Stephanie Giese shared a blog post, “What I want People to Understand about Why Teachers are Frustrated,” As a former teacher, she shared, “There are few professions where you are required to obtain a college degree, take multiple certification tests, and prove yourself through a residency program only to not be allowed to perform your job as you know best once you are in it. We trust our doctors to treat our ailments and our lawyers to try our cases. Our teachers are professionals, and it is time we started treating them as such.”

I don’t want to cause no fuss, but can I buy your Magic Bus? Nooooooooo!

Frustration is an understandable human reaction when you feel powerless to make things better. But education’s decision-makers aren’t opponents of energy and idealism; they have reasons for making the decisions they do. By definition, a new innovation is an unanticipated, unplanned-for, unbudgeted initiative…which translates as a lot of extra work for an administrator. If they don’t see a direct connection between their goals and your ideas, where’s the incentive to buy in? Successful change agents learn from every failure, every letdown, every setback:

  • Why don’t they see/hear/understand what I am trying to accomplish?
  • Why didn’t I get the support I needed to get this done?
  • What can I learn from this to be more successful?
  • What can I do differently next time?

I want the Magic Bus, I want the Magic Bus, I want the Magic Bus…

When I read sentiments like Giese’s my mind goes back over my own trials, setbacks and successes. What have I learned? Innovation is not magic. It is not, in and of itself, a reason to change. I may have interesting, exciting ideas, but that won’t get me buy-in. Even when I can see exactly where I want to take people and the incredible outcomes they’ll experience once they arrive at that destination, it doesn’t mean they are ready to climb aboard my bus. I’ve learned that in order to implement and sustain successful programs, it’s important to build capacity before starting the journey…to make sure I have everyone on board who needs to be on board.

I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it…

magic bus2

How is capacity built? Identify a role model or mentor and work to learn to:

Establish relationships
Cultivate a rapport with key stakeholders before the time comes you need to ask for their support.

Work within a framework
Use federal and state plans, professional standards, and local strategic plans, goals and objectives.

Have an implementation plan
It can be an internal document that isn’t shared publicly, but have a plan with achievable objectives on a timeline to keep you moving.

Get buy-in from higher up
Show a direct connection of how your plan of action will help achieve the desired outcomes of your organization.

Build consensus
Work with all groups of key-stakeholders to create a network of support: your school board, administrators, teachers, students, parents, community members without school-aged children, and businesses and professional associations.

Connect allies
Introduce these different groups of stakeholders to one another so that they can find common ground upon which to support you.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate
Positive promotion and good public relations are your best tools in building and sustaining capacity.

Find, implement and celebrate easy wins
Find the low-hanging fruit that you can easily pick, share and hold up as examples of success.

Build momentum from little victories
Be sure that all stakeholder groups know of your early easy wins; also make sure they understand the significance of easy wins in your larger plan.

Document and distribute
Compile measured and anecdotal evidence of your plan’s progress and regularly get it into the hands of all stakeholder groups.

These are the steps successful innovators use to successfully create change within existing organizations.

magic bus

In 1968 Tom Wolfe published his Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, showcasing Ken Kesey and his followers riding a psychedelically-painted school bus across the United States. The story is now considered romantic folly. What difference did that bus trip make? Was there any impact on people outside the bus, or was it simply Kesey and company tripping? More importantly and to the point, when you think of your own journey, are you willing to accept Kesey’s folly? If you’re disappointed by setbacks, probably not…

Every day you’ll see the dust as I drive my baby in my Magic Bus…

The image of a psychedelic ride has been used by the Beatles, the Who, the Partridge Family, even Miss Frizzle. It’s a great symbol of breaking out of our current constraints! But if you’re not willing to settle for joy riding on your own, then you need to do the kind of capacity-building that will fill your bus with passengers and give you a greater potential to drive change. Learn to think more strategically, with conviction to learn from your setbacks. Reassess, regroup and build capacity for future success.

These are hard lessons…and it’s hard work. Sure driving your own bus can be an exhilarating trip, but when you take a hit, you need to stop and assess the impact of the collision. When you run low on gas, you need to have a dependable place to pull in and refuel. It may not seem as spontaneous and unfettered as Kesey’s wild ride, but sustained change seldom is.

magic bus3


Magic Bus Lyrics:

magic bus4“The Magic Bus” written by Pete Townsend, 1965.

Sheninger: Teacher Accountability Through a New Lens


Reposted from A Principal’s Reflections:

The structure and function of the majority of schools in this country is the exact opposite of the world that our learners are growing up in.  There is an automatic disconnect when students, regardless of their grade level, walk into schools due to the lack of engagement, relevancy, meaning, and authentic learning opportunities.  Our education system has become so efficient in sustaining a century old model because it is easy and safe.  The resulting conformity has resulted in a learning epidemic among our students as they see so little value in the cookie-cutter learning exercises they are forced to go through each day. The bottom line is that they are bored.  It is time that we create schools that work for our students as opposed to ones that have traditionally worked well for the adults.

