It isn’t that these books make you think hard to understand them, but rather they challenged my way of thinking about the world in humbling, or mind-blowing, or intriguing, or bridge-building ways. Between sheltering at home and reading background materials for the book I’m writing, I finished off 142 books in 2020. While I intended to write as usual about my five favorites, my first list consisted of 17 titles; frequently throughout the year I found myself setting aside good titles for others that were more substantive, more related to the events of the year. So I’m sharing ten that I highly recommend for 2021.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson

If you weren’t aware that the United States has a caste system, or that Nazi Germany used Jim Crow laws as models for their own regime—or even if you do know these things—start reading now. This book is gripping, convicting, mesmerizing. It contains facts, history, and comparisons, not opinions. Read it to understand the origins of our national divide. If it makes you uncomfortable, all the more reason to keep going.

The Politics Industry by Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter

If you don’t like how our government is working, are tired of polarization, wonder if your vote counts, and feel helpless, read this book. The authors not only diagnose how, not for the first time in US history, the rules and laws surrounding our two-party system keep government from solving the problems we need solved—but they have solutions based on what is working elsewhere. Grounded in their HBR report, they propose two major, doable solutions if citizens band together: ranked choice voting, which many municipalities are already finding success with, and a change to primaries that would put forth five candidates so that incumbents who chose to “work across the aisles” can’t be undone by party politics in primaries that often have voter turnouts as low as 6% but determine who is on the general ballot. 

Citizen groups are starting all over the country and the authors are providing ways readers can find these groups as well as resources and plans of action. They point out that whatever your biggest concern—climate, education, health care, social justice, infrastructure or any other big concern that Congress is failing to solve—the best way to make progress on it is to change the incentives in place for our elected officials. Read for yourself and see if their diagnosis and solution is worth our effort.

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

I wish that this were mandatory reading before you could be sworn into public office. Then we could call people to account. “You knew better. You read how real, even though imperfect leaders, move us in the direction we need to go. Get your act together and do likewise…”

Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others by Barbara Brown Taylor

Barbara Brown Taylor is knowledgeable, humble, inspiring, articulate, entertaining, and wise. Through stories of teaching comparative religion and a conservative, private Southern college outside Atlanta, she gives us so many lessons. The book focuses on what she, and her students, grew to admire about Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and their own Christianity. The field trips and interactions with leaders of the other religions illustrate why it is so important to get to know those who think differently than we do. 

The Power of Bad by John Tierney

You may have heard that we pay more attention to bad news than good, but the extent to which that colors our world is pretty crazy, and makes the world crazier. The book blends research, intriguing examples, and steps we can take to avoid the traps of negativity, The Crisis Crisis, and more.

Fight of the Century: Writers Reflect on 100 Years of Landmark ACLU Cases, Michael Chabon, editor

If you don’t think you like the ACLU, read and find out what you owe to the organization. If you love the ACLU, read for a few examples of how they’ve gotten it wrong. Either way, dive into this amazing set of essays about key cases that shape the freedoms you enjoy. The audio book features narrations by several of the authors including Anne Patchett, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon. Other essays by writers such as Salman Rushdie are read by Sir Patrick Stewart, Lucy Wu, and other actors. Some essays are factual. Others, like Jacqueline Woodson’s, involve deeply personal stories and aspects of the fight for civil rights. If nothing in this book amazes you, then you’re really good at not taking the privileges you have for granted…

Apeirogon by Colum McCann

My one-word GoodReads review of this one was “Wow.” McCann gained permission to fictionalize the story of the relationship between an Israeli father and a Palestinian father, both of whom lost children to the ongoing violence in Jerusalem. They work together to promote peace, understanding and healing. McCann interviewed them and others, but writing it as fiction allowed him to step into the shoes of those involved in a deep, mind-bending way. If you seek to understand, their example will inspire you.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

We all need some laughs, but Noah’s memoir of growing up in Apartheid South Africa is one of those rare laugh-out-loud volumes that also makes you think. Born to a German father and Black African mother, he was literally the result of a crime. He describes not just incidents but helps us step into the culture to understand why people are doing what they are doing. And, he is realistic and humble. He wants people to understand that his success came not because of his own hard work; others were working just as hard. Instead, he credits it to someone giving him a CD burner. Read to know what that enabled him to do.

