Happy New Year…Again


A new year can seem like déjà vu all over again, yes?!

It’s especially true for people in sales: Another set of goals, quotas, and annual targets; more metrics that don’t quite capture what it takes to be successful; that familiar feeling of wishing you could take the entire month of January off to rest and recoup from yet another blazingly intense 4th quarter.

It’s true for leaders, as well: New goals and objectives that continue to involve some type of stretch; updated policies and procedures that turn the familiar upside down; another set of priorities and strategic initiatives that still don’t provide the clarity or resources you need to get everything done.

Yes, a new year CAN seem like déjà vu all over again.

Let The Circle NOT Be Unbroken

Left unchecked, this over-and-over-again can wear down even the most resilient of us. But it doesn’t have to.

A quick scan of the following five categories can help you break the cycle and make you more E.A.G.E.R. to face – and be ready for – the challenges of the New Year:

  1. E – Your ENTHUSIASM – Never underestimate the value that enthusiasm can bring. So bring it. Big Time. ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like it.
  2. A – Your AGILITY – Sure, you’ve got your favorite ways of doing things, and many of them are likely quite refined. But make a point of expanding your range, as it were. Being a one-trick pony may feel safe and familiar, but it all too quickly leads to boredom, which leads to inattention, which leads to making mistakes and missing prime opportunities to have a real impact.
  3. G – Your GROWTH – Now I’m a fan of strengths-based leadership, but truth is, if you don’t expand more than just your strengths, you’re likely going to start overcompensating for your weaknesses in ways that dilute your brand. So make this the year you hit things ‘head on’ by developing some new skills that you know you need to learn. Not sure which ones? Come on, now, yes you are!
  4. E – Your EASE – Intensity, well-applied, is a good thing. But constantly creating (or adding) stress and drama – often the unavoidable byproducts of intensity – gets really exhausting, really fast. Just ask around. You can immediately become a better role-model by NOT freaking out every time something new suddenly blips on your radar. It’s you chance to show others how to handle pressure. It’s your chance to be a SOURCE of strength, caring, and focus…for THEM. It’s your chance to be a source of strength, caring, and focus…for YOURSELF, as well.
  5. R – Your RESPONSIVENESS – Whether you consider yourself an extrovert or introvert, the workplace requires you to interact with the people around you. So be pleasant. Be patient. Answer the questions they’re actually asking. Wait. What? Seek to understand. Try to actually be helpful. Sure, it may feel like a waste and even a pain, at times, but it’s an investment – you don’t know who’s watching, you don’t know who’s listening, you don’t know whose help you’ll need or when you’ll need it most. Besides you impress no one by being pompous. That only shows others you’re not as impressive as you mistakenly think you are.

E.A.G.E.R. for the New Year

Here’s a little exercise:

  • For each of the five categories listed – Enthusiasm, Agility, Growth, Ease, Responsiveness – or for any other or additional categories you’d like to include, rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 (10=already excellent; 1=embarrassingly not). These are your ‘EAGER 1a’ baseline ratings – where you currently are (or believe yourself to be).

E.A.G.E.R. for the New Year – Step 1

  • Add another column, and in that column add 2 points to each of your baseline ratings. (So if you gave yourself a ‘responsiveness’ rating of 7, put a 9 (7+2) in the corresponding box.) These are your ‘EAGER 2b’ intention scores (‘2b’ – ‘to BE’ – clever, right?!) and will help stimulate your imagination for what ‘could be’ for yourself and those around you.

E.A.G.E.R. for the New Year – Step 2

  • Next, list out 3 or 4 specific steps you can take to achieve your EAGER 2b ratings. (Would it be too much to call these your EAGER 2c – ‘to SEE’ – scores?!)

E.A.G.E.R. for the New Year – Step 3

  •  Save your spreadsheet, create a recurring task in your calendar to review your progress monthly, and then do so without fail.

Putting the ‘New’ in New Year

As Margaret J. Wheatley said, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

Hopefully, that’s reason enough for all this, but if not, just let me know.


Share this:

What Are You Aiming At?


Heard the one about the cross-eyed dart thrower? He seldom wins any prizes, but he sure keeps the crowd on its toes!

The Job of a Leader

As leaders our job is to keep those in our sphere of influence ready to face whatever challenges arise. Not through fear, uncertainty, and doubt, but through clarity of vision, respect for all, and the appropriate utilization of time, information, money and other non-financial resources.

But in order to properly aim them in the right direction, we need to be clear at what we, as leaders, are aiming at ourselves.

The A.I.M. of a Leader

Regardless of whether you’re working on a new initiative, or supporting longstanding processes, the ‘aim’ of a leader is clear:

  • Awareness – of what is needed by whom, for whom, and by when
  • Intention – to do what’s right, in the right ways, at the right times, meaning always
  • Mastery – to be truly committed to learning from our mistakes, learning from the opportunities we’ve missed, learning from the opportunities we’ve realized, and demonstrating that we can apply that learning in a variety of meaningful, engaging, and forward-thinking ways

As you commit to increasing your awareness, intention, and mastery in your learning, know that you’ll be increasing the probability of becoming a more capable, compelling, and successful leader.


