Posts in teaching
How to Coach Your Team to Success

One of the biggest challenges for leaders is to create and maintain the proper conditions for worker engagement and productivity. We know that if we are to maintain high levels of workplace output and morale we need to ensure that our employees feel valued and challenged. We also recognize that if we want to be able to respond to, if not stay in front of, marketplace change we need to develop workers who are comfortable thinking independently and contributing to the collective brain trust.

Too many leaders and managers, however, fail to achieve this because they do not understand how to motivate today’s workers or how to empower them to think and act independently and more positively.

In generations past people would be told what they needed to do from their earliest years. Parents would instruct children on how to behave at home and teachers would demand student compliance in school. Failure to obey would result in corporal punishment or other heavy handed responses. In the workplace, employees would be given orders and were required to dutifully implement them if they wanted to hold their positions for any meaningful duration.

But times have changed. As younger workers make their way into the workplace, they expect to play by a different set of rules. They want to be given the freedom to experiment, a voice with which to weigh in at staff meetings and the ability to pursue what they view as meaningful, engaging work. Anything less they view as limiting, which spells dissatisfaction and, for the most part, underperformance (if not outside job seeking).

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Making Good on this Last Chance

This past Sunday I traveled to Phoenix in order to present at a national conference for school business officials. When my teenagers found out where I was going, my trip quickly took on new meaning. To them, the conference was really only a means to a loftier purpose, which was to shop at a local clearance store called Last Chance.

For the uninitiated (which included this author until very recently), Last Chance is Nordstrom’s only true clearance store in the country (as opposed to Nordstrom Rack, which offers savings when compared to Nordstrom stores but not to this degree). Clothes, shoes and accessories that end up here are sometimes new, sometimes used, and often damaged. This merchandise comes to Phoenix because it was accepted as a return somewhere along the way and could not be sold in any other Nordstrom store. Last Chance sells it at steep discount, and offers shoppers hope that they might to get their hands on high-end Italian and other products that would otherwise be cost prohibitive for them. As you might imagine, shopping at this store has the feeling of being part Marshall’s, part Grand Central Station, and part Black Friday.

For me, it was quite the experience. Shopping for my children with my outdated sense of style is hard enough (especially as one is a girl, for whom I was told that I have no sense of fashion). To do so while navigating through the bustling store made matters all the more interesting. Suffice it to say that any return trip to Phoenix will go unmentioned to my kids.

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From barracks to boardroom: How Bill Sandbrook parlayed military experience into corporate success

When I asked Sandbrook whether it was harder to emerge from Chapter 11 or to resurrect a defeated leadership team, he quickly said the latter. You can find ways to get funding and other components that are needed for a turnaround, he told me, but it’s not so easy to change people’s mindsets and behaviors.

Success, he said, works from the inside out or from small to big. To use a military analogy, he sought to make winners out of people who weren’t used to winning. Once they developed a greater sense of control, efficacy and success on a personal level, it was just a matter of time before the company would benefit. As of this writing, the stock trades well over $50 per share.

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Being an abundant mentor

Mentoring programs typically fail because one or more positive ingredients listed above are missing. Without question, the mentor’s head has to be fully in the game. When I first began as a head of school, I was assigned an experienced mentor from a different school on the other side of the country. He agreed to help me as a favor, and, predictably, as the school year progressed and his schedule became increasingly more filled, our time together dwindled to the point that the relationship had practically ended on its own.

In addition, a mentor has to be able to earn the protégé’s trust. That is not as simple as it sounds. In addition to demonstrating capacity, effective mentors find ways to make their protégés genuinely feel that they have the mentor’s best interests in mind.

One great way by which to build such trust is to think in abundance. Abundance theory sees the world as offering infinite possibilities. It suggests that not only is there plenty to go around (the opposite of scarcity thinking) but it also posits that my helping others will help me, in terms of sharpening my skillset and building increased capacity and demand within the field.

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Where did it all go? Thoughts about student memory and retention

Have you ever taught something and your class really seemed to get it, only to revisit the concept a short while later, and it’s as if they never heard of it? Better yet, have you patted yourself on the back after your students aced an exam only for you to ask a related question two days later and get back a class full of blank stares? It’s almost as if their minds were one big etch-a-sketch that had once memorized lots of information before being wiped clean.

If you’re like me, you’ve had that experience more than once. And we all know how it feels. It can be one of the most frustrating experiences for a teacher, seemingly invalidating all of the hard work — in terms of preparation, content delivery and reinforcement — of the past many weeks. Why does this happen and what can teachers do to ensure that students properly process and retain key information?

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