Leaders and Leadership Part 4–TBT (Throwback Today)

Oh what a tangled web we weave,

When first we practise (sic) to deceive!

–Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi, Stanza 17.

Scottish author and novelist (1771-1832)

Here I present my fourth installment on Leadership.  “Honesty is the best policy” is not just a great quotation (which, by the way is at least 2,500 years old and was recently rated as the most familiar wisdom cliches among children) but is also the absolute truth.  Additionally, in leadership, it is indispensable.  Very few qualities are as important for a leader to possess than that of total honesty with his workers.  No matter if things are going well or poorly, keeping the truth from the workers will, when the truth finally does surface–and it surely will, cause the workers to become unreliable and it will cause a nearly irreparable breach of trust.

As I’ve stated before, before working at Carr Lane Middle School in the St. Louis Public Schools, I worked in retail sales for Radio Shack.  During the most recent time that I worked there, the store, and in fact the whole mall where the store was located, experienced a huge sales loss over previous years.  It could have been possible for the manager to hide that fact from us workers in an attempt to keep our optimism in tact and keep us selling hard.  However, the way the company’s intranet is set up, it would have also been very easy for us to find the accurate information on the sales statistics.  If he had employed deceit to try to get us to work harder and we would have subsequently discovered the truth, he would have lost the respect of the entire store’s workforce and been rendered completely ineffective in his leadership.

History (including recent history) is plagued with instances where those in leadership and those with influence have spread dishonest information.  At the end of the day, however, they were found to be lying and quickly lost their position and respect.  This applies to politicians, business leaders, school leaders, teachers, leaders of student groups and even leaders of families.

Make it habit now to practice honesty.  Even if you’re not in leadership now, maybe you will be someday.  If you have practiced dishonesty in the little things now (i.e. “My dog ate my homework”; “I finished it but left it at home”) then it will become a habit that you will carry with your throughout life.

Leaders and Leadership Part 3–TBT (Throw back today)

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me
R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Take care, TCB

Today we take a third look into qualities of leaders.  Today we look at Respect…not just a great MoTown hit but also a critical aspect of leadership.  Respect is another quality that separates managers from true leaders.  Respect is one of those traits that is easily lost and difficult to gain.  That truth applies to all people not just leaders.  However, with those in leadership, the truth is even more pronounced.  All you have to do to see that is just look at public figures.  They may move along in relative anonymity (outside of their own jurisdiction) for years.  However, it only takes a single misstep and they quickly become a national figure who is “embroiled” in a controversy that eventually claims their position.

Without respect from your followers you can never become an effective leader.  I heard a great quote once about respect in leadership: “A leader without respect is apt to become like the groundskeeper at a cemetery; lots of people under him but nobody paying attention.”  Followers who have not developed respect for their leader (or, even worse, who have lost their respect for the leader) tend to act and look like they are paying attention when the leader speaks.  However, they rarely listen to anything except directions about moving forward.  They ignore any comments about vision or personal comments.  These same followers are also ones who, if the leadership is not changed, will be one of the first to look for alternate employment as soon as possible.

So, how do leaders (or rather those in leadership positions) gain the respect of their (assigned) followers?  By creating open line of information exchange as mentioned in an earlier post.  By truly living out an open-door policy for communication.  By realizing that, most of the time, the end result is the key in a project and how a worker reaches that result is of comparatively little concern.  In other words, unless the method that a worker uses to reach a goal either takes considerably longer or costs considerably more, allow the worker to use his/her preferred method rather than forcing another method on them to achieve the goal.  Those who dictate methods rather than desired results are commonly referred to as “micro-managers”…not typically a positive nickname.  However, the easiest way to garner respect from your workers/employees/followers is to follow the golden rule:  “So, in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you.”  If you treat people the way you hope to be treated, you will have a constant flow of respect and support.

