People Follow People, Not Positions


Think for a moment about a leader, a mentor, or a colleague you admire.

  • What does this person mean to you?
  • What do you know about this person as a leader/worker/ professional?
  • What do you know about this person as a person?
  • What do you know about this person’s life outside of work?

I first became an administrator when I was 29. 29! I was so young!

Because I was so young, I felt it was very important to remain professional at all times with my staff.  I never wore jeans. I followed advice I received from a professor once, who told us that if there is a staff social event, the administrator should be one of the last to arrive and the first to leave. And above all else, I never shared anything personal about myself with staff, especially not in staff meetings or communications.

When I became a principal, my staff was always asking about my family, my life outside of school – they wanted to get to know me. I wanted them to get to know me as a leader and I didn’t think they needed to know anything about the me outside of school.

Boy was I wrong!

As I sit here reading A Leader’s Legacy by Kouzes and Posner, this quote jumped out at me:

“They want to know what drives you, what makes you happy, and what ticks you off… This isn’t about prying. This is about learning to trust.

People follow people, not positions.”

I know this now, many years after my first administrator positions. But I wish I had learned it much earlier on in my career.

Kouzes and Posner share a list of questions that most people want to know when they meet a new leader (their work comes from years of research and study in leadership). The questions include:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you stand for and believe in?
  • Where do you want to take us?
  • Why you?
  • What makes you think you can do this?
  • What changes are you planning to make?

“People always want to know something about the person doing the leading before they’re going to become the person doing the following.”

This is making me reflect on my current relationships with work colleagues, and what they know about me and vice versa. I work to cultivate trusting professional relationships and hope that is evident to others.

How do you help your colleagues get to know you as a person and as a leader?

When you start a new position, how you let others see what kind of leader you are?

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What I Read in January 2018

I keep track of my reading for my own (slowly fading) memory! In years past I have written a description of each book I read during a month, I have written about my personal reading experience with each book, and I’ve kept a running list. This year I want to include a quote that resonated with me from each book. I love collecting quotes and ruminating on why an author chose a specific word or phrase. I look forward to gathering a wide range of quotes this year!

  • Promise My Love (The Bradens Book 7) by Melissa Foster – I read book one of this series last month and somehow managed to download book seven next – oops! This was a short, quick read, and a typical cheesy romance – perfect for vacation reading! “Legend has it that everything in their lives was meant to keep them apart, and against all odds, they found their way to each other.”
  • After You Left by Carol Mason – What an intriguing story – or two stories intertwined. As you learn about how Alice survived her husband leaving her mid-honeymoon (and why), you also learn about Evelyn’s love stories, from decades past. When Alice and Evelyn strike up a friendship, it is such a sweet relationship! “I’m trembling with the force of reality rewriting itself” and “I don’t think I’ve ever noticed how silence is a sound of its own”.
  • Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever it Takes. by Jimmy Casas – I love books published by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., including this positive, uplifting professional book. Casas, who I’ve followed for years on Twitter, offers four core principles for creating a positive culture, or culturizing a school: 1) Champion for students, 2) Expect excellent, 3) Carry the banner, and 4) Be a merchant of hope. He shares lots of examples as well as practice ideas to begin this work. I recommend this to any educator who wants to make a positive contribution to their own school or district’s culture. There were two quotes that stood out to me while reading.
    • “No one person is responsible for determining your success or failure but you, and no one is responsible for your morale but you.”
    • “It was also my job to help them [students] acquire the necessary skills and strategies to improve their changes of not walking out as a prisoner of potential but rather as the embodiment of promised expectations fulfilled.”
  • We are Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union (audiobook) – I have shared my love of listening to celebrity autobiographies before and it continues with this book. The difference here is that I know this actress’s earlier work, but not a lot of her recent work. I learned a lot about her, her childhood, her work, and her passions. I appreciated getting a closer look into her struggles and triumphs as a African-American woman in this day and age. I don’t have a quote to share, since i listened to this while driving and didn’t capture specific lines.  However, I appreciate the final message about taking time NOW to take care of yourself.
  • Final Girls by Riley Sager- A blogger I follow recommended this as a fast-paced, can’t-put-down mystery, and I agree! In fact, I had to force myself to close the book (okay, the app!) so I would go to sleep one work night, and the first thing I did when I woke up was finish the book! I always enjoy a story that is told alternating between past and present tense and between various character’s perspectives. In this case, Quincy is the main narrator in the present, but then we have a third person narrator giving us glimpses into the past, when Quincy became a “final girl”.
  • A Leader’s Legacy by Kouzes & Posner – I received this book as a gift after completing a Women in Educational Leadership Institute over the last six months. I love the research and writings of Kouzes and Posner and was happy to read this book, though it is now over ten years old.The authors discuss four areas in which leaders can work to better themselves, in hopes of leaving a lasting legacy: significance, relationships, aspirations, and courage. Unlike man of their other books, this book read like the authors were sitting down having a chat. This is a valuable read for new and veteran leaders looking to make a positive impact. A few quotes that stood out to me were:
    • “The only effective approach to sustaining performance is to tap into people’s natural drive for autonomy, and invite people to join in the adventure.”
    • “Leadership isn’t about selling your vision; it’s about articulating the people’s vision.”
    • “People always want to know something about the person doing the leading before they’re going to become the people doing the following.”


