One chapter a day. That has been the challenge for this book and nineteen others. Many times it is easy, the focus is strong, and sometimes the chapter is like an eight-course meal, tough to get through. Throughout these books, we have started some processes and traditions. OneNote is used to create notes, most of which we type out particular phrases and highlights that influence and interest us. We also create what we call "quotures," the phrase(s) that stood out to us from each chapter. Then we tweet it sharing our experience with the greater community on our journey through each book.
This particular book is one of four books introduced to us by our new Superintendent, Dr. Cheryl Logan. Each book built upon the fundamentals of leadership, highlighting the importance of relationship building, but each being unique in their approach.
In Chapter 3, Kim outlined superstars and rock stars. Immediately, I knew where I fit personally. If a challenge isn't there, I get bored. It has been a perspective that I have had for quite some time, and contributes to my learning growth. I have personal procedures and routines down and had to when we moved up to Omaha:
"Be relentlessly insistent on bringing your fullest and best self to work—and taking it back home again."
Work/Life balance for me is not realistic. It doesn't fit my personality or work ethic. Work-life integration as outlined in this book, more represents how I personally have approached it. This does present some challenges to the people that I lead, and will describe further below.
As a Leader
The last couple of books we have read have really emphasized the power of relationships in leadership. I love this quote from Jim Knight's Better Conversations book:
Many times, especially in the technology environment of constant change, end users believe something is being done to them. Being a technology leader, I observe this from time to time. As we subscribe our collaboration services to cloud environments such as Microsoft, Google, etc., we relinquish some of that authority of change to whatever platform you utilize. Doesn't seem too empathetic, does it? It is so essential as leaders, no matter what industry you are in, to introduce empathy into your daily activity. It isn't easy. A couple of weeks ago right in the beginning of our ERP go-live, I decided to go to a location where a significant process change that would affect hundreds of users in that building, specifically first thing in the morning. I spent two hours each day assisting those users first hand, listening to them, and understanding their frustration through that change. I needed to do that to know where they were coming from. It helped me to explain to our project team more accurately and with more emphasis on where we needed to focus and to care about the effect of the change. Kim talks about caring quite a bit through the book is characterized by this quoture by Eileen with great clarity:
The whole IMS team that I get the opportunity to lead is amazing. We do such great work. Probably one of my favorite memories just happened this week. At our principal's meeting, heavy agenda items were delivered through the meeting, but behind the scenes, our work was happening. The whole meeting agenda, presentations, etc. were being handled in Microsoft Teams for the first time, and incredible data dashboards were being shown the last agenda. We were behind the scenes of all of it. As a department, I couldn't be happier with our progress. We have an incredible staff, and their effort shows as it is weaved throughout everything we do as a district. Kim says it right in Chapter 1:
An interactive look at our technology progress from the video reflection
Kimball Scott had a special section in "Radical Candor" for "How to Use this Book" and explained that it provided a step-by-step approach for building Radically Candid relationships with your direct reports. I don't have any direct reports. My view going into this book will be very different from Rob's. I looked back on my life for a time that I had direct reports as a boss and other than a random management role at McDonald's in high school and a summer camp manager role in college, I had no experience as a boss. Scott shared in the book that your key responsibility as a boss is: to guide your team to achieve results. When I was part way through the book, I realized many of the strategies she provided aligned to my role as a teacher with my direct reports being my students. I couldn't hire nor fire them, but there are a number of similarities to what she suggests to get someone to perform at their best. Specifically she shared strategies for building relationships to get to know each direct report personally. To find out what motivates them. She suggested having one-on-one conversations about their lives to see where big life changes occurred as that was a window into what motivates them. As you learn more about them, you can do goal setting with them and provide feedback. These are all strategies a classroom teacher employs when working with students to perform. The skills gained as a teacher does not guarantee the aptitude to be an effective boss, but it does give a level of experience that can translate.
Below is an excerpt from Chapter 3:
To keep a team cohesive, you need both rock stars and superstars, she explained.
Rock stars are solid as a rock.
Superstars, on the other hand, need to be challenged and given new opportunities to grow constantly.
This statement really made me explore my role on our instructional technology training team. I shifted back and forth on if I would be a "rockstar" or a "superstar". There is great value in both on a team. I know that I like to be challenged and given new opportunities to grow, but I also know I'm solid on my focus to stay on our team. I'm not looking for opportunities outside of it yet in the short term 3-5 or even 10 years. When I look further, I wonder if I would like an opportunity to grow beyond and serve in a role with direct reports? She did state, "Not every superstar wants to manage." This year I was accepted into a leadership cohort in our district called LAUNCH that provides opportunities to learn skills needed for a role in administration. I felt this book was a good first tiptoe into that world. It gave practical examples, allowed me to look at what the role of a boss entails, and assured me that no matter how hard or lonely it may feel, it can also be greatly rewarding. I'm not sure where I will land in the future, but for now I will stay curious and seek growth.
From every book we have had a chance to read, it has created a deep space of reflection. I look for ways it connects to my past, current, and future life. I notice little nuggets of each book guiding how I handle situations. In the video below, I share a story of two scenarios that the strategies in Radical Candor helped me through this week. Specifically how Kimball Scott explains being "radically candid":
"Radical Candor™ is the ability to Challenge Directly and show you Care Personally at the same time. Radical Candor will help you and all the people you work with do the best work of your lives and build the best relationships of your career."
Relationships are core to the learning process and are woven into every classroom in Omaha Public Schools. It is no different in the workplace. This book provides excellent insight into the power of that engagement and what steps you can take as a leader or any other position you encompass. The best part of this book is the experience Kim Scott brings to the table, her accomplishments and what she sees as her challenges. A great read for anyone, in any position.
