new teacher

A Letter to the New Teacher: You Are a Leader (Yes, you)

Dear New Teacher,

It’s August. I’ve been thinking a lot about you.

I know you are anxiously waiting for the very first day that will commence your career in education. You are likely wondering if you are ready enough to greet the children who will soon spill through the doorway. You are not sure if your plan book is full enough, your classroom organized enough, your heart brave enough.

I want you to know that it doesn’t matter if you have one day of experience or 15 years, you will never feel completely ready to lead the young faces in front of you. I understand that the thought of being a leader while still trying to figure out how to group the desks in your new classroom may seem distant and irrelevant.

But we need you, new teacher. And whether you know it or not, you will be leading and inspiring somebody from the minute that first bell rings. Emerging leadership starts on day one.

An important thing about leadership is that it begins and ends with optimism. It must always begin with the strong belief that you can do something worth doing, and then the optimism and hope to try again when the first thing failed.

There will be failure, and joy, and a feeling like you are in way, way too far over your head. You will fall deeply, madly in love with teaching, and the next day you might want to crawl under your covers and not go back. This is the way it goes with anything that is worth doing. The key is being self-aware of that joy and disappointment, and recognizing when you need to reach out for help. This doesn’t show weakness–it shows you are human.

All teachers have bad days. What will set you apart as an emerging leader is what you do with those bad days. Will you let the obstacles define you as an educator, or will you reflect and move steadily forward? Remember, the children (and adults) around you learn immensely from how you respond to setbacks.

Don’t be afraid to eat lunch by yourself. If you feel a ripple of negativity around you, I urge you to take a step back and stand on your own two feet. There is nothing wrong with making a different choice, even if it isolates you for the moment.

Choose kindness every single time.

Collect data. You will encounter endless amounts of data, so make sure you make space for the data that will make a difference. Pay attention to your students’ struggles, motivations, interests, and what makes them laugh. Take notes and lean in to hear more. This data will tell you far more than any test score, and it will be the bridge to deep, meaningful relationships with each and every one of your students. Because teaching, like leadership, is all about relationships. You can’t move kids, adults, anyone–unless you engage their heart.

Be vulnerable. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of struggle. I can tell you this –you will inspire more people by being imperfect than you ever will having all of the answers.

Continue to acknowledge-openly and regularly- that you have so much to learn. Say you don’t know. There may be educators in your building who are relearning how to do this. Be a model for what it looks like to embrace imperfection.

Continually ask yourself, “Why am I here?” Hold on tight to your why.

There will come a day (sooner than you think) when you will want to share your beliefs to move and inspire others. So hold on to your struggles, your celebrations, your imperfections. Leaders rely on stories, and your story starts right now.

Before you take on your very first day, please let me tell you this:

You are a leader. Yes, you.

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adversity

6 WAYS TO OVERCOME ADVERSITY

You didn’t get the promotion you wanted. You don’t see eye-to-eye with your boss. You feel unqualified in your current position.

At some point in your career, you’ve encountered adversity. I know I have.

What do you do when you find yourself in these situations? What steps do you take to overcome adversity?

A few years ago I was asking myself those questions. I had hit a pothole in my career. Well, maybe more like a sinkhole.

I received some feedback that left me hurt, disappointed and afraid. After the initial shock had worn off, I became angry; I wanted to quit, to give up. Then I started questioning myself; maybe I wasn’t cut out for this job. I was stuck in that sinkhole and could not see a way out.

The capacity to overcome adversity is a defining quality in a leader. Adverse experiences can become defining moments in our careers. They are the moments that you find out what you are truly made of. These are opportunities that allow you to discover your hidden leader. It’s what we do with these experiences that define us.

It wasn’t the negative feedback that changed me; it was how I responded that allowed me to grow as a leader.

What I did in the weeks following, challenged me to become a better person as well as uncover my hidden leader. These are the six things that I learned from facing adversity and eventually helped me to climb out of the sinkhole. 

Explore your feelings

When difficult things happen to us, it’s okay to explore those painful feelings for a bit. Sit in that sinkhole for a little while but don’t set up camp there. You must start your journey moving forward, it might be messy, and hard, but it’s necessary.

During my experience, my anger turned to uncertainty and left me feeling vulnerable. I took this time to examine myself, the situation and re-evaluated my core beliefs. From there I was able to establish a plan to move forward.

