Archives For leadership

Influence Not Control

The following is a copy and adaptation of Todd Henry’s wonderful post Why great leaders aim for influence not control in which I have replaced a few key words to change the focus from leadership and organizations to teacher(s) and classrooms or learning environments. Henry does an exceptional job of pointing out how important it is to let go control and use influence rather then reigns to get people to move in the right direction.

Why great teachers aim for influence not control

“Control is all about my needs, my ego, and my desire to feel like the center of my environment. I wish to impose my will on everyone around me, and expect them to fall in line with how I believe things should be… we should instead be striving for influence.” – Die Empty

I’ll admit that as a parent, one of my biggest challenges is letting my children make mistakes. Instead, I want to swoop in and help them do everything right the first time. Sometimes this is for my own convenience. (Honestly, I don’t want to have to wait for them to try something five times.) Of course, I know this is not good. In order to grow, children have to make a lot of mistakes, and learn their limits. They have to become comfortable with uncertainty, and understand that there is sometimes pain on the other side of effort.

In different ways, I believe that the same principle applies in classroom or learning environments. I regularly hear stories of teachers’ grasping tightly to the reins of their students, and closely controlling every aspect of their behavior. They have to approve every decision, manage every interaction, and oversee every collaboration. In the end, these control-freak teachers are actually doing much more harm to the students than good.

I believe that in any area of life in which the goal is to multiply your effort over time, you should be attempting to achieve influence, not control.

Influence is leading by vision, but control is leading by sight.

When your goal is to grow your influence over time, you are working toward a long-arc goal, and you’re willing to accept some short-term failure in order to achieve success in the end. When you lead by control, any shortcoming is intolerable, which causes students in your learning environments to adopt a “wait until you tell me what to do” mindset.
Any rules and guidelines should attempt to inform decisions, not to control and tightly restrict them. Your objective is to teach students to think for themselves.

“Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.” – Dee Hock, founder of VISA

Influence is situation agnostic, but control is situation specific.

On a related note, leading with influence means that students will learn principles that they can apply broadly to any number of similar circumstances. Control is always situation specific, because the objective is to ensure that behavior in a given circumstance is acceptable. Again, this will train students to look to you for answers rather than training them to be resourceful. Influencers teach principles; control freaks deal in absolutes.
Influence is about care, but control is about self-interest.

When you genuinely care about someone, you want to do your best to ensure their continued success even when they are no longer under your instructions. You want them to learn to take on increasing amounts of responsibility and to grow in their own influence. Control, one the other hand, is all about ensuring that they don’t embarrass you or stain your record in the here and now. You just want to ensure that they don’t mess everything up, regardless of whether they learn anything they can carry forward.

“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” – Ralph Nader

Influence is about spreading praise, but control is about claiming credit.

When you lead by influence, you will dilute credit for any given initiative. The student gets acclaim for any successes. Control is ultimately about putting yourself at the center of everything, which means that you believe that you are the only person capable of making the project successful.

“It’s amazing how much you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
– Harry S. Truman

Controlling behavior never leads to results beyond your own grasp.However, when you are able to achieve influence, you multiply your efforts and reproduce your values and principles in the lives of others.

Aim for influence, not control.


Henry, T. (2016, August 26). Why Great Leaders Aim For Influence, Not Control. Retrieved September 2, 2016, from

Learning something new is frustrating. It involves being dumb on the way to being smart. Once we get good enough (at our tools, at our work) it’s easier and easier to skip learning how to do the next thing, because, hey, those fifteen minutes are a hassle. (Godin, 2016)

I have been thinking about this Seth Godin quote ever since he posted The first fifteen minutes to his blog in January. For the most part I think he is accurate. All too often we are not willing to deal with the fifteen minutes of hassle to learn something new that can save us hundreds or even thousands of minutes down the road. I said for the most part because Godin’s fifteen minute rule can only be applied to the simplest of tasks, tools or processes. It also only applies if the task, tool, or process impacts you as an individual. Once the you bring in other people into the picture the time factor can increase significantly. Regardless of the complexity of the task or the added complexity of a collaborative effort the short time pain for long term gain are still worth the effort. Let me explain.

