Sunday, October 2, 2016

What's Hidden in You?

I really had quite the fixed mindset early on as a young school leader. Success was defined by how well I performed my daily routine.  In my opinion, I worked hard but really didn’t push myself outside my comfort zone.  The reason was that in my mind there were just certain things I couldn’t do…nor had to. I didn’t have the “talent”, pre-disposition, personality, or character to do certain things. Thus, I didn’t really pursue activities that might have made me a better school leader. I did what I had to do to get by, never giving any real thought to what I was truly capable of. 

Professional practice had been dictated to me or so I thought. What we are capable of is really a combination of our mindset and the support or feedback we get from others. Intrinsic motivation to become better and grow in ways like never before will be all some people need, but others need a bit more guidance. I think I fell in the latter category.  Our minds are often the greatest advisor that we face each day, thus it is important to constantly improve our intellectual bank and diversify our networks in order to help unlock hidden talents.

For me, becoming a connected educator in early 2009 served as a catalyst for professional growth in ways that I could never have imagined. First and foremost, I improved and diversified my intellectual bank. As I developed and grew my Personal Learning Network (PLN) I learned how much I did not know. The resources, ideas, strategies, different points of view, support, and feedback that I received from people across the globe, many of which have now become good friends, pushed me to pursue transformative change. I don’t have to go into great detail on all the sustainable changes that were implemented over the course of five years as I have written extensively on the topic. 

The bottom line though is that the conversations and relationships that evolved thanks to a diversified network and enhanced intellectual bank unlocked leadership qualities hidden inside me. Critical conversations now occurred both face to face and virtually. My circle of trust extended beyond the brick and mortar walls of my building as I now had access to trusted colleagues who were willing to provide advice no matter when I needed it. This was the push I had constantly been seeking during my professional career and it ultimately motivated me well beyond what I thought I could do.

Through my diversified network, I met Ken Royal, one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He pushed me to extend beyond the use of Twitter to share what was going on in my school through a blog. I was very resistant, as I did not consider myself a writer. The process of writing was always a struggle for me. Needless to say, he motivated and coached me on the process of blogging. Now years later I have four published books and two more on the way in 2017. By no means am I a prolific writer in my opinion. For me, writing anything beyond 300 words is an accomplishment. One that I would have never realized if it had not been for the professional relationships I formed in online spaces.

Social media, Twitter and blogging in particular, had another unintended, positive consequence. Through the sharing of our work at New Milford High School I began to receive many invitations to present on our many evidence-based change initiatives. If I was afraid to write then I was terrified to speak in public. Prior to becoming connected I could never speak in public for more than five minutes unscripted. The more I was asked to present the better I became with little scripting. This had an immediate impact in my district as I become better at articulating key messages to my stakeholders. Little did I know how this change would carry me to an entirely new career.  I never realized I had a calling in public speaking and could never have imagined speaking to incredible educators across the globe. 

Doubt, leading to a lack of confidence, often clouds our true abilities.   Our minds are quick to revert back to safe mode when we are faced with a challenge or engaging in an innovative activity.  I hope my examples above illustrate that anything can be possible.  Once you are able to unlock what’s hidden inside you, you will be in a better position to help others unlock their hidden talents, skills, and passions. 


  1. This is great insight. We often think of school leaders as fully formed once they take office. But school leaders need to develop their confidence and leadership approach as they move through their careers.

  2. Thank you for inspiring me to allow my inner voice an opportunity to speak. Comfort makes the stresses of the job bearable but I'm learning the true meaning of the job of an educational leader is leading others to understand teaching and learning go hand in hand.