When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson

Yes this is a graphic novel-style memoir for teens, and yes, every adult should read it. It is a magnificent use of the format to convey the childhood memories of Omar Mohamed, who was born in Somalia and grew up in the refuge camps of Kenya. You’ll learn far more about what these people went through via this book than many works for adults.

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David Blight

 I thought I was decently informed about slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and have read extensively on these topics. The fact that I know only the barest of facts about Frederick Douglass, with all that reading, is absolutely crazy.

Shortly after the murder of George Floyd, another school consultant suggested that schools only study minority history, heroes, and thought for the next year. I had already had similar thoughts as I listened to this compelling audio book. If Douglass were a fictional character, you would dismiss him as not believable. Read his life and his essays and once again the words ring true, especially as I finished this during the week that George Floyd was murdered, that those who do not study history—all of it—are doomed to repeat it. May we in the present begin to grasp what we have not learned…

The other seven titles in my “Top 5” for 2020…

  1. Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
  2. The Coddling of the American Mind by Jonathon Haidt
  3. The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
  4. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
  5. The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
  6. Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by Tyson Yunkaporta
  7. The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates

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Name a movie or TV show and somewhere on the internet you can find someone’s blog, “The MBTI Types of the Characters of…”

Name a well-known personality and chances are, you can find opinions on his or her type as well.

And, they’re usually wrong. I mean, Harry Potter lived under a stairwell from age 1-11, for Pete’s sake. He didn’t have a single caring adult in his life all those years. Do you think that might have hindered normal type development?

Join Ann Holm and me for an interactive session on The Promises and Perils of Typing from Afar at BAPT in April!

The tangles get worse with real people. So many of these “typings from afar” confuse preferences, personas, and chosen behaviors. Those of us officially certified in a type instrument  know  that it’s actually unethical to broadcast our opinions as to another living  person’s type. They are entitled to experience the best-fit process for themselves.

Yes, you can guesstimate type and use that to improve how you team/coach/lead/teach/buy presents for someone else. That’s different from broadcasting that you “know: someone’s type.

Yet, people who are no longer with us are fair game. Join us at the British Type Association Conference. We’ll dig into a robust method for “typing from afar.” Using The Bully Pulpit as a test case, we’ll look at the types of

Teddy Roosevelt

William Howard Taft

Their wives

The founders of McClure’s Magazine, the original investigative journalists

Why Americans?

Because THIS BOOKThe Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin—is high entertainment. No soap opera matches the real lives of these folks. AND Goodwin includes enough information, including their own writings, not just what others said about them or what they said in public, to hypothesize well about their types.

No time to read the book? It’s a great audio. OR read about Roosevelt and Taft on Wikipedia. OR, watch a few YouTube clips or a Netflix show to gain a bit of background. OR just come to the session ready to play with the book excerpts we’ll provide as a handout. (Note: the session will be repeated at the APT International Conference in Chicago in July).

And come ready to debate. We’ve been discussing their potential types for nearly a year and believe us, there’s plenty of room for varying hypotheses. Our true goal for the session, though, is to build our community’s skills so we can influence all the mis-typing that’s on the internet and promote positive and constructive use of the framework we find so beneficial!

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“Waaaaiiiiit…this is practical,” exclaim the coaches I’ve trained in using Holistic Leadership Coaching.

And, “Waaaiiitt…I use this process again and again as my goals or roles or staff change, can’t I?” say my coaches.

While the book Holistic Leadership, Thriving Schools (Solution Tree, 2019) is new, the business version, Intentional Leadership, came out in 2013.

In the last six years I’ve trained coaches from the United States, South America, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Zealand, and more, to help leaders use their strengths while avoiding the traps of their blind spots using the “12 Lenses of Leadership.”

The lenses are a bit different for school leadership, but the concepts are the same, developed to ensure that leaders are actually developing, not just being trained. McKinsey (2014) in “Why Leadership Development Programs Fail” lays out what needs to happen for leadership development programs to change how leaders lead.

Here’s how Holistic Leadership fits with their criteria:

Leadership AND Listening

Breadth AND Depth

Community AND Individual

Reality AND Vision

Continuity AND Change

Short term AND Long term

Logic AND Values

Outcomes AND People

Power To AND Power With

Clarity AND Flexibility

Predictability AND Possibility

Goal orientation AND Engagement

While those are McKinsey’s four elements, I’ve added a fifth: time for reflection.