Students in the Lamar University Master of Digital Learning and Leading (DLL) study online and use digital books and resources. When they transition from one course to the next it has become common practice to share the reading list for the next course to give them the opportunity to stay up with the high volume of reading. We only use digital resources in the program and due to the nature of Digital Learning these resources are constantly being updated. Keeping and sharing static lists of these resources for each of the courses in the Master program has become a challenge. Updating a shared Google document doesn’t offer enough power and flexibility.

This is why we planning a move to Zotero reference management software. I have been using reference management software of one kind or another since the mid 1990’s and have been using the open source, cloud based Zotero since it was first developed in 2007. Therefore, I didn’t have to spend fifteen minutes to learn the software. However, I did have to spend much more then fifteen minutes because I had to explore and test:

  • The best way to set up Zotero Groups which included determining the correct group and user permissions and access model,
  • How to add new users and how to invite and share access to the system;
  • How to instruct the group administrators and new users how access and use the online system.

Each of these steps took approximately fifteen minutes so Godin’s model does work if you multiply it by numbers of significant steps in the process. If you factor in the initial learning process I would have spent sixty minutes to get to the point where I could demonstrate to my colleagues that using Zotero would be the best way for us to share DLL resources.

But are the sixty minutes worth the effort. Godin argues:

The problem with evaluating the first fifteen minutes of frustration is that we easily forget about the 5,000 minutes of leverage that frustration earns us if we stick it out.

Once again Godin’s model is based on individual effort. When you factor in the six or seven full time faculty and dozen or so adjunct faculty who will use the Zotero system and the hundreds of students who will not only use Zotero to access the course reading lists, but will also share it with their students the impact can be much more significant then the 5,000 minutes of leverage that Godin points to.

Perhaps even more important than the time savings and leverage is the impact this can have on our future leaders. Our program is call Digital Learning and Leading so it is appropriate that faculty in the program model the digital leadership required to take the fifteen or sixty or more minutes of frustration in order to leverage the power of digital learning which will have an exponential effect. This is what leaders do and what leaders must model.


Godin. (2016, January 16). Seth’s Blog: The first fifteen minutes [Blog]. Retrieved from

Source: Norwich University Master of Science in Leadership

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Involve and Challenge Me and I Learn!

My journey in becoming an intentional father started when my first son was born just over 17 years ago and my second son was born two year later. Until they were 10 and 8 I worked from home and was available for my boys and my wife. During that time I was an unintentional intentional father because of the circumstances that contributed to my working situation and my family life.

Before I go on I think need to define what I mean by “intentional father” and “intentional fatherhood”. An intentional father is a man who makes a conscious reflective and consistent effort at being a genuine father for his children, immediate and extended family and for society in general. An intentional father is a man who thinks long and hard about what he does and believes about: his work, the choices that he makes regarding how money is spent, leisure and entertainment activities are pursued and what type of example and legacy his life provides his family. An intentional father works at being a father and sees this responsibility fall directly in line behind his responsibility to his God and then to his wife.

My wife and I have been blessed with two healthy, strong and caring boys who have grown into wonderful young men. As I indicated earlier I had been relatively successful early on at a being an intentional father but my circumstances and situation contributed, as much if not more, to my being a good father than my reflective thoughts and actions. I worked hard at developing my relationship with my boys, strove to be a good example to them and invested significant time in their lives. About 18 months ago I realized that the formative years for boys extend well beyond the typical infant/toddler to young child ages of 0 – 7 or 8. The teen years are perhaps equally formative in shaping boys into men.

I had read a study that looked at the impact of time fathers spent with their teenage sons and was shocked to see that the average father spent just under an hour a week with his 15 year old son. I knew that I wasn’t such a father and simply looked back at my past record and could easily point to several hours a day spent with my boys. But my position as the Vice President Academic at Concordia University College of Alberta was consuming 60-70 or more hours a week and I was becoming one of those fathers who was not spending the time with his sons that they deserved and needed to grow into positive young men who would contribute to society. The study revealed that fathers have the ability to call their sons on things that mothers or peers aren’t able to and the commitment of time also tells the young man that he is worthy of his father’s time. The study also revealed that was a strong correlation between the time a father spend with his sons to their being more successful academically, socially and financially. On the negative side, the study revealed that the less time fathers spent with their sons the less socially adjusted they were and the more likely they were to get into significant trouble and even spend time in jail. This study was the slap in the face that I needed to wake up but it took an even bigger slap to get me to make a significant adjustment.

In the winter of 2012, the faculty at Concordia University had voted to unionize and we had started working on the collective bargaining agreement in the late spring. This was a very uncomfortable adversarial situation that required that I spend significant amounts of my time working out the details of the first faculty contract. I changed my family vacation to accommodate the faculty association demands and cut short my boys downhill biking trips significantly so that I could be available for the negotiations. My heart ached the night I had to tell my boys that I would be flying back early from the bike trip to resume the contract negotiations. This was the point I realized fully that I was not a change agent who was going to be able to help Concordia move into the 21st Century and help build the most effective digital learning environment for our students. Rather, I was an academic administrator/bureaucrat who would have to spend the next several years working with a group of faculty more interested in their rights and the details of the collective agreement than in what the students needed and deserved. I must acknowledge that there are some exceptional faculty members at Concordia who genuinely care about their student’s need.

When I interviewed for the position I repeatedly warned the faculty, staff and senior administration that I was a change agent and could help move the institution forward only if there were enough people interested in innovation and progress. A good leader should be able to move an organization forward but only if there is even the slightest desire for progress and change. As Seth Godin, author of Tribes points out a good leader also recognizes when it is time to move on. My heart ached even more when I realized that I was spending so many hours with several people who didn’t respect me and the leadership team (once again not all faculty members were disrespectful) and I was only able to give minutes to wife and boys who loved and cherished me. The night I left for my abbreviated holiday with my family I silently muttered a pray that I would find a way out of this horrible situation.

A couple of weeks later when I returned early from our family biking trip I was greeted by President Krispin who informed me that the University Board had met and decided that I was not the best person to handle the union negotiations. They acknowledged that I had brought about significant change and improved student services, marketing and recruitment and laid the foundation for the academic plan but the union saw me as an impediment to moving negotiations forward. The Board also believed that while I had won over the students, the staff and administration, the faculty were not comfortable with me as a change agent so we discussed our options and I decided that it would be best for me to resign. On the one hand this hurt my pride because I had been so successful at implementing so many changes and improvements in a very short period and had only started with the union negotiations. I knew that I would also succeed with this part of my job as well. On the other hand this was a huge relief, because I didn’t want to commit so much time and effort to a group of people that didn’t believe they needed to move into the 21st Century and that had no respect for my passion, skills or my office.

This was also the point where I committed to becoming an intentional father.

From September 2012 until now I have had the most amazing time with my wife and boys. I have worked closely with Levi and Caleb on several projects, their school work, biking and other sports, read books together and in general renewed my relationship with them. The boys have grown and accomplished so much in this past year and learned how important relationships with friends and family can be. Their band, My Last Lie, played several concerts and they recorded their first single (Hate You). An elderly neighbour across the street lost her husband and Caleb stepped up and helped out with snow removal and other chores, Marilyn checked in on her and did her shopping and all of us were available to help out. Marilyn’s good friend lost her mother and she was available for her in this difficult time. We all spent more time with my mom, sister and brother and worked as a family on several projects. Levi qualified as a Lifeguard and got his first part time job as a rink supervisor in Highlands. All the while I was there for all these events and milestones and continually reflected on my role as a father and considered what my boys were learning from me and how effectively I was modelling man and fatherhood.

I have finally come to grips with the responsibility that I have to raise my boys to be positive young men who can contribute to society. To do that I have to put their needs before my desires–that includes my career plans. What example am a setting if I tell my boys to follow their dreams and do what it takes to succeed but I am not willing to support their dreams by my actions? A man is not judged by his spoken words but my his unspoken words and for the past few years my actions were shouting out that it is okay for a man to drag his family across the continent to pursue his career at the expense of his family’s needs. Sure I put in a token effort but it wasn’t enough. When we were in Texas we spent a few weeks up in Colorado downhill biking each summer but a few weeks each year doesn’t a professional make. And just when my family was getting settled with life in Texas we headed back up north to Edmonton so that I could make my next career move. Once again a days travel away from the mountains and no closer to supporting my boys dreams…until now.

During this amazing time of reflection and growth I was looking for a new work opportunity and we as a family decided that the lower mainland of BC is where we needed to be. If you want to be a professional downhill mountain biker, you need to go where the mountains are and where you can grow in the sport. There is no better place to be than the North Shore and Whistler. I turned down several lucrative and career building opportunities because they would have taken me back to the US, the Middle East or other parts of the world. While these opportunities would have been great for me, these potential moves would have been devastating for my boys. Downhill biking does not happen in the deserts of Qatar or south west Texas. We finally decided that we would move to the lower mainland of BC after spending the summer in the mountains at Silver Star in Vernon and also at Whistler and trust that an opportunity would present itself.

When the temporary position came up at BCIT I almost didn’t apply because it was for a 6 month term and I initially believed I needed a bit more stability and could do better. Who was I kidding; I wanted stability but had uprooted my family several times over the past years moving from Edmonton, to Lethbridge, to Texas and then back to Edmonton, all the while pursuing and advancing my career.

This is where I finally get to the intentional father part. The move to BCIT and BC in general is a step of faith and this move is not about me. It is about my family. The boys get to pursue their dreams in Silver Star, the North Shore and Whistler and we all get to be closer to my wife’s family. I have always known that I can work anywhere so I have leveraged my skills and abilities to get us to BC. This also means that I am having to step back from being a senior executive and take on a position that doesn’t consume all my time.

This step back is also one of the hardest things that I have done because it has shown me just how arrogant and proud I have been about my accomplishments. I had been using my career as my source of my identity and self worth and I have finally put myself in a position where this is no longer the case. Coming to grips with the fact that I have to continually and intentionally weigh all my decisions against the measuring stick of “how will this benefit my wife and boys” has been one of the most important turning points in my life. I am now working hard on my journey to become an intentional father. In the coming months I will be writing about my journey and look forward to your comments and feedback.

In this TechRepublic blog post Mary E. Shacklett, president of Transworld Data, points to ten common IT problems, or sand traps, and offers suggestions on how to avoid them. Mary’s list is accurate but I want to consider that the list has much more to do with managing people and their expectations than it does with technology. The list includes:

  1. Uncooperative users
  2. Unhelpful users
  3. Lack of tool integration
  4. Platform loyalty
  5. Poor project management
  6. Lack of documentation
  7. Poor data quality
  8. Jargon
  9. Unrealistic deadlines
  10. Lack of people skills

Other than “lack of tool integration” all of these problems are people problems not technology problems. But even lack of tool integration has its roots in people because someone or some group chose the tools that the organization is using and that individual or group didn’t challenge or vet the tool venders adequately to determine how well the tools API work with other tools within their infrastructure.

Another potential technology problem that has its roots in people is poor data quality. Once again it is people who develop the methodologies, policies and procedures for putting the data into the databases. The better a data collection systems is configured the more effectively it is used and the less duplication or corruption of data exists.

These IT issues are a major sources of problems for higher education because they reliance so heavily on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Human Resource (HR), Student Information Systems (SIS) and Learning/Course Management Systems. The problems with these systems and the resources required to maintain and support these system takes time and resources away from other educational technology initiatives that have the potential to have an even greater and direct impact on the student learning experience.

IT departments in higher education need to get so good at implementing and supporting these infrastructure systems that it appears that they simply go away. Once IT gets to this point and the fundamental IT infrastructure works so well then time and resources can be spent on the online, mobile, social, media and communication technologies that are so important to our students and their future.

To do this, IT must hire individuals who have people skills not just technology skills. This may also mean that promoting your best technicians may be a wrong move if those technicians are not able to lead and manage people effectively and, more importantly, are able to interact with the user and user groups in a language that is jargon free. Furthermore, IT in higher education needs to hire leaders and managers that are able to communicate in “Geek” and Acadamise” because the ability to translate between the two groups is so important in resolving so many of these typical IT/people problems.

Implementing and managing technology is the easy part for IT, the management of people and their expectations is the challenging part. Finding the right leaders who can build and lead an organization culture that can understand and work to resolve these challenges is the key to mitigating these common problems.

Read the full post…