Tuesday, February 26

The Story of Stuff

"The Story of Stuff" is a powerfully informative video on consumerism, how it developed, and what each of us can do about it in our lives. It can be found at: http://www.storyofstuff.com. Let me know what you think of it.

The Secret of Time

We increasingly feel that we have less and less time to do everything we want and need to do. Even when we multi-task (especially then), we feel as if we just can't keep up. Multi-tasking actually sets us back rather than helps us accomplish more, as we are not truly focused on any of the things we are doing, which costs us more time and energy in the future than if we had addressed each issue in sequence.

The secret that we all know but forget about time is that it is the only renewable resource that is distributed equally to every one of us daily. Every day, each of us is given 24 fresh hours to use as we choose. If we don't use those 24 hours wisely, we have a brand new opportunity the very next day to use its 24 hours more intentionally!

Those who use their time wisely are motivated by Long Term Goals (LTGs) rather than reacting to Short Term Demands (STDs). If our LTGs are not sufficiently clear and compelling to us, then we fill our days responding to an infinite number of STDs.

If you are not using your time as well as you'd like, ask yourself what your 3 most important goals are, and what you can do every day to move toward achieving them. If today was not spent as you'd like it to have been, assess what triggers caused you to lose sight of your LTGs, and set up mechanisms to improve tomorrow--when you are given the gift of another 24 hours.

How many of you are there?

Each of us is unique, but have you ever wondered how many others in the US share your name? Visit the website, http://www.howmanyofme.com. to find out. I am one of 7 Sherry Schillers in the country!

Friday, February 8

The Bev Factor

In the last several weeks, I taught a series of webinars on goal setting and strategic planning for secondary school principals in Texas committed to improving student academic performance. I was initially skeptical about the likelihood of making a meaningful difference using distance learning and not personally being in each of their schools. My success was assured by the skill, patience, creativity, composure, and grit of Bev Hoerig, the technology coordinator for the project, based at the University of Houston-Victoria.

Although she was amazingly in control of every dimension of the various technological components needed to engage people from dozens of sites in an interactive learning experience, Bev never confused means and ends. She understood technology was a way to accomplish learning goals with limited resources, and used every facet of what the technology offered to achieve those goals. She gently taught me how to pull ideas and information from the participants in live time and use those to shape the discussion. She inspired me to create lively and even humorous slides. She pulled the best from each of us as well as what the technology offered.

So often, there is a "Bev" who can play that catalytic role in a project --and yet isn't empowered and then recognized for the synergy they can create. Ask yourself on your next initiative who could provide The Bev Factor and help achieve its fullest potential. Then, give them responsibility and turn them lose. You know you won't be disappointed.

Thanks, Bev, for teaching me new skills, encouraging me to stretch, and being my partner in what turned out to be a fun and rewarding project. Although we've never met in person, I feel I have a new friend and trusted colleague and hope our paths cross again.

Thursday, February 7

Take the Fork in the Road

Was it Yogi Berra who said, "When you see a fork in the road, take it!"? Ever wonder what events and decisions along life's journey have led you to take the forks you have taken?

Last week, when I was in Belgrade, Serbia, I had the good fortune to reconnect with a high school friend who has lived in Belgrade, Budapest, and Prague since after college. I spent a delightful afternoon with Carolyn, her husband Bora, and their two beautiful daughters.

It's easy to think people and organizations who achieve successful, meaningful lives made a single decision to do so. In truth, where we end up is a combined result of trends, chance, and choice. We should strive to have the greatest influence in shaping our personal and organizational futures by making wise choices, monitoring where they take us, and adjusting as we move forward. Carolyn and I shared a lively discussion about the forks in the road we had each taken on our very different journeys. Every lifetime has many roads with many forks. In fact, embedded into every day are hundreds if not thousands of little choices that collectively shape who we become and where we go. Let us not fail to see and seize them for the opportunities they present.

Meet the Newest Member of Our Team

We want to welcome to our Schiller Center team our new Director of Social Services, Elvis. Elvis joined us in late November from the Alexandria Animal Shelter, where he successfully worked at entertaining the staff and volunteers as a newly surrendered stray. Elvis was named by Center friend 14 year old Maddy Meier Baker. When asked how she came up with his name, Maddy said, "When I saw that dog, I knew he was upbeat, very popular, and unforgettable. What else could you name a dog that was just 'all shook up'?"

Elvis has been enthusiastically demonstrating his talents in the Social Services field (and potential as a specialist in document destruction) in many ingenious ways, including:
* noisily disemboweling squeaky toys in the office--especially during conference calls
* replacing our office shredder, riffling through wastebaskets, and even consuming an ipod
* creating an obstacle course consisting of bones, kongs, and other doggie goodies
* shedding on special guests wearing dark clothing
* gratefully offering a belly for rubbing

We had hopes that Elvis would one day be able to fill the very large paw prints left by the late Buddy, who, over his many years with the Center, earned the positions of both Vice President of Security and Director of Personnel. So far, Elvis seems to lack Buddy's ability to judge character, since he seems to have unbridled love for absolutely everyone he meets.


Last week, I helped the leaders of the International School of Belgrade (ISB) develop their vision, refine their mission, and identify strategies to achieve them. I began the process with a brief introductory email survey with members of the board of directors and administrative team. This survey focused on key strategic questions to help me better understand the school's issues, provide context for the planning documents I had been sent, build buy-in to the process, and begin to develop a relationship with school leaders.

Once I arrived, I conducted one-on-one interviews with each board member and met with the admin team to listen for where there was consensus and where there was not. By the time we met for the day and a half retreat, I had been able to summarize what I heard in a set of draft documents that included a shared 10-point vision, a mission statement, 6 strategic issues and 18 month key strategic priorities. We used these documents as a springboard for discussion and decision-making at the retreat, resulting in a clear, compelling vision for the school and agreed-upon strategies and action steps to real-ize its vision and mission.

I felt a real sense of accomplishment to wrap up the retreat with board members asserting that their highest hopes had been surpassed. Helping people in organizations work with purpose and harmony. What could be better?

In addition, I got to work with some amazing folks who treated me with the greatest generosity and kindness. I got to see Belgrade from the inside. And I had some really serendipitous moments, such as being a guest in an authentic pizza parlor packed with Italian diplomats and reporters the night the Italian government fell.