Archive | January, 2019

Rise of Superman: Part Two

28 Jan

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Routine is the cornerstone of productivity. But you’ll rarely enter a state of flow just by doing the same thing you did yesterday.

Instead, find an environment that challenges you on a daily basis and pushes you outside of your comfort zone (a bit). Think of the surfer who’s forced to adapt to every individual wave they catch. According to Kotler in Rise of the Superman, it’s this novelty, unpredictability, and complexity that will set off your state of flow. Kotler says there are a few environmental qualities we can look for to help trigger flow:

  • High consequences:Find environments and activities where your actions have real consequences to you. While an athlete might pick a harder course or opponent, for you, this could be as simple as speaking up during a meeting if you’re shy or publishing a post you’ve written on Medium if you’re afraid of comments and public feedback.
  • Rich environment: Find environments that require more of your attention and for you to react quickly to changes. Kotler gives the example of the Pixar offices, which feature a central hub for places frequented by all different employees regardless of their department.

“Steve Jobs artificially created the environmental conditions that massively upped the amount of novelty, unpredictability, and complexity in the environment because people across departments and disciplines started running into each other and having conversations,” said Kotler. “As a result, flow, innovation, and creativity went up.”

How could you use flow in your environment?

I am current experimenting with my routine. I will let you know the results.

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Rise of Superman

26 Jan

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Ever had a moment—perhaps while writing or working through a complex problem—where you’re so focused on a task that the world around you disappears and you’re perfectly focused? It feels like you’re on autopilot. Nothing can go wrong. Work comes naturally with no friction. No effort. Athletes call it “being in the zone.” Psychologists today have given it an official name: Flow.

Steven Kotler describes it in Rise of the Superman, flow is where “every action, each decision, leads effortlessly, fluidly, seamlessly to the next. It’s high-speed problem solving; it’s being swept away by the river of ultimate performance.” I have just finished this and thanks to my PLN for the suggestion.

We all could do with a little more flow. So what if we could dissect just what pushes us into this state and then just jump into flow easily?

To help us find flow in more of our lives, we need to bring all five pieces of the flow puzzle together: Self control. Environment. Skills. Task. Reward.

Self Control: Focus on Willpower to Trigger a State of Flow

We all love shortcuts—and the idea of getting into a flow state sounds especially appealing as it means you’re almost working without working. But it still takes willpower, discipline, and self-control to get there.

In fact, self control is a key element of Flow.

“In the flow-like state, we exercise control over the contents of our consciousness rather than allowing ourselves to be passively determined by external forces,” explained Csíkszentmihályi in his original book Flow.

Here is the original TED Talk.

To help us get into a state of flow more often, we need to be able to master this level of control of our consciousness. Which isn’t an easy task in today’s distracted world.

Using this research I thought I could apply the following to my leadership:

Find your standards.Your standards are the reference points you’ll use to determine whether any action you’re going to take is desireable towards getting into a state of flow—so, whether you’re going to check your email (again) or hit your 1000 word count for the day.

Set up means for monitoring.Flow depends on immediate feedback and so does self control. Whatever your task, find ways to constantly monitor your performance and adjust as you continue.

Be wary of your energy.Our mental strength waxes and wanes throughout the day (which is why it’s so important to define your own work schedule around your energy). Break the day down to manageable tasks.

Have you got a system that is working for you?

Creating a Fearless Culture

19 Jan

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“Can interrupt you for a second” or “Please see me in my office in your free.” These are phrases that I have used as a school leader.  Unknowingly I have sent a message of fear to the receiver of the information. While innocently I have created a culture of fear. Ok then how can I avoid doing this:

Be clear with your interactions:

Be careful when I see people. Pick the moment. How we perceive the world helps us determine how we react to it. Self-knowledge can serve as a source of strength allowing us to manage stress through the ups and downs of life and learning. Knowing who we are socio-politically means understanding your core values and how your background and cultural context has shaped them.

Knowledge of self is powerful because it can lead to a genuine respect and appreciation of other people’s values. Additionally, knowing what you stand for can help you identify when and why the behaviors, action or beliefs of others’ clash with your own. We believe “knowing yourself” is the key ingredient to our next competency because once we know ourselves we are empowered to create a place where others can do the same.

Build Trust:

Build trust with others and in yourself. Build deep trust by creating space where people feel safe to share feedback and ask questions Being able to bring your whole self to work is critical; It is also often a luxury because it is risky. Creating a space where individuals can explore their identities inevitably leads to a place where difficult questions and conversations emerge. Brené Brown, known for her research on vulnerability, talks about the components of “Rising Strong” in her book by the same name.

Trusting environments lead to strong teams and strong teams lead to innovation. Imagine what we can do if we intentionally build school cultures that nurture trust: trust to explore, experiment, fail, and learn. Consider the ripple effects this could have on teaching, learning, and problem-solving.

I taker time annually to analyse my educational vision. I need to connect it to my practice. Do you do the same? What do you core values tell you about how you approach tasks? When have my core values lead me to clash with others? What might their core values be? Are they different when dealing with peers and tamariki?

Building Trust

17 Jan

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I have been reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

Lencioni outlines the elements needed to build strong, cohesive teams. Here is a link to the book: Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Trust is the foundation in which productive teams are built upon.

As SLT it can be hard to lead change. Staff can be cynical of hidden agendas or ulterior motives. Here are some ways I am going to work on in 2019 to build trust:

Be visible

My office door should be open as much as possible. This will allow the community to see you in action. A quick hello can go a long way in building trust and respect. A current principal currently has her work-space in the staff room. I really admire that. Perhaps that is a next step for me.

Listen

It is important when making changes to consult staff members, teachers, or students. Strong school leaders listen to their leadership team, parents, and students when it comes to either making changes or keeping things the same. At the same time the feedback loop must be complete by feeding back the voice. Often it may not be what community wanted bu it is important to explain how you got there. The Why?

Be Transparent and Visible

A school is no place for smoke and mirrors. Taking on a cold war approach to communication and information gathering is not necessary. Decisions should never be made in a back room without representation from different stakeholder groups. See my previous point regarding meetings in central areas with everybody welcome.

Be Student-Centered

Do not take sides other than do what is in the best interest of the students.  Being student-centered keeps the focus on the purpose of schools – to educate children.

Being innovative v teaching the curriculum.

15 Jan

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The viewpoint of “teaching the curriculum” and “innovation in education” is that the curriculum is on one side of the continuum, and innovation is on the opposite side. What separates the great teachers from everyone else, is not what they teach, it is how they teach.

What I am trying to get staff to understand is that how we teach our rich NZ Curriculum is the innovation. This can be seen by the finding of the NCEA review document. Think about how NZQA is now approaching assessment differently.

Recently at an NZQA seminar Principals Nominee were talking about instead of lecturing on a topic, could you have the students create a video or Vlog on the topic, to explain it in an in-depth way?  I don’t think that classrooms should be absent of providing content to students, but I do believe that what we create with the content provides a deeper understanding of what you are learning.  What does it matter if a student does well on a test, but doesn’t understand the ideas a week later?

Instead of downloading Apps students could be creating them. Simply focusing on the word “create,” and thinking about how that would enhance the learning could make a significant impact.

Ok I am not saying that lecture is a bad thing.  I do it all the time and I have seen some great teachers deliver wonderful lessons. I think there are great lessons learned from lecture, but I don’t think that any one way is the best way for all students.  I know that from the experience of being both a teacher and a learner.  But I challenge you to look at one thing in the context of your work, whether it is in leadership or teaching, and ask Is there a better way?

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