Posts Tagged 'integrity'

Qualities of resilient people

We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. In this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of  “critical mass.” It’s always about critical connections. —Grace Lee Boggs

Resilient people: 

• Are intentional. That is, they are “on purpose” rather than reactive.

Understand that what they do today affects tomorrow. That is, they understand that all things are connected in sometimes subtle and often profound ways.

Display integrity in all areas of life. Because they are honest and keep their promises, people trust them.

Are clear and forthright in assessing current reality, which helps them better understand the root causes of problems and evaluate the actions that are necessary to solve them.

• Align their daily actions with their values and most important goals.

• Are hopeful for a better future which they are motivated to help create.

As a result of these qualities, resilient people are influential, which in turn often thrusts them into leadership roles.

What would you add to this list?

Schools are intensely interpersonal


“[T]he transmission of knowledge is not done in a vacuum. The quality and influence of relationships has a tremendous influence on how and what is shared, and with whom.”

Tarsi Dunlop

Schools are intensely and unrelentingly interpersonal. That’s why the continuous improvement of teaching and learning requires strong relationships founded on trust.

And that’s also why “reforms” predictably fail when they are based primarily on technical remedies such as high-stakes testing and poorly-designed teacher evaluation systems.

A recent study supports those conclusions:

“What we have found over and over again is that, regardless of context, organizational success rarely stems from the latest technology or a few exemplary individuals.

“Rather, it is derived from: systematic practices aimed at enhancing trust among employees; information sharing and openness about both problems and opportunities for improvement; and a collective sense of purpose….”

High-quality teaching and learning for all students requires that administrators and teacher leaders develop school cultures that have at their core high levels of integrity, mutual respect, and trust, attributes that are challenging to cultivate and even more challenging to sustain.

Leaders who ignore this challenge or minimize its demands will fail in their most important responsibility—the creation of school communities in which everyone thrives, no matter their age or role.

The 3 basic ways planning can fail, and how to avoid them

Dennis Sparks

In my previous post I recommended “back-of-the-envelop” planning as a way of creating energy and maintaining momentum related to important goals.

There are three basic ways such planning (and all planning) can fail—not having a clear goal that is worthy of our sustained effort, not knowing the specific next step required in the plan, and not having a fail-safe system for recording and tracking the promises we make to ourselves and others for the completion of those actions.

A worthy goal: Worthy goals create clarity and energy. They stretch us out of our comfort zones as we attempt things we may have previously thought were impossible.

Specific next steps: Most of us have fully intended to implement an important idea or skill after reading an inspiring article or book, participating in a team meeting, or having a profound professional learning experience only to discover a few months later that

we had neglected to do so because we didn’t have a system in place for turning our good intentions into actions.

A fail-safe system: A fail-safe system immediately logs the actions we intend to take—which are promises to ourselves and/or others—and provides reminders for their completion. For years my system consisted of ever-present 3 x 5″ index cards, a pen, and a box in which cards were indexed, filed, and acted upon. Today I use electronic reminders that sync among all my digital devices.

As basic as these steps may seem, they are often overlooked in the frenetic days and interpersonally complex work of teachers and administrators. And when they are overlooked, momentum is lost.

It’s also important to remember that our integrity is damaged when we don’t do the things we said we’d do. And when our integrity is damaged, so, too, is trust.

It is much easier to maintain momentum and trust than it is to restore them.

So don’t leave momentum and trust to chance—always know your next action and have a fail-safe system to ensure that you fulfill your promises.

Our colleagues and students are counting on us to do so.

Learning to fake authenticity…

Dennis Sparks To recast a widely-quoted observation about sincerity: “The secret of success is authenticity. Once you can fake it you’ve got it made.”

Leaders’ authenticity helps us determine whether we want to follow them, which means it is fundamental to their ability to influence others.

But for it to be meaningful it must be, well, authentic. That means that any attempt to fake it or follow a script automatically destroys its value.

When leaders are authentic, what they show on the outside matches what is on the inside. Their thoughts, feelings, and values are respectfully revealed as circumstances allow.

