Friday, September 20, 2013

4 Benefits of Blogging

As I wrap up my first year of having a weekly blog, I'd like to share my thoughts.  First let me say that I hated writing as a student.  The pure punishment of penmanship coupled by the brutality of bleeding red papers from the teacher fueled my awful anxiety of placing my thoughts on paper.  Don't get me wrong.  I loved all of my English teachers.  They taught me a lot, but it just never clicked for me.

My problem was simple.  My writing had no muse.  There was nothing that I was completely obsessed with enough for me to write about it.  After being in education for 17 years, 11 of which I served in leadership positions, something hit me.  I wanted to tell my story.

So I began my journey on Twitter in February 2012.  I came across an educator named Bill Ferriter, @plugusin.  (If you haven't discovered him, you are missing out.)  After participating in several chats, reading Bill's blog and discovering others just like me who were sharing their thoughts, I became inspired to write my first blog, Are You Counting the Days or Making the Days Count?

The exhilaration of pressing the publish button for the first time is one of the scarier things that I have done.  What if people don't like it?  What if my thoughts are misunderstood or sound unintelligent?  After surviving the first published blog, a sense of confidence was discovered.  I can write.  I can put something out there that people will read.  So after doing the same thing week after week, I have become more comfortable sharing, but I have also grown tremendously and it is because I have embraced these 4 benefits to blogging.

Build Belief in your Thoughts & Ideas

Nothing builds your belief in your thoughts and ideas better than writing them down on paper and publishing them for the world to see.  Through editing and revising your craft, your ideas are massaged to the point that they truly embody your philosophy.  The other side of that thought is that once you publish your thoughts on the world wide web, you have cemented those same thoughts in your mind.

Learn from your Viewership

Feedback is the key to building your blog.  Knowing what your viewers like is important so you can write better pieces for your audience.  I love that Blogger shows my page views by the hour, day, week, month and all-time.  I can see the pageviews of each post, and that tells me how much each post resounded with my audience.  I use this data to refine my craft and find ways to improve as a writer and thinker.

Opportunities for Feedback & Affirmation

Nothing is more affirming than having someone leave a comment on your blog.  It tells me that my words meant enough, that an anonymous person had to add their thoughts to mine.  How cool is that?  Also, it has been awesome when people tweet and share my blog posts through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.  When people share my thoughts through their own personal site, affirmation abounds in my mind.

Geography Lessons

I have found places that I never knew existed.  From the Isle of Man to the Northern Mariana Islands, my words have been viewed on every continent except Antarctica (obviously).  While the USA views my thoughts the most, I am amazed that the countries of Canada, UK, Russia, France, Germany, Australia, India, Turkey and Jordan make up my Top 10 pageviews by country.  It is so awesome to know that my words are impacting places and people that are beyond my realm of reality.

So Why Should You Blog?
Why would you not share your thoughts?  Why not solidify your thinking?  What's the worst that could happen?  At worst, not many people will read your blog.  At  best, you could write a post that could go viral!  But at the very best, you will grow in your confidence about your beliefs and improve in your own capacity as a leader, thinker and person.

Collaboration like an Assembly Line

An assembly line is a very useful tool. It brings parts together to create a final product. The interesting thing about them  is that productive assembly lines are not created overnight. In some cases they take years to build to the point where they are completely efficient and maximize productivity. 

Successful collaborative teams operate in a systemic fashion similar to an assembly line. They  create common instruction, aligned assessments, targeted intervention and engaging enrichments. Bringing all of the resources, experiences and understandings together can be a difficult challenge. When teams come together, they initially struggle with the concept of putting all the pieces together to generate a powerful product.   

Photo courtesy of
Teams are faced with questions like:
  • What do we talk about when we come together? 
  • Which resource do we start with first? 
  • Who's responsible for doing what?  

The questions go on and on until collaborative teams stop before they ever start. But before teams start building the assembly line of automaticity, there are some very important first steps that they should take before they begin to collaborate.

How can teams function like an efficient assembly-line of learning?

