Digital Human Library

Here’s what gets me excited these days. Those that really know me, know that I have a question I attempt to answer every single day – “What did I do today to make a difference in the life of a child?” Good news. I’m now a part-owner of this amazing concept. My incredible friend and business partner Leigh Cassell developed Digital Human Library (dHL) as an answer to the demands of today’s classroom. In short, what we do is “We connect people to make a difference for kids.” Our hundreds of experts come from all walks of life and join teachers in their classrooms through video conferencing. Here are just a few examples.

We have social action projects, authentic content from our Indigenous community, and live interactive streamed events. Seriously, these resources are available and much of what we offer is FREE for teachers. Why? Because Leigh and I are dedicated to making a difference for kids.

No matter WHO you are, you should check it out. We’re always looking for experts and we want all teachers to know about this amazing resource. You can get started by registering or visiting our site.

Socrates would have loved it

Full disclosure: I started writing this post quite a while ago. a) It’s got old content and b) It’s not quite finished.  Still, it’s worth a read.

I wandered onto Facebook today… not sure why exactly. Sometimes I use it to break up the day and see what people from my past are doing. I don’t really use it to engage with people in my present and that’s mostly because Facebook is a bit of a self-validation site.  As a participant, there’s a strange sense of obligation tied to joining in.

What’s ironic is that today, while I was on Facebook, I came across a commercial site called MasterClass. Christina Aguilera is on there as is James Paterson and for a mere pittance ($90.00) you too can sign up to be taught by these two OR other legends in their fields. Talk about validation…

I wouldn’t mind learning from either of these masters. Trust me, I’ll never be a singer – my singing coach gave me my money back. But Christina Aguilera is incredible. Her power and pitch and range defy what’s humanly possible. I can’t tell you that I love her music. I have a few of her songs, especially her blues numbers, and therefore I’m self-limited, but I do love her voice.  So maybe a great master could help me become sufferable and I could yank my guitar back out of its case and see if I could hum some Dave Matthews or something. Being able to sing somehow ties to my desire to play.

Writing though… that is something I could bite into and learn deeply. I have always enjoyed writing. Letting the letters that have been snapped onto the screen in front of me create rivers of meaning that flow through pathways of each readers’ mind to form images tied to their own contexts. It’s always been very fun to weave a story compelling enough that the reader continues following long after the sentence should have. James Paterson is listed as one of the best-selling authors of all time. I’m guessing I could learn from him as well.

What is probably even more extraordinary is the number of people that are providing Masters classes for free.  Calum Graham is one of those incredibly talented, humble, gifted people. Maybe I’m a little biased as he is a local kid that went through our school system. He’s self-taught and shares his skills frequently. Take a listen and you’ll understand why I celebrate his creativity.

In the last number of days participants were posting in the Twitterverse about #blendEDAB. during a 3-day Symposium focused on flexible learning strategies. At the heart of the dialogue was the ongoing theme that kids need access to a variety of ways of learning. Evidence surrounds us that every moment is a learning opportunity.

This post is unfinished, mostly because I have a lot more thoughts and not a lot of time. At the heart of it is the message that all of us should always be learning.

Customer Service

You’ve been there. Mill Street. Let’s just say it’s a place to drop your shoulders and wet your throat and watch some mastery of service.

Your spot may not be the Mill Street Pub in Toronto Pearson Airport, but, as I travel the nation, it is one of them for me. I look forward to going to this spot – Cobb Steak Salad and breaking my resolve to not have a beer lol. They shouldn’t taste so good.

At this moment, I’ve had one more free taster than I should as I get ready to fly again – gluten free, dark toasty, orange flavoured IPA – they’re all good and Keto can wait.

What I love about Mill Street Pub is watching the staff. They have one thing in mind – customer service. I’ve only been here twice in 6 months. Joe somehow remembers my name, seriously, talks about my fancy shirts and slides me another taster before he belts out a stanza of the tune slamming the speakers. He can sing too.

I’m watching the glasses that pass through the belt driven washer. Trust me on this – it doesn’t stop. Sales are good.

So what’s that got to do with leadership??