Leaders and Leadership Part 2–TBT (Throw Back Today)

In my last post, I mentioned that a critical ability for a good leader is that of information exchange. Today I look at another necessary quality: positive attitude and optimistic outlook. I talk about these together because they really go hand-in-hand. If you have ever known someone with a negative attitude, they usually also have a pessimistic outlook of the future. “Things are bad and they’re going to get worse before they get better,” seems to be their constant thought and expression. On the other hand, it is difficult to have a positive attitude if you think things are going to get worse in the future.
I’m reminded of a story that I read about a young psychology graduate who enlisted in the army. One night, he was placed on Kitchen Patrol serving apricots to the dinner line. One important note is that Army Apricots are notoriously bad and, as such, most soldiers do not take them when offered. This psychology student decided to try an experiment. For the first third of the line that night, he inquired about whether they wanted apricots by saying, “You don’t want apricots do you?” In that first third of the line 90% of the soldiers declined to take the apricots. For the second third, he changed and said, “You want apricots, don’t you?” Of that third, nearly half of them took the apricots. For the last third of the line, he changed again and said, “Do you want one dish of apricots or two?” Of that third, 40% of them took 2 dishes while 50% of them took 1 with only 10% of the soldiers declining to take the apricots. In retail, especially commission-based retail where I have also worked, this is known as suggestive, or even assumptive, selling. While working at Radio Shack, we were told that if a customer bought something that used batteries, we were to pick up the batteries on the way to the counter whether or not the customer requested them. We were to assume that the customers wanted them…a positive for us as commissioned sales staff because the more we sold, the bigger our paycheck. The manager knew from experience that if we assumed the customer wanted the batteries, they would be more likely to take them than if we asked them first.
It is this positive attitude that must be present in every good leader. You must assume that your followers want the best for their future and the company’s. You must also assume that the workers will do everything in their power to reach that goal of excellence. Will there occasionally be those who do not have the company’s best interest at heart? Of course. But those with a positive outlook and good motives will far outweigh the others.

Leaders and Leadership–TBT (Throw Back Today)

Throughout my life, I have had many opportunities to be placed in a position of leadership: in my current position with data and website management, my former position as a technology leader, positions in my former school as a team leader (two years as the arts team leader and one as the math team leader), leadership positions in the classroom as a teacher, several leadership positions in my church, leadership potions in the theatre company I ran, leadership positions in other theatrical production, etc. In all of those leadership positions, as well as through reading a lot about leadership techniques both from books and online, I’ve learned a great deal about how to lead people.

One of the greatest things I have learned is that a leader doesn’t have to be (and, in fact, probably won’t be) all-knowing all of the time. In every position, I learn things as I go. An important trait is to accept that some people will have information that 1) you didn’t know they had and 2) that you wish you had. This is a major aspect that sets true leaders apart from managers. People who are managers, believe that all of the information should come through them and, only with the information that they see fit, they will disseminate it to their subordinates. Leaders, on the other hand, not only know that some information will come from their subordinates, they accept and even encourage it. For true leaders, information exchange goes both ways through very large, accommodating pipes. In this global age of information, anyone at any level can contribute in a way that can move a company, group or team forward.

A New Page

Today, August 15, 2014, I turn a new page in my life. Today is my last day working for St. Louis Public Schools. On Monday, I will begin full time at the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis where I’ve been working part time since January. I’ve spent 10 school years at Carr Lane Visual and Performing Arts Middle School. In those 10 years, I’ve worked 3 as drama teacher, 8 as the building’s technology liaison, 3 as math teacher, 3 as computer teacher, 9 as student tech crew advisor, 4 as yearbook advisor (including 2 where I did nearly all of it by myself), 2 as Fine Arts Team Leader and 1 as Math Team Leader. Needless to say, I’ve worn multiple hats some of the years (all but the first, actually).

However, the last 11 years has also included a series of “coincidences” that has brought me to where I am today. First of all, I found out about the position in the district when I went to interview with Be Smart Tutoring for a tutoring position. The person I interviewed with had just left the district and notified me of a music position at the high school. I submitted my resume and was called for the drama position at the middle school. Going into my second year, it looked like I was only going to be here one year. It was discovered that they shouldn’t have hired me anyway (as I was the 2nd drama teacher at the school and they were only “supposed” to have one…long story) and it looked like the other drama teacher was going to remain due to seniority. However, then it was realized that the other drama teacher wasn’t fully certificated and I was so I was able to keep the position.

At the end of my second year, the building’s technology liaison (and assistant principal) moved to another building leaving a void in the tech liaison position which I was put into since I had already shown capabilities in the position. Due in part to the fact that, as tech liaison, I completed much of the schedules for the arts classes in the third year, when the Fine Arts team leader stepped down, I was elected by the team to take her position as team leader.

