Connecting: My safari in Africa

A few photos of my safari in Tanzania

Mary-Anne :-)

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Let's dis-connect to re-connect.

As humans we have so much to learn from the natural world.

To take our shoes off and connect with it's vibration. To stop and watch with wonderment and to learn from it's messages.

We are destroying the beauty and wisdom of the natural world with our ego and thirst for 'development at all costs'.

We have children in front of screens watching videos about nature, when they could be exploring it.

We have people so disconnected from themselves that they no longer know who they are.

We are in a constant rush with no time to look around us.

We are glued to devices that were supposed to aide communication, but instead see people sitting side by side in non-communication.

We see people so engrossed in ego and one-upmanship that they create ripples of disharmony around them.

How often are we disconnecting in order to reconnect?

When was the last time you stopped, looked and just noticed the natural beauty around you?

As Viktor Frankl said, we all have choice, even in the most dire of circumstances.

What choices are you making?

How are they serving you?

How are they serving those around you?

How are they serving the world around you?

A photo from my safari in Tanzania ahead of my hikoi up Kilimanjaro. Isn't she beautiful?!

Lets disconnect to reconnect.jpg

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Are you bolting-on or blending-in?

My last blog post before I head-for-the-hills (literally!) is around a topic that is causing me some interest and reflection: “Play-Based Learning”.

Over the past 30 years plus we have seen some schools swing from one idea to another with a concerning lack (in some cases) of deep or wide thought.

  1. iPads at pre-schools and children spending countless hours glued to a screen

  2. Inquiry learning where children followed a set model, even if it was restrictive to the natural flow of learning.

  3. Whole language approach that saw a generation of learners unable to spell.

  4. Conversely the phonics approach that saw learners disconnected from rich texts.

Sometimes we can be like a bunch of magpies, rushing towards the next shiny thing. There is also an underpinning fear that if we don’t do it, we will be seen as less progressive.

I wonder if we are doing the same with Play-Based Learning. Are we grabbing at models, matrixes and programmes (and countless MOE PLD hours) that see it as a bolt-on to the rest of classroom practice? We have hundreds of schools allocating specific time for Play-Based Learning, then move back to their ‘normal’ classroom programme for the rest of the day.

Maybe we need stop and think…

  • What are the philosophies that underpin the concept of Play-Based learning?

  • What are the pedagogies that support it?

If we were to do this, then couldn’t we move away from a bolt-on approach to a more integrated approach?

Would it then become a “Learning through experience” or “Learning through talk” philosophy and pedagogy?

If we were to circumvent the current bolt-on group-think and consider these questions (and others), what would that mean for your whole curriculum?

How would it look if learners were able to learn through:

  • investigations

  • experience

  • talking

  • inquiring

  • projects

  • problems

This requires a philosophical and pedagogical shift. It requires schools to go deep with their curriculum.

So I implore you to consider, are you bolting-on or blending-in your approaches?

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What's your emotional diet looking like?

Millions of dollars are spent across the country each year on our nutritional diet.

Otago University publishes an annual survey of food costs. The most recent survey in 2017 estimates the weekly food budget for a couple and two teenage children in Auckland as $244 for a basic diet, $319 for a moderate diet and $382 for a liberal diet.

We think about what we will eat; we plan for it, create it and then commune around it. Our nutritional diet can take a lot of our thought-space.

If we were to compare our nutritional diet with how much we think-about, plan for, create and commune around our emotional diet, I wonder what the time ratio might look like.

What thoughts, emotions and behaviours are we ‘feeding’ ourself, or being ‘fed’ by others?

  • To what extent are we feeding ourselves negative thoughts “I’ll get it wrong”, “I can’t do it”

  • How might we be repeating patterns of emoting and behaviour that are hindering our growth?

  • Are we surrounding ourselves with negative influences that drain our energy or have us thinking ill of others?

As you go forward this week, I encourage you to take some time to review your emotional diet.

  • Are you choosing emotionally healthy options?

  • What do you need to take out of your diet?

  • What do you need to minimise?

  • What do you need more of?

Go well this week amazing people!
Mary-Anne :-)

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Silence means consent.

We teach our children to stand up to injustice.

We protest when we see injustice elsewhere.

But how many of us speak-up when we see or experience injustice in our work-place?


I have been guilty of not speaking-up when I have experienced injustice, and I too have not spoken on others’ behalf when I should have. I’m more aware-of and intolerant of this now.