For instance, effective leaders are likely to demonstrate in their daily actions (“outside) a belief (“inside”) in the capacity of all students to learn at higher levels and in the ability of all teachers to successfully teach them given proper support.  They also display in their demeanor and words a genuine sense of hopefulness about the future and an infectious enthusiasm for their work.

Because leaders’ authenticity is often communicated nonverbally, it is sensed intuitively. Physician Alex Lickerman describes the process of intuitive knowing this way in a blog post titled “Truth and body language“:

“We all give ourselves away every minute of every day. That is, we broadcast our true intentions, feelings, and even thoughts without knowing it through our body language, tone, and facial expression. This happens whether those intentions, feelings, and thoughts match what we express through language or not. Thus, poker players compromise their bluffs, public speakers their performance anxiety, and friends and lovers their true feelings.”

While authenticity cannot be faked, it can be cultivated when leaders:

• Regularly seek clarity regarding their beliefs and values through writing and in dialogue with trusted colleagues,

• Seek opportunities for even brief periods of solitude to listen to “the small, still voice within,”

• Speak their truths in ways that demonstrate civility and compassion, and

• Frequently reflect on the extent to which their daily actions are aligned with their values and beliefs, including with the school community as a whole.

What are additional ways in which leaders can cultivate and demonstrate their authenticity?

Why bad things can happen to good people when we withhold our truths

IMG_1365Most of us are aware of the possible negative consequences of being fully honest with others. Conflict, anger, and damaged relationships readily come to mind.

But we are often less aware of the bad things that can happen when we withhold our truths to avoid the negative consequences we fear. For example:

• Others are deprived of the benefits of our perspective and experience.

• Important problems are not acknowledged and resolved.

• Trust is damaged.

• Collaboration deteriorates because of a lack of trust.

• Our physical, emotional, and spiritual health may be harmed.

• We are more likely to think that others are also not telling their truths.

• Our integrity is diminished because others are aware that we are not being fully honest.

When teachers and administrators consistently withhold their truths they enable a downward spiral of energy, trust, and meaningful collaboration.

As a result, teaching, learning, and relationships suffer. Which means students suffer.

Bad things do indeed happen to good people when we withhold our truths.

5 unacceptable reasons for breaking our promises

Dennis Sparks
When people don’t keep their promises, relationships suffer. In addition, when promises are not kept in professional settings, the work that was promised is not getting done.
Promises made and kept are the engine of continuous improvement in teaching, learning, and relationships in schools.
Promise keeping is a fundamental attribute of integrity, which in turn is linked to trust, a core element of effective teamwork. It determines if and when important work gets done.
Promises are the concrete, actionable ways in which we state our intentions. Promise keeping enables us to achieve important individual (promises made to ourselves) and collective (promises made to colleagues, family members, friends) goals.
There are always “good reasons” for not keeping promises. But only one is acceptable.
Here are five unacceptable reasons for breaking our promises:
• I forgot.
• I didn’t  use the word “promise” when I said I would do it.
• I am far too busy to be expected to do everything that I say I will do.
• Some things are so trivial that it doesn’t really count if I don’t do them.
• No one seems to notice if I keep my promises so it doesn’t really matter.

The acceptable reason: Unforeseen events may occasionally require that we renegotiate our promises with those effected in a timely way.

No last minutes surprises. No waiting for others to reach out to ask us for whatever it was we promised to do.

No promise is too insignificant to be honored, no matter what its content or to whom it is made.
Educators’ integrity and the goodwill of others is far too important  a resource to be squandered in that  way.

When leaders fail the integrity test, they fail at leadership


Each week this summer I’m introducing a blog theme that connects popular and important posts from recent years. Each theme offers a number of perspectives on a perennial challenge of school leadership.

This week’s topic is “integrity.”

Integrity is, in my view, the most important personal quality for those who lead school communities. Simply put, it means that leaders are honest and keep their word even when it would be easy or advantageous not to do so.

I encourage you to scroll through articles in this thread to find those that match your interests.

In addition, I encourage you to take a closer look at these essays:

“Choose integrity over expediency”

“Creating school cultures with high levels of interpersonal accountability”

“When principals and teacher leaders speak their truths”


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