Feedback loops are extremely important in any sized organization. In education, and particularly in the classroom, we use them to check and affirm understanding that is manageable and focused on our learning targets. In leadership, these loops provide specific, non-evaluative feedback information to assist in decision making processes.
In Omaha Public Schools, one of the foundational programs for collaboration is Microsoft Teams. I have posted previously about Microsoft Teams and won’t go into its power to utilize the power of conversation through the use of artifacts.
Within this platform, two applications come to mind when it comes to interacting with feedback. The first is Microsoft Forms. Forms allow just about any user to create a user friendly, mobile ready, form that outputs into an Excel Online spreadsheet. Feature rich, it allows for branching, adding artifacts to questions such as videos and pictures, and real time results. Teachers can use it for quizzes, formative assessments, and surveys. You can take this experience one step further by utilizing Microsoft Flow to extend it’s capabilities.
As you can see above, I have extended two particular form capabilities with Microsoft Flow. One feeds multiple email lists based upon the drop down selection used in the form to direct the recipient of the form information. The other flow transports the form information to multiple entities based upon the needs identified within the form. Check out the form templates that are already available and ready to setup via Microsoft Flow.
Next is my favorite. If you want to take feedback to another level, look no further than Flipgrid. A couple of months ago, Microsoft purchased the platform and made it free to everyone. A media rich platform, Flipgrid offers the ability to gather feedback via video. As a tool for teaching modern communication skills, Flipgrid is nothing short of brilliant. Students can watch and hear themselves, and they’re in complete control–they can re-record themselves as many times as they want before they upload their response to the grid. This summer I decided to engage our Verizon Innovative Schools with a Flipgrid to share the experience of using an iPad exclusively as their primary device for the whole week.
As you can see by my Flipgrid above, everything presented in an organized grid – which makes it highly visual, easy to navigate, and assess. Using video makes the participants engage differently, in a way that makes you think about thinking. Utilizing the social media talents of our society today, it breathes new life into typically a mundane process. What can I say but that I have the Flipgrid Fever. Using the two above tools, you can boost production of feedback loops to provide the necessary information for your classroom or district.
Device experiences have come a long way. I remember back in the day before the proliferation of wifi, our laptops were just large heavy bricks and had to be wired or hooked in to dial up to get internet. With the introduction of wifi, cellular data, and mobile devices with modern operating systems that with a moments touch can install a treasure trove of apps that can do everything from ordering your favorite food, Starbucks coffee, and listen to the latest music released as it comes out, our experience on devices have changed. We expect specific experiences out of the gate. As technologies evolve with artificial intelligence, augmented reality, the Internet of Things, and increased bandwidth with 5G rolling out next year, the inputs by which we interact will differ significantly. We will speak more to our devices, and we will gesture more, our visible landscapes will be augmented with artifacts to assist us. In a previous blog post, I explain my movement from mac to surface platform; this was a transition mostly due to the desire to digital ink. That input created for me the ability to bring context to content and amplify my use of OneNote.
I have been on my Surface Pro now for a couple of years. Love it. Recently, Microsoft released a Surface Go, and Friday I got my hands on the smaller device that is student focused. I want to understand the experience authentically, so I will be utilizing this device for a period to get a feel for what students will encounter. As you can see above, it is smaller than the Surface Pro and resembles the size of an iPad. The device was enrolled in our Azure tenant and added to InTune for Education before being handed to me. By the way, if you haven't experienced a login with an Azure bound device, it is incredibly faster than a traditional Active Directory-bound device. The device straight out of the gate was snappy. I decided to see what it could do so I hooked it up to my Surface dock and see if it could drive two 24 inch monitors.
Playing a YouTube video on display 1, interacting with OneNote on display 2, and a browser session on display 3. No freezing, no stutter, or struggle with all of this processing at once. All of the Office applications and Windows Store apps function as they would on my Surface Pro.
I decided to see how the battery would hold up. I would want to challenge it to what would happen in a typical school day. Friday around 2 pm, I took it off the dock which I was testing. It was at about 80% capacity when I undocked it. Saturday, I watched Back to School Live Microsoft EDU event on it in our living room. Saturday afternoon, started writing this blog post and managed my email before putting it to sleep in the evening. Sunday (today) I worked on building a design thinking course in OneNote, read my daily news and information via Flipboard, and finished this blog post all on the Surface Go. No issues, performance was excellent, and the only thing I had to figure out was how to enable the Windows Ink Workspace icon for the taskbar as it wasn't activated when I received it. After three days with this device, I can say it would give an exceptional student experience while delivering that muli-input ability with digital inking. I still haven't charged the device yet as I am finishing this blog post. I will continue to use this device through this month and document the experience via my bulb app district blog/portfolio site.
I love basketball. Every March I'm like a kid in a candy store. My favorite player is Michael Jordan. My dog is named MJ, I have about 20+ pairs of Air Jordans, and my basement is covered with posters dating back to the 90s. My favorite commercial of all time, you guessed it: (not the original, but I like this one better)
This time of year always reminds me of basketball. We set up so many "plays" which I call systems that incorporate the best game "student experience" to generate high engaging learning environments. It never turns out exactly the way you vision for it to; every leader knows that. This year we have an incredible amount of initiatives being deployed, those include:
All of these initiatives require incredible planning, professional development, and effort. It is like a full court press. Yesterday we welcomed nearly 400 new teachers to Omaha Public Schools in our New Teachers Institute and today was our Leadership Kickoff all held at Baxter Arena. Incredible messages were shared, and a twinkle of new vision for what the future holds from our new Superintendent, Dr. Cheryl Logan. Is it busy? You betcha. But I love it, just like I love basketball.
These posts are personal. They are not reflective of the Omaha Public Schools District.