Holistic Leadership, Thriving Schools lays out a process for creating goals and for reflecting on them that ensures you remember why the goal is important in the first place and how you’ll know whether you’re staying on course.

One easy way to learn if the Holistic Leadership process will help you reach your goals is to listen to the podcast at The Principal Center.

Reference

Gurdjian, P., Halbeisen, T. & Lane, K. (2014). “Why leadership development programs fail.” McKinsey Quarterly.  Retrieved October 15, 2017 from https://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/leadership/why-leadership-development-programs-fail.

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It all started in Australia in 2018.

My publisher flew me over to keynote at a Women in Education conference to substitute for two beloved Australians who were quarantined in the Philippines with some tropical disease.

There, in Brisbane, I got to know Dr. Barb Watterston, now my coauthor on Step In, Step Up: Empowering Women for the School Leadership Journey (Solution Tree, 2019).

I’m in yellow, she’s beside me, as we pose with the rest of the conference faculty—Janelle Wills, Tonia Flanagan, Australian icon Ita Buttrose, and Lyn Sharratt.

The conference highlighted for us how much women need conversations just with other women to understand that they are not alone, that gender barriers indeed still exist, and that education needs more women influencing policy and practice.

We aren’t saying “Replace the men” but that we need a better balance. And that’s what the book is about.

Here’s the big picture of why we wrote this book:

So many myths, misinformation, and yes, misogyny, are still holding women back. The book has the research and the facts, not whining or anecdotes without backing. Here’s just a taste of the big message we’re trying to get across.

Can you see how education is out of balance—and how helping more women to step up will actually help both men and women lead from their strengths?

Join us in this journey toward enriching school leadership!

 

 

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Have you noticed there’s a Women in Education: Leading Perspectives Institute in July? In San Antonio?

Are you thinking, “Why an event just for women? Isn’t ‘cross-pollination’ among genders a better way to improve the lives of children?” If you’re a female education leader, you may start to conclude, “I’m too busy to even think about attending.” Or, “My focus has to be on the children I serve. That leaves little time for conferences not tied to school goals and initiatives.”

Let me ask you two questions:

Not Stereotypes, but Archetypes

With my Australian colleague, Barb Watterston, I’ve coauthored Step In, Step Up: Empowering Women for the School Leadership Journeydue out in March from Solution Tree. It isn’t about either male or female, but what can happen if we have a better balance between traditionally male and female values in education. Together, we’ve synthesized research, stories of successful leaders, developmental tools, and more, to help women move away from stereotyping and toward strengths-based leadership.

Archetypes?  Stereotypes? of the differences between men and women? Stereotypes harm the “average” and “outlier” members of all genders, so let’s focus on the archetypal differences. The stereotypes are easy to find. Take a look at the video Always Like a Girl. Or, consider the necessary message of the internet meme, “My daughter isn’t bossy. She has executive leadership skills.” Further, ponder for just a moment how boys who aspire to “soft skill” occupations or hobbies are belittled. Stereotypes are harmful.

Archetypes can be used differently, to articulate the values of a group while still acknowledging individual differences. The chart below shows one way of naming the positive, archetypal values for each gender. You probably won’t have to struggle much to think of some related but demeaning, stereotyping pejoratives!

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 3.32.55 PM

Are you already thinking of individuals who fit better with the values listed for the opposite gender? Good! This isn’t about individuals. It’s about patterns and perceptions of what “should” be.

Perhaps you’re even aware of the research showing that there are greater differences in the traits and values of people within each gender than between the genders, bringing into question the need to discuss gender differences.

What the Masculine Leaves Out

But…doesn’t the “Masculine” list above sum up the nature of the major emphases in initiatives underway in education in the United States? Ponder in the chart below for a moment the reality of the list on the left, which syncs with masculine values, versus the need for the list on the right, which is more in line with the feminine archetype:

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 3.35.14 PM

But The Things on the Left are Crucial!

Yes, they are. Don’t fall into the trap of either/or thinking—the deep, deep black hole  that keeps the pendulum swinging on education reform. Think about the items above polarities, interdependent sets of values that over time, need each other. “Solve” them by move toward either side and you get the downside of both. Here are a few articles on some huge polarities that are often framed as problems.

