Vision, Buy-In, and Sustainability

@MrBrettClark 2 Comments

A couple of weeks ago I had my second Leadership Southern Indiana: Discover event. You can read about my first event here.

This was out "History and Heritage Day".  We heard from experts on the history of the area, visited local historical areas like the Town Clock Church to hear about the underground railroad, discussed the founding fathers of the region, and ended our day at a business that has been in business for over 120 years.

There are three things that stood out to me about the people I learned about during this visit. They had vision, buy-in from their followers, and sustainability. 


For me, it all starts and ends with this. There is a phrase that we have using a lot around my school district lately. Clarity is the remedy for anxiety. I don't know who said it first, but I first heard it from Jason Roseberry. So he gets the credit today.  I witness so many people who suffer from anxiety at their job. A lot of time I have found that a large portion of their anxiety comes from a lack of clarity. They're unclear about whom they take their issues to, or what they're allowed to do to solve a problem. They're unclear about what their role is and what their expectations are in their position. Or maybe they're unclear about the direction of a project or of the entire organization. In the end, wherever you find a lack of clarity, anxiety isn't far behind. 

A clear vision that invokes a positive emotional response, with a call to action that people can get behind, is a remedy for anxiety. A clear vision of roles and responsibilities reduces anxiety. I think you'll be amazed at how many struggles can be reduced or eliminated just by having vision. 

Check out this video I saw the other day at a 1:1 symposium with the 1:1 Institute. The video you're about to watch includes some metronomes, a board, and a couple of soda cans. The experiment is meant to try to get all of the metronomes in sync with each other. While you're watching it, look through the lens of leadership. If what happens in the video is a metaphor about leadership, vision, and the fulfillment, then what do each piece of the science experiment represent?

Did you catch it? To me, the board represents vision, the soda cans represent leadership, and the metronomes represent those who are tasked to fulfill the vision. The board (vision) provides stability, something to stand on, and is the key to getting everyone on the same page. The soda cans (leadership) supports the vision, and provides flexibility while everyone gets in sync with each other. The metronomes (the team) might start off out of sync, but when given time, flexibility, and a consistent vision, they get to where they need to be. 

As I learned about the history of the area, I couldn't help but admire the vision the people who built this area had. They all saw something in perspective areas that perhaps many other people did not see. 


It wasn't enough that the folks I learned about had vision, they had to get people to buy into and support their vision. I'm always amazed at the amazing commitment and sacrifice people will make to fulfill a vision they truly believe in. 

I've written about this in the recent past and it quickly become one of my go-to presentation at conferences. I'll be honest, I look back over that post and I can identify exactly where I think I am in my role as a leader right now in my district and it's a little scary. I truly believe in the vision I have for our schools and while we have had some tremendous success over the past couple of years, I am always looking for ways to create more buy-in. 

I really wish I could have talked to some of the people I learned about during this event. I would have loved to have picked their brain about the ups and downs of vision casting and vision fulfilling. It must be this sometimes awkward balance of resolve plus flexibility. Knowing when to push forward, when to slow down, and when to change all together. 

Looking over that last paragraph and I think that maybe vision casting is the key to all of this. Can you tell me what your vision is? What's the vision of your company? What's the vision the project that you're leading or a part of? How often do you cast your vision? 

It's something that we are working on in my school district. We are about to enter our fist refresh of our 1:1. Working with teachers, administrators, parents, students, and other community leaders I am working to make sure that we know exactly where we are at, where we are heading, and how we are going to get there. However, I'm learning more and more that when all of that work is done, the real work has just begun. I've got to keep casting that vision over and over again, getting more and more bites, and reeling in more and more people who will be willing to help us reach our goals. 


A vision is about more than yourself. There is always going to be an "after you". A true visionary see far beyond the person they see in the mirror every day. The word that I kept coming back to during our event was legacy. I wondered how many of these local leaders and heroes ever thought about the legacy they were leaving behind. Did they ever think that people would be learning about them hundreds of years later? I imagine that they would probably be more happy to know that the thing that they started was still standing, still growing, and still having a positive effect on their community. 

I am not out to create a legacy but I do wonder sometimes about what my legacy will be after this part of my journey is over. More than anything, I just want to see the work I'm a part of to leave a lasting impact on this community. 

The only way to do that is to keep reinventing yourself. This is why a vision statement is really only meant to be for a 3-5 year period of time. I'm not going to lie, as I said above, we are moving towards our refresh of our 1:1, and I have already started to think about what what the next refresh could look like. 

by Daniel Pietzsch on Flickr
In the end, I think that legacy stuff will take care of itself. For now, I'm just trying to find the right rhythm.


My House by Micah Clark

@MrBrettClark 5 Comments

My son Micah (12) wrote this the other day. It's his vignette for a creative writing assignment. 

My House

I live in pretty large house with a basement bigger than my old house.
I remember a 2 hour drive to an unfamiliar place.
I remember a tour through big empty rooms and wanting the master bedroom
I remember putting on sunglasses and taking a picture on the back porch.
I remember helping moving the last things in the house on December 29th.
I remember waking up on December 30th and taking a picture on my DSi in my new room (not a master bedroom but still great for me).
It means a sign of a better future.
It means an improvement.
It’s not just a big place.
It's not just a place to crash.
It's my home and it has enough room for all of my memories.


Discovering, Developing, and Enhancing Leadership Skills

@MrBrettClark 3 Comments

A few months back I was given the opportunity to apply to be a part of a leadership program through a group called Leadership Southern Indiana. When I read that their mission was to "To actively engage leaders and develop ethical leadership that impacts our region," I was instantly hooked. I was excited at the opportunity to be a part of their program, "Discover".  This is a 9 month program that "aims to help participants become informed, inspired, connected and capable leaders that Southern Indiana will need to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow." As a leader in my school district, an active minister at my church, and a passionate resident of Southern Indiana, I couldn't wait to get started. 

