Technological Relativity: Exploring My Journey

When I started working at my new position at a non-profit education organization on March 21, 2016, I had no idea how I would be handling a fresh challenge–providing professional learning about Microsoft products. The team had its Google advocates, but the position that I was filling as a Director of Professional Development, well, that was meant to fulfill the partnership that the organization had with Microsoft (not that Google or Apple were excluded).

In fact, some people came up to me in workshops just this month. “Miguel,” said one young educator, “I read your Around the Corner blog. I know you write about GNU/Linux a lot, so I was surprised to see your support of Microsoft products.” I laughed at this observation that I’ve often made over the last few months. Yet, I discovered a path forward that allowed me to reconcile differing perspectives. As someone who seeks balance (hey, I’ve been labeled a Libra and grew up seeing the “scales” as my personal symbol without embracing astrology). May I share it with you?

“The journey that I have undertaken, meeting people from all walks of life and learning from them, has been my biggest achievement.” -Aamir Khan

#1 – Give voice to the Community.
Early on, a participant at a Microsoft workshop said to me, “We have been waiting for so long for someone to support us.” I documented this story in a blog entry that was published here and described it in this way:

“We are longing for a community,” said a session participant. “Most of us have adopted Office 365 tools, but we don’t see ourselves in the numerous edcamps and workshops offered. Each of us is struggling to connect.” As instructional coach and author of The Art of Coaching Elena Aguilar says, “With a powerful community I can do so much more. I am happier. I learn and expand and, possibly, I can transform.” The 5 strategies below seek to answer the challenge of community building. Read Build a Community

I detailed this journey in a Skypechat that I gave to Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE) Trainers. Wow, that’s a LOT of people to connect with and I’m grateful to RH for making it possible.

I realized that our (e.g. bloggers, instructional tech specialists, edtech pundits) fanatical focus on Google Suites, via edcamps/unconferences, being buried in tweets, blog entries, books, articles, how-to videos has left an entire community of educators in the dark. Sure, there are TONS of folks using Google Suites. But there are also lots of folks using Microsoft tools and they have no interest in switching to Google Suites.

No one had stepped up to connect all the wisdom and expertise that this Microsoft-focused community had. So, there was an opportunity to reach people and amplify their voices. And, doing that has been such a rewarding journey! I can’t tell you how much fun it has been to chat with educators who have chosen to embrace Microsoft tools (whether by choice or district mandate) to make a difference in their classrooms and offices. Passion excites, no matter how it expresses itself.

Did you know? I had the opportunity to work with 369+ educators during the 2016 calendar year, exploring Microsoft solutions face to face! Isn’t that incredible? Obviously, I also worked with about 50-60 folks earning Google certifications.

And, there’s been fun in tapping into the cognitive dissonance between these two perspectives. Use one idea to ask, “How would doing this in Microsoft look like?” You can read one example in my Classroom Smackdown blog entry. Often, reading how to do something in one system inspires me to discover how it may be done in another. What fun!

#2 – Connect with a global community of educators.
In addition to building a Texas-wide community of educators, I have been awed by the global community of genuine, authentic educators excited about enhancing teaching, learning and leading with Microsoft tools. I remember my amazement when joining the various Facebook groups in support of Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE) and thinking, “Wow, these folks are very committed to ‘hacking education.’ That is, they were as passionate about bringing about change as those in the Google camp. And that’s really great!”

“Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter.”  – Izaak Walton. 

I can and do interact with people around the nation and the world every day. It has been incredible. And, the Microsoft Education Community–offering tons of professional learning in video format, badges and online certificates, empowering trainers to easily track professional development–has been fun to explore and grow into. At every turn, I have found Microsoft team members who extended their knowledge and expertise to provide assistance. Instead of an impersonal web site, there are many smiling faces willing to reach out and help.

“Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life.” -Pythagoras

#3 – Warm Welcome.
What a warm welcome I’ve received since I began my journey in March. Sure, I had to learn a lot (earning Microsoft Certified Trainer, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, and Minecraft Certified Trainer) in a short time but it’s been phenomenal to be able to provide support to folks who didn’t see themselves in the flurry of professional learning opportunities available in Texas. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve enjoyed a warm welcome. And, in the meantime, I’ve also picked up my Google Educator Level 1 and Google Administrator certification. I’ve learned (again) that technology skills and ecosystems are additive, not subtractive.