I’ll be speaking on several topics at the conference–including one on polarity thinking. You can read articles about polarity thinking being an essential tool for leadership from both Harvard and the Center for Creative Leadership.

But the Left-Hand Initiatives are Research-Based-Practices!

Yes they are. So are those on the right. For example:

Teacher-Student Relationships have an effect size (the impact on student learning outcomes) of  .72. Compare that to technology solutions such as computer-assisted instruction (.37) or web-based learning (.16) or simulations and gaming (.33). These figures come from John Hattie’s seminal meta analyses of the influences that have the greatest impact on student achievement in his Visible Learning for Teachers (Corwin, 2012).

Similarly, formative assessments also have a major influence (.90), but compare that to the power of motivating students by teaching them to understand what they are supposed to be learning and to monitor their own progress towards mastery (1.44). See why both the left and the right columns are needed?

Again, Why Just Women in Leadership?

Here are my reasons:

Nothing will change unless, together, we articulate what needs to change.

Let’s End with History

The struggle to be heard is nothing new. Over 250 years ago as John Adams was working on the founding papers of our country, he and his brilliant wife Abigail penned this exchange of ideas:

Abigail John Adams.001

 

If you have any doubt of the magnitude of the struggle before men gave up their “masculine systems,” watch the movie Suffragettes!

Come to San Antonio in July and begin, or further, your journey as an empowered woman in education leadership.

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Okay, if Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Trilogy can have five volumes, my top five can have seven this year. So many great titles to choose from that I’ve categorized them for any of you who for whatever reasons avoid some genres.

Nonfiction

A Higher Loyalty by James Comey

While this book details Comey’s whole career, it is really about explaining 2016 and 2017. And, while, let’s say I was “surprised” in 2016 at his handling of the Clinton email/election incident, after reading this I have to agree with how the FBI handled that and a lot of other things

Comey comes across as credible. First, Comey’s accounts of his early experiences as an attorney dealing with organized crime in New York, and in working with the Bush administration on pulling back on what was heading toward unrestricted government surveillance set up his credibility and solid foundation in both law and ethics. Second, instead of simply justifying his acts, he explains his choices and what he saw as the potential consequences. And third, his critique of leaders includes leaders of all political persuasions.

He’s also aware of polarities in leadership—being both tough and kind, humble and confident, for instance. He pulls no punches in describing Trump and why he kept nonclassified memos on all of their meetings. And he contrasts what happened with what good leadership looks like. A good read that unfortunately, is not fiction.

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister

Those of us who read this in 2018 had just lived through the events described in the book’s final chapters. But, do you know the history of women’s movements before the Women’s March a week after the election of the 45th president of the United States? Or how women’s anger has fostered productive change? Or the horrific power moves and blatant horror that preceded the #metoo movement? This volume walks you through the heroes before us, the impact on women of different races and status, and how the movements are continuing. Sometimes when you’re in the midst of history, you can lose sight of the view from 30,000 feet, the view from any place but your city, or the view given the long trajectory of change. This book is thorough yet easy to digest, compelling yet scholarly, emotional yet pragmatic. A must read for anyone who is wondering how we ensure that all people are treated as equals. 

Who Do We Choose to Be? By Margaret Wheatley

Margaret Wheatley’s prior book, So Far from Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World, put forth that the way the world seems to be descending into chaos is simply what happens in systems. Depressing. This book, however, beautifully lays out how each of us can make a difference where we are. An amazing blend of the practical and inspirational, organized in a way to lead readers forward.

Young Adult

Dear Martin by Nick Stone

I dare you to listen to the audio version of this book and not gain increased awareness of the plight of young black males. Jason Reynolds is just trying to succeed at an Ivy League prep school, but things go very wrong from the first page. This book tackles racial profiling head-on through a story that may as well be taken right from our current newspapers.

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold

An absolutely new spin on the struggles of launching yourself into adulthood. Noah Oakman isn’t sure he wants to follow the straight-to-college-on-a-swimming-scholarship path laid out for him and can’t imagine life without his tight threesome friendship. His default thoughts are about strange things like a man with a goiter he sees every day. A YouTube video of a woman who photographed herself every day for almost 40 years. And so on. So what? Read on for a funny, poignant, meaningful journey with Noah as he discovers the meaning of his obsessions and, ultimately, of the choices ahead.