One thing I specifically struggle with is when I see new leaders placed into teams where there has been ongoing and long-term dysfunction and intolerable behaviour. I see them struggle to the point of ill-health and despite the support from their seniors, they continuously blame themselves for their teams already present behaviour. You see people often say “Oh that’s just their personality”, or “That’s just how they are” when they are abrupt, rude or even purposefully dismissive, but if it is ongoing and affects those around them and their ability to work and feel safe, then that is not ok.

When incivility and abrasiveness is consistently persistent, then turning a blind-eye just doesn’t cut-it. It’s a bit like the advert on TV where the person emerges from the beach in their togs and continues into the town until the togs are seen as undies. When does the abrasive or dismissive (etc) behaviour become undies in public? When is it unacceptable? Where is the line?

Studies suggest that between one in five and one in three New Zealand workers report bullying or harassment annually.

houston-we-have-a-problem.jpg

Too right we have a problem! And guess what? The problem starts with us!

We teach people how to treat us. Through our silence, we not only teach them how to treat us, but we are also saying that it’s ok for them to treat others in an unjust way. No more!

The incredible Brene’ Brown says that we need to embrace “Courage over Comfort”. This is all well and good, but we can’t go from zero to hero overnight, it takes training. As someone who has done a few body-shaping shows in her time, I know that training calls us to be persistently consistent and consistently persistent. If we want to be courageous, we need to practice it every day in a mindful way. Maya Angelou states

Courage – you develop courage by doing small things like just as if you wouldn’t want to pick up a 100-pound weight without preparing yourself.

Courage begins with ourselves. Start to notice what you are saying to yourself. How are you self-defecating through your inner-critic? I used to use a rubber band around my wrist and ping it every time I caught myself in self-depreciating thoughts.

When we grow our inner courage, it also strengthens us to call others-out on their behaviour. We can ask the question or make the observation “Hey I noticed you….”, or “I experienced you…”, then we wait for their response. Keep it factual and succinct. Depending on their response, you can state how it affected you , the values compromised and what you wish going forward. Non-violent methods of communication are also really helpful.

We get what we tolerate, so isn’t it time to call-it?

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Counting-down!

In three weeks I will be donning my backpack, and flying out of NZ. Destination you ask? Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa (Yes, you heard right!).

My journey will initially take me from our chilly NZ winter to tropical Thailand. From there I will travel to the sweltering heat of Nairobi where I meet my trekking group. Once prepped, we will spend around ten days making our way up and down Mount Kilimanjaro; 5,895 metres above sea level. Might I also add it will be a toe-tingling minus 30 degrees celsius! Our accomodation will be tents, and showers will be unheard-of.

It is about this time ahead of one of my hair-brain ideas that I think… “What on earth was I thinking?!” I was explaining to a friend the other day that it is a bit like childbirth the second time round; you know the outcome is going to be wonderful; but part of the journey is going to hurt like hell! ;-)

I remember my trek to Everest Basecamp last year and despite the well-below freezing temperatures, it was the trip of a lifetime, so trepidation aside, I am super excited!

So team, you will be coming with me on my journey… well virtually that is.
I will be blogging and posting photos along the way…if not just to let you know that I am still alive!

Speak soon :-)
Mary-Anne

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Why wait to say "Thank you"?

One of our greatest athletes Yvette Corlett (nee Williams) was given a dame-hood ten days prior to her death, aged 89.

Yvette Corlett (nee Williams), pictured in 2002 with her 1952 Helsinki Games gold medal.

Yvette Corlett (nee Williams), pictured in 2002 with her 1952 Helsinki Games gold medal.


Yvette Williams was New Zealand’s first ever female Olympic gold medal winners and is widely regarded as one of New Zealand’s greatest ever athletes.

“The Dunedin-born athlete wrote her name into New Zealand's Olympic history books when she won a gold medal for long jump at the 1952 Helsinki games, becoming our first female Olympic champion.

She also had four Commonwealth Games gold medals to her name, winning the 1950 long jump gold in Auckland - a title she defended four years later in Vancouver while also winning the discus and shot put.

In 1990, she became one of the first people inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame - officially recognised as one of New Zealand sport's original trailblazers” (Stuff)


Whilst her family says she was humbled to receive the award, it also brings questions about how and when we say “Thank you”.

There are many people in our lives who make an impact. In this day of keyboard warriors, people are quick to fault-find and look for ‘weakness’. But how many of us actually take the time to say “Thank-you”?

  • Who are those people who have made a difference to your life? Have you thanked them…directly?

  • Who saw something in you before you saw it in yourself?

  • Who ‘went into bat’ for you when you needed support?

  • Who put you forward over themselves?

  • Who shared their thinking, so that you might extend it?

These are the people-builders, the people-polishers and unfortunately the often unsung heroes in our world.

