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Today I happened across a list of 100 best leadership quotes.  A large proportion of these quotes emphasize the relational, inspirational, caring elements that characterize leadership as distinct from management. I started reading the “100 best” from an administrator perspective, and then I began to re-read the quotes substituting “teacher” for “leader”. As you might guess, my thought experiment underscored how the very best teachers are those who demonstrate outstanding leadership qualities.

For example:

#26: You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case. (Ken Kesey)

 

…or put another way…

 

You don’t teach by pointing and telling people some place to go. You teach by going to that place and making a case.

 

I’m not sure that Kesey’s leadership style (or teaching style, for that matter) would fit well in today’s workplace/classrooms. But that quote reimagined is a container for constructivist perspectives of authentic learning environments.  I don’t love the hint of persuasion that “making a case” in Kesey’s quote implies, but I choose to read it as being willing to start where the learner is at and establish the relevance and salience of learning. And the best teachers are right alongside their students as they journey to unanticipated destinations.

 

Actually, that list consitutes quite a gold mine of pointers for outstanding teaching.

 

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Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.” – e. e. cummings

 

I’ve been thinking about how our questions define who we are today, and who we will become.

At a conference last week, I attended a session focused on questions. Not scientific questions or the questions we ask others in clinical practice – the focus was on questions that we ask ourselves. This inspired me to think about some of the big questions I should be asking.

Here are three of my top questions for 2015-16:

  1. What do I want more of in my life?
  2. How can I better contribute?
  3. Where do I need to work harder, and where can I scale it back?

 

To paraphrase Voltaire:

“Judge a person by their questions rather than by their answers”.

 

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Finding beauty all around you

 

In a previous post (PowerPoint Design Best Practice) I discussed my #1 tip for creating beautiful and compelling presentation slides:

PPT Essential Design Principle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just one problem – where to find fabulous backgrounds and images? Although there are lots of “free” image sites online, I have found that many of these tend to be over-used and/or not what I’m looking for. Stock images are a great option and alternative, but subscriptions can be costly.

Believe it or not, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to create your own gorgeous images. Composing and capturing the “perfect shot” is far from easy, but there is great beauty in the tiny details that surround us every day. Here are some examples of pictures I’ve taken that I can’t wait to use in future presentations. The extreme close-up strategy makes it easy even for rank amateurs like me to create my own image stock with a borrowed camera during a morning walk.

 

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Reflections on motivation and why people change

 

How to motivate change is a big question for clinical educators and practitioners because someone else’s behaviour change is, in the end, wholly out of our hands. Over my 15 + years of practicing and teaching Motivational Interviewing, I still find myself getting stuck in the “righting reflex” when I see a person making (what I consider to be) unwise decisions.

It all comes down to individual motivation and commitment, and that’s a scary prospect when the stakes are high. We see someone following a risky trajectory and we want to grab the steering wheel. How bad do things have to get before an individual figures it out for him- or herself?

My own experience is that everyone has a particular “pain” threshold: biologically, psychologically and socially. In other words, a state of being that I might find totally unendurable physically, mentally or inter-personally may not be so bad for someone else. We each bring a singular standpoint and value-set to the decisions we make and how we live our lives. 

And here’s the thing:

People only change when the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.

 

In other words, motivation is tied to individual perception and experience of suffering. For example, from a teaching standpoint, it can be heartbreaking to see a promising student at risk of failing a course due to not attending class or completing assignments. But the important thing is…how does the student see it?

A “red flag” from a Motivational Interviewing perspective is when I am more invested in change than the person I’m working with (in this case, the student). I can better enhance motivation by stepping back, exploring possible reasons for change, and offering what I’m hearing about the pain of staying the same. Underlining a person’s perception of some of the costs of negative behaviours can open the door to a productive conversation about possible solutions.

 

As Andy Warhol put it:

When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them.

 

Related articles:

Reflective Listening: The most valuable tool in the tool box?

Reflective Listening Reflections

 

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Bridging the research-practice gap

At a recent conference I attended, one idea was especially  “sticky“:

To know and not to use

Is not yet to know

(Buddhist saying)

Knowledge transfer (KT)  is (rightly) a major concern among researchers, funders and practitioners. Somehow these words really brought home why.

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Data is not information

Information is not knowledge

Knowledge is not understanding

Understanding is not wisdom.

 

– Clifford Stoll

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