15 September 2014

About Teacher Effectiveness???


I was listening to a recent NPR story, "'Building A Better Teacher': Dissecting America's Education Culture" about how teachers teach here, in the USA, versus abroad.

You are probably thinking, "Oh, here he is with that Teacher thing gain!"

If you are thinking that, well, you got that right. If you are not thinking that, well YOU BETTER!

The report mentioned that there is a "pervasive idea" that Great Teachers are born and NOT made. Just as a Great Leader can be made, Great Teaches can be made. I guess the only ones that believe that Great Teachers are born are those that go out of their way to say they are Great Teachers yet do not have the qualifications (in real life) of a Great Teacher.

Personality & Charisma vs. Technique

The report mentions that while others may say that great teaching takes Personality and Charisma but in actuality, it is the Techniques that the Teacher uses that makes them great. Guess what? Someone had to teach that Teacher the techniques that work and how to make them work effectively. There you go, a Great Teacher is made. Great Teachers recognize that in order to be great they have to do everything they can to stay great. Seriously, who wants to be irrelevant?

The NPR report mentions in the U.S. there is "A CULTURE OF PRIVACY AROUND TEACHING" and how it is the opposite in countries like Japan. 

A Culture of Privacy around teaching? Really? 

In the United States, Teachers spend most of their workday surrounded by their students. Those young minds that, essentially, know nothing and cannot hold the teacher to a higher standard. Those students look to the teacher for answers and when the teacher needs a question answered whom does he or she turn to? No one. 

In the US workplace just like in the schools (elementary, middle school, & high school) there is the daily dash to the parking lot when the last school bell rings or the work whistle blows. No one wants to stick around and chit chat. No one wants to be late going home. Of course, there are those very few exceptions but how many are the exception?

Is Mentorship the answer?

Yes, Mentorship is one of the answers. Everyone needs a mentor and everyone needs to be a mentor to somebody. However, there are not enough mentors out there just like there is not enough teachers that truly believe they need to be mentors. Why is this? Why are people afraid to share and ask for help? Why do people say they need help but refuse to be helped, especially when it will directly affect their chosen vocation?

A Science of Teaching (or Becoming A Great Teacher)

It was nice to listen that the issue of Teacher Professional Development is something that others are thinking about and actively have on their mind. Just as in every profession, being a Teacher requires taking the initiative and staying up to date with the latest news, tips, techniques, and training when it comes to becoming a Better Great Teacher.

However, some (if not many) Teachers that want to be Great but firmly believe that they will become great ONLY if their Principal or District Administration wants them to become great. Otherwise, why bother? Why bother? If it was not for the love of teaching, why did you bother becoming a teacher? Seriously! 

Guess what? You have to do it on your own. If you wait for your Principal or the District to send you out to get some Seriously High-speed Important and Timely Training, it is not going to happen. You have to give them a reason to send you. You have do a little work on your own. Imagine that?

The real issue at hand is the need for Teachers to do what they can and must do to become better at their chosen profession. That way is to become lifelong learners and that means putting in the work. Putting in the work on your own.

There is no excuse for not honing your craft. Gain new skills and refine those techniques that have made you a Great Teacher and become the Greatest Teacher of them all. However, it begins with you and aren't the kids you teach worth it?

As a Parent, I know my kids are worth having the Best of the Best Teachers teach them.

Thank you for your time,
David Guerra

I invite you to follow me on Twitter: @daveguerra • visit my website: www.daveguerra.com

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02 September 2014

5 Simple Leadership Fundamentals

5 Simple Leadership Fundamentals

5 Simple Leadership Fundamentals

The leader does not have to be the boss, the leader is not automatically the person who signs your paycheck. Remember, leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Leaders come from ALL levels of the organization.

Always remember and don't ever forget; Any one can be a manager but not just any one can be a leader. It takes someone with a special kind of something to be a leader. Please do not get those two confused.