This past week, on August 27 and 28, it all began at Wooded Glen Retreat and Conference Center

August 27th

I honestly had no idea what to expect. My optimism was high but it was also realistic. While I had heard and read good things about the program, you never really know if something is going to be the right fit until you jump into the middle of it. I was not disappointed. 

We stared off the day by getting to know each other. I love meeting new people, so this was great. Beyond just meeting new people, it was just cool meeting people who had very different careers. I am very used to hanging out with educators. This gave me the chance to spend time and learn with people who work in architecture, engineering, banking, finance, real estate, healthcare, photography, and more! 

Our morning session was lead by Al Cornish, the Chief Learning Officer for Norton Healthcare. He was great! I would even say that he was "semi-fabulous"! (Sorry, you had to be there to get that joke.) We dove into the history of our area and created a human timeline. We discussed the positive aspects of Southern Indiana, and the challenges we all face in the region. As a person who has only lived in the area for less than 3 years, it was a great way to catch me up to speed and to build a foundation for all of us. 

After lunch we were greeted by the very engaging and enthusiastic Dr. Todd Arwood. We spent the afternoon exploring our personal values. I have been in many sessions where we have looked at our personalities or learning styles, but never a session that helped us identify what our values are and how they drive every decision we make. It was enlightening to me as I thought about our values being the lens by which we view the world. 

That night we got to hang out after dinner, play games, and talk around the fire. It was the perfect way to end that first day together.

Big Takeaways From Day 1:
  • I'm in the right place, at the right time. I couldn't be more excited about this journey.
  • I have a lot to learn from a great group of people. The different experiences and lens that we view the area with are important to my growth as a leader and the leadership of the region. 
  • The values that were missing from my value pyramid said as much about me, if not more, than the values that were on my pyramid. 

August 28th

I'll be 100% honest, the more I heard about what we were going to be doing, the less I was looking forward to this day. I honestly thought it might ruin the entire experience for me. On this day we were going to be broken up into teams, and put through different team building activities that could include scaling a wall that I'm still not sure is 10ft, 13ft, or 15ft because it changed height every time somebody described it. Several things about this just made me very nervous. 1) I don't like the outdoors. 2) I'm not very athletic. (Which is a huge understatement.) 3) I'm not a very competitive person. Now that doesn't mean I won't talk trash, just ask the folks who got play Euchre with me the night before. In the end, I really don't care if I win, I just like to have fun. 

Thankfully, I was completely wrong about the day. I had such a great time and learned a lot about myself and leadership in the process. I don't think I could describe in enough details the different activities but know that they included things like placing 2x4s between stumps and then having to have each member of the team get across without falling off or else we all had to start over. We had an activity that made us walk wires, cross logs, walk a wire while holding onto rope-vines, and if anyone fell off, we all started over. Did I mention the activity that had me swinging on a rope and trying to land in a hula hoop? 

It was really great working with my team. There were many times I wanted to quit, but the desire to not let my team down, and their encouraging cheers kept me going. 

Big Takeaways from Day 2:
  • The first activity was a lot about balance and we maximized our team balance by holding onto each other and having a nice mix of people who had good balance and those of us who struggle with balance. I struggle with balance, literally and figuratively. It reminded me that I need to surround myself with the right people who will help keep me balanced.  
  • The second activity involved a great deal of balance but for me it more about overcoming fear and fighting my natural instincts. This is the one activity that I really thought, "there is no way I'm completing this." It really pushed me out of my comfort zone but the more time I spent outside of my comfort zone, the more it became my comfort zone. 
  • There was a part in the second activity where you are standing on this wire and there was a rope that you could use to help you get across but the rope was very lose. Every instinct in your body would tell you to pull back when you grab the rope. However, pushing forward created tension and that tension gave you the balance to move forward.  It got me thinking about getting out in the middle of a project that you're leading and you hit one of those spots when moving forward looks very dangerous. You're tempted to either stand still or pull back, but neither of those are the correct choices. Sometimes you just need to push forward. Even though your mind is telling you that you're going to just fall on your face, you must ignore that fear and push forward. Yes, you have to stick your neck out there, and yes it might create some tension, but in the end, it's the only way you'll get through that phase. 
  • The third activity was the most difficult. We had to swing on a rope and land in a hula-hoop. The thing that made this the most difficult, in my opinion, was the lack of control. Once you were on the rope you were at the mercy of the forces around you. Control is the one thing I think every leader attempts to have and it's scary when you feel like something you're leading is out of control. We were very fortunate to have an Eagle Scout in our group and he had some very nice equipment in his backpack that day. We tied extra rope onto the hanging rope to form a rope perpendicular to the hanging rope. This was so that once a person was on the hanging rope, the other teammates could just pull the person out to the hoops. It was really an attempt to increase control of the situation. 
  • Finally, I learned that I actually do like competition. As long as I'm the competition. I would rather work with people, than against them any day of the week. However, I'm in constant competition against myself. I want to be better than I was last year, last month, last week, and even last night. 

My Biggest Regret

I never attempted to conquer the wall. Looking back on it now, I wish I had attempted to make it over the wall with everyone else. Maybe it's ok to look at some projects and say, "that's not really a project that fits me and my skill set." A leader has to know when to step up and when to step out, but I wish i would have pushed myself one more time and tried it.

In the end, I had a great time and learned a lot. I am looking forward to being a part of this group now more than ever. We will have monthly activities that I hope to keep blogging about and reflecting on. I hope you'll continue on this journey with me.