New Language = New Meeting Culture

Here’s section 4 from an article Reshan Richards and I wrote for the NAIS blog.  We’ve been using it with leaders — inside and outside education — to help them shift meeting culture in their organization by paying attention to the way they describe, define, and plan meetings.  

4. Blended leaders challenge meeting structures and change meeting structures.

A combination of minds and perspectives, i.e., a meeting, can be a wonderful thing, aiding in problem-solving and helping leaders to see around corners. There is more than one way to skin a meeting, though. Consider the following:   

Synchronous, face-to-face, in-person

  • Affordances: The most human, most personal way to meet. In a shared environmental context, you can hear tone, pace, and inflection and see facial cues, gestures, and body language.
  • Limitations: Interactions are difficult to record or capture (even with note-taking). Such meetings have to be scheduled, requiring pre-meeting effort.

Synchronous, face-to-face, across distance (e.g., via Zoom)

  • Affordances: Offers the affordances of in-person meetings minus the shared environmental context.
  • Limitations: Technological interruptions can break up the flow of dialogue. Also, setting up this meeting requires onboarding people in the digital “room.” Finally, participants in multiperson meetings won’t always know when/how to chime in.   

Synchronous, phone call/conference call

  • Affordances: Tone, pace, and inflection can all be heard, and meeting participants benefit from a shared temporal context.
  • Limitations: Meeting participants cannot “read” the room, especially when multiple people are involved. This meeting type also requires effort to schedule and calling instructions.

Synchronous, text based/shared document

  • Affordances: People respond and interact in the moment, producing a clear record of the exchange.
  • Limitations: Gaining social/emotional information from the exchange is difficult.

Asynchronous, email/shared document

  • Affordances: Your team members can continue to work in a different time and place at a time that suits them. This meeting type creates an accessible record of the work.
  • Limitations: Without shared temporal context, connection to other participants can be elusive.

The full article can be found here:


10 Things You Learned at LLI 2017

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Yesterday at the LLI Memphis Conference, I asked a group to practice what I call “professional sharing.” We were midway through the conference, so I stopped my session and asked the attendees to reflect on their experience thus far by adding their thinking to a Google Doc.  Here’s a lightly edited sampling of what they came up with. 


The most interesting person I have met at LLI so far is George Couros. In addition to being the author of The Innovator’s Mindset, he is a motivational speaker for educators to refresh their mindset and attitude toward their practice in order to unleash the talents of the students in their rooms.


George Couros was very motivating to me. I loved the video he shared of the retired teacher and her legacy. 


The best thing I have learned at LLI so far is that there are many more educators who think like I do and want to find ways to engage their students.  I learned this from talking with a doctoral student at lunch who is working on a dissertation on intonation in the second language classroom. He is studying how people can understand “motherease” or sounds when appropriate intonation is used — even when there are no words being used.


One thing I have learned so far that I will definitely try to implement at my school is setting up a Google site as my class website instead of using  I learned this from Jodi Goff, who led a workshop in educator collaboration using Google and how to become a certified Google educator.  


I have learned that Google Forms is so versatile.  I saw how it can be a survey or quiz and, if used as a quiz, will be graded for you.  I learned this from Jodi Goff who is an educational consultant.


At LLI Memphis I have been reminded of the importance of thinking flexibly.  From expanding my use of social media to sharing my thinking and work, to finding new ways to use the space I’m in charge of, whether physical or virtual, I see the value of being collaborative and flexible in a fresh way.  Thank you @sjvalentine and @gcouros for your inspiration to be more intentional.


The most interesting person I have met at LLI so far is Mr. A.  Mr. A who looks to be in his mid-twenties and yet has already taught for 17 years.  Mr. A who knows the rich and deep history behind education in Memphis and yet has high hopes for our children.  Mr. A who seems to be a quiet soul and yet has the cheerfulness to laugh out loud with good people about good stories over good BBQ chicken.  It is a pleasure to have met Mr. A indeed.


The most interesting person I have met so far would be the keynote speaker, George Couros. I loved when he said if you were not tweeting and hashtagging in today’s world, then you are illiterate. The world around us is constantly changing, and if we don’t get with it, we are going to be left behind. He gave me a new outlook on really bringing technology in and embracing it. 


The most engaging session thus far was the keynote speaker. I also went to his break out session. George Couros was engaging, insightful, and had so many concrete examples of why educators must change and embrace technology. We also spent some time working on our Twitter account, and that was helpful.


The best thing I have learned at LLI so far is that, as educators, we need to move from a fixed mindset to an innovative mindset. Instead of having students put their technology (phones, tablets) away, we should consider embracing what they are using and find ways that it can be used in a classroom setting.  They are going to use it anyway so why not use it with them to enhance the lesson. 

Blog Experiment

What follows is fodder for a two-day leadership seminar I’m running in Memphis.  You can feel free to play along . . . or just show up toward the end of July to check-in on the results.

Step 1: Explore the following links (aimlessly at first).

Step 2: Find something that would actually help you to address a work problem you are currently facing or expect to face next year. 

Step 3: Scroll to the bottom of this blog post and add a comment wherein you share what you found or suggest a new thought leader to whom we should pay attention. 

Step 3, version 2: Publicize the thing you found (along with the author) via social media.  If you’re using Twitter, tag @lausannelearn and #LLIChat. 

Klingbrief Archives

Seth Godin’s Daily Blog Archives

Austin Kleon’s Blog

Fred Wilson’s Daily Blog Archives

Reshan Richards’ “Last Week I Learned” Blog Posts

Blending Leadership Newsletter Archive

The Most Interesting Person

I found this quotation in a book called The Alliance, which has served as a foundation for my thinking about the employee journey, from start to finish, in schools.  Consider sharing it with your teams in advance of conferences or meetings with people outside your school.

Knowledge isn’t valuable unless shared.  Every Monday, Reid [Hoffman’s] venture capital firm, Greylock Partners, distributes a  list of all the external people each partner is scheduled to meet with that week.  This allows the rest of the partners to trade notes and suggest questions that might generate useful insights or valuable connections.  Reid also asks the Greylock Consumer Team to regularly circulate their answers to the question, “Who was the most interesting person you talked to this week?” 

The Challenge of Workforce 2020

Recently, Aaron Pressman wrote about AT&T’s Workforce 2020 program for Fortune magazine.

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I’ve been recommending the article to school leaders because I think it holds some nice lessons for those of us who think about, and execute, professional development in schools.

Via the 2020 program, AT&T is trying to retrain a huge swath of its 270,000 person workforce. If you think about your relationship with your landline at home, you will understand why a company in the rapidly changing telecommunications industry would be willing to take on such an enormous “upskilling” project. The shift to mobile, in particular, requires a skillset that many AT&T employees did not acquire during their formative educational years. There are some obvious upsides for corporate: being able to upskill continuously from the inside, instead of having to hire from the outside, could be a huge competitive advantage for AT&T.

Also, there are some obvious upsides for human beings. If Workforce 2020 succeeds, it will allow people to keep their jobs, to grow steadily, to move into new jobs within the same company, to benefit from change by changing. There’s a twist, of course, in that the training has to happen outside of work hours. People who want to keep their jobs will have to fit in the work, even if it’s inconvenient, even if they are trying to raise children or deal with other personal matters outside of work.  A sociologist quoted in Pressman’s article qualifies the arrangement as “impressive but not entirely happy.”

Technology, taken seriously, puts us in that position again and again, causing continuous reckonings. It can help us to do impressive things, though we won’t always be happy on our way there. The question is, how impressive do we want to be?

In schools, where our job isn’t to swap out landlines or move data into the cloud but to care for and empower young people, the answer should be “very.” Pressman’s AT&T article is important because it shows us a company that is drawing a line in the sand but making sure that the line is dashed. They want their people to be able to get to the other side.  I wonder — are school leaders drawing similar dotted lines as they consider how work in schools is organized and how we are preparing out workforce for its inevitable future?

First Come, First Served

Blending Leadership was published almost one year ago by the good people at Wiley Jossey-Bass. Since then, we’ve talked about the book all over the world, partnered with Global Online Academy and Laussane Learning Institute, appeared on almost a dozen podcasts, and even appeared on television. To celebrate the one year anniversary of the book, and all of the wonderful colleagues we have met as a result of our book’s success, Reshan and I are booking 5 digital meet-ups with leadership teams (3 or more people) to talk with them about their reactions to the book.  These sessions will last for about an hour, be conducted via Zoom, and must take place in June, July, or August.  First come, first served.  Contact me by adding a comment to this post or via twitter: @sjvalentine.  Thanks for the support and for making year one of Blending Leadership much better than we ever dreamed it could be.