What I read in 2017

What I read in 2016


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Possibilities are Everywhere

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you buy a new car you start to see that care everywhere? The minute the idea of Brand X is in your mind, Brand X cars are passing you on the freeway, next to you in parking lots, and everywhere in between.

I feel like the same is true for my word of 2018.  The last 3-4 books I’ve read have had the word possibility in them multiple times. I’m binge-watching a show (because it is a long weekend and today was my dedicated lazy day!) and what do I see? A quote that reminds me of not just possibility, but also my supporting phrase, “adventures that stretch“.


Quote as seen on my TV 


In past years, I have not noticed my words showing up literally all around me. In fact, I had to work to bring mindfulness and rejuvenation to light in my life. Challenge was a little more present in the world last year, but possibility is really taking it to a new level this year.

This makes me wonder:

  • Have I selected a word that means more to me this year?
  • Am I anxious for something new, and am therefore paying more attention to the world around me?
  • Am I yearning for something?
  • Is this just about timing?
  • Am I ready to see every new possibility that is coming my way?

Just a few thoughts as I stretch myself on this long, lazy day.

Enjoy your weekend!  Take care of yourself, others, and your community this weekend in honor of the legacy that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. left behind.


Possibility 2018


My Word of 2018


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What I Read in 2017

I love to read! Some days, weeks, months, or years I find more time to read than others.

When I was a teacher, I used to hang a blank chart on my classroom door every August. Every time I finished a book, I would add it to my chart. This was a great conversation starter with my students and colleagues, and my students often recommended books to me (and vice versa!).  I also kept a reading journal for years, as a way to improve my own teaching of reading and writing, and to jog my memory when I couldn’t remember a particular book.

I got away from that habit for a number of years. However, when I began blogging, I realized that it was an easy way to keep track of my reading habits. In 2015 I read 44 books, which was great considering my initial goal was to #read15in15.  My goal for 2016 was to beat my 2015 record, since I love to compete with myself. In 2016 I read 69 books, and I kept track of my reading experiences throughout the year.

My initial goal for this year was to beat my record from last year. I missed that goal, but I’m happy with what I did read.  Thanks to an 8-day cruise in December, I was able to read a lot in the last month of 2017.

  1. Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham (audiobook)
  2. The Together Leader: Get Organized for Your Success – and Sanity! by Maia Heyck-Merlin
  3. The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes
  4. 1984 by George Orwell (audiobook)
  5. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  6. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook – What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing by Bruce Perry  and Maia Szalavitz
  7. The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
  8. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
  9. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
  10. Without Annette by Jane B. Mason
  11. The Search for Baby Ruby by Susan Shreve
  12. Best Friends for Life by Andrew Norriss
  13. Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel
  14. Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger
  15. Bionic by Suzanne Weyn
  16. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (audiobook)
  17. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
  18. Night School by Lee Child
  19. Golden Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #27) by John Sanford
  20. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  21. D.C. Dead (Stone Barrington Series #22) by Stuart Woods
  22. Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
  23. Unnatural Causes (Stone Barrington Series #23) by Stuart Woods
  24. Good as Gone by Amy Gentry
  25. Severe Clear (Stone Barrington Series #24) by Stuart Woods
  26. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
  27. Social Leadia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership by Jennifer Casa-Todd
  28. The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace by Ron Friedman (audiobook)
  29. Collateral Damage (Stone Barrington Series #25) by Stuart Woods
  30. Unintended Consequences (Stone Barrington Series #26) by Stuart Woods
  31. Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani
  32. Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results by Judith E. Glaser
  33. Balancing Acts by Zoe Fishman
  34. The Cove by Catherine Coulter
  35. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (audiobook)
  36. Break Your Own Rules: How to Change the Patterns of Thinking that Block Women’s Paths to Power by Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath, and Mary Davis Holt
  37. The Girl Before by JP Delaney
  38. Doing Hard Time (Stone Barrington #27) by Stuart Woods
  39. Standup Guy (Stone Barrington #28) by Stuart Woods
  40. Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
  41. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
  42. Lovers at Heart (Treat Braden) by Melissa Foster
  43. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown (audiobook)
  44. Shift This! How to Implement Gradual Changes for Massive Impact in Your Classroom by Joy Kirr
  45. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (audiobook)
  46. Carnal Curiosity (Stone Barrington #29) by Stuart Woods
  47. Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich
  48. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  49. Cut and Thrust (Stone Barrington #30) by Stuart Woods
  50. The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn


Here’s hoping to more great reads in 2018!