Creating schools that work for students requires a bold vision for change that not only tackles the status quo inherent in the industrialized model of education, but also current education reform efforts. Even though Common Core is not a curriculum, many schools and districts have become so engrossed with alignment and preparing for the new aligned tests that real learning has fallen by the wayside.   We need to realize that this, along with other traditional elements associated with education, no longer prevail.  How we go about doing this will vary from school to school, but the process begins with the simple notion of putting students first to allow them to follow their passions, create, tinker, invent, play, and collaborate.  Schools that work for students focus less on control and more on trust.

There is a common fallacy that school administrators are the leaders of change. This makes a great sound bite, but the reality is that many individuals in a leadership position are not actually working directly with students.  Teachers are the true catalysts of change that can create schools that work for kids. They are the ones, after all, who are tasked with implementing the myriad of directives and mandates that come their way. Leadership is about action, not position. Schools need more teacher leaders who are empowered through autonomy to take calculated risks in order to develop innovative approaches that enable deeper learning and higher order thinking without sacrificing accountability. If the goal in fact is to increase these elements in our education system then we have to allow students to demonstrate learning in a variety of ways.

Read More…

Change Leader, Change Thyself


Reposted from the McKinsey Quarterly:

Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, famously wrote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Tolstoy’s dictum is a useful starting point for any executive engaged in organizational change. After years of collaborating in efforts to advance the practice of leadership and cultural transformation, we’ve become convinced that organizational change is inseparable from individual change. Simply put, change efforts often falter because individuals overlook the need to make fundamental changes in themselves.

Anyone who pulls the organization in new directions must look inward as well as outward. Building self-understanding and then translating it into an organizational context is easier said than done, and getting started is often the hardest part. We hope this article helps leaders who are ready to try and will intrigue those curious to learn more.

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David Walsh: I’m Done Working with Jerks

Reposted from LinkedIn for your end of the week reading enjoyment:

Jerks come in all shapes and sizes. A few of jerkpngthem are actually pretty good at what they do. But I don’t need to work with them. You don’t either. There is some psychology behind jerks, I’m sure. Some are jerks because they are making up for something else. They feel inferior. Some jerks are jerks because of the opposite: they think they are all of that. Some jerks never set out to be that way. They just got so self-centered, so on their own trip, they forgot that there might be other people in the world, and that those people actually might have a point of view. They lost themselves in their sole pursuit of title, money or power – or behind whatever fitting psychological / sociological label there might be.

One time I worked with a guy who would give a soul-numbing soliloquy before every marathon meeting he held in order to ‘set the tone’. In one particularly yawn inspiring opening half hour monologue he essentially confessed that he himself had become a Jerk. Note the use of capital “J”. He wasn’t entirely sure when it had happened but he had an epiphany that he was now a class-A certified Jerk. You could have heard a fly burp in that room it was so still. And for what it’s worth, after his admission he did make subtle and not so easy strides to change. I applaud him for that.

A Jerk is someone who is:

  • Underhanded, game playing or passive-aggressive
  • Misogynistic, bullying or abusive
  • Dismissive of earnest feedback or the contributions of others
  • A scorekeeper or grudge-holder waiting to ‘get back’ at someone or some group
  • Untrustworthy or lacking candor (meeting ‘nodders’ who are backroom ‘plotters’)
  • A turf protector who roadblocks improvements or positive change
  • Blamestormers, credit stealers, under-the-bus-chuckers as well as
  • Sideline-sitting, non-committal, I-told-you-soers who try and wheedle into the glow of success after all the risk is gone
  • Work shifters who push their obligations on other people or departments

Read More…


Kiran Bir Sethi Teaches Kids To Take Charge [VIDEO 9:33}

Kiran Bir Sethi shows how her groundbreaking Riverside School in India teaches kids life’s most valuable lesson: “I can.” Watch her students take local issues into their own hands, lead other young people, even educate their parents as they infect minds with the “I Can” contagion. This talk was recorded at an official TED conference in India.

Only Those Who Press Through Turbulence Find Success


Reposted from Leadership Freak:

“Turbulence grabs attention, focuses energy, stretches relationships, tests resolve, and shows you who you are. Leadership tips during turbulence:

  1. Acknowledge reality. If times are tough, say so.
  2. Answer fear by pressing into the future.
  3. Integrate new people and strengthen existing relationships.
  4. Watch for teammates who rise up under pressure. Engage and encourage them.
  5. Develop new rituals. Stop into the offices of key people on Monday morning for brief conversations, for example.
  6. Don’t create policies that deal with exceptions.
  7. Do what matters most. Busy work matters less when opportunities are slipping through your fingers.”

Read More…


Change is Good…You Go First! [VIDEO 3:23]

The perfect shot in the arm for educators looking to renew midsummer, this short video by Mac Anderson and Tom Feltenstein offers refreshing reminders of the value of our work and encouragement to get the job done. Practical, people-centered and spot on, this presentation is accompanied by crisp guitar work that resonates with each message. This is three-and-a-half minutes well spent. Bookmark and enjoy!


Rich Lehrer: Science Goes Global

A student shares how teacher Rich Lehrer is using technology to create authentic learning experiences that transcend the traditional curriculum with a wealth of learning experiences addressing real world problems. Lehrer’s 8th grade science classes are working with students virtually from around the world, including Brazil, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and India. With rich, real-world learning like this, how long before students no longer work from a classroom serving as their base of operations?