Monday, November 23, 2015

Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott - A Review

For most of us, the majority of relationships, both personal and professional, are informed, created and managed through conversation.  It’s an incredibly important relational aspect of our lives, and in no profession is it more important than in education.  While technology has helped facilitate communication - particularly over long distances, and in a more timely fashion - it has also made face-to-face conversations less prevalent.

Susan Scott’s, Fierce Conversations - Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time, is dedicated to the importance of having thoughtful, candid and focused conversation.  She writes, “In it’s simplest form, a fierce conversation is one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real.”

At the heart of the concept is the notion that Scott has termed ‘Mineral Rights’ and is a series of questions intended to accomplish the four purposes of a fierce conversation:

  1. Interrogate reality
  2. Provoke learning
  3. Tackle tough challenges
  4. Enrich relationships

An excellent guidebook for helping one tackle difficult conversations in a meaningful way, there are dozens of example questions to help facilitate such conversations, and assignments at the end of each section to help one fully understand the concepts.  She also offers excellent pragmatic suggestions for helping the reader prepare for discussion so that it is a positive and focused use of time and energy.

Whether for use as a supervisor, a colleague or personally, Scott’s book is a wonderful professional development opportunity.

Monday, October 5, 2015

What Do Starbucks and Harding Have in Common?

I just finished reading Howard Schultz’s book, Pour Your Heart Into It – How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time about his founding and growing Starbucks.  One might wonder what a huge for-profit company and an independent school might have in common, but there may be more than you think.

Corporations and schools both have customers that they serve (and should be at the core of their mission), need to be attentive to changes in economy and the market, have to be thoughtful about innovation, and need to succeed in competitive environments, to name a few.

One part of Schultz’s book resonated with me in particular:

“When you’re failing, it’s easy to understand the need for self-renewal.  The status quo is not working, and only radical change can fix it.

But we’re seldom motivated to seek self-renewal when we’re successful.  When things are going well, when the fans are cheering, why change a winning formula? 

The simple answer is this:  Because the world is changing.  Every year customer’s needs change.  Managers change.  Shareholders change.  Nothing can stay the same forever, in business, or in life, and counting on the status quo can only lead to grief.

Even when life seems perfect, you have to take risks and jump to the next level, or you’ll start spiraling downhill into complacency without even realizing it”

I couldn’t agree more, but change in schools is often more challenging that in most corporate environments as the measurables are so different.  Certainly you can look at test scores as one objective measurable, but how do you truly measure the degree to which you are, Nurturing the Spirit and Inspiring the Mind?

The answer is that it’s unlikely that these can be adequately measured and so a school needs to be intentional, but still, motivated to, ‘take risks and jump to the next level’ as Schultz writes.  Certainly the leap into expanding the fifth grade, adding a Pre-Kindergarten program, expanding opportunities to truly immerse students in 21st Century Thinking including programming and robotics, and the implementation of our new iLab – all speak to a forward leaning institution.

With that, I think I’ll go get another cup of coffee….