Learn from it

Psychiatrist Vikto Frankl’s spent years in Nazi death camps. He argues that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it and move forward.

How can we learn while enduring pain?

First, learn to look at challenges as valuable teaching opportunities. The pain is temporary, but the learning will last. Spend time in self-reflection, ask yourself, “How did this happen?” “What could I do differently?” “Where do I want to be in 5 years?”

Then share your learning with others. Commit to making the most of this learning opportunity for yourself and others.

Writing this blog post is one way I can help others learn from my experience. We owe it to one another to share our new understandings based on our own unique experiences.

Create a vision

For some of us, the new year starts in January, for others, it’s September when school begins. Whatever the time of year, determine a crystal clear vision of what you want to achieve in life. To set goals for yourself, you must have an understanding of what you want to accomplish. Write it down and look at it every day. Align your day-to-day actions to your vision. Set manageable goals for yourself to create winning moments. Don’t let the past be an anchor, but a platform that propels you toward the future.

I asked, “Where do I want to be in 5 years and how can I get there?” I started writing down my thoughts, and those thoughts turned into goals, which lead to action. Start writing every day, write down your goals and how you can achieve them.

Make friends-not enemies

Disappointment, fear, and anger can turn to bitterness. Bitterness can cause you to project negative feelings toward others. Don’t let disappointments stop you from trusting others and acting professionally to accomplish a goal. Choose to trust people and assume they have the best intentions until they show otherwise. You must be able to build relationships with people for them to learn from you and gain from your experience.

It would have been easy to marinate in anger. Anger can be comforting, especially if we get others to join us. But I had already written down my vision, created an action plan and decided where I wanted to be in five years. I realized anger was not going to get me there.

Take responsibility

Lou Holtz once said, “The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it.”   The best leaders take responsibility for their actions, regardless of the situations that created them. Recognize that you played a part in the situation. Don’t make excuses, or blame others. Take ownership and move forward. By taking responsibility, you are in control of your future. You determine your next steps.

Had I earned some of that negative feedback? Absolutely. I examined the feedback, tried it on for a while and took responsibility for it, and then I put it away. I didn’t want to be that person, the one who wore that feedback everywhere, that blamed the people that were giving the feedback. Accept it, learn from it and move forward.

See the positive

Ask yourself, “Are there any silver linings in this situation?” Constantly look for the positives, adversity strengthens character, builds resolve and endurance. The one thing you have control of is your response to adversity. Your attitude will be contagious, adopt a positive one.

Digging myself out of the sinkhole made me a stronger, more compassionate and courageous leader. I uncovered strengths I didn’t know I had. I established a career plan instead of aimlessly moving along without direction. I reached outside of my comfort zone and made new, long lasting relationships. Facing adversity can have a positive outcome.

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Life can and will knock you down every once in a while. Even push you into a sinkhole. Leaders climb out of the sinkhole as soon as possible, emerging as stronger, more compassionate leaders ready to serve others.

What do you do when you find yourself in these situations? What steps do you take to overcome adversity?

Lisa

 

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ted talks

5 TED Talks That Will Change the Way You Lead Tomorrow

Here at Leading with Imperfection, we believe that you can redefine yourself as a leader in small ways every single day. It doesn’t take much time to shift your perspective. That’s why we are so hooked on TED talks. They deliver big inspiration in bite-size portions. TED curator Chris Anderson describes the average length of 18 minutes as “long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention. It’s the length of a coffee break.”

I have made it a practice to think of one clear, actionable step I can take from a TED talk and make changes that matter. Below are some of my favorite speakers and how they can change the way you approach leadership—the very next day.

  1. Brené Brown helps us embrace vulnerability

In Brené Brown’s insanely popular talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability,’ she categorizes people into two groups—those who feel worthy and those who don’t. The difference between them? The courage to be imperfect and the willingness to embrace vulnerability.

Her talk is hilarious, yet startlingly raw and honest. She urges everyone to stop chasing perfection and trying to control and predict life. You will laugh and nod in agreement through her delivery. And then in the very last minute, Brown’s steady and reassuring words will lift a burden from your shoulders that you may not have even known was there.

Lead differently tomorrow: Identify something specific that makes you uncomfortable in your work with others. Acknowledge it. Decide to be vulnerable. Choose courage and give up comfort. At the end of the day, you can’t choose both.