This week take some time to reflect and then pick up a phone, go for a visit, or write that email to say "Thanks". You'll make someone’s day... as well as your own.

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‘Double-click’ for sense-making

What counts in making a happy relationship is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.

Daniel Goleman

I was facilitating some professional learning recently, when one of the participants used a word that someone reacted negatively to. I could see both people’s body language start to shut-down, their amygdala’s being triggered, and they became defensive. Effectively they had jumped to conclusions about each other based on one word.

This may sound trivial, but it happens an awful lot in workplaces and can destroy organisational culture. Consider those comments you create narrative around in your own head, such as “Hmmm they’re a bit weird to say that”, or “They’re way-off track with their thinking”. We make-up stories about people and their ability all the time without necessarily stopping to unpack and make-sense of what they have said.

Within her book “Conversational Intelligence”, Judith Glaser states we need to “engage in the face of conflict”. She uses the analogy of ‘double-clicking’ on a computer mouse to show that we need to delve deeper into words or ideas that are causing conflict.

Phrases we can use to support sense-making may include:


”Tell me more about…”

OR

“Help me understand…”

When we switch our mode of listening to one of curiosity, we trigger higher levels of oxytocin—the trust and bonding hormone. In doing so, a conflict can turn into an opportunity to open new possibilities for both you and the person you disagree with.


So as you go forward into this coming week, I encourage you to “Double Click” on words or phrases that may cause conflict. Seek first to understand.

Glaser, Judith E.. Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & Get Extraordinary Results (p. 137). Bibliomotion, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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Gratitude: It's about human connection

Gratitude is a buzz word at the moment. I see and hear it in the workplaces I visit… gratitude walls, support-staff acknowledgements, meetings that open with acknowledgements.

These are lovely ways of bringing awareness to others.

AND…

My question is “Are these actions actually creating a culture of deep connection?”

I ask this because what I also see and hear are people being excluded from acknowledgements, people being acknowledged when they aren’t even in the room, and gratitude timetabled into meeting agendas turning it into a per-functionary task.

Whilst I acknowledge that we need to begin somewhere, I wonder if these approaches are creating a superficial culture within our organisations.

Gratitude is about human connection: heart to heart; wairua to wairua.

As leaders we are the people who can be culture-cultivators. We can begin by modelling deep connection and gratitude.

Gratitude can be shown in different ways.

We can show gratitude of character:

I want to acknowledge the courage you showed when you took on that new task. You stepped into it with such a positive attitude and also kept persevering when it got tough. You also asked for help when you needed it, and that showed vulnerability. Through your actions, I have also learnt a lot about myself. Thank you.

We can also show gratitude of personality:

One of the things I admire about you is that you are  always optimistic. I sometimes get discouraged but when I  talk with you, I always go away with a more positive  perspective. I appreciate that. Thank you.

And we can also appreciate people for their actions:

Thank you so much for helping me with that report. I was going round in circles with it, and having a second pair of eyes over it gave me clarity. Thank you.

And personally, we also need to stop and show gratitude to ourselves.

Wow I stepped-up then and challenged the status quo. Go me!

My call to you this week is to take the time to make a deep connection with people through gratitude. Remember too that a culture-shift won’t occur unless we model it ourselves.

Gratitude begins with you.

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Let's put the people back into the process.

Over the past six months I have experienced a situation where I was referred from one person to another, told that something would happen in a timeframe…yet it didn’t, laughed at when I explained my situation and treated like a fly to be swotted by process-driven personnel.

I felt powerless, disrespected and hugely frustrated.

Thankfully, I can say this issue has now been resolved. :-)

Despite this, I also truely believe that in every difficult situation there is a learning.

One question (of many) that has arisen for me is:

“When might we be placing process over people?”

Within every system there are processes; some clearer than others. What I noticed from my experience was that no-one was willing to connect on a human level. Instead I was told “That’s not my department”, or “That’s the process”, or “That’s just the way it is”. It seemed that everyone hid behind process within a very complex system. It also seemed to be a case of the tail wagging the dog, not the dog wagging the tail. That is, process took precedence over people on all accounts.


As leaders we both create and operate-within complex systems. My questions for your consideration this week are:

  • Where might you use a process as an excuse for inaction?

  • When might you think or say “That’s not my problem?”

  • How might we create a culture where people feel empowered, rather than powerless?

  • When do you stand-up for the person over the process?

  • Where in your organisation might the tail be wagging the dog?

Look deeply, consider truthfully because the culture of your organisation depends on it.


Go well this week :-)

Ngā mihi Mary-Anne

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