After my third year, I was moved to math teacher and math team leader while still filling the technology liaison role. After my year teaching 8th grade math, I was pulled out of the classroom and made full-time technology liaison. The next two years afforded me a lot of opportunity to gain a lot of much-needed knowledge in Windows, Servers, Websites, email, hardware, Office software, and many other topics related to working on and with computers. During the second of these two years, I also worked on the school’s yearbook by completing most of it using Microsoft Publisher. The next year, I was placed back in a classroom (with additional planning time for technology work) as a math and computer science teacher…I also created the yearbook again mostly on my own. The following two years, I had a formal technical crew class which also assisted on the yearbook and taught all three grades of computer science.

Finally, last year I was placed back in the math classroom while still managing much of the technology and tech theatre for the building. In November of 2013, due to my extensive, hands-on training in technology, I applied for and got my current position at the Christian Activity Center (how I found out about that position was another “coincidence” that I don’t have space for here) which has led to my new full-time position.

All-in-all, God has keenly orchestrated the events of the last 10+ years to put me in an optimum position to make this change.

17 Years!

In two days, on July 19, my wife, Kristy, and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage.  We’ve had a lot of ups and downs in those 17 years.  The ups include the births of our three children, purchasing two houses, our involvement in many productions and many friends made over the years.  Some of the downs have included several mis-carriages (including three late-term), financial difficulties, family “squabbles” and even some disagreements between the two of us.

Through it all, the one thing that has kept the marriage going more than anything else is our constant faith in God.  When we look back over the 17 years, we can clearly see God’s providence over and over as we have dealt with the “downs” and God’s provision of the “ups” too.

Another Summer

Here we are.  Summer 2014.  I’ve made it through another school year and am now embarking on a new season in life.  This year, for the first summer in several years, I’m working at a full time job.  In my 10 years working for St. Louis public schools, I’ve had an opportunity to work summer school 3-4 of the summers and the remaining years, I’ve worked part time and odd jobs over the summer.  This year, I’m continuing in a job that I started in January (as part time, extra income) at the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis.  At the CAC, I work as a Computer Clubhouse instructor and have the opportunity to teach computer concepts from typing to graphic design to students in Kindergarten through 12th grade.

In addition to working full-time, my kids are also involved in the Florissant (MO) Fish Swim Team where my wife serves as the Parent Rep.  We are also planning a trip to the National Fine Arts Festival in Columbus, OH during the last week in July where my daughter will be performing in Children’s Storytelling and Puppetry.

All-in-all, it looks like another busy summer.

Random Thoughts

I’m really going to try to make regular entries to this blog.  Sometimes, the posts will seem random.  Sometimes I’ll even use the prompt of the day that I have on the site.  Looking for a few good writing prompts, check out the “Homeschool Websites” page.  It has a rotating prompt of the day.  I’m also trying to add to the list of prompts.  Currently, they will cycle through all of them about every 50 days but I’ll be adding more to the list as I go along.  Some of the prompts are thought-provoking and will require several paragraphs to completely answer.  Others are quick and painless and can be answered in a couple sentences.  I’ve tried to make them so that they can be used by anyone…children, tweens, teens or adults.  Enjoy!

Lesson Learned

Sometimes lessons have to be learned the hard way.  I learned the hard way that it is always best to keep a backup of a website…even one created with a database backend.  I was going through the installations of WordPress on my hosting account and noticed a couple that I thought were old and no longer in use.  I decided to delete them, databases and all, to free up space and overhead on the server.  Come to find out, one of those databases was still in use on this site.  I even clicked right through the “Are you sure?  This cannot be undone.” warning.  Guess what?  Deleting the database could not be undone.  Most of the content I was able to get from the Wayback Machine (archive.org/web) but I still had to rebuild the database, re-upload all the pictures and create the pages one at a time with the content.

Now, I’ll be making and retaining backups of the site regularly.

Hope you enjoy this site!  I hope to bring regular thoughts on lots of various topics: education, design, computer technology, theatre, arts, Bible, church, etc.

Feel free to follow this blog for regular updates.