Sunday, July 15, 2012

More Fun Than a Barrel of (Shifting) Monkeys!

As I looked through my list of blog post ideas, I came to a book that I read a couple of months ago that has great relevance to the daily practice of school-level leadership.  The book to which I am referring is Shifting the Monkey by Todd Whitaker.  I know that Peter Gabriel said that I need to "Shock the Monkey."  As a child I used to play with a Barrel of Monkeys.  My mother used to tell me to quit all the Monkey Business.  And, apparently monkeys are adept at mimicry in that they often see and then do.  However, I have never been told that I need to shift monkeys, so the title of the book was immediately intriguing.  Additionally, various members of my PLN recommended it, which is good enough for me.

As I began reading the book, I quickly understood that we were going more down a "monkey on your back" kind of road and really started to understand why these monkeys would need shifting.  I have read several of Todd Whitaker's books in the past and I enjoy his straightforward, common-sense, accessible style of writing.  The book is not long, but it has a focused message that quickly resonated with me.  The subtitle of the book is, "The art of protecting GOOD PEOPLE from LIARS, CRIERS and other SLACKERS."  We all know these types of people and as leaders we could all use some advice on helping the former while addressing the latter.

@ToddWhitaker defines monkeys as "responsibilities, obligations, and problems everyone deals with every day."  Unfortunately, there are people in every organization who are masters at moving their monkeys onto the backs of others, whether it is through their own doing or through their leader's desire to avoid headaches by simply not assigning monkeys to these draining people.  He does an excellent job of explaining many different types of monkeys and exactly how they get placed where they do.  Ultimately, the question that the book seeks to answer is, "How do I protect my good people?"  These folks are vital to the success of the organization; however, it is not realistic to move all monkeys to their backs simply because it is a certainty that they will handle things appropriately.  Not only is it unrealistic, but it is completely unfair.

As the book progresses, the focus shifts from recognizing monkeys to shifting them where they belong.  The leader's role in this is key.  With the power to direct the location of monkeys in an organization the leader must ensure that they are distributed to the correct people and not just the good people.  Whitaker spends the latter part of the book discussing types of monkeys and how to effectively shift them to their rightful owners.  He also explains how leaders can contribute to the problem by creating monkeys that are not necessary.  One common example of this is creating a rule for everyone to correct the behavior of a few.  This places a new monkey on the backs of all employees instead of just the ones to whom the rule is directed.

I think that the book is an important read and can help any leader develop a positive environment.  It has given me a great deal to think about in my own organization.  The question to answer for any workplace is: Are the monkeys appropriately placed?  If not, that might throw a Monkey Wrench into the works!

Feel free to comment if you are so inclined.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Disconnecting to Recharge?

Traditionally in order to recharge a device one must connect it to power.  I find that I am obsessed with recharging now.  My iPhone is always above 40%, my iPad is constantly charged; any device that I have is charged and ready for any important 21st century emergency.  While I realize it may sound a bit excessive, I am fine with it because I find it vital to my professional life that I remain connected.  Additionally, the benefits of being connected for personal reasons are numerous.  But, my question is this:

How does one who is reliant upon recharging using a power cord recharge the professional battery?

The Answer: Disconnect.

I have to say that when I left for Canada this past Friday evening, I was still in full-charge mode.  I had my devices with me and charged for every occasion.  As we neared the campsite, I made peace with the fact that there was no WiFi and that I did not have an international data plan.  Basically, all I was getting was the occasional expensive call or text over the next week unless I headed into town (30 min. drive) to access WiFi at McDonalds.  Honestly, this was rather unsettling to start the trip, but I knew it would become a welcome respite by about day 2.

Sure enough, I was actually enjoying my time away from the connection.  I wasn't constantly checking email, Twitter, blogs, etc, etc. etc....  I was just enjoying being out by the lake, playing board and card games with my family, reading for pleasure, and just generally relaxing.  Now I can't lie to you, during our trip into town, I did stop by Micky D's and check a couple things, but not for long and I didn't make a special trip to do it.  But, I was confronted with a problem.  On about the 5th day of our trip we found out that one of the folks in the campground with whom we are friends had WiFi!!!  I quickly got the password and started to check things, but then I remembered the whole point of the trip: Relax, Recharge, Refresh!

So, I honestly did very little with the WiFi for the last couple days of the trip.

I remembered that this trip was about catching turtles and letting them go.

I remembered that this trip was about snapping a picture of a luna moth at night.

I remembered that this trip was about sleeping in a tent with the family.

I remembered that the best way to recharge is to unplug.  Now that I am back and will be going in to my office tomorrow, I am ready to think about the future and ready the school for the new year.  I look forward to all of the challenges that the months ahead will present!  Oh, by the way, all of the devices are charged again, too.

Feel free to comment if you are so inclined.