I was watching a video of school superintendent Joe (a different Joe) san Fellipo’s vblog related to connections. He talks about what kids remember after years of being schooled. It ain’t Pythagorean theorem, it’s the experiences. Disclaimer- I did not initiate the water balloon fight on a ski trip where the kids camped in a school gymnasium when I was a teacher.

I think about my very best work – I’m still creating it. AND part of that is exemplifying what it means to create team. Kick ball games and crabfests – so much fun. When I wander away from any of the work I do to change culture or build highly effective teams, those folks don’t talk about strategy or process… they talk about the good times.

So, short version, do them both. Work hard but make it fun. Kids are important. Important enough to build great teams AND retain them. Connect, build relationships, have some fun. Make memories while you make a difference. Build your own Mill Street. Kudos to the team at TPA – Joe, you’re a natural.

Cultural Change Management

I spend a great deal of my time working with boards to improve process and communication. Hidden beneath the surface of this work is a relentless pursuit of cultural change. This is a complex process involving some thoughtful pieces tied to individualizing the work. Culture changes when individuals shift behaviour…

I especially like Lou Tice’s work related to the four facets: Awareness Understanding Commitment and Belief. The Pacific Institute has done a remarkable job of tying some of the pieces together to enable strategic cultural shift.

Take a look at the following    site     to get more information on their processes.

In addition there’s further work from Harvard Business Review that breaks current culture into eight types.

    8 Types

In Education circles across the country, I often see movement or shift occur through quicksand. It’s a slow laborious process frequently degraded because teams are mired in the why and the what and fail to move to action…. mostly, I think, because even with a step by step process they really don’t get the how. My IBM team sees the greatest gains when we help teams build the steps and then we facilitate the process. The business acumen connected to moving strategic planning forward effectively seems to be the missing secret sauce of success.

We see other teams that have great strengths in this area (leveraging process to create cultural shift), and why they use my team and me is because they don’t always have the cycles to do the work.  We offer current leading practice and template the effort to create efficacy in terms of the time used by separate groups.

I love this stuff. It’s the work I have always enjoyed the most and now I get to do it every day. If you’re interested in learning more, come back to this site at a later date. I’ll continue to post as I work.

The Path Process

I’ve been working with different groups of people on visioning and strategic planning. During this process, I leverage a tool from an organization dedicated to changing lives. They are the Inclusion Network and I’m certified in their processes. The one I use regularly for my work is called the PATH Process. I modify it to work with teams at the corporate level.

A good friend of mine, Phil Irwin, often acts as my graphic facilitator. Back in March of 2014 he took his first shot at working with me and Foothills School Division on building out a vision of preferred learning environments for all students.

Here’s the video of his creation while I was using my skills to evoke the necessary dialogue to develop the dialogue that Phil captures in a graphical format. It’s part 1 of a 4 part process and Phil and I have continued these efforts to make differences for diverse organizations like Frozen Solid and The Digital Human Library.

And the draft of the final version


What’s great about this process is that it inspires the creative part of each participants mind, encourages a positive, move forward approach and reveals thinking that sometimes remains hidden when conducting these types of exercises in large groups. The silent get voice and by the time we’re finished, we have people all pointing in the same direction.

Steps 2, 3 and 4 move from the thinking to the doing part of the work and help to organize, outline and structure the work to get to the goal.

I’m looking forward to working on 3 fairly large contracts related to this type of facilitation.

I’d love to hear your feedback.



Shifting Leadership

Lots is on my mind about leaders and leadership. I love the work I’m doing. Most of it focuses on building leadership skills and attitudes. Here’s the guts of an email I recently sent out:

“We get better fastest when we fail forward. I learned how to ski by skiing with the best skiers I could find. I grew up in Kamloops after a few years in Edmonton and was years behind my peers when it came to skiing well. I have bumps and bruises and injuries and broken glasses and scrapes to prove it… but, let’s go skiing now… you know what I mean. There’s better skiers out there… my buddy Dennis OB as an example – the dude is a Ninja on the mountain. And I ski with him when I can – always learning.