Other Delightful Fiction

Bridge of Clay by Marcus Zusak

A bridge, a mule, horse racing, five brothers…few writers could turn these elements into a compelling story of family, loss, triumph, and a miasma of bridging…The read is probably easier if you’ve spent a bit of time in Australia. The first chapters require a bit of perseverance as you sink into the storytelling techniques he uses. Then…enjoy, ponder, and marvel.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

What fun! The author as sidekick to the detective? The detective telling the author how to write and the author telling the detective how to sleuth? Twists and turns in the search for motive? A great addition to Horowitz’s long list of entertaining titles.

 

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Personality type is a wonderful tool for personal development, but it doesn’t explain everything about people, powerful as it is. As type expert Sandra Hirsh told me early on in our writing partnership, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Adding other frameworks often enriches what clients are learning about type and may just explain things that type can’t.

Adding Saboteur Demons to Type

One tool I’ve found useful in helping clients gain insights into their struggles—and to how they are similar and different from the general descriptions of their type—is Shirzad Chamine’s Saboteurs model. Try his free assessment at www.positiveintelligence.com/assessments/.

Clients quickly understand their saboteurs; no huge explanations are needed, which is helpful given the depth of the type model. What comes to mind as you read through Chamine’s saboteurs? Stickler, Pleaser, Victim, Controller, Hyper-Rational, Hyper-Achiever, Hyper-Vigilant, Restless, Avoider? Chamine describes them on his website as,

“Saboteurs start off as our guardians to help us survive the real and imagined threats to our physical and emotional survival as children. By the time we are adults, we no longer need them, but they have become invisible inhabitants of our mind. Our Saboteurs’ patterns of thinking, feeling, and reacting become soft-coded in our brain through neural pathways. When these neural pathways are triggered, we are “hijacked” by our Saboteurs and feel, think, and act using their patterns.” 

Clients and Type Angels/Saboteur Demons

While there is much to learn about how saboteurs work and how to coach with the model, people gain immediate insights. You can see how they might be “demons”. One of my ENFP clients only read the label “Hyper-Vigilant” and said, “So…overdoing this, such as…I walk my 8-year-old son into school and to his classroom every morning. If I keep that up, one of these years it could mess up our relationship, couldn’t it…”

That’s the trouble with saboteurs. They work well and may even bring success. But they get you onto a hamster wheel, running and running even when they aren’t helpful anymore. 

Working With Saboteurs and Type

You might immediately guess that correlations exist between type preferences and saboteurs, and you’d be partially right. My colleague Ann Holm and I have data for at least eight  people of each type–our workshops in Brisbane and Auckland added to our knowledge base. Some types show predominantly one or two of the saboteurs, while others show far less clear patterns.

For example, we have 24 ENFPs in our database. You might expect that Restless and Avoider would be common saboteurs, and many ENFPs reported those, but even more had Hyper-Achiever. Pleaser was common as well. Every saboteur showed up in the top three of at least one ENFP in our database—except Hyper-Rational. Surprised? We weren’t! 

Because we knew a lot of people who took the Saboteur Assessment for us, we could see how their saboteurs explained some of the variation in how they express their type. You may have heard the adage

Why all the books in the image? Because I’ve coauthored these books with ENFPs—four different ones. While ENFPs may be stereotyped as too restless or lacking the follow-through to finish a book, these books are proof that those are stereotypes! Every one of them brought resources, ideas, and creativity to the projects, all reflective of their dominant Extraverted Intuition. Some did more actual writing than others. None of them used the same process with me. Note how their saboteurs led to different strategies for bringing closure to their use of their dominant perceiving function.

Can you see how they all used the “angels” of their personality type? But also, how thinking of their individual blind spots via the Saboteurs model provides insights and strategies that might not be helpful at all to the others? 

Coaching with Type and Saboteurs

ENFPs exposed only to stereotyped information might of course conclude that ENFPs shouldn’t try to write a book—they’re not planful enough, not detail-oriented enough, not…but we know that type, rather than describing limits on what a person can do, points out in advance where different skills or strategies may be needed, and provides access to what has worked for other people. 

An experienced coach might take the general information on ENFPs and project completion and form a powerful question to an ENFP hoping to write a book, such as, “Are there similarities to other large projects you completed? What strategies did you use to persevere and get even that last 5 percent of the details done?” Or, “How have you kept up your energy in the past for introverted projects such as writing?” Proper use of type concepts—and of coaching—allows for doing more of what is already working, as well as adding new ideas. 

However, can you see how the addition of saboteurs allows for much richer ideas of what will and won’t work? You can go steep and deep with saboteurs, just as you can with type—in fact, Ann and I have been facilitating day-long coaching workshops. Join me April 13, 2019 for the next Type Angels and Saboteur Demons workshop in Milton Keynes, England right after the BAPT conference! Join me for fun, for insights into your own saboteurs, and for new ways to enrich your use of type with others.

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If I’ve learned one thing in 25 years of workshop facilitation, it’s the importance of experiential exercises. You almost have to wonder whether John Dewey, an American philosopher whose ideas still shape education, had been to a boring, lecture-only type workshop when he wrote

An ounce of experience is better than a ton of theory simply because it is only in experience that any theory has vital and verifiable significance. An experience, a very humble experience, is capable of generating and carrying any amount of theory (or intellectual content), but a theory apart from an experience cannot be definitely grasped even as theory.

(Dewey, 1916, p. 144)

Kind of a mouthful, but eternally true!

People often contact me saying, “I’ve only got 30 minutes t. Guess I’ll just explain the theory/process/content?” I reply, “No, give them an experience with just one aspect of the training you’d do in 3 hours and you’ll leave them wanting more.”

In other words, when for example I’m facilitating a personality type workshop, I trust type. If you set up an activity properly, people will grasp that there are significant differences in how normal people perceive and judge—and that there are patterns that make this theory useful. If, note, you set it up properly. Here are three things I’ve learned—often the hard way!—about doing just that.

Plan for Processing

Often, the key to understanding isn’t so much the exercise you choose but the way you process it. For example, to clarify Extraversion and Introversion I might provide a definition and quickly teach through five or six bullet points that contrast the two preferences. Then I insert a simple exercise such as having the group sit silently for 2 minutes.

To process, we first discuss what we saw. Many of those who prefer Extraversion start toe-tapping or looking around while giggling after about 30 seconds. Those who prefer Introversion often close their eyes and lean back in their chairs while smiling. It’s simple, but it illustrates the heart of the preference pair: are they energized through action and interaction or through reflection?

Second, we process their reactions. I ask, “Who’s sure you prefer Extraversion? How does staying silent for 2 minutes relate to being quiet in real life? What happens?” They’ll often talk about getting in trouble at school or how they love to talk through problems with friends. Then I ask those who prefer Introversion. They might describe exhaustion in noisy environments. Or, how much they like the morning bus ride (when everyone’s tired and quiet) versus the afternoon bus ride (when all the Extraverted passengers  Extraversion are energized after a day of interaction).

Too often, we rush through this processing stage, but it’s essential for making exercises worth the time invested.

Plan for Illustrating Clear Differences

A second key step for effective experiential exercises is ensuring that those new to your theory grasp the point you’re trying to make. Let’s take the common “Write about a ____” often used to illustrate Sensing and Intuition. I used to simply display a Salvador Dali picture and say, “Write about this image. You have two minutes. No questions, no talking.” When participants finished, I displayed definitions of Sensing and Intuition. I asked for volunteers to read their writing and had the group try to categorize their responses.

Sometimes this worked. Typical Sensing responses for “The Enigma of Hitler”, one that as of yet none of my participants have recognized, include lists of objects in the picture—dish, crumbs, shoreline, umbrella, shadowy figure, etc. Typical Intuitive responses include “This is a depiction of the day after a nuclear disaster” or scribble the start of a fantasy story about sea monsters.

Often, though, examples aren’t clear. They start with a list and then switch to a story. Or, a dominant Feeling type might write, “This picture makes me feel depressed with all of its dark colors and that creepy, melting phone,” seemingly mixing themes and descriptions.

Now as people write, I circulate the room to find the three clearest writing samples for each preference, placing green sticky notes by the Sensing ones and pink notes by the Intuitive ones. I then display the definitions and have “green notes” read first, then “pink,” and ask people to describe the difference between the sets.