For fellow bilingual educators, I need not explain that some detractors refer to learning a second language as a process that must diminish the first. Or to be inaccurate, I added Microsoft and my expertise in Google was diminished. Jim Cummins’ theory is described in this way:

Cummins draws the distinction between additive bilingualism in which the first language continues to be developed and the first culture to be valued while the second language is added; and subtractive bilingualism in which the second language is added at the expense of the first language and culture, which diminish…. (Read Source)

This isn’t true. I love the fact that adding a language, adding technology tools and ecosystems allows one to develop greater expertise and deepens the relationships one has with others.

What is Technological Relativity?
The possibility that access to different technological capabilities could result in differences in thought patterns. (Source)

#4 – On the Shoulders of Giants.
As a bilingual person, I often find myself switching between languages, looking for the right way to express an idea in my head. When I’m chatting with a fellow dual language learner, what’s incredible is that the right phrase in Spanish or English can capture a different nuance of meaning that appears non-existent in one language.

The language I use impacts my perceptions and thoughts about a particular situation or action. This is known as linguistic relativity, which I was introduced to many years ago as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis:

The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ world view or cognition. Popularly known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is often defined to include two versions. The strong version says that language determines thought, and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories, whereas the weak version says that linguistic categories and usage only influence thought and decisions. (Source)

By embracing Apple, Google and Microsoft, learning the way these seemingly opposing systems focus my learning and reflections from my experiences, not unlike the triangle magnifying glass shown above, is exciting. I’m really looking forward to sharing an unpublished blog entry with you, entitled, Dystopian Learning with Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Our brains get more efficient as we do things. Our brain function improves as we learn something, then move onto the next. If we dwell on the same activity then our cortical energy decreases as our brain gets more efficient (Source: 5 Ways to Maximize Your Cognitive Potential). 

It explores solving the same problem from different technology worldviews (e.g. Apple, Google, Microsoft). This kind of technological flexibility is fun to cultivate and keeps me learning new things.

“Every single journey that I’ve embarked on, I’ve learned something new.” -Shailene Woodley

As I reflect on my experiences with these technological companions, I wonder what’s in store next.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Reaching for Transcendence: Servant Leaders Journey (Updated 2x)

When I first wrote, 4 Questions for Servant Leaders, I remembered previous opportunities for taking on jobs others found undesirable. Having been in the manager’s seat, I have had the opportunity to experience the opportunity to assign and receive jobs others felt beneath them. In both situations, the difference maker involved having a fresh attitude, without the baggage of organizational drama of “I have one more thing on my plate.” The fresh attitude enables newcomers in a position to embrace work.

What a gift, right? How do you renew your attitude, renew your spirit so that you can take on undesirable tasks like a newcomer?

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The defining question, and one that I keep coming back to reflect on, is “What are the jobs that need doing that no one wants to do?” It’s a question that can define you. Think of actors who carefully say “No” to a million different roles, seeking the perfect one that will make their career. Then, think of the actors who say, “Yes, I’ll do that.” Not only do they bring an attitude of willingness to a job that others dislike, they find a way to excel.

As I’ve gotten older, I find I’m attracted to these actors–several come to mind even now–because viewers get a glimpse into who they are each time they play a part others thought were beneath them. While these bit parts, as some like to call them, are only a small part of the actors’ career, collectively, they represent much more. At the end of their journey, these actors may get a lifetime award, never having had a single role that distinguished them. Or, it is only late in their careers that they find themselves receiving the Oscar or Emmy for the role no one wanted, but that they played masterfully.

That idea of small parts adding up to a career of winning can be eye-opening. A video game my son introduced me to, Clash Royale, suggests the value of persistence in garnering small wins leading to great success.

In the game, you square off another person somewhere on the globe. You marshal your forces to fight and win chests of gold and silver. To win, you must win 2-3 crowns, that is, overcome 2-3 castles your opponent has.

Each day, you can win a gold chest, even though you may win only 1-2 crowns per battle. Eventually, you obtain the 10 crowns you must gather to obtain the gold chest, even if you lose every match but manage to win 1 crown. Persistence is key.

Life lessons abound in this effort to win the gold chest even though you may fail to win in decisive ways. We are all beset by challenges, and some times, we are fortunate enough to escape, having learned but one or two lessons from the experience. If we persist in forward movement, no matter how painstaking, we may yet achieve the prize–a life well-lived, fraught with peril yet victorious because no small measure of wisdom has been earned.