All leaders, no matter who they are or where in the organization they are ranked, share the same 5 Simple Leadership Fundamentals. Of course, there are plenty of other fundamentals but these are the Top 5.

1. The mission is bigger than the man
The mission of the organization is why the organization exists. If it were not for the company's mission and vision there would be no sense of direction and purpose. The company would just be a place where people came to "hang out" for 8 hours every day and ultimately, the organization would not last very long.

Leaders must ensure that everyone knows why the company is in business and that each stakeholder is critical to the life-cycle of the organization. The leader cannot do it all by herself, that is why she motivates others to achieve the common goal: Creating and Maintaining a Successful Organization which in turn, makes all Stakeholders Successful.

2. Do as I do is the only way to lead
A leader knows and understands that the only way to keep the people you lead motivated is to ALWAYS do as you do.

The "Do as I say" mindset is strictly reserved for those minor league managers that have not been properly taught to do, teach, and believe otherwise.

3. Create more leaders
The mission of any leader is to create more leaders. I firmly believe the truest measure of a leader and her leadership abilities is by the number of leaders she has created and is creating.

If a leader is not doing anything to foster the growth of those he serves, he's just a manager with a touch of jealousy and insecurity. That is the bottom line.

4. Treat others they way they want to be treated (with respect)
Every leader wants to be respected. Here's a little secret I want to share with you: every leader gets respect because she respects others. A real leader will respect everyone that follows him as well as those that do not follow him. Everyone gets respected by a true leader and in turn, as if by magic, everyone returns that respect. It is the classic give and take. Give respect and others will respect you.

Do as your Grandma used to tell you, "Be respectful."

5. Before you can lead, you must first learn to follow.
All leaders had to begin somewhere. All real leaders begin as followers. World War II hero and US General George S. Patton was a young plebe at West Point at one time, as was US Army General and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Former General Electric Chief Executive Officer and Author Jack Welch started with GE, in 1960, as a Junior Chemical Engineer and over the course of a twenty year career he moved to the top of the company.

Everyone must start at the bottom. Everyone must pay their dues. Everyone. Do not think about cutting corners because there is no short cut to being a leader. This applies to the children and immediate relatives of the CEO, President, or Owner of any organization, as well. Do not for one minute think you have it made. Your family elder worked, scratched, and clawed to the position they are and nothing should be just handed to you. Whether you think you deserve it or not. To truly deserve followers you must not hesitate to get into the trenches and get your hands dirty.  The only way to get into the trenches and get your hands dirty is to do so by following a leader who will show you the way.

As I mentioned, there are plenty of other fundamentals to great leadership but these 5 Simple Leadership Fundamentals I feel are the most important. All other Leadership Fundamentals, Skills, Traits, and Abilities are based on these five. 

Now, get to work.

Thank you,
David Guerra

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29 August 2014

10 Simple Tips for Creating Successful Employees

10 Simple tips for Creating Successful Employees

Employees are the ones that make things happen in any organization. They make good things and bad things happen. They can make magic or rain down a curse of epic proportions on any organization. That is why as a leader you have to ensure you are doing everything you can to ensure success with every employee, volunteer, intern, internal stakeholder on an individual basis, as well as a group.

Here are 10 simple tips that I recommend you use to develop successful employees, either one-on-one or as a collective.

1. Dialogue
Always ensure that every conversation is a DIALOGUE (a two-way conversation) and keep the monologue to an absolute minimum. Better still, leave the monologue for Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman.

2. Listen
Be an active listener. Do not stand there and nod your head. Really listen. Take notes if you have to. Hey, taking notes worked when you trying to pass Calculus, it can work when you are trying to ensure you really understand somebody. 

3. Ask
Ask Questions. Ask lots and lots of questions. Do not tell yourself you have no questions. You have questions and you must ask them.

4. Get to know them
Get to know your employees. Do not take any of your employees for granted. Never take any stakeholder for granted. Who knows that employee may be your boss or your competition one day. Then you will really have to re-think how you could have made the relationship better when you had the chance.