Prepare Key Debrief Points

For the above exercise, and most others, I list some other key points in advance to ensure maximum impact. For this one, I make sure to explain:

Use Observers

If some participants aren’t sure of their preference or are otherwise reluctant to participate, I’ll ask them be observers. Forcing participation seldom yields good experiences. If they watch as type-alike groups work on a task, they may clarify their own type preferences or see for themselves the empirical evidence for the workshop goals. Frequently, group responses look very similar, but there’s a huge difference in how they work together—and the observers can help you by conveying what they saw and what they learned about which group would be easier for them to join.

For Sensing and Intuition, I might ask the two groups to draw floor plans of the building we’re in. Usually, all of the drawings are fairly accurate, with little that reveals differences in how we perceive. The observers, though, report that the Sensing types use reality to draw it. They may walk out into the lobby or access Google Earth on their iPads and draw from the satellite picture of the building’s footprint. In contrast, the Intuitive groups start with a short discussion of the general outline of the floor and then brainstorm connections among their impressions as to various lobby, hallway, or restaurant features.

As the observers report out, conversation usually turns to how often participants have bumped into these different ways of perceiving information in real life, as well as how they’ve been shut down when in the minority.

Look Ahead

One overarching danger of exercises is that you won’t have a diverse group. If I’m working with groups of less than a dozen people, I often bring examples from other groups to ensure I can demonstrate the differences. I also do this when I suspect a larger group may lack diversity. For example, I once worked with a high-tech marketing team who all preferred Intuition and Thinking, for example.

I might hand out cards with the Dali writings from previous participants and have people work in pairs to sort them for Sensing and Intuition. I also have pictures of ideal office spaces drawn by Extraverts and Introverts..

My point? Take pictures of flip charts. Save writing samples and other artifacts for future groups to analyze and discuss!

Debriefing

There is a limit to how much groups can process, though. Further, the less they know about your subject, the shorter their attention span will be for listening to reports from various groups—imagine listening to reports from all 16 types! Images, not words, can better help them process the different types.

I often give each type-alike group markers and a sheet of copy paper on which to draw a symbol of how their group leads, influences, serves others—whatever fits with the goals of the workshop. They also add a one-line answer to a question such as, “What is most frustrating in meetings?” “What is your motto?” “What one rule would improve this place?” Then for report-outs, one person has 10 seconds to describe their symbol and read their line while I tape the sheets up to form a type table “quilt.” You’ll find participants studying the images at every break.

Following these workshop facilitation guidelines—planning for clarity, noting group processes rather than just results, readying examples for homogenous groups, and using symbols—frees me up to boldly go where no type practitioner has gone before. I can trust type to deliver even with exercises I’ve never tried. That keeps this work as fresh and exciting for me as it was 25 years ago when I first learned how seemingly unfathomable differences among people could be explained—and bridged—through this rich theory we shepherd called psychological type.

References

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: The Free Press.

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“Morning meeting time to build relationships? When they’re already asking us to teach
more content than students can master? What a joke,” the middle school math teacher told me.

Content and relationships do seem like competing priorities, don’t they? After all, time spent on one means less time for the other. This teacher isn’t alone in thinking “It’s either content or relationships. There isn’t time for both.”However, what if they’re actually interdependent? What if more gets done during time on task because students are willing to work harder when teachers take the time to build relationships?

John Hattie (2012) researched the effect size of different teaching strategies and interventions. Effect size studies quantitatively answer the question, “So how big an effect did this really have?”, with .4 being a year’s growth). He found:

You already know that simply putting students in learning situations for longer periods of time doesn’t necessarily boost academic performance. And you know that relationships are important. But there’s only so many minutes in the school day. How do you allocate your time?

Learn more at Learning Forward Minnesota on May 4

Learning how to handle such dilemmas will be the practical takeaway from Unleashing the Positive Power of Differences, my Friday, May 4 2018 workshop for Learning Forward Minnesota. You’ll learn to

Recognize when things aren’t competing but interdependent. Individual and team. Whole language and phonics. Top down and bottom up. Standardization and customization. How many issues can you add to the list?

Facilitate deep conversations that lead to turning arguments and pendulum swings into plans that result in getting the best of both.

