Wednesday, January 2, 2019


It's already the New Year and I'm still working on my resolutions!

In addition to my resolutions of weight loss and expressing more gratitude, I'm going to work hard on one that my father frequently reminded me of while I was growing up; resolving not to put on the “overcoats” that could keep me from developing into my full self.

He explained that “overcoats” were stories or beliefs that people put on you ranging from what they thought about your religious beliefs, to your height, the color of your skin, or the work position you held. He even pointed out that the world's beliefs of what it means to be a man, how you earn a living and raise your children were "overcoats" that could be problematic. He let me know that I was in charge of making the decisions about who I was and what "overcoats" I wanted to wear, warning me that other folks would want to throw a lot of their beliefs on me.

He shared that if I chose to accept the “overcoats” made by what others thought, I could become so burdened and weighed down by them that I wouldn't even be able to reach the buttons to peel them off! He warned that I might become stuck, immoveable and frozen in what others thought and expected of me and unable to make up my own mind.

We all have "overcoats," or beliefs that we have accepted and that we would like to take off. My resolve this year is to peel off the “overcoats” that don't represent my best self and let more of my true self shine through. I think I might discover some parts of me that have been covered up!

Do you have any “overcoats” you would like to take off this year?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Thoughts for Thanksgiving

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, and while it’s my favorite holiday of the year, sometimes my family and extended family can be a bit challenging when we gather. Some of them want to bring up old grievances or talk about politics or topics that rekindle old issues and cause divisiveness. The turkey doesn’t taste quite as good when there is bitterness in our mouths. But, there are ways to manage through the holiday that build connection and mutual appreciation.

Over the past year-and-a-half, we have been fortunate in welcoming Jada Monica Drew of Social Designs to our school each month to help us learn how to have better conversations with each other and, as was our topic last week, with our children. Her Dialogue Principals are universal and designed to help any conversation go more smoothly.

Jada recommends five steps to better conversations. She offers that we should always start with being curious when someone says something that kindles a strong emotion by asking why they feel the way that they do and, perhaps, how they came to think the way that way. The second step is to listen, or as Jada puts it, “Listen to the 3d power!” Then, affirm the person through body language or saying something such as, “I can see how you have come to think/believe that way.” The next step is to acknowledge your bias or beliefs and then clarify to make sure that you understand the other person. Now, you are ready to connect and to create and share what you are learning from the other person and how it might influence your thinking. Not all conversations come to conclusion or closure immediately, so it’s important to accept that there may not be closure to the conversation in that moment, yet perspectives are broadened, understandings gained and the possibilities for future dialogue remains.

It’s not always easy to follow these steps, but in my experience and in the experience of those who have used them, these Dialogue Principles help conversations to remain civil and often lead to greater compassion and unexpected changes in perspectives – both theirs and ours!

I wish everyone a joyous, safe and relaxing Thanksgiving filled with gratitude for family and all that we are blessed to have and experience in our lives.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Developing Intellectual, Ethical and Interpersonal Foundations

Developing in our students the intellectual, ethical and interpersonal foundations that they need to be successful lies at the core of a Greensboro Day School education. We believe that when our students posess these core foundations that they will lead fuller lives and go on to have great college experiences and become engaged, happy and productive citizens.

While the intellectual and ethical elements of our mission are more easily seen in our academic programs and honor system, the interpersonal development that we do with our students is not as easily seen. This work takes place primarily in our advisory system in the middle and upper schools and through our Second Step program in the lower school.

At the heart of our advisories and Second Step programs is the belief that helping our students to know themselves and to understand others will allow them to engage more productively with their peers and teachers, decrease stress and increase learning. We believe that developing our students' interpersonal foundations helps them to more fully develop their ethical and intellectual abilities.

While raising emotionally intelligent children may seem like a “soft” skill, we believe that it is critical in becoming confident, engaged and able citizens. The fact is, we are an emotionally driven species that is constantly pulled and pushed by the events around us. And, if we are not able to understand the motivations of others and why we react the way that we do, we will more than likely come to see ourselves as victims and not as capable and important contributors who have a range of skills in addressing our own needs and those of others.

