Meditation on Selfies

I’ve never been good at selfies. I get the angle wrong, you can’t see the background, the final photo is often one of me looking startled, and well, not my best. And these days, as I get older, I’m rarely satisfied with pictures of myself. I’m fine with the aging thing (well, mostly – rather be less stiff in the morning) but photos, and selfies especially seem to highlight that process. Pro tip: sunglasses and a smile always help.

Selfie culture is interesting. I recently watched one young person take a series of selfies as he was walking along the street, apparently randomly. I guess one of those ended up on SnapChat, the latest in a series of pics that show his best side to his friends and followers. But I don’t want to sound like I’m 100 years old.  I’ve heard those over 50’s (and some younger ones) moaning that no one asks anyone to take pictures anymore. So what? I like selfies. I think they’re fun. They make me laugh, and I love to laugh!

Lisa Neale is a brilliant selfie taker. You can see a lot of them on her Instagram account and she’s even taken some good ones of me! I’ve tried to emulate her, but I got so frustrated with my apparent lack of ability with selfies that I looked up some tips. Most of it seemed to be directed at bloggers or people who want to be Insta-famous. Uh, that’s not me. But I do want friends and family to have fun scrolling through my feed.

On a recent vacation, my partner and I had great fun taking selfies and trying to get them right. I stopped being self conscious in front of other tourists and we took tons until they looked OK.  Me holding the phone, her pressing the button.

We may have finally got it! Teamwork really is better.

Good Leaders Read…A Lot

Educators know that reading is power.  I’ve been reading What Connected Leaders Do Differently by Todd Whitaker, Jeff Zoul, and Jimmy Casas. It’s a solid read with an american focus, and I’ve found some great nuggets.

Here’s one: great leaders read all the time.

Photo Credit: The Fresh Feeling Project* Flickr via Compfight cc

Great leaders also always seek to improve. They want to learn and to get better. They’re never satisfied with good enough. Reading is part of that continuous improvement. How else can you explore new ideas and create new schema?

I read a lot, mostly at night or on the weekends. I have a paper book on the nightstand (no screens before bed!) and spending 15 – 20 minutes winding down helps me on two fronts: I can take my mind away from the whirlwind of the day and read something of interest.

What do you do to amp up your reading?

A Simple and Powerful Leadership Truth

We love to ask grand questions. What was your best day ever? What was the worst part of your vacation? What is your favourite book of all time? These kinds of questions can be great conversation starters, but I always have trouble answering them. How can I choose one book of the hundreds I’ve read?

Then last December, Will Gourley posed a big question through a #tweetthehalls hashtag. (It’s a fun idea that promotes lots of interaction on Twitter.) Day 2 was to share your best new learning so far this school year. I jumped right in! Here’s my tweet:

Since then, I’ve also come to realize that making assumptions about anything is a pitfall. You might ask why it’s taken me so long to come to this. After all, that old chestnut says, “Don’t assume, because you make an ass…”, you know the rest. I think agreeing with a statement and understanding the impact of that behaviour are two different things.

An example might illustrate this better:  this year, I’m involved in a Pupil Accommodation Review, a government process initiated by trustees that takes a close look at a group of schools to decide what is needed in that area of city – consolidation, renewal etc. It’s where trustees can decide to build or close schools in the city. I’m facilitating this technical yet highly emotional process with a group of parents, staff and community members to provide advice to trustees before they make their final decision. And I can’t make any assumptions.

I’m immersed in the daily business of education at central office as well as the work of the Board of Trustees. I know the policies, background to decisions, staffing, and pretty much the inner workings of how it all happens. That informs my reactions and decisions. But of course, the committee mostly has none of that. So I can’t assume that they understand how decisions are made or how schools really work.  And why would they? They are immersed in their own contexts, whether at work or at home. So I have to explain clearly and make sure they have the information they need.

The need for setting context, checking in and explaining can be linked to the difficulty of communication. We’ve all experienced how hard it can be to truly make yourself understood. Because we cannot truly know what others are thinking and feeling, unless they tell us, we are often guessing how our messages are received – guessing through facial expression, body language, and words we hear. And all that is filtered through our own experiences and bias.

I’ve read many leadership articles and books that urge over communication and understood that on an intellectual level – sure, sounds great! Good idea. But now I’m getting it in a deeper, more visceral way. I’m paying more attention and seeing this powerful leadership truth. We all need repetition and explanation. All the time.