Sunday, May 24, 2020

Work Smarter, Not Harder

I have a secret to share. In my humble opinion, I am not very smart.  While others might disagree, such as my mom, I pride myself on being extremely resourceful. However, this was not always my strength.  During my years as a teacher and principal, I would spend countless hours planning, researching, and attending professional learning events to hone my craft in order to become a better educator.  In all honesty, though, I was just doing what I was taught, and thought were the best ways to grow. The amount of effort put forth resulted in me working much harder than I should have been.

Over the years, I began to delegate more and build capacity in others.  I established hiring practices that resulted in the hiring of a lot of smart educators. By investing in, and trusting the people around me, more time was freed up to focus on innovation and large-scale change initiatives to improve school culture. Now, this represented an excellent first step, but probably the most impactful shift to the way I not only thought but worked, came in the unsuspecting form of a little blue bird and a tool called Twitter in 2009. Here is where I finally learned the biggest secret to working smarter, not harder, through the formation of a Personal Learning Network (PLN). The image below illustrates another secret that I have to come clean about, but one that also represents the ultimate power of connected learning.

All of us are limited to the people we surround ourselves with in life.  Social media has completely disrupted that and, in the process, removed barriers such as time, geography, and money.  As I have mentioned for years, the true power of a PLN is not how many people follow you, but the quality and expertise of those with whom you choose to connect and engage with online. No matter the tools used, what results is anyone and everyone can take advantage of collective intelligence. Here is why this matters to everyone regardless of title, position, and power:

  • Knowledge, skills, intelligence, and resources are an increasingly valuable currency in the digital world. Why would you not want access to all of these when they are readily available?
  • We can now teach each other and learn something we previously had no knowledge of through diverse expertise anywhere, anytime, and from anyone.
  • Life is all about choices. So why not embrace the strengths and skills of others around us, and, as a result, create more opportunity to influence others and to disrupt current thinking? 
  • Connecting with those who are doing or leading the work provides needed context and motivation to do the same.
  • It’s all free with a device connected to the Internet.

Every leader, including students, teachers, administrators, community members, and parents, can benefit from a PLN. HERE you can access a quick-start guide.

Connect yourself to the smart people then help your peers, co-workers, and those you serve do the same. To be more effective, we need to realize that there is a wealth of human resources at our fingertips that can help us all do what we already do better. They can push us to take a critical lens to our work, deliver essential feedback, answer questions, and provide support when needed.  Together we are better.

Always remember that there is someone out there smarter than you. Admitting this is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you genuinely want to get better, and not work harder in the process, connect with these people using digital tools.

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