We have all been in a meeting that could have been handled through email. And we have all been part of an email chain that, due to its complexity and nuance, really should have been handled in a face-to-face (F2F) meeting.
We have all had the experience of getting lost in our work, of forgetting time and restraints, of reaching what might be called a flow state — and receiving a phone call or hearing an alarm on our computer or smart phone that calls us away from that work. To a meeting.
Perhaps even more damaging, and less easily recognized, we have all been prevented, time and time again, from reaching that flow state because we are constantly watching a clock or looking at our calendars or setting alarms or asking colleagues to interrupt us. Our awareness of impending meetings, and our constant need to plan for them or keep track of them, can act like an ankle bracelet keeping us under a constant, low-grade house arrest.
Our leaders serve us best when they think about our time and our talents — how to save the former and give us the greatest opportunity to develop, exercise, and share the latter. Meetings often have the opposite effect; executed poorly, organized around the wrong set of tasks, or calling together the wrong group of colleagues at the wrong hours of the day, meetings can waste time, grind good people down, and reduce opportunities for people to share their talents.
Blended leaders understand the mission-critical nature of properly broadcasting one’s mission, and they are the ones who ask, and live, the newest mission-related questions that occur when the digital presses in on the non-digital.
Blended leaders must be prepared to grapple with the effects of obsolescence on communities of practice; they must be prepared to think about and manage through the demise of those online applications and services that have gained a user base within their schools. Sometimes you spend a lot of time getting people online, into a space, only to have to move all of them off.
We are committed to a set of ideas and a process for spreading them. We are trying to capture our evolving understandings and present them. We are trying to reach multiple constituents (in our case, readers) who listen and learn and access information in different ways. Is this not what school leadership is about, too? A constant riffing on a set of core beliefs, rapid prototyping to ensure that we apply what we learn, a continual evolution of program and curriculum — and people — to ensure that our missions play out on modern stages and fields and classrooms, offline and online?
If you examine, again, the blended leader, the one who capitalizes on affordances made by control of “time, path, place, and/or pace,” you will see a leader perfectly situated to thrive in a world where the spoils go to the questioners. Blended leaders are the opposite of the leaders who, in only having a hammer, treat every problem like a nail (surely, we have all been on the receiving end of such leaders’ problem-solving approach). Blended leaders, on the contrary, keep lots of tools — whether online or offline — in their toolkits because they are never quite sure which one they will need. What is more, they leave room in their toolkits in case they have to learn how to use a brand new tool when faced with a problem they have not seen — or solved well — before.
Should you stay online or go offline? Should you take advantage of connected devices or disconnect? When leading others, what’s the best way to mobilize them? Should they all be led in the same way? And what kind of moral responsibility do you have to a group of people — faculty and students alike — for whom you have provided technology and Internet access and encouraged robust use of both. If you’re feeling as if there are many choices to make, congratulations . . . blended leadership is a growing awareness of the choices available to you.
Leaders set the conditions for work, monitor them, adjust them as needed, and promote change in them when needed. Blended leaders, always on the lookout for the point of highest impact and greatest leverage, realize that you have to cast your line where the fish are. They don’t stubbornly fish in the same nook because that’s where they have always fished. And they don’t try to force the fish to return to the old nook in order to be caught.
This week, in an effort to achieve the three outcomes for participants below, several of my colleagues stepped up to design and lead a variety of internal learning experiences.
I asked someone to give me up to five 'irons in the fire' - projects - that are part of his responsibilities at his main job. I also asked him to give me up to five side projects that are also in progress. Then I asked him to assess the progress of each on a scale of 0-4. I then generated the above sketch and sent it to him (a digital version and a physical poster for his office). The text is legible (blurred for privacy). Finally, I promised to check in with him each quarter on these things and update them and provide an updated graphic and poster.