If this talk inspires you like it did millions of others, check out her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.

 

  1. Adam Grant teaches us how to be original

In ‘The Surprising Habit of Original Thinkers,’ Grant focuses on what we can all learn from nonconformists—people who “not only have new ideas but take action to champion them.”

He puts a new spin on procrastination by renaming it “thinking.” This time that we allow ideas to develop in the back of our minds before taking action is the sweet spot for creativity. He explains, “Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make unexpected leaps.”

Another quality of original thinkers is their fear of regret. Grant explains that we are all afraid of failing, but innovators are more afraid of not trying. “They know that in the long run, our biggest regrets are not our actions but our inactions. The things we wish we could redo, if you look at the science, are the chances not taken.”

Lead differently tomorrow: I’ve been experimenting with the word “yet” and it opens up so many opportunities to continue after failure. We started this blog in May and we don’t have a large amount of readers—yet. That one simple word gives you the freedom to be original instead of shutting down after a setback. Think of a problem you previously defined as a roadblock. Approach it again. This time around, take your time and continue to doubt yourself in order to improve. Innovators are the ones that fail the most times.

 

 

  1. Celeste Headlee reminds us to listen

We spend a lot of time avoiding conversations we don’t want to have. In ‘10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation,’ Headlee encourages us to stop avoiding connections with others by teaching us how to talk and more importantly, how to listen.

She keeps it simple. “You need to enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn.” This can be a shift in mindset in leadership, where we often believe we must arrive armed with all of the answers.

Lead differently tomorrow: Start with her advice to genuinely be interested in other people. Make a stronger connection tomorrow by releasing everything you want someone to know about yourself—and inspire by letting them truly, and without interruption, show you who they are.

 

  1. Simon Sinek urges us to ask why

In How Great Leaders Inspire Action’, Sinek tells us to look inward and ask, “Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?”

This fascinating talk on how to move people to believe in what you do will turn your approach to leading others inside out. Give it a watch and prepare for a thought-provoking experience that will keep you reflecting on the “why.”

Lead differently tomorrow: Start just one day with this perspective in mind. Instead of mentally going through your to-do list tasks and how you are going to accomplish them, ask yourself why you are showing up in the first place.

  1. Drew Dudley puts leadership in perspective

‘Everyday Leadership’ encourages emerging leaders to value the impact they have on others-no matter how small. Listen to this talk when you are not feeling adequate. Don’t make these excuses for not feeling like a leader.

‘Everyday Leadership’ encourages emerging leaders to value the impact they have on others-no matter how small. Listen to this talk when you are not feeling adequate. Don’t make these excuses for not feeling like a leader.

 

It’s time for that coffee break. Go get inspired 18 minutes at a time. And if you just can’t get enough of TED, add Want to Talk Like TED? to your summer reading list.

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Leadership

Lead with Fireworks

I’ll never forget watching my daughter experience fireworks for the first time. She stared up in awe, jumped up and down, clapped and shrieked as blue and red circles bloomed above the trees in our neighborhood.

“Blue, red, yellow!” she screamed joyfully. When the silence took over and only smoke lingered in the black sky, she was smiling quietly. A spark of wondrous excitement remained in her eyes.

My son, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with the light display. He covered his ears, closed his eyes, and asked to go inside. For him, fireworks are nothing more than a disruption. They are loud and usually occur well past his bedtime.

These opposing reactions made me think about leadership, coaching, and inspiring others…shouldn’t it feel a little more like that? Shouldn’t leadership feel incredibly joyful and just a little disruptive?

If you are a hidden leader, you likely feel compelled to share an innovative solution, take a next big step, or simply announce to others a joyful ambition that might, possibly, move your team forward. However, many of us don’t want to disrupt. We worry about how others will receive our contribution.

This is a problem. Leadership consultants Matt Kincaid and Doug Crandall address this issue of silence by explaining who does get heard. “Those who talk well, early, a lot, and loudly earn high status.” This is less of a strategy of how to be heard, and more of a warning of who is not being heard. I wondered,

What ideas remain in the dark because we are afraid to share them?

It’s time start lighting up the sky. Disruption causes us to change ourselves—in both small and dramatic ways. In Adam Grant’s TED talk about nonconformists, he explores the success behind original thinkers. They don’t just generate ideas, they speak up and talk about them. They stand out from others because they take action on changes that are disruptive—and may not even work. They champion these ideas anyway.

Disruptive ideas, like fireworks, are chaotic. They make our current understanding of the world slightly hazy. I’m proposing that we embrace disruption anyway and let it radiate through those around us. Big, passionate, booming ideas—why do we silence them in our own heads?

Leaders must be joyful without restriction. There must be a strong certainty that their ideas are important, even if they meet resistance. Even if people cover up their ears. Even if the idea may not work.

Go ahead and start shaking up the quiet sky—if you don’t, somebody else will.

Think of one thing you want to change that is within reach. (Or maybe not so in reach.) What small (or medium, or big) ideas remain hypothetical within your own internal thoughts?

Speak them so they light up the horizon in all of their vibrant colors.

Don’t worry for a second how much sound you make.

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The 6 Women Leaders You Should Be Following

A typical day for me begins around 5:00 am with a cup of coffee and a few scrolls through social media. Twitter and Facebook are my chosen tools for procrastination before starting my day.

Apparently, I am not alone. A recent survey by Ipsos Mori reveals that we spend 3.6 hours on social media; this is 25% of our waking time. If this is true, I want to use this time purposefully.  Rather than continue with aimless scrolling, I set out to find pages and people that could inspire and encourage me on my journey of discovering my hidden leader.

What I found were many, many Facebook and Twitter pages that inspire, motivate and inform on every topic from business, to writing, to marketing, to simply boosting how we feel when we get up in the morning.

But the majority of them were written or founded by men. I had to ask, “Where are all the women?”

In education the majority of teachers are women, but what about in leadership roles? In corporate America, for example, women hold only about 15% of senior executive positions and 17% of board seats. After some research, I narrowed it down to these six women or companies founded by women that share one common goal; to empower women. They each have a different approach, represent different kinds of content, post regularly, and frequently engage with followers. They all inspire.

All of the women or companies on this list are on many social media outlets. I have included their Facebook and Twitter handles as well as their website information.

The goal is to follow at least one of them on the social media platform of your choosing and personalize your growth this summer.

1. Lolly Daskal

Lolly Daskal is the founder of Lead from Within, global leadership, executive coaching, and consulting firm based in New York City. Lolly Daskal’s new book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness is a Wall Street Journal Bestseller. Her Facebook page is a positive mix of quotes and blog post.

She brings an interesting perspective when searching for your hidden leader.

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2. LET’S GROW LEADERS

Karin Hurt is the Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, and author of two books: Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She believes that building trust and relationships with people is the only way to lead. Signing up for this Facebook page provides you with a steady stream of content that includes personal stories, videos, podcast and blog posts.

Though provoking questions are frequently posted to engage the audience in the conversation.

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3.  Random Acts of Leadership

Founded by Susan Mazza, Random Acts of Leadership focuses on empowering people to become their best selves. Creating relationships is the key to making a difference and delivering results that matter. The site includes interviews with authors, strategies for improvement and building positive relationships.

This page has an intimate, personal feel.

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4.  Natalie MacNeil

Natalie MacNeil is an Emmy Award-winning media entrepreneur, author of She Takes on the World. She is a mentor to women entrepreneurs at shetakesontheworld.com. where helping women reach their potential and build the lives and a business of their dreams is her passion.

She Takes on the World is a fun, quirky page full of personal insights, encouraging quotes and informational videos.

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5.  Lean In

Lean In is the nonprofit organization founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to empower all women to achieve their ambitions. The page offers inspiring stories as well as expert advice. The web page, Lean In, offers Lean In Circles, where like-minded individuals can connect to learn and grow together.

This page offers real life stories about women all over the world who are Leaning In to change lives.

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6.  Tiny Budda

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and the site’s editor. Tiny Budda offers simple wisdom for complex lives. It features post written by over a 1,000 different blog contributors. It truly is a community where people share what they’ve been through and what they’ve learned to help themselves and others, it just happens to be online.

You’ll find posts about happiness, love, relationships, change, meaning, mindfulness, spirituality, simplicity, minimalism, letting go, and more.

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I am challenging myself to learn a little bit through social media this summer. I have followed all of the women on this list.

Let me know who you decide to follow and what you learn this summer.

 

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