Knowing that emotions drive our daily actions, it’s important to learn how to effectively deal with them. Children who know how to manage their feelings and develop emotional intelligence at an early age are more able to calm themselves and thus improve their concentration, have higher academic achievement, live in good health, and establish better relationships with their peers.

We strive each and every day to develop in our students the intellectual, ethical and interpersonal foundations that they need to become constructive contributors to the world so that they can lead happy, successful lives.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Changing the World

There are many things to teach our children and only so much time. But, to empower our children to make a positive change in the world, some things are more important than others.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Difficult Conversations

“In order to help students grow as critical and independent thinkers and to become comfortable with disagreement, GDS will develop and implement a school-wide plan for engaging in civil discourse on difficult topics, including politics, history, social issues, and current events.”

The above is the first goal of Greensboro Day School's Accreditation Improvement Plan that came from our self-study undertaken during the last school year as we prepared for our 5 year re-accreditation by SAIS.

In today’s environment where communication is instantaneous, and sometimes incorrect, where political lines are more sharply drawn and racial, religious and gender issues are openly discussed, we have learned that our students want to discuss challenging issues. Our job is to help them learn how to safely have those conversations.

The first step in creating safe classrooms for difficult conversations falls to our faculty, many of whom, like most everyone in our country, struggle with how to successfully engage in these types of conversations. In order to increase their comfort level and help them to support the students in having difficult conversations in their classrooms, we have undertaken the journey of learning some helpful techniques.

Our first efforts began as we welcomed faculty back to school in August. We invited Jada Monica Drew of Social Designs in Greensboro, NC, in to help us. She shared the dialogue principles that she finds most effective when having a discussion on a potentially controversial topic. She suggests that it will help our students to enter conversatons first with an attitude of being Curious about what the other person has to say, then Listening very closely, Affirming that you have heard the other person, Acknowledging any Biases you have, and then Clarifying by asking questions before moving on to trying to connect with the other person and, possibly, to Create a new scenario. The last point she makes is my favorite, and most the difficult; Accept that you may not be able to come to agreement or closure. Even if this is the case, each participant has been exposed to different ideas that may change their perspective.

Jada stresses that creating classrooms where healthy discussions can take place is critical in helping students to become effective and engaged citizens. In safe classrooms, students can be assured that their teachers and the other students will see them for who they are, hear what they have to say, be treated fairly, and be protected.

Utilizing these principles in our classrooms is an important first step in helping our students to feel safe and able to express their opinions while learning from those who may have a different opinion. 

At GDS, we believe that helping students learn how to safely have difficult conversations will help them to become both life-long learners and more effective contributors to the world.

If you would like to learn more about how to have difficult conversations, Greensboro Day School is hosting its ''Community, Connection & Care series again this year. Our first event of the year will take place Wednesday, September 12 from 6:30-7:45p.m. in the Kaplan Lobby of the Davison Center of the Arts on our campus 5401 Lawdale Drive, Greensboro, NC 27455.

You can keep up to date on the days and times of these meetings throughout the year by contacting Susan Davis, our Director of Communication and Marketing.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Making Better Decisions

Over the years, there have been many methods advanced for decision making. Perhaps, the most common is the Pros and Cons list first made popular by Benjamin Franklin. But, over time, this method has been found to be flawed, as have many of the methods we have learned to use in making decisions. 

The Heath brothers studied and wrote about better ways to make decisions in their highly regarded book, Decisive, which our leadership team read when it first came out. It has been very influential in helping us to make better decisions.

Recenly, I came across Shane Parrish's list of what he calls 25 heuristics to make decisions. His list has expanded my thinking about how to make decisions, and I think it will yours as well.

Some heuristics to make decisions. Please add your own and challenge these.
1. Schedule time to think.
2. When considering options, watch your heart rate.
4. No decision is sometimes the best path. If you can’t get comfortable deciding, the answer is to explore the tension not force a decision.
5. Instead of fight or flight, gather info. Think about what you can do to get the information you need to make a better decision.
6. Saying no is more important than saying yes.
7. Use time to filter people and ideas. The majority of the time you don’t need to be an early adopter.
8. Look for win-win decisions. If someone absolutely has to lose, you’re likely not thinking hard enough or you need to make structural/environmental changes.
9. When stuck work back to first principles and build up.
10. The rule of 5. Think about what the decision looks like 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years, 5 decades.
11. Let other people’s hindsight become your foresight.
12. Avoid things the best version of yourself will regret.
13. Ask what information would cause you to change your mind. If you don’t have that information, find it. If you do, track is religiously.
14. Focus on collecting feedback to calibrate your ability to make this decision.
15. If you’re outside your circle of competence and still have to make a decision, ask experts HOW they would make the same decision not WHAT they would decide.
16. Lean into (not away from) what’s making you uncomfortable.
17. Put things on a reversibility/consequence grid —irreversible and high consequence decisions likely require more time. The rest of the time you can usually go fast.
18. Identify the 2-3 variables that really matter and break them down to unearth assumptions and get the team on the same page.
19. Fast decisions should never be rushed.
20. Too much information increases confidence not accuracy.
21. Avoiding stupidity is easier than seeking brilliance.
22. Walk around the decision from the perspective of everyone implicated (shareholders, employees, regulators, customers, partners, etc.)
23. Some warnings signs that increase the likelihood of stupidity are (environment, the pace of change, rushing, physically tired, hyper-focus, authority, consensus-seeking behavior).
24. Own the decision. (If you make decisions by committee have one person sign their name to the decision - someone needs to own it.)
25. Decisions are nothing without execution.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Future of Leadership

As Michelle Bostian, the head of our counseling department, and I have been preparing to teach a leadership class with 12 of our employees, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on new trends in leadership. One article that I found particularly engaging is a white paper on the future of leadership produced by the Center for Creative Leadership or CCL.

Image result for  leadershipAppropriately, the article is titled, The Changing Nature of Leadership, and it points to the leadership needed in what has become known as the newly emerging VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world in which we are living. The challenges leaders face are more complex than ever, and there are many reasons for this, not the least of which is information overload, which leads to viewpoints often supported by questionable information, and social disruptions which are changing long held opinions about the role of women in the work force, and new ways of working such as the use of technology, ranging from software to robots, and the use of artificial intelligence in decision making.

With so much more complexity, CCL reports that the challenges leaders are facing go beyond their individual skills and that today’s leaders are finding that they are relying much more frequently on interdependent work across boundaries along with a greater reliance on teamwork and collaboration.

Image result for leadershipThe White Paper points out that leaders of the future will need to focus more on participative management, building and mending relationships and managing change in a more volatile and ambiguous environment. It also emphasizes that the concept of leadership is moving from being regarded as a defined position to a more collective concept that is developed throughout the organization through interdependent decision making.

Bottom line results will continue to be critical in any leader’s work, but the days of the heroic leader who steps into the room and takes over are numbered. The job of today’s leader is to create space for others where a sense of safety permeates the culture and people can generate new and novel ideas; where seemingly different departments and people can come together to share their thoughts; a place where people can feel that they can affect outcomes, be more productive and accomplish more than they could alone. Leaders in the new organizational cultures will be more effective and employees more satisfied as decisions and innovation are achieved through teamwork and collaboration.

In order to be more effective, leaders will need to learn how to develop teams, teach the skills of collaboration, value employees, and create safe environments where ideas and innovation can flourish. The days of work just for pay, firm hierarchies and factory line thinking are over. For leaders and their organizations to be successful today and into the future, they must embrace the talents of people across their divisions and adopt new skills and innovative ways of thinking and leading.