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My Word of 2018

happy new year

Each year, for the last three years, I have spent time in December reflecting on what I want my word for the new year to be. I go through a five-day journaling course provided by Susannah Conway. Not only does the practice ground me journaling, which I love, but it also forces me to reflect on my personal and professional goals and my aspirations for the upcoming 365 days.

Rather than set resolutions, I try to choose a word that will give me focus on a variety of goals and aspirations for the year.

In 2015 I chose mindfulness and it was exactly what I needed.

After a rough year physically, I chose rejuvenate in 2016 to help me heal.

2017 was a year of challenge and I loved the push it gave me personally, professionally, and as an active citizen and seeker of social justice in our world.

As I began my reflection for this year’s word, I was focused on five potentials. One of the activities you do with each word is to define what it means to you and look up the dictionary definition. When I wrote my own meaning of these five words, one particular word kept popping up over and over again. But as I got to the final day, I still liked two of the words from my original list along with that sixth word that kept popping up.

One of the gifts of this idea, is that there is no right or wrong way to select your word (or words or phrase) for the year.  This is a personal activity meant to guide my own reflection.  Therefore, I decided I wold find a way to incorporate all three of those words into my 2018 focus.

My word of 2018 is… POSSIBILITY.  The supporting words to help guide my year of possibility are… ADVENTURES THAT STRETCH.

Possibility 2018

I look forward to all that this year will bring and to a year of possibility.  If you have a word or focus for 2018, I’d love to hear about it and your process in the comments. I plan to blog about my word throughout the year, so stay tuned to see what adventures stretch me!

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Another Year of Blogging- 2017

December is often a time for Top Ten Lists, reflections, and preparations for goals and aspirations for the new year. I like to use this time to reflect on what I blogged about and what I want my blog to become.

Two years ago I picked my favorite posts from 2015. Last year I created a mini survey about my blog stats for the year. This year I am updating that survey to capture more about my blogging habits for the year. Feel free to play along in the comments!

My favorite blog topics this year:

  • Challenge Check-ins (my word of the year)
  • Time Management for Leaders Series
  • Building Capacity

My most read blog posts from this year:

The month in which I published the most posts:

  • January – 6 posts!
  • May, September and October tied for second place with 5 posts!

The top countries where my blog readers live (outside of the US):

  • Philippines
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia

The reasons I keep blogging:

  • for my own reflection
  • to share my learning
  • to keep track of what I read
  • I love writing!

Blogging goals for 2018:

  • Keep reflecting!
  • Keep writing!
  • Keep reading!
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Tell Me More

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness and I’m still thinking about an idea that she discussed related to conflict.  In her book, Brown cites conflict research by Dr. Michelle Buck. Buck uses the term “conflict transformation,” saying that it is about “creating deeper understanding” that requires “perspective-taking.” This is different from our typical view of conflict resolution – where one person usually wins or both people feel like they lose a little when they find a compromise. 

The idea of conflict transformation includes rethinking conflict as a way to get to know someone’s perspective on a deeper level.  When most of us are in the center of a conflict, our fight or flight instincts kick in and we either prepare to stand our grand and fight or we run away from the conflict. Buck’s research advises us to transform a conflict by saying one simple phrase… “tell me more.”

By asking someone to tell you more, you will learn their perspective, why they believe what they believe, and it might often help you come to a more natural place in your conflict. It also allows you get to know the person on a deeper level.

I use the phrase “tell me more” or “say more about that” in coaching conversations. Coaching is often about listening closely, and once you get someone talking, you want them to keep talking.  When we talk, we often solve our own problems, realize our own mistakes, and discover new ideas within ourselves. If I am in a coaching conversation with a teacher or a new administrator, I begin with an open-ended, reflective question. This usually provides the space for my coachee to open up about his practice. But after he feels he has answered the question, he will often look to me to for confirmation. Instead of adding my own thoughts, this is the perfect time to say, “say more about that”. This simple phrase gives my coachee permission to keep talking, keep reflecting, and to address his own challenges.

Whether in a conflict or a coaching conversation, I encourage you to use the phrase “tell me more” to provide someone the open space they need. You will both benefit!

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