In this blog entry at ReadWriteRespond, the focus is on servant leadership. On doing the job, of giving one’s all for others. This focus on servant leadership plays out within the confines of team leadership. Yet, much of those involved in the bit parts may play the role of follower or supporting roles. They may not be the “servant leader.”

In the end, a solitary leader may be the one who reaches for transcendence, not distinguishing herself in team servitude. Transcendence in this case means gaining wisdom from completing jobs none wanted. For this leader, a person out taking a walk without followers, reaching for the joy of lessons learned, wreathed in failure, growing successfully as a result. I suppose that such a follower isn’t a servant leader, but something else.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Make Your Work Worthy of Sharing

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Change jobs recently? Your experience may yield some nuggets of insight that Harold Jarche found in his gold pan.

Harold Jarche just put his finger on one aspect of them:

Would you still be a leader if you lost your positional authority? How would you know? In networks, your authority is derived from your reputation and the value of your connections to others in the network. Value and authority come from engagement with a network, usually over a long period of time. It’s the sum of many small interactions. So what would happen if you suddenly lost your positional authority? (Read more

The answer to Harold’s question is, “Yes, you would still be a leader if you changed your positional authority IF your authority is derived from your reputation and the value of your connections to others.”

When I worked in large urban school district and leadership changes took place, everyone on staff had to “re-establish” their value, to “prove themselves” to the new boss. Not surprisingly, only some were able to accomplish this…worse, it seems to happen frequently in schools, shaking loose existing staff (some who need to be shaken loose, others who are just frustrated, and others who are indifferent).

Protecting my team and I, at least for awhile, was a lesson I learned many years ago in my late twenties. That lesson was that you had to get your story out there, to define your projects and programs before the Central Office did it. In fact, if you could do this, then you “took the stone out of the sling pouch.”

And that story needed to be shared with as many people as possible. Not because it was false, untrue, inaccurate, but because it was worthy of being shared, warts and all. And, you had to do your best to encourage others to share their stories. Before social media, we relied on email, press releases, etc. Did I tell you about the time I won an argument with my boss because I took advantage of the Texas Education Network (TENET) to get emails out to a district-wide email list? It was inconsequential, I don’t remember what the argument was about, only that losing the argument would have hurt edtech in that District.

It’s not just about winning petty arguments with people who don’t get it. From email, we’ve moved to better tools with a broader reach. Now, social media makes sharing those stories much easier. That’s why Harold’s point is so important–we have moved beyond organizational hierarchies that control individual’s lives.

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When you build a successful professional learning network (PLN), one that connects you to global learners committed to improving teaching, learning and leading, then what happens to you in a school district or organization is less likely to upset your apple-cart. I can look back over countless interactions with Texas educators and confess to being grateful, profoundly appreciative, for each.

Am I a leader? I’m less interested in being a leader, and more of helping others and sharing ideas and information. That’s why I really like Harold’s point here:

Do people refer to your work? How often do people quote, cite, or repeat your work? If not often, then perhaps it’s time to start working out loud and contributing to your knowledge networks.

The inclination for most folks in leadership position is to lock things down. Do you know district staff who aren’t allowed to share their district’s intellectual property, whatever they create during the day? I do. And have for years. In every case, keeping data locked down in a school district was the WRONG thing to do. Beautiful, wonderful work only benefited a few people, and because technology changes so quickly (heck, everything changes quickly), work that would have stood as a shining beacon for all to see, to recognize the organization that served things up rather than locked it in a safe, died a quiet, lonely death. What’s more, the people who made that work moved on.

The Internet now makes the shelf life of great thinking accessible and easy to share. Each of us, individuals and organizations, are building a reputation that says, “Yes, we are trustworthy and what we make is worth using to change the world.”

Harold says, “Start working out loud and contributing.” Whether you’re getting the word out via email and paper newsletters (wow, that was a long time ago) or social media, for goodness sake, get it out there. If you don’t, you may find yourself stuck with some new boss who doesn’t understand the value you bring. Harold shares more in a related blog entry, Leadership for the Networked Age:

Hierarchy is necessary for (and only for!) building compliance. It is not networked. As formal power, It is not a form of leadership – but of management. In the presence of formal power, leadership is actually quite impossible to happen. 