Let me know it you need any help with that.

What Next?

If this post helped you learn something about yourself, then great! Be sure to share your insight with others as a way of ‘locking in’ your learning. While you’re at it, I’d appreciate you telling them about this blog post and the other self-study materials I’ve made available at the LeadershipTraction website, as well. Thanks.

– bz

P.S. If you have a question or comment about this post, just let me know. I’ll do my best to get back to you, straightaway.

Share this:

Job-Embedded Professional Development

job-embedded professional developmentKudos to friend and colleague Sally J. Zepeda, Professor in the Department of Lifelong Education, Administration, and Policy at the University of Georgia, on the release of her latest book, Job-Enabled Professional Development: Support, Collaboration, and Learning in Schools.

Nicely done, Dr. Zepeda!

And kudos to me for her including my F.O.C.U.S./F.R.A.M.E. Coaching Model in Chapter 5 – Best Practices in Peer Coaching.

Here’s her full Table of Contents:

  1. Job-Embedded Professional Development: An Overview
  2. Adults Learning: What the Research Says
  3. Job-Embedded Professional Development in Action
  4. The Power of Peer Observations
  5. Best Practices in Peer Coaching
  6. Learning from Collaborative and Reflective Professional Development
  7. Authentic Action Research
  8. Studying Student Work and Assessments – Teachers as Change Agents
  9. Innovative Digital Learning Opportunities Support Professional Development
  10. Taking the Fast Track at Your Own Speed
Share this:

Hindsights, PIGs (Patterns, Insights, and Gaps), and Lessons Learned

I’ve long-believed that, for recurring challenges, hindsight is the #1 best planning tool. Taking the time to consider what worked, what didn’t, and why – your P.I.G.s (Patterns, Insights, and Gaps) – accelerates a deeper understanding of what it takes to make good things happen sooner – and more regularly.

On the one hand, re-evaluating our failings helps us avoid making the same (or similar) mistakes twice. And on the other hand, reviewing our successes and achievements serve us doubly – as an affirmation of our capabilities, and as a solid foundation from which to further grow.

So let’s.

Facilitating Hindsight Learning Requires Structure

For purposes of this post, let’s use the three contexts of Executive Intelligence to ground our evaluation:


STEP ONE – Take out a clean sheet of paper and create – and complete, as best you can, – the following table:

click for larger version

click for larger version

Note that both success and failure categories have been divided into two subsets – those that concluded as expected, and those that did not – because, that’s how things REALLY work.

STEP TWO – Notice the PIGs – the Patterns, Insights, and Gaps:


  • What patterns do you see in your successes?
  • What patterns do you see in your failings?
  • What patterns do you see in the instances where your expectations turned out to be wrong?


  • What do you make of all that?
  • What do you “see” now that you didn’t before?
  • How do you “feel” about all of this?


  • Where does it make sense for you to focus your attention, more readily and consistently, moving forward?
  • Based on your PIGs, what do you know you need to learn? UN-learn?
  • Assuming you get all this in place and taken care of, what gaps would likely STILL exist for you at the end of the day?

What Next?

What happens next is up to you. Similarly, what doesn’t happen next is up to you, too.

Regardless, spending some time with your Hindsights and PIGs will likely provide you with meaningful clarity and perspective.

Try it and see. 

Share this:

How to L.E.A.R.N. Better

image source: pixabayIt’s hard to learn things in group settings: Some group members are quicker studies than others; some are more willing to ask questions than others; some are more interested. And all too often what may be relevant to one person is wildly irrelevant to others (read: you).

Many teachers (and mentors, coaches, facilitators, trainers, speakers, bosses, and such) take  a “Goldilocks” approach to their tutelage – eschewing “too fast” and “too slow” for teaching “just right.” But in doing so, they bore half of their group or class or audience or team by going “too slow,” and overwhelm the other half by going “too fast”. Not good.

Another popular (read: bad) approach they use might be called the “Golden Rule” approach to tutelage – “Here’s how I learn best,” they say, “so that’s how YOU’LL learn best.” Wrong. Again.

It’s undeniable that many teachers (and mentors, coaches, facilitators, trainers, bosses, and such) have found the balance. They’ve figured out how to be relevant and resonant to their audience, no matter how diverse. And to that I say, “BRAVO!”

But what if they’re not? What can we do, as meeting attendees and participants to help ourselves learn notwithstanding? How can we take greater responsibility TO learn, TO share, TO grow and TO make the most out of less-than ideal circumstances?

Here’s how to L.E.A.R.N., anyway:

  • L – Look for opportunities to ask clarifying questions … and ask them and the follow-up questions that the answers engender.
  • E – Encourage others to engage more deeply … and learn from their learning, sharing, and growth.
  • A – Accept that learning is not linear … and recognize that frustration and unknowing are often precursors to wonderfully vibrant ‘developmental leaps’ if you just stay with it a little longer.
  • R – Regularly share your salient realizations with others … and thereby help solidify whatever you ARE learning and quite possibly add to it.
  • N – Never  underestimate the power in your continued growth and development.

As John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” So if you want to be a better leader, go learn, share, and grow – no matter how difficult a task it may seem.


Share this: