Saturday, November 05, 2016

Simple Is The New Smart For Leaders (and Everyone Else, Too!)


Also posted on Huffington Post and the FETC Blog.

The other day , I had the privilege of attending a very good keynote by Garrison Wynn (@garrisonwynn). He was funny, high energy and made a lot of very good points about leadership. Nothing too original, but that's ok because there's not much new to say. There will always be a market for people like Garrison Wynn who can deliver these messages in engaging ways because there are too many leaders who haven't heard, or internalized, these messages in the first place, even though both the leaders and the messages have been around a long time. Garrison made a good point about how leaders must make sure the people around them FEEL they are being heard. He said, find out what people value and you'll know what you have to work with. He said lead by example and make others feel valuable.

The biggest take away for me was his point about being clear. He says clarity is the foundation of value and If you are easy to understand, you have more influence.
He says, most people believe if you can't simplify your message, you don't understand it well enough yourself. I am one of those people who firmly believes that. I've seen a big change in how people communicate over the last few years and you will probably start to notice it more after reading this. There's this trend towards more words, louder tone, and dominating the conversation, and … uptalk.
And these things, my friend, do not lead to more clarity.
I'm not sure when it all began, but I started noticing it with sales people and vendors, and now I see those in leadership positions and even TV pundits are starting to show this odd behavior as well. They end their sentences with a rising inflection (also known as uptalk), signaling to others that they are not finished so they continue to speak. They speak at a rapid rate, jumping from one unfinished thought to another, often repeating themselves until they run out of steam.
Most people today are consumed with being right and telling people their stories, but not listening. Early in his presentation, Garrison made a point about how most people will go down in flames just to be right. They'd rather be right, than hear good ideas. They'd rather be right, than have change. They'd rather be right... and they will keep looking for ways to make sure they keep being right.
So, if you're in a position to affect change for others, here are some tips:
  1. Say less, listen more.
  2. When you do speak, be clear. Would your message read well on a poster?  (If you have trouble simplifying your message, keep reading because there’s a resource for you.)
  3. Be sincere. Everyone knows when you're faking it.
  4. Ask for 360 feedback. (Read this post first: 7 Reasons Why 360 Feedback Programs Fail)
  5. Act on that feedback.
Need more help? Here's a great (free) resource for you:
Lee and Sachi LeFever from Commoncraft are very smart people who share their knowledge in really simple ways. They create extremely short videos that explain things in simple terms that anyone can understand. You may have seen some of their videos such as their 2 min. Twitter explanation or maybe their latest on Gamification.
Be Smart. Speak Clearly!
If you like the way these concepts are explained in simple terms, you can now enroll in their free mini-course, Explainer's Secret Weapon. The course is offered in Common Craft Style - an engaging mix of words, short animated videos, original visuals, and an exercise to try yourself. There's even a downloadable guide to take with you.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Imposter Syndrome: Equal Opportunity For All

Crossposted here on my other blog at Huffington Post.

I stumbled on this blogpost about Imposter Syndrome by Melinda Briana Epler, CEO and Founder of Change Catalyst. It caught my eye not only because it is an excellent, heartfelt post on the subject, but because Imposter Syndrome is something I’ve been struggling with for years, and surprisingly I can count on one hand the number of people who shake their heads in recognition when I bring it up.

I’m not an expert on the subject, but I'm an expert on the past 53 years of being me.

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud".

They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.

Epler mentions a few famous people who also grapple with Imposter Syndrome. She mentions Maya Angelou, Jodie Foster, Tina Fey, Don Cheadle, Sheryl Sandberg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Albert Einstein. In fact, she quotes Einstein:

“The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.” — Albert Einstein
When I do bring it up, I’m so surprised when I’m not met with an “OMG, yes! I get it!” Because I KNOW, my high achieving friends or coworkers are met with self-doubt more often than not. I see it in their behaviors. However, here’s the thing, most people don't talk about it. Part of the experience is that they're afraid they're going to be found out, and if you talk about it you are outing yourself.

When Clance and Imes first described the impostor syndrome, they thought it was unique to women. Since then, a variety of research on the topic has revealed that men, too, can have the unenviable experience of feeling like frauds.

Imes concluded that many people who feel like impostors grew up in families that placed a big emphasis on achievement. In particular, parents who send mixed messages — alternating between over-praise and criticism — can increase the risk of future fraudulent feelings. I would venture to guess the “everyone gets a trophy” generation will grow up with its own brand of Imposter Syndrome.

How can it be that everyone is wonderful on the soccer field, gets equal playing time, all the time, but suddenly when turning 15 means learning the meaning of Pine-Time. No wonder these kids are Nervous Nellies always waiting for the other foot to drop.

I didn’t see a mention of work environment being a contributing factor, but I think there’s something to look into there. Passive aggressive comments made by “well-meaning” co-workers can needle their way into your head.

Some minority groups may be especially susceptible. A 2013 study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin surveyed ethnic-minority college students and found that Asian-Americans were more likely than African-Americans or Latino-Americans to experience impostor feelings. Most people experience some self-doubt when facing new challenges, but this is different. Even if they experience outward signs of success — getting into a selective graduate program, say, or acing test after test — they have trouble believing that they're worthy. Instead, they may chalk their success up to good luck.

I think it’s easier to understand if you think of an “imposter” as polar opposite of a narcissist. Where a narcissist would always attribute success to herself (whether earned or not), the imposter would attribute it to luck or timing.

What does it look like inside the mind of an Imposter? Take the following examples:

1. You lead a project at work to a successful completion. Your boss says to a large group, “Thank you to __insert your name __ for sort of taking this project and running with it.” (What’s “really” happening here? You’re a fraud, Girl! You didn’t really lead the project. You just sort of did it.)

2. Your work overtime, through the weekend, to get a job done. Your boss is aware of this. You make sure your boss has it first thing Monday morning. You know it’s done to perfection. No response from your boss. (“Reality” check: Not done to perfection, but he doesn’t want to tell you. In fact he’s probably handed it off to someone else to redo it. Fraud, Fraud, That’s you!)

3. It’s time for your yearly evaluation, and your boss gives you an outstanding rating on the standard measurement instrument everyone uses. He hands it to you to sign and says, “Good job this year.” That’s all he says. (What’s “really” happening here? He’s not giving you any feedback because you aren’t really so outstanding. Why would you think that anyway? You are a fraud, dear!)

4. Your friends tell you you’re being ridiculous and list all the reasons why you deserve your success. Some of them know you at work. (In your head: They are your friends, so of course they are going to tell you what you want to hear. Listen here, Fraud, they don’t really know all the ins and outs of what you do at work, so they don’t know how much of a fraud you really are. Keep telling them. Fraud!)

5. You’re nominated for an award. It requires you to write a brief essay explaining how you use technology in innovative ways for standards-based instruction. You think about all the amazing projects you’ve done with your students over the years and you start to write. Then you sit there staring at a blank screen. (You’re thinking: What I do isn’t really so special. Even with some lessons that were awesome, they just started out as small tweaks from lessons that were provided to us. In fact, someone will see that I didn’t create them from scratch. Thinking about one lesson in particular, even if I did add in a video conference with a scientist from another state, and a science experiment with digital probes, and every student blogged their science journals…I don’t know that anyone will really think those pieces are so special. FRAUD!) So you don’t apply for the award.

So, what to do? Epler recommends learning to outsmart your fears, really listening to those who tell you how you’ve changed their lives, meditation, and keeping at your work. I recommend reading her full post here. The American Psychology Association (APA) recommends talking to your mentors, recognizing your expertise, remembering what you do well, realizing no one is perfect, changing your thinking, and talking to someone who can help. Read more here.

I find, the older I get, the less this is an issue for me. I’ve learned to recognize where my strengths are, and where they are not. Let’s face it, I will never be a mathematician and I will always need help with Excel formulas. Thank goodness for Google.

I also acknowledge that just because something is not a strength of mine, does not make it a weakness.

I’ve made choices lately in my personal and professional life that I’m extremely proud of. If I were a true fraud, I would not have been able to successfully see those choices through. I know that now.

After reading a lot this summer, I also have come to realize that all who rise to leadership are not in a position to judge your worthiness. They may hold certain cards in your career deck, but that doesn’t mean you give them all your cards. I’ve learned that leadership comes in many forms and you don’t have to let someone else’s words resonate in your head if they don’t have value. The choice is always yours.

Do you struggle with Imposter Syndrome? Share your story in the comments.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Another Email, Another Victim

Image Source: Common Craft
Almost every week I get an email from someone I know and it's pretty clear their email account has been hacked. How does this happen to intelligent people? It happens all the time and in a variety of ways, but one of the most frequent ways is through phishing scams. Here are a few attempts that came through my inbox this week that prompted this post. Take a moment to read and hopefully next time you receive one of these, and you will, you'll be smarter.

You receive an email from your bank, Google, Apple, or another business that you do business with. Although logic tells you there's no good reason for them to be contacting you, you read on. Almost all of these emails have a few if not all of these flags.

  1. Action Required
  2. You are asked to log in
  3. Look for grammatical mistakes in the email.
  4. Check the link, but NOT BY CLICKING ON IT.
  5. Even if you do click on the link, it's not usually the end of the world. The damage is usually only done when you enter your logon credentials, that's what they are after. 
  6. Even if you see the name of the bank or legitimate site in the URL, that does not mean it is legitimate. 
Below is one email I received from a not real "Bank of America." The next graphic is an email I found in my SPAM folder. It is from a not real "Apple Store." It is exactly the same. 

Image Source:
Now that you know how it important it is not to fall for these scams, it is also important for you to use different passwords for different sites. Here's why its important. Let's say I'm a scammer and I send you a Phishing email from Google telling you your Google email account has had a suspicious login attempt and your account will be frozen unless you login and confirm your identity within the next 24 hours... and I provide you a convenient link to do so. When you click the link, you go to a page that looks just like the Google login page (easy enough to create) and you enter your Google username and password. Once you do, you realize you were not on the real Google site, but you aren't sure what to do, so you take a few minutes to figure it out. You even go get a cup of coffee while you search for how to change your password in Google. While you enjoy your latte, I've got your username and password to Google Mail. I also now have access to your address book, so I'm sending all your friends phishing emails, that look like they are coming from you. Because they trust you, most are opening the emails. Now, since I'm really smart, I don't need to do all this myself at a computer, instead I've programmed software to take your username and password and start trying to log in to sites like Apple, banks, Amazon, Walmart, Starbucks, Sears, etc. because I know you are using that same username and password on other sites. By now, you've probably changed your Google password. Good job! But, what about all those other sites, that I've probably already hit? I do this with hundreds of thousands of users and I only need to hit the jackpot a handful of times.

Don't be a victim.

  1. Understand how to identify phishing emails.
  2. Use complex passwords (P@$$w0rds @r3 e@sy 2 Cr3@t3 1F yu0 u2e PhR@s3$)
  3. Enable 2-step authentication ("Send me a text message with a unique code anytime I try to login).
  4. Use a password manager like Lastpass to securely store all your passwords. You can access Lastpass on your phone or from any computer.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

It is HE With the Tie Who I Shall Follow

Walking through the halls of a few elementary schools recently reminded me of the very adorable things young children say and do.

However, there was one interesting occurrence that made me say, "Hmmmm."

I was with a group of five or six other women and one man,, all dressed professionally. The women were dressed in various business attire, from a business suit with skirts and slacks with jackets, to dresses with heels. The man was wearing a shirt and tie (no jacket).

In both schools, there was a little girl who pointed to the man in our group and asked if he was the boss.

Stereotypes start early, don't they?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Source:Flickr user duncan
I work in a seriously progressive district and yet when I walk the halls of excellent schools, and sit in excellent classrooms with excellent teaching going on, I see ZERO technology being used. I see less today than I saw 5 years ago. I see $3000 projectors being used to display a worksheet. If there is any technology, it is rarely in the hands of students. What is going on? #seriousquestionpeople

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

How to Better Engage Students in Science Education

This came across my email this morning and after not posting on my blog for what feels like years, it stirred me to want to share again.
The Amgen Foundation, in partnership with Change the Equation, released results of a new survey examining what motivates U.S. high school students to pursue a STEM education. The survey findings, titled, “Students on STEM: More Hands-on, Real-World Experiences” shares some key perceptions that teens have of STEM education.
Based on the survey of 1,569 U.S. students ages 14 to 18, in addition to the critical role teachers’ play in stimulating students’ interest in STEM, students also need hands-on, real-world experiences to inspire them to explore careers in scientific fields. Specifically, below are some key findings:
·         Among teens who are interested in biology careers, teachers (85 percent) and classes (86 percent) rank right alongside their parents or guardians (87 percent) as the biggest influences on their career decisions.
·         Eighty-one percent of students are interested in science, but only 37 percent of teens said they like their science classes “a lot.”
·         Two-way, hands-on learning, like experiments and field trips, are most likely to engage students in biology, followed by tools that help them relate biology to real life. Methods such as class discussions or teaching straight from the book are least interesting, but among the most common.
·         In fact, roughly half (51 percent) would sooner help a famous scientist run a biology experiment than try out the latest smartphone.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, there is a projected significant increase in STEM jobs that will need to be filled by 2020. For example, biomedical engineering jobs are projected to increase by 62 percent from 2010 to 2020. Given these figures, it is imperative that students get the right opportunities and experiences to encourage them in the STEM fields.

Press Release:




American Students Want More Hands-on, Real-World Experiences

Teachers Are Critical to Inspiring a Lasting Interest in Science


THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. and WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 7, 2016) – The Amgen Foundation and Change the Equation (CTEq) today announced results of a survey conducted to better understand what motivates U.S. high school students to study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The report, titled “Students on STEM: More Hands-on, Real-World Experiences,” shows that students want additional opportunities that will inspire them to explore careers in scientific fields, and teachers are uniquely positioned to stimulate students’ interest in STEM.