Influence is necessary for social density and connection. It is networked. It is a form of leadership.
Reputation is necessary for value creation. It is networked, as well. It is the second form of leadership.

The response to Harold’s question, How would you know? Your network would help you.

Thank you.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Open to Possibility!

A favorite song of mine comes from the O’Shea group, Here I Am. Have a listen…aren’t they great?

Moving from one job to another, there’s something wonderful about taking a moment to reflect on the past, your hopes and dreams, and then, to re-open yourself to possibilities, to dream new dreams, to simply be open to possibility, to accept that you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen…and be grateful.

For example, as I divest myself of all the equipment issued to me in my current position, it’s a wonderfully liberating feeling to turn it all in. My hands are empty, ready to pick up new ideas, new technologies, explore different avenues of accomplishing my life goals. That’s why I love the O’Shea song…every thing that you imagined might derail you from your course actually moves you towards something phenomenal and fantastic.

A year or so ago, someone asked me, “Would you buy a high-powered Mac if you had to start over with a computer?” My response, which I detailed in a blog entry I can’t find right now, involved investing in an Acer C740 Chromebook, loading GNU/Linux on it, and using the “Chrome” side of it to tap into the GoogleApps ecosystem. And, surprisingly, the experiment has been working great. I’m sure as I embrace a new job with different responsibilities, I’ll be using different technologies. But because I’ve always “kept my hand in” with new tech, I feel comfortable that I’ll be able to transcend the tech to get things done.

Changing jobs has given me the opportunity to explore the Acer C740 Chromebook–loading Xubuntu on it as well so that I can do Chromebook stuff, but also, edit audio, move email from one IMAP account to another, remote into Linux-based servers via ssh and more–and the experience has been fun! Cost of the machine? $300. It’s an Acer C740 with 4 gigs of RAM, 16gigs of storage, and 9 hour battery life…it’s essentially, an awesome machine that I need as a writer and Linux nut. It actually plays well with everything and is easily my primary machine that I carry around.

As my 3rd generation iPad, which I essentially bought for my previous position since they were heavily invested in iPad, I’ve transitioned from an Android phone to an iPhone 6 Plus. I had invested quite heavily ($200 total, if I had to add it up) in apps that work on iOS, and feel quite comfortable working with iOS (I facilitated workshops on app-smashing and wrote an ebook, so…). But for my personal, carry around device, I am now carrying a $30 (bought it at a discount this past Xmas) Amazon Kindle Fire, and it’s great for reading and watching videos. While my 3rd gen iPad still works, I go to it less these days…the Fire is “good enough.”

One of the technologies I’ve relied on in the past has included external USB hard drives. This past month, I’ve spent time “cleaning out” the junk that accumulates in files, then moving it to cloud storage. Slimming down my data, my cloud storage options has made it easy to backup everything, eliminating unnecessary apps.

As I reflect on the other changes, I’m reminded of the old saying, “Drop the old stuff you are carrying so you can pick up the new.” Looking around my home office, I’ll probably have to do some more sorting through the old stuff, to make sure I keep what will support me as I open the door to possibilities. But, you may be happy to know, I won’t be dropping Around the Corner! It is where I’ll be tracking my journey into possibility.

How are you open to possibility in your life, work, and technology?

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

A Voxer Vow: Stop Rambling

“Stop rambling!” my brain shrieks at me, jumping up and down on the sidelines as I speak into my phone, try to sound coherent in the midst of a Voxer chat. I realize, minutes later, that I have done exactly what drives me crazy–rambled on, pursuing one idea after another, never quite bringing any to completion. It’s a fun strategy when writing, pursuing one thought, then another, stringing them together in a long dribble of words that fill paragraphs, pages. Aloud, you’re left with silence as people wonder, “What the heck was he trying to say?”

Time for brevity…as the saying goes, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” This is my Voxer vow–to speak briefly, sparing with my words.

An excerpt from Speak Briefly with Compassion and Warmth:

 “Speak briefly, speak warmly, and fill every sentence with kindness, clarity, and optimism.” When I teach communication strategies to students, teachers, therapists, attorneys and corporate leaders, we practice the “10-10 Game.” You face each other, raise your fists and begin speaking and counting. The slower you speak the better…Slower speaking also improves neural comprehension…eliminates anxiety and irritability….

