For The Birds…

Sitting on my front porch is something I enjoy more and more nowadays. Yes, I guess that does mean I am getting older. I find it fascinating to sit, watch, listen, think, and rest enjoying a glass of tea or lemonade in the afternoons or coffee in the mornings. The sound of the breeze as it bristles through the leaves of the trees, the sound of birds as they fly, perch on the tree limbs and make their noises, the smell of fresh-cut grass, and the smell of fresh rain as it cools the day. All these things begin to resonate into a peaceful, tranquility of getting older.

For the birds

Right off our porch, we have two bird feeders hanging in a crepe myrtle tree. Since school has been out for almost a month now, I found myself being drawn to our front porch and watching the birds come in to eat, wondering what birds will show up today. Our frequent visitors consist of cardinals, wrens, blue jays, a few woodpeckers, a few doves, others I do not know the name of, and my favorite – the unknown bird with a curved bill. What is even more amazing to myself, believe it or not, is that I actually have binoculars sitting on the table of our front porch so I can get a “closer” look at my new friends and their appetite.

As I have watched these birds, I have noticed a few similarities to leadership, and its effect toward all of us being creatures of habit.

When the wrens stop by, the entire family shows up. You know what happens next, they start fighting for a position at the table. Even when they nestle in, not all are happy. Often, you can see two of them go at it for what seems like something petty. When there are only two or three, everyone gets along for the most part. Nothing really changes when the cardinals stop by, but they do seem to hang out only with other cardinals. The blue jays are bullies and are aggressive from the start. They run everyone else off when they stop by except for the woodpeckers. The woodpeckers come in knowing they do not have to beat their brains in for food, and the doves just sit there cooing, glad they do not have to hear the noise of the woodpeckers.

Now about that curved-bill bird… Fat-bellied and takes up a lot of rim space. When he sits down, the feeder tilts to one side. I do not know how he stays so fat, all he does is walk around the rim, making everyone else leave. His “nose” is out of joint for sure. He just doesn’t seem happy and wants all the other birds to be unhappy also. He even runs the blue jays off. He definitely thinks he is large and in charge.

Funny thing is with all of this… Just like birds are creatures of habit, so are we as humans. As I sit and observe, I consider the fact that we can all identify with some, if not most of the above characteristics. There are those who “fight” their own kind for a seat at the table, and while we enjoy our family, a spat does happen from time to time. You can also see leaders who are aggressive and bully others and those who just want to stay with their kind (yes, birds of a feather do flock together). Many people make a lot of noise, just wanting to be heard, and some just sit and “coo” at everything that happens, good or bad. And yes, there are even the curved-bill people with their nose out of joint all the time, wanting everyone to be miserable because they are.

Admittedly or not, we are creatures of habit, even in leadership. The question that has to be answered is, “Are the leadership habits you have, good or bad?” My thought on bad leadership is just like the title of this blog… “For The Birds!”

Thanks again for reading.

©2019 J Clay Norton

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In Closing, A Reflection and A To Do…

Well, here we are… at the end of another school year and the last weekly blog until we start up next August.  There will be one blog each for June and July.

First, let me say thank you to everyone who reads this blog weekly.  Each week, I intend for each of us to “look within” ourselves and know where we are with our leadership.  If we cannot identify where we are, be sure that others can.  I have said it before; “Others see you better than you see yourself.” (Quote by my mom, Judy Norton)

As I was thinking about what to write on for this week, I reviewed all the previous blogs for this past school year.  As I read and reflected, this is what I came up with…

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I believe one of the best concepts of leadership is the ability to reflect and allow your reflection to shape your future decisions.  As you reflect on the past, cherish the good, and learn from the bad.  Never compromise by separating who you are with what you say you believe in.  Most of all, be for others.

Success as a leader is always at an expense, but what is the cost?  Just because people follow you does not make you a leader.  A “leader” is so much more than directing where others should go and what they should do.  Leadership is sometimes hard to define but very easily recognized.  However, just because we acknowledge leadership does not always mean it is good leadership.  The hardest question to answer is the one we have to ask ourselves, “Am I a good leader?”  We can lie to ourselves, but those who follow us will be able to know the difference.  Can we be a leader that puts off the “self” and puts on the “others” mentality?

In closing, try to do these things this summer…

Tell someone “thank you” in writing. Writing a “thank you” note is a lost art – yes, the handwritten one in an envelope with a stamp.  It takes time and effort.

Always remember where you came from and how much you have learned.  Both of these are easy to forget.  You have to remember it.  If you do not, someone else will remind you.

Most of all, make sure you take some time in your summer break to spend with your family.  Remember, they are your biggest fans.

And.. if all else fails and you cannot find anything to do, then by all means… find a book to read.

Thanks again for reading.  Also, thank you for the comments you have made regarding the blogs; they are very much appreciated.

©2019 J Clay Norton

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Teaching, an Appreciation?

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How do you answer the title question? Not just today or this week (it is teacher appreciation week by the way) but every day.

Is teaching appreciated? Probably not the way it should be…
Does teaching need to be appreciated? You bet!

I believe the role of a teacher and education for that matter is at a crossroad, and it is crucial where we go with it. One thing we cannot do is just sit in the middle and let others decide for us what they want education to be. Who better to make educational decisions than educators?

I say that, to say this… There are reasons why teachers and teaching should be appreciated, and it is essential for everyone else to know why. The value of being appreciated is significant for people in all walks of life. Daily recognition and a “thank you” carries an intrinsic feeling that personalizes job satisfaction. For the most part, great teachers know they are teaching the way it should be. However, not that teachers need public affirmation, it sure is nice to hear it from others.

So, why should teachers be appreciated? Here you go…

Teachers help change the mindset of the future.

How else do students choose a career? Teachers look actively for excellent work and brilliant ideas of today’s youth and help channel that into a possible career choice.

Teachers are walking unofficial psychologists.

I’ll call teachers this… mood-changers. How many students’ mood changes for the better when they are surrounded by people who care and provide a positive impact for them? Teachers are sometimes the only ones who say, “You can do this.”

Teachers challenge the mind of students to a higher level.

Teachers have the innate ability to take a student from “here to there” over time. Incremental development is a fascinating concept to watch take place. Where else can you find “growth” of a person in five to six different areas all in a days work?

Teachers build trust and relationships.

This is a funny concept. It’s intangible, and it is hard to see and find. But when it takes place, a bond between that of student and teacher takes on a whole new meaning. The value of it trickles into others, and it creates an environment where many want to belong.

Teachers provide inspiration.

I have had a few teachers in my life to do this, and I sat in awe of them and their ability to transform my mind. Inspiration taps something inside our soul and mind to make us want to be/do better than before. Society will stand in line to put you down; students need someone who will not.

Every student has a story to tell, and it covers all genres. Teachers are the ones who help write those stories. Teachers are the last of a stable foundation that seems to be crumbling. Teaching is the last stronghold and line of defense that separates society with the notion that somebody cares about where we are going with those who will be our future.

Daily appreciation is worth the time it takes to say it. Say it often and say it loud. Find a teacher and recognize them. A little appreciation can increase a teacher’s effectiveness and provide a smile that stays on the face.

Teaching, an appreciation? YES… All day, every day – THANK YOU, TEACHERS!

©2019 J Clay Norton

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Tidal Waves in a Black Hole of Leadership

It is always good to get the mind working, so let’s start with a question…

Do you believe that everybody who is talking about leadership is leading? Better yet, is everyone in a leadership position a leader? By answering these two questions, we describe almost everyone associated with leadership.

Outwardly, people identify themselves with leadership, but inwardly who are they? Are they genuine? Many, because they cling to a false façade of leadership, fool themselves into thinking they are on the right path of leadership when they are stuck in the mud of their own mindset. This leads to destructive leadership. It might not be visible immediately, but over this course of time, the ripple effects of bad leadership become tidal waves drowning others who follow.

To make matters worse, their self-deception is often reinforced by what is seen and heard as “well-meaning” leadership by those who are naïve. This creates surface confusion that leads to a deep, black hole of leadership that naïve followers are never able to escape. What happens to them you might ask? They end up being clones and those waves we discussed earlier, hit everyone else in the face.

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Much of today’s leadership does not model the servant-leadership, transformational mindset. It usually is some water-downed concoction, subject to an emotional thought process of “If I get to where I need to be, then why does it matter how I got here, or even if I did it the right way?” This way of thinking has devastating effects. As a result, almost any leader who has gained leadership this way is seen as genuine. Why, because we attribute leadership to a position and title. It is seen more as a noun than a verb.

Leadership is so easy, and leadership is hard – Both statements beg different opinions. Leadership is not some shallow response, or quick conversations saying the “right” words. Leadership must be measured and valued with depth and meaning. Compromising the trueness of leadership is where we can see the great divide among leaders.

©2019 J Clay Norton

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