5. Ensure they have the tools to do their job
Every one wants to do a good job. How can they do a good job if they don't have the tools. Go out of your way to make absolutely certain they have plenty of paper, pens, chalk, dry erase markers, surgical tools, and whatever they may need to do the job. If they refuse to do a good job then that is on them and not on the lack of tools and supplies.

6. Ensure they know you have their back
Go out of your way to make certain that each and every employee knows you have their back. They need to know it and see it everyday. Then again, they also need to know that you will have their back provided they are always truthful and forthcoming, and not behaving bad just because they know someone has their back. That's not what having their back is about. Having their back is based on mutual dialogue, understanding and clear expectations of and from each other.

7. What are their expectations of you
You cannot lead what you do not know and understand. If your employees do not share what their expectations of you are then how will you know if you are a great leader? Ask them what are their expectations of you, then move heaven and earth to achieve, maintain and exceed those expectations.

8. Ensure they know your expectations
You cannot expect success if the ones that follow you do not know what you expect them to do and not do to achieve that success. Be crystal clear when you are explaining your expectations. Even if you have to draw them an infographic make absolutely sure they understand.

9. Train Them
Training is everything. Train, Train, Train and then train some more. Training is how the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII and training is how Germany national football team won the FIFA World Cup in 2014. Everyone, every organization and every group that has ever won something or become the best at something does so by training. Train your employees every chance you get. Remember, everything is training and training is everything.

When I was serving in the US Army we had a saying, "If it's raining, we're training." Get out there and get them trained, maybe even cross-trained.

10. Get Yourself Trained
Speaking of training, be sure you take some time to get yourself some training. As a leader, the first thing you should always admit is that you do NOT know everything. Remember, it is managers and supervisors that say things like "I know this job like the back of my hand" and "you don't need to tell me how to do this job" and of course the old, "I'm in charge so I know it all." Yeah, don't be that guy.

Take time to learn the latest trends in your industry. Find out and know what is just over your organization's horizon. Read a book (my book), attend a seminar, take a three day course, do something! When you are done getting trained tell everyone about it. Share it the next time you train your employees.

Thank you,
Dave Guerra

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27 August 2014

Teacher, Can We Have A Word or Two About Standardized Testing and Parents?

A Word or Two about Standarized Testing


As the new school year is now well underway, well at least in my neck of the woods, it is time to talk about the never-ending drama known as Standardized Testing.

Over the years, I have read and heard about teachers complaining that they cannot teach because all they really do is spend an inordinate amount of teaching time on "teaching to the test". The “test” being some form of Standardized Test.

I ask Teachers everywhere: If you spend so much time teaching to the test then why are there SO MANY children who fail these standardized tests?

What? Yes, many fail these tests.

Great question! Ask Teachers, they will tell you because those kids are not teachable. They are not reading at the level they should be for their age. They do not get the support at home. The previous grade's Teacher(s) failed to see that the kids needed extra help. The system failed them. The answers go on and on and on, ad nauseam.

However, there has to be a cause to this problem.

Ask a Parent who is at fault and they will say the Teacher is the cause.

Ask a Teacher who is at fault and they will say the Parent is the cause.

Get both of them in the same room and they will say that the system has failed the children.

See the problem? None of them want to take the blame but all of them are ready to point fingers at one another.

I say it is the Teacher and the Parent, together and separate.

Let’s start with the Teacher. Not because they are the easy target but they are the “professional” and they should “know better” and so on and so on, ad nauseam.

Teacher, those kids failed on your watch!

Who holds you accountable? What??? Hold you accountable? How dare I?

Seriously, I will always hold someone, including myself, accountable when the situation calls for it.

When children cannot pass a simple standardized test then you had better believe that as a parent I would hold each and every teacher accountable. I will always hold a teacher accountable and the organization that hired that individual because I can only imagine the horror that would ensue if that teacher were given free rein to teach (sans Standardized Tests).

Think about it and in your own words, "they are dumbing down the education of youth" by requiring standardized test. Yet, teachers are failing at that simple task.