How do you do it?

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

When You Don’t Fit, Go Naked

Upon arriving in the small, inner city school district, I knew I didn’t fit. The old saying, “No me hallo,” [S panish] or “I don’t find myself in these surroundings,” I’d learned from a childhood maid while growing up in the Republic of Panama (Canal Zone) was on target. But what to do? Six months later, it didn’t matter. I had migrated to a better place, committed to finding a place that appreciated me for who I was, realizing my present wasn’t preparing me for the future I wanted.

“When one discovers what is right and begins to pursue it, the necessary people and resources turn up.” Source: Gandhi

I’d experienced the feeling before, a form of culture shock when I arrived from Panama in a beautiful neighborhood in San Antonio, Texas where I was afraid of being kidnapped, murdered, chased by gang of wannabe thugs too rich to venture away from their Atari consoles but once a day. In time, I came to make my home in San Antonio, but there is always a sense of strangeness.

That sense of strangeness presses at you, stealing your breath, freezing your thoughts, and you realize, either you better make friends quick, islands of comfort in a place where you’ve been isolated, or leave. Worse, that sense of strangeness can permeate your interactions with others.

Once you have a critical mass of good people — if you bring someone who isn’t a fit, they self select to leave. We had to watch really carefully to see if people were a fit or not and then help them leave if they weren’t the right person. Source: Diane Greene as cited in this interview, Scaling VMware with Diane Greene

How do you survive in places where you don’t fit?

  1. Focus on the work. While insufficient for more than a short time, focusing on the work enables you to do what you were hired to do, and increases the opportunity to build relationships with others.
  2. Inventory your biases and expectations, then make sure you don’t take on work somewhere you don’t want to be. You know almost instantaneously whether you’re going to fit in or not. If you know what your expectations are, what your needs are, then you’ll be less likely to fall for that voice inside you that says, “Go ahead…stay, it will be OK. You’re not being fair.” By knowing who you are, where you stand, you can take control of your expectations and endure.
  3. Listen to yourself. If there’s a voice telling you to ignore that nagging sense of strangeness, listen to the part of yourself that senses things are quite what they need to be for you to be at your optimum.
  4. Avoid temptation. When we start a new job, it’s easy to fall for the temptation…the money will change everything, you say, for the better. Unfortunately, money can drown out the warning your senses are whispering.
  5. Pray, reflect, ask for guidance. If you find yourself wondering, “Did I make the right choice?” or trying to decide if you should take the plunge, make the time to reflect. Avoid the frenzied lists of pros and cons. This is not a matter of the intellect alone, but of the heart and soul. Less talk, more listening, allowing yourself to dwell within the moments.
Finally, when the time comes to leave because you don’t fit in, embrace the separation. It may be a little frightening but…you avoid what Robert Quinn calls “slow death” in his book Deep Change:

When dealing with slow death, deep change requires us to go “naked into the land of uncertainty, knowing how to get lost with confidence.” This journey into uncertainty results in the creation of a new paradigm, “one in which we must separate from the status quo and courageously face and tackle uncertainty.”

When you don’t fit in the pants you’ve put on, it’s time to “go naked,” to go into the land of uncertainty…get lost with confidence. When we do this, we take control back from that which urges to practice “safety,” that says, “Fit in no matter what, no matter what the cost, the emotional toll.”

Note: This is NOT an exhortation to embrace a nudist colony life. 😉

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

CTO’s Role – 7 TIps to For Being Strategic @jeantower

It’s hard to be strategic if your hair is on fire.”
-via Tweet from @JeanTower

A few weeks ago, an email request for a survey came into my inbox. I probably wouldn’t have paid attention–and usually delete these requests–but my superintendent was copied on the email. I usually see these opportunities as a way to educate leadership about the issues, so I responded immediately and was drafted to participate in the survey.

Thirty minutes later, I was simply having too much fun. In the short two years I’ve enjoyed in my new position as a Director of Technology Operations, we’ve accomplished so much and built strong foundations for future growth. It would be easy to take the credit but it all boils down to people who have stepped into more powerful servant leadership roles, great support from top level leadership team members. Whomever said it’s hard to be strategic if your hair is on fire regarding the work of a CTO or Technology Director obviously hadn’t spoken to my team of exceptionally talented individuals.

One of the challenges of being strategic is that you have to think long-term while implementing solutions that address problems. My favorite example of this involves encouraging a district to invest in a VMWare machine and storage area network (SAN) or VM-SAN altogether. This was critical because all servers were 6-12 years old, donated, obsolete equipment. By investing in the VM-SAN in my first year on the job, the District made a significant investment that has paid off many times.

Just this year (2014), several obsolete servers providing critical services gave hints they would crash. Fortunately, services were already being moved to the VM-SAN. My favorite crash was the Business server, which took a nose dive right after being virtualized. Whew! 60 more physical servers to virtualize!

While I thought my experience to be unique, I knew it wasn’t. I’d just spoken to a friend in a larger school district. His number of physical servers to virtualize this year? 324.

Some tips on being strategic while your hair is on fire–that is, implementing long-term solutions that address imminent needs–include the following:

Tip #1 – Build a strong relationship with your team. You often won’t know what’s wrong until they tell you, no matter what you do. You simply can’t know it all. That’s because being a CTO is a team sport.

Tip #2 – Adopt a modular approach to your network and storage design. When we plan for growth, we try to imagine how to add solutions that will play and work well together.

Tip #3 – Know your inventory and equipment, then ask, how can this situation be improved. If we hadn’t known what was in our MDFs/IDFs–and we didn’t when I started–or hanging in our ceilings, we wouldn’t have been able to plan effectively.

Tip #4 – Budget strategically. It’s so easy to spend all your funding on short-term solutions, that’s why I was thrilled to “map” on a calendar all expenditures for the next few years. This includes renewals, planned technology upgrades, resulting in a multi-year equipment and services upgrade plan.

Tip #5 – Be transparent about your efforts. More will be discussed about this in a follow-up blog entry, but I absolutely love the idea of putting your district’s top tech priorities online then sharing them with everyone. I know I wanted everyone to be aware of what was wrong, what needed to be done, and where we were at with that.

Tip #6 – Cultivate relationships with your leadership. I am grateful to have exceptionally awesome district leaders, and I do encourage you to develop these relationships.

Finally, Tip #7 is Let Your Organization’s Needs do the heavy-lifting. Remember that the heavy work of obtaining funding falls on clarifying the District’s needs and telling the organization the truth about itself. If it comes down to making changes that YOU want, you will fail. If it’s about the organization’s needs, then you have a better chance of seeing action taken.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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SchoolCIO – Settling for Nothing

Thanks to the SchoolCIO for featuring another one of my blog entries, Settling for Nothing, on the SchoolCIO web site.

Last week, I had the good fortune to have two technology directors make contact and thank me for the content shared on this blog, as well as SchoolCIO. What humbling, heartwarming experiences those were, and I am grateful that what little I’ve learned is of use to another.

The experiences re-affirm the importance of blogging, a way of capturing wisdom as it spreads its wings in front of you right before it flies off, and leaves you wondering, “What the heck just happened?”

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Ask the Question – Mine for Problems

“Mine for conflict,” goes the old saying, but more deadly are unknown problems lingering in people’s minds.

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In my team meetings, my paranoia as a leader forces me to ask the question that I never get a satisfactory answer to. I always feel that there is a problem “out there” that I’m missing, that needs to be addressed. Yet, most folks seldom see a problem as a problem when they first lay eyes on it. That’s the fun part…helping others see potential troublespots before they explode in your face.

The question I ask every time I meet with my team takes various forms; here are two:

  • What don’t I know about that you do but haven’t spoken up about and we need to address? 
  • What problem or issue is there that you know about but I don’t or we haven’t discussed as a team?

The wording may vary but the goal is the same–to get at, like a man scratching in a corner for a lost artifact, gasping to extend his reach into the unknown that may hold a problem and the opportunity to solve it.

At Great Leaders Serve blog, leaders are encourage to be a heat seeking missile for truth. That blog offers 3 suggestions:

  1. Ask people for feedback.
  2. Look at your data
  3. Get out from behind your desk

While I feel pretty comfortable about asking people for feedback, I am less so about the remaining two points. Crafting metrics that you, your team and organization will be accountable for is critical, but it’s too easy to coast and say, “Yes, that project was completed successfully! Move onto the next one!” But metrics may provide better insights than just project completion.

And, of course, getting out from behind your desk is important, too. Sigh.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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