The survey found that large majorities of teenagers like science and understand its value, but common teaching methods, such as teaching straight from the textbook, do not bring the subject matter to life in the same way hands-on, real-life experiences do. Several results reveal an opportunity to better engage students in the classroom. For example:
·         Eighty-one percent of students are interested in science, and 73 percent expressed interest in biology. However, only 37 percent of teenagers said they like their science classes “a lot.” By contrast, 48 percent reported liking non-science classes “a lot.”
·         Among teenagers who are interested in biology careers, teachers (85 percent) and classes (86 percent) rank right alongside their parents or guardians (87 percent) as the biggest influences on their career decisions.
·         Two-way, hands-on learning, like experiments and field trips, are most likely to engage teenage students in biology, followed by tools that help them relate biology to real life. One-way communication, such as class discussions or teaching straight from the book, are least interesting, but among the most common.
“We are in an era where scientific advances provide the opportunity to make meaningful progress against some of the world’s most serious diseases,” said Raymond C. Jordan, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at Amgen and Amgen Foundation Board of Directors member. “To sustain this momentum, we must inspire the next generation of innovators. Through this study, we have seen that teachers are critical catalysts to inspiring a love of science in students.”
The survey also looked beyond the classroom, revealing that most teenagers lack access to additional resources and opportunities to learn more about scientific careers and engage with science professionals—experiences that are critical to developing a lifelong love of science. For example:
·         Most survey respondents believe knowing an adult in their field of interest would be helpful, but only 32 percent actually know an adult in a science-based career. And just 22 percent know someone with a job involving biology.
·         Only 33 percent of teenagers have ever been involved in a science club or group, either in or out of school. Low-income teenagers are especially unlikely to have been involved, and are more likely to be unaware of extracurricular science offerings.
·         Low-income students also have the fewest pathways to science careers. They are less likely to know someone who works in biology (19 percent versus 25 percent of higher-income students) and not as likely to have access to career-planning resources.
“Students who pursue a STEM education today are the innovators who will solve the world’s greatest problemstomorrow, whether or not they become scientists or engineers,” said Linda P. Rosen, chief executive officer of Change the Equation. “Change the Equation is pleased to partner with the Amgen Foundation to help uncover how we can ensure all U.S. students, regardless of income level or location, have access to the right resources.”
To expand youth access to the nation’s best STEM education opportunities, CTEq maintains the STEMworks honor roll of programs that have proven their impact through rigorous third-party review. Over the past two years, CTEq’s state and corporate partners, including the Amgen Foundation, have rallied around STEMworks programs, bringing them to almost 1 million more youth nationwide.
To help science teachers give their students more hands-on learning experiences and insight into career options in and out of the classroom, the Amgen Foundation created the Amgen Biotech Experience. This program provides professional development training to teachers and state-of-the-art equipment to schools, bringing real-life biotech experiments into the classroom.
For more information about the survey, visit and join the conversation using#TeensTalkSci. Visit and follow @AmgenFoundation to learn more about our commitment to inspire the next generation of scientists. For more on CTEq, visit and follow@changeequation.

About the survey

The research was commissioned by the Amgen Foundation and Change the Equation and conducted by C+R Research Services, a national marketing research firm that specializes in research with youth. A total of 1,569 online surveys were completed by students ages 14-18 years old. Participants were high school students (sophomore, junior and senior levels) currently attending public and private schools in the U.S. Hispanics and Blacks/African Americans were oversampled to ensure adequate representation, and the data was weighted by ethnicity and region to mirror the U.S. population. Data collection took place November 2015. For the full methodology, visit

About the Amgen Foundation

The Amgen Foundation seeks to advance excellence in science education to inspire the next generation of innovators, and invest in strengthening communities where Amgen staff members live and work. Since 1991, the Foundation has donated more than $250 million in grants to local, regional and international nonprofit organizations that impact society in inspiring and innovative ways. The Amgen Foundation brings the excitement of discovery to the scientists of tomorrow through several signature programs, including Amgen Scholars, Amgen Biotech Experience, and Amgen Teach. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter@AmgenFoundation.

About Change the Equation

Since 2010, Change the Equation has been championing the value of a good start through K-12 STEM education as a means to build and inspire the next generation of America’s workforce. The nonprofit CEO coalition works at the intersection of business and education to ensure that all students are STEM literate by collaborating with schools, communities and states to adopt and implement excellent STEM policies and programs. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @changeequation.