1.  Agree on a common purpose and product
Every member must agree on what their mission is for coming together and what product will be created as a result of coming together.  Every assembly line has a purpose for existing and it spits out a common product.  Teams who fail to do this step will run into trouble later.

2. Clarify Norms
Once teams agree on why they exist and what they must create when they come together, they need some general guidelines for working together to maximize efficiency and manage time wisely.  Creating team norms gives the assembly line guidance for working and behaving together.

3. Distribute responsibilities based on expertise & interest
All members of a team should divide the work and share the load.  The best way to accomplish this task is to tap into the expertise and interests of the members of the team.  Their specific affinities will help give the team its own unique flavor that will help them add meaning to their work.

4. Create your assembly line in a logical progression aligned to your purpose and product
No two assembly lines are the same, but they do have a common progression for creating the common product.  The common product always starts with understanding the standard.  From there, teams can discuss instruction, assessment, intervention and enrichment in an order that best suits the team.

5. Tinker with your assembly-line to remove inefficient steps
Once teams begin the assembly line of collaboration, team members should continually look for ways to make the collaborative process more efficient and effective.  Removing time-wasting activities is crucial to make the collaborative process more meaningful to all members.

6. Reflect
Teams often fail to stop and see how they are doing.  Total Quality Management is a tool that business managers employ to make a better product by engaging workers in a reflection of their roles and the result of their collective efforts.  Reflection helps the team perform better by analyzing the individual efforts of every member.

Assembly Lines

The rise and fall of manufacturers boiled down to the success of the product and its ability to generate a profit.  In collaborative teams, success boils down to one thing and that is student success.  If students are not being successful, the team needs to analyze its work to identify what actions are failing to shore up student learning.  If students are being successful, teams should identify how they can make their work even more effective.  In short, the most collaborative teams create assembly lines of automaticity, efficiency and most important, proficiency.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Leading Challenge before Change

Everyone talks about change. They say change is coming or change is here. Change agents preach we must change in order to improve. Well if that's the case, then why do so many people avoid it?

Change is not the problem. The fact of the matter is that before we can change, we must first accept the challenge to change. In order to make change, we must challenge the status quo. Literally speaking, change is embedded in the challenge 

So How do We Challenge?

First, we must have the courage to stand against the tyranny of tepid growth. Being the first person to make a stand is difficult; therefore, courage is the gatekeeper to change. 

People don't follow a person, but they will join a cause if they believe the change will make their environment a better place. Challenges that fail are often the result of a person's decision to make the challenge more about themselves than the necessity to adapt. Humility is required to make change. 

Arouse Interest
Generating support for change can be difficult. Successful change agents define how the world could be better if we all pulled together. In order for change to be initiated, leaders must peak the interest of others. 

Live with the Pain
Starting to make change hurts. It is uncomfortable and makes those implementing change want to stop. Change agents understand that pain is a challenge in and of itself, and that no change can occur without first enduring the pain.


Listen to Barriers
There is always something standing in the way. Barriers abound. People are frustrated. Look for them, and listen to what's being said. These obstacles are opportunities to turn risk into reward, and listening is the only way to make it happen. 

Engage Critics
Critics are at every turn. Do not turn them away. At first sight, they can be seen as negative naysayers, but by engaging them, leaders use their feedback to identify what parts of the change are difficult to comprehend. Critics often can't see the vision of the change, and the leader must translate his vision. 

Negate Naysayers
Naysayers and critics are two different creatures. Naysayers don't want to change while critics critique your steps throughout the change. Once you determine that a person complains for the sake of complaining and they offer no real solutions, drop them and move on. They're wasting your time. 

Goal Setting
No change occurs with a wish or a whim. Short term and long term goals are critical to ensure that leaders meet the challenge of making change. Change takes time and without goals sustained change never occurs. 

Evaluate Progress
Once goals are set, they must be monitored. Remember, what gets measured gets done. Checking progress helps leaders gauge the effectiveness of their change and the leader's own leadership in making it happen. 

I leave you with this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that sums up the challenge within change better than anything I've said. I hope you accept the challenge before the change. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

4 Ways to End the Communication Breakdown

One of my favorite songs is Led Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown".  Now while Robert Plant's thoughts are about a girl, there is a lot that leaders can glean from his simple words.  What he is trying to say is that the absence of communication always leads the organization to the same place.  The simple lyrics in the chorus set the tone for today's post.