We’ll dig into the core tools of my Corwin book of the same name, included with registration, and you’ll have the chance to apply your learning to your own situation. Bring your team and make progress on a real issue. And, we’ll have fun. See you on May 4!

References

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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Some of my Top Reads

Every January, I page back through my Goodreads.com lists to celebrate the books I found most meaningful during the past twelve months. I prefer to call myself a bibliophile, not a reading addict, but squeezing in 120 books last year perhaps took some neglect of other potential pursuits.

I read in just about all genres. Whatever I’m reading–fiction, nonfiction, biography, adult or children’s tomes–can influence and inform my work as a writer and consultant.

So here’s my top five, as well as five honorable mentions. I haven’t done that before, but they were so good to ignore! My reviews point out what I found valuable rather than summarizing content. Follow the links to their Goodreads pages for more information.

The View from the Cheap Seats (Gaiman)

This book is rather dangerous…

If you’re a bookworm, you may find yourself adding an awful lot of titles to your to-read list as Gaiman mentions sources of inspiration and all-time favorites.

If you’re a writer, you may feel a rather desperate urge to be more artful every time you pick up your pen.

If you haven’t considered sci fi or fantasy as meaty reads, you may learn a thing or two about the genres’ real power.

And, you may feel constant urges to look up the works of painters, musicians, and others by which Gaiman has enriched his world and envy the knowledge he has at his fingertips for his masterful crafting with words…

More Courageous Conversations About Race (Singleton)

This book is for everyone, not just educators. Yes, racism deeply affects children of color in our schools. Yes, tools exist to have honest conversations that result in more success for all students. The background, strategies, examples, and voices from within show us how. My only complaint is the depth and length of the book that may keep many from tackling it.

So Far from Home (Wheatley)

If you are hoping to make a difference, and wondering if you can in this crazy world, this is a must read. Hope might be dangerous. Goals might be pointless. Instead, it just might be about immersing yourself in what needs doing and the people with whom you interact rather than counting on any actual movement forward. Profound, inspiring and dampening at the same time.

We Were Eight Years in Power (Coates)

How can I give this six stars? How is it that we are so ignorant of the history of privilege that caused and continues the racial divide in this country? This is an absolute must read.

Coates chose essays he wrote during each year of Obama’s presidency and added introductions that explain his thinking at the time and what has changed since. It is a model of wisdom regarding revisiting our positions and the evidence we think supports them—something all of us need to practice no matter our political leanings. The epilogue analyzes the election of Donald Trump in an honest way that gets past the apologists and looks the horrific side of our national heritage and ongoing inability to admit wrong. Words fail…

Strangers in their Own Land (Hothschild)

Hochschild does a great job of taking an immense subject and focusing her research to help all of us gain insights. Just Louisiana. Just environmental issues. How does one get over the “empathy wall” to understand how earnest people can hold values so different from your own? Other research tells us that this kind of approach is the only way we can confront our own biases–through deep dialogue with those who have different mindsets, experiences and beliefs.

This book is a model for how to do that. The author truly developed friendships with those she studied. As I read, though, I wondered over and over, “What do the research subjects think of her narrative, her conclusions? Will this volume help lower the empathy wall in both directions???”

The Honorable Mentions

Winterdance (Paulson)

Because once in awhile it’s inspiring to read about someone pursuing a totally crazy passion. This is Newbury award-winning author Gary Paulson’s account of training for and running in the Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska.

Double Bind: Women on Ambition (Romm)

No, this isn’t research. It’s a collection of personal essays. And perhaps the takeaway is the importance of understanding why you are making the choices you are making so that you can be contented with the life they produce.

Braving the Wilderness (Brown)

Brown presents an interesting analysis of our inability to talk with each other, to listen to opinions we don’t share, and to have the courage to get the right kinds of dialogue going. Some solid action steps as well.

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White (Sweet)

Sweet weaves a story from biographical events, archived photos and letters and poems, original collages and artwork, and the beauty of White’s life. Storytelling, yes, but far more.

Wonderbook (Vandermeer)

Beautifully illustrated, filled with examples and insights as to why they work, this book is a gift to those who wish to improve their writing skills. While it targets those interested in crafting science fiction and fantasy, the information on plot, scene, character, and the accompanying tips and assignments, can help any writer.

Read on — and list in the comments here your favorite reads of 2017!

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