Leadership is a discipline and requires active participation. It’s not a destination that you get to with old habits of mind or past practices and suddenly you’re a master. This team – the one I’m addressing in this email – must be the most forgiving of each others’ mistakes while ensuring accountability regarding high performance. If you fail in the same spot over and over again, even after someone else has provided input on how to improve, that’s laziness. Don’t be lazy. It’s important to act like a leader.

  1. Leaders listen more than they speak
  2. Leaders take their struggles up the hierarchy – they don’t cross talk or take it into parking lot conversations
  3. Leaders have strong, structured, redundant processes – like purpose driven, agenda moderated meetings that have SHARED action items… EVERY TIME. Get to boring with your process and the work is fun.
  4. Leaders model preferred behaviour
  5. Leaders dress professionally
  6. Leaders embrace challenges
  7. Meetings have a chair and a recorder (see how that’s a weird one in this list?? It’s that important. Meetings without action items are a birthday party.)
  8. Leaders are dramatic in the positive and anticlimactic under stress. Live in the now.

I know plates are full. I will still be bold and ask you what you are doing to improve as a leader. Lift your head from the work and remember that your teams need your leadership first and your sweat equity second. Be a master of leadership”
I wonder what you’re doing as a leader to improve your leadership?

Here’s my current reading list:

  1. You are a bad ass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life. (Jen Sincero)
  2. The Confidence Code: The science and art of Self Assurance: What Women Should Know ( and men too in my opinion – Katty Kay & Claire Shipman)
  3. 48 Laws of Power (Robert Green) – I’m not that kind of a leader, but, oh the lessons learned!

Dig in people – this crazy world needs powerful leaders. Kids out there, look past the millennial funk you’ve been placed in, because we’re going to need you.

Learning Leadership: Tools of the Trade

I provided a leadership session today on change management in educational settings to some exemplary members of Avon Maitland Board in Ontario. One of those members, Leigh Cassell, has become a very good friend of mine and her work on the Digital Human Library is, in fact, epic.

Digital Human Library - An online resource connecting experts to classrooms

Digital Human Library

The word “epic” is frequently abused in conversation or celebration of just about anything these days. If you look up “epic”, the meaning provided is “narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation.”  What Leigh has done brings people from around the world into connected classrooms to enrich learning experiences on multiple levels. I’ve never seen anything like it and she’s building something that is global in nature and is becoming legendary. That’s epic.

She’s part of a team of learning coaches working to transform practice. In terms of managing change, her request was for me to provide a broad overview of how to consider supporting change in educational environments. That’s my work these days, and I’ve had some extremely successful ventures. My research and experience led me to create the following as an outline for today’s session.

Session Overview - Change Management

Session Overview

There’s lots to this workshop – so much that I was concerned I had provided a Tsunami without a towel. Once I provided this broad overview, the next natural fit was an extended conversation between the participants. My intent was for them to look at change through multiple facets with a single focus. I’m pretty sure I was successful… the feedback was exemplary.

For my readers, two very big take away items… get and read two books: Influencer: ( and Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a team.  You need these tools. Seriously… go get them.

The other tidbit I share is that participants in change go through 4 stages: Awareness, Understanding, Commitment and Belief. This isn’t new stuff. There are multiple versions in change management theory texts. What is important is that these stages are not static steps that organizations go through en masse. At any given time, impacted populations fill all of these stages simultaneously, and despite our efforts, all 4 stages will exist and need support at any given moment during the change process. Iteration has to be built into process if you have any hopes of success.

Ok – what I’ve shared is a view from the Stratosphere. There’s more to it at the ground level and a whole lot of it is best learned through experiential practise with facilitation. Of course, that’s where I come in… I have a team now and you should see the powerful work we’re doing across Canada.

If you’re involved in a project that requires cultural shifts at an organizational level in the K-12 Education Space, contact my team – we really can help you.


Leadership Theory

It’s a starting point and understanding leadership theory is just part of the journey. Take a look at the following information. Great leaders I have served demonstrate an understanding of all of it.

Science of Persuasion

I spend a lot of time working with and influencing behaviour. Here’s some key factors that I leverage explained in a manner that is clear, research informed and easily implemented.