Communication Breakdown, It's always the same, 
I'm having a nervous breakdown, Drive me insane!

These lyrics ring true of just about any time that you or your staff have gone crazy about a situation. When frustration has abounded, the root of the problem can always be discovered where someone important was left out of the loop.

So what are the ways we can end the communication breakdown?


"Assumptions are the termites of relationships." ~ Henry Winkler

When we assume without a conversation, we are often left frustrated.  Take the time to verify that communication has taken place and that it was clear.  This small investment of time will pay you back tenfold.

"The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place." ~ George Bernard Shaw

Just because you said it doesn't mean it was communicated.  Communication must received and comprehended in order for it to count.  Ask questions.  Find out if what you said made any sense.

Tools for Communication

"If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." ~ Abraham Harold Maslow

I love this quote because it is so true.  Effective leaders use multiple methods to communicate.  They don't create lines of communication.  They create nets of communication or multiple lines of communication that overlap to ensure that the message doesn't slip through the cracks.  Nets of communication involve emails, blogs, one on one conversation, text message, team conferences.  The message is delivered with multiple methods to ensure reception.


"Constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating." ~ Charlie Kaufman

Leaders are constantly talking but are rarely communicating.  This is because we have been hard wired by decades of models and examples.   We have been trained to believe that in order to demonstrate that we are competent and capable leaders, we must be preaching the gospel of improvement.  Leaders of successful organization listen to their people, y'all.  That's because great leaders know that their people make the ultimate difference and that can't happen unless the leader is listening to them.


When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant and effective." ~ Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Let's get real.  Trust isn't built in a day and is destroyed in a minute.  The reason for that ultimately lies in communication.  Saying one thing and doing another basically kills trust.  Leaders must know that every day is an opportunity to build stronger levels of trust, and the reason for that is because trust accelerates improvement.

No Trust = No Improvement

Ending the Breakdown

Communication is the hardest skill for leaders to develop because it is so hard to see results instantly.  The best leaders know that when communication is clear, frequent, honest and timely, the entire organization inches one step closer toward success.  They also believe that their communication is never good enough, that what they say is always misunderstood by someone; therefore, their work is never done.  Ending the insanity of communication breakdown is never easy and never will be easy.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My 9/11 History Lesson

It was a normal day. School was just under way. I was 30 minutes into my choir rehearsal and one of my seniors came in and said, " Hey Mr. Wink! A plane just flew into the World Trade Center." I thought nothing of it, but little did I know the most surreal event in my life was about to begin.

When 1st period was over, I went to the music store on my conference to pick up some supplies, and when I walked in, I saw 20 people standing in front of a TV speechless. They watched in utter disbelief as the details slowly emerged. As we watched the tower burn, another plane came into the frame and  pierced the side of the second tower.

"Oh my Gosh!"  "What the in world?" and other exclamatory statements erupted in the room. It was now clear that we were under attack. Feelings of rage, confusion, and sorrow went round and round in my mind. 

My mind went immediately to my wife and daughter at home and my son in 2nd grade. Do they know what's happening?  Are they safe? I needed to know. 

As I left the music store, I went back to school. Learning ceased, and we started a new lesson of coming to grips that we were now living in a brave, new world. There are no words that describe how you feel when your country is falling apart. Students needed consoling, reassurance and prayers that we were going to be ok. It is very difficult to convince students that your country is ok when you don't  know that for yourself. 

Watching panic and fear spread throughout my East Texas town, I knew that we would never be the same. Even though I was 1000 miles away from Ground Zero, a little part of me died that day.   

What I find interesting is that with each year, a little part of my memory of that fateful day dies. My hope is that this post will serve as an important reminder to others that we are historians and we must share our 9-11 story for 2 purposes. First, we must never forget, and second, our children deserve to hear the 9-11 story through the lens of our eyes.  I hope that you will take time to teach your students this very important lesson today. 

Never Forget 9/11/01

God Bless America!