Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Build Others - Stay Sane

People are overwhelmed with the sheer complexity of things to do and torn between the various commitments in their life, both at work and at home. Some of this is caused by the pace of change, the expectations of others and the nature of our work environments. Workload is killing us. The Japanese have a word for this phenomenon - Koroshi - literally death by overwork. Stress in low doses is good for you - this is called eustress. Stress in high doses is bad for you - this is called distress and in its worse form - death. I am more in favour of eustress than distress, personally.

Today I have friends visiting. We have had a wonderful time together and I haven't had so many belly laughs for a long time. Liz and I walked up the hills of Sumner admiring the views and talking about anything that entered our heads at the time. I don't do enough of this, do you? And yet exercise, laughter and friends are a winning combination.

I reminded me of the survey I asked educators to fill in towards the end of 2008. This survey asked some key questions about their competency in relating to others. It was a self rating survey and the results were very interesting. It was no surprise that the following question was rated lowest by respondents:

There are two main problems with lack of delegation. The first is that it can led to distress because we try to do everything ourselves. It will be quicker after all, we won't have to fix others' mistakes and we know how it should be done. Koroshi here we come!

The second issue is important too. By not delegating we are stealing from others who have the ability to perform. Our role as leaders is to build the capacity of others so that they can grow their own abilities, and in doing so succession is more likely to be assured. In order to delegate it is important to understand a person's strengths and build on these. What are the person's productive skills for that particular task? Do they have the constructive energy for the task? Consider these elements in order to delegate appropriately. Build the skills of others on purpose, for if you do everything yourself they will never learn. Your employees, colleagues and family will be trapped in a dependency model and may very well resent their lack of power. Develop their abilities to be resilient and to cope with stress positively. This implies building strong relationships and knowing the needs and capabilities of those around you.

I'm not going to rush off and shed my workload, or abdicate my responsibilities. But maybe there are some things that others want to learn and to take control of. Maybe I should start by asking them what I am doing that they could be doing. Maybe I could identify others' strengths to build on and support them to have a go. Maybe I could live for a few more years in a non-koroshi that's appealing...

Monday, 6 April 2009


I am getting perturbed. For a while I have been pondering where we are heading with educational leadership. I have read the latest books by Michael Fullan and I think he makes some good points. Trouble is there is a little voice nattering in my right ear... "but is that going to be enough in the future?" My worry is that we keep talking about leadership of schools from a past paradigm and I have a sneaking suspicion we need to move on... In fact it's more than's perturbing.

When I read the blogpost from Singapore Education Consultants, Education in Singapore - TIMMS and the "New Stupid" it confirmed my thinking. The blog quotes Mike Schmoker as raising the question whether the data that that has been collected by schools promotes 21st-century teaching and learning? Those schools that are achieving high test scores in the model of today's education say why would we change - we are successful. Schmoker's argument is that you can increase test scores without offering students tasks that are intellectually stimulating.

So if we are saying that students need to be multiliterate, to think for themselves, problem solve, think critically, be self aware, be flexible and relate to others why are we measuring learning in the same old ways. Can't we have 'and-both'? As leaders, what are we doing to drive education forward for new times? Measurement using educational standards have been tried in a number if countries with dubious success. Unintended results include teaching to the test, and the narrowing of the curriculum to be mainly focused on literacy (from a narrow perspective) and numeracy. Is that enough to create leaders for the future? I don't think so.

So here are some key questions to think about for principals and administrators:
What do we consider the essential competencies or dispositions for the 21st century to be?
Does the data we collect enhance learning for the 21st century?
Are we looking out to other schools, or beyond schools to other educational learning centres, beyond educational frames to look at global trends, busines, web 2.0...
What literacies do we need for the 21st century - just reading and writing?
What are we going to do about it?