Simple Task?

That is what we as parents are told by those same teachers. From what some Teachers have told me, they are “forced” to teach to the test and are not allowed to teach the children what they must to be taught to succeed in school and in life.

To me when they are “forced” to teach to a level, that ideally all youth should achieve some passing level of competency, there should then be no excuse for any child to fail to achieve a proper level of competency at that “drastically reduced” level of education.

Plain and simple, they are failing to teach to a test that “dumbs down” the education of our youth. I now return to the question of: Who will hold those Teachers accountable?

Can you see where I am going with this?

If a Teacher cannot achieve a level of competency with standardized testing then what will being allowed to teach what they were taught to teach do to the kids?


You are correct! Parents need to do their part every day (weekends and holidays included). I know I try to do my part with my children.

I do hold my kids accountable just as I hold myself accountable when I fail to do something. However, what about those situations that happen when that whole Teachers and Parents working together just doesn’t work out.

The thing is I fear that teachers are conditioned to expect negative support from parents. That conditioning runs so far and deep that they do NOT know what to do when a parent actually wants to be involved. Sure they say they appreciate the offer and the help but at most it is just a token gesture on the Teacher's part.
Thus, for the parent it becomes a double-edged sword. The school administration will chastise ALL Parents for not being active participants in the education of their children. Then when they want to participate and want to make a positive difference, Parents are shunned by Teachers when they actually want to go through with it and truly want to step up to help.

The Teacher does not know how to welcome the one thing they have wanted (and in most cases demanded): Help from the Parents. The Teacher seems to go out of their way to alienate the Parent and then what? Exactly, the same old song and dance from the Parents and the Teachers.

Does the same old song and dance mean complacency?

You better believe it does!

It means that all of us will fall into that same old dumb routine about complaining about each other and again that is unacceptable. In the end, the Child is not being properly served standardized test or not.

That my friends, allies, comrades, cohorts, enemies, and foes is NOT a good thing. Never has been and never will be.

Thank you for you time,
David Guerra

I invite you to: follow me on Twitter: @daveguerra • visit my website: www.daveguerra.com

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25 August 2014

Break Free from the temptation of Leading by Sitting Down

Break Free from the temptation of Leading by Sitting Down
Break Free from the temptation of Leading by Sitting Down

As a Manager, Director, Supervisor and whatever other title you and I have today, it is a sad reality that it can get easy to Lead by Sitting Down. No! It gets VERY easy to Lead by Sitting Down and that is completely unacceptable.

What is Leading by Sitting Down?

Leading by sitting down is what happens when managers, directors, or supervisors become complacent. When we truly believe the best way to lead is by picking up the telephone, sending off an email, sending a fax, or worse: sending someone to do the work for us. We dictate by sitting in our chairs and hoping that things are done then truly expect to hold others accountable at the first sign of trouble.

Seriously, the only time we get off our respective ass is when we get up to get another cup of coffee, or go to lunch, go home for the day, or the weekend.

If someone has not told you, let me be the first: YOU ARE NOT LEADING. Plain and simple: You are barely managing.

You cannot fake Leading when you are Leading by Sitting Down.

If someone told you it is OK to “lead by sitting down”, even occasionally, well that someone is WRONG.

As tempting as it can be, you have to get out there and walk around. Get out there and press the palm of your hand against the palm of the hand of all your stakeholders. That is what a Leader does.
A leader will get out there and make things happen. A leader by being present will encourage others to make things happen. Good things.

However, remember it will not be easy. It goes with the job.

As a leader, you will do things that are NOT easy. Remember, easy does not play into grown up life. Easy is never easy. Doing the easy thing always has a price that must be paid. That price is "losing touch with your staff, your customers, your clients, your stakeholders" and once lost it is very difficult to recover.

Over the years, many of us experienced those kind of managers and supervisors. Let those managers and supervisors serve as cautionary tales. Do not be that kind of manager, instead get up, start walking and start leading. That is the only way to avoid the temptation of Leading by Sitting Down

Thank you,
David Guerra

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16 August 2014

Five Lessons for Future Leaders

Five Lessons for Future Leaders

The age old question: Are Leaders Born or Are Leaders Made?

Personally, I go back and forth with the answer. There are times when I have seen a natural born leader take charge and give credit to that answer of "Yes, they are born."

Then again, there have been times that I have seen someone rise up from the organization's shadows and lead others to accomplish great things. Things that their own managers would never think about doing.

Thus, the question lives and it will live on for a very long time.

However, one thing is certain: To become a Great Leader you have to be an even better follower. In my upcoming sequel to "The Walking Leader" I have put together another 20 rules/guides/lessons to help Future Leaders become better followers.

Does this mean that I am answering the question? NO! It means that no matter who you are once you start on the path to becoming a leader you have to keep on that path. Along the way there are a few things to remember. Here are just five of them.

1. You Know Nothing
Sure you went to high school, college, vocational school,  grad school, and you have your education, congratulations but that is it. Unless you have worked at the organization before getting your education you walk into that company NOT knowing thing one about how that organization works. The company website, Facebook, twitter, and Instagram page tell you NOTHING about that company's culture, they may scratch the surface but it will never tell you the true nitty-gritty details. Others within the company can tell you but until you are knee deep in it, you know nothing.

2. Keep Your Mouth Shut
While you are learning how to fit into the corporate culture and how to do your job the company way my next lesson is for you to keep your mouth shut. Nothing sounds like nails scratching across a chalkboard more than hearing someone saying "back in school" or "back in basic training." Basic training or school is just that: school. You are there to learn the basics and that's it. You are there to learn the bare minimum. However, once you get to your first job or duty station (for those of you in the military) then it is the time to shut up and become a sponge. Soak up everything that your leaders, tenured staff, peers, and co-workers will to teach you. 

WORD OF ADVICE: If your new organization welcomes you aboard and then says get to work without so much as an orientation briefing, it is time to run to the hills.

3. Ask Questions 
Always ask questions! Ask questions, especially, when someone is teaching you something. Asking questions serves two purposes. First, asking questions ensures that you know and fully understand what is going on and what you will be held accountable for. Lastly, asking questions lets those that are teaching you know just how well you are grasping the training and just how well you will fit in within the organization.

4. Seek Out Mentors
Everyone needs a mentor or mentors. No matter where you go and what you do having a mentor to help and guide you in and outside the organization is always a great thing. One thing to remember, a mentor does NOT have to be your immediate supervisor. It does have to be someone you trust, you believe will be good for you, and will steer you in the right direction. 

WORD OF ADVICE: Do not select a mentor solely on the belief that their position or tenure with the company will skyrocket your career. If that's why you are doing this, STOP right now and move along nothing more for you to see or do here.

5. Have Fun
From the moment you set foot in the door filling that entry-level position to the moment you collect that gold watch and retire from the organization remember to do one thing: HAVE FUN!  If you are not having fun then why bother? Having fun as a follower will most certainly ensure that you will have fun as a leader. All the great leaders that I have known certainly liked to have their fun.

There they are, five simple lessons to take with you for your entire career. Don't forget to master them and then teach them to others (hint, that's the fun part).

Thank you,
David Guerra

P.S. I do invite you to join the conversation and tell me what you think about this post and all the others here on my blog.

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13 August 2014

Attention Leaders

Written in the Talmud is a great piece of advice and a great reminder about people and life. It is quite an "in your face" statement and isn't that what we need every once in a while?

In this case, I am making this quote a call to action for all that are leaders at work, at home, at school, anywhere and everywhere. Please know and understand that when I say Leader I mean anyone who has become the individual that people turn to because they want to and not because they have to.

Attention Leaders: The time has come to put up! We want you to know, it is time for a lot more action!

Thank you,
Dave Guerra

I invite you to
- follow me on Twitter: @daveguerra
- visit my website: www.daveguerra.com

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