My Lil' Golfer

My review and implementation (at home) of The Leader in Me continues.

He stumped me! Yes, my son, Jacob. During our first 7 Habits discussion at I-Hop (I figured it would be easier over chocolate chip pancakes!), Jacob claimed he was already perfectly proactive. Part of me (the proud Mom) said, “You go, boy! Be proud of all you do!” And another part of me said, “You must be kidding me! Look at your room!!!” So, strategically, I decided I would keep the conversation very positive, focus on what is working well, and get him to Begin with the End in Mind first (Habit 2). I asked him, “What’s one thing you would absolutely love to achieve this year?” He answered, “Mom, I want to win first place in a golf competition.” Great! We have our first goal. My second question (back to Habit 1: Be Proactive) to him was, “What do you feel you need to do to achieve this goal?” He quickly answered, “Practice more.” Bingo.

In The Leader in Me, A.B. Combs uses a few techniques to keep the Habits ever-present for the children. First, all the children have a leadership role (mail carrier, greeter, safety patrol, critter keeper, etc.), and second, they keep a Data Notebook (3-ring binder) to track their goals and successes and share with students, teachers and parents. Although I am not adopting all of the exact strategies used in the book, I am using the same concepts. Both Nia and Jake picked their first Leadership Roles for home. Of course, I have plenty of roles I could assign to them, but that would defeat the purpose. I let them choose their roles, and I am committed to helping them feel successful and track their successes within their chosen roles.

Nia wants to be the leader of her new tortoise, Coney.  So, daily, we’ll coach her on what it means to be a leader for her pet. Jake decided he wants to be the leader of his room. Secretly, I think this means he wants to keep his little sister out of his room (LOL!), but we also will coach him around the power around this role. In fact, I had him observe one area of his room (that drives me crazy…see photo below), and I asked him, “What purpose does this area of your room hold for you?” His smart alec answer… “It holds my stuff.” Yeah…that’s obvious! So, I countered that answer by asking, “Okay, how could it better hold your stuff?” He responds, “Mom, this area of my room doesn’t bother me!” Gosh, he stumped me again! But, I didn’t let him win. Once again I focused on Habit 2 (this one seems to work well for Jake) by asking, “What do you think about making this your Golf Goal Space?” His eyes opened wide and he enthusiastically said, “Yes, Mom, I can already see it!” Okay….I pat myself on the back.

Yikes! Help me!

Instead of Data Books, we liked the idea of having a cork board for each of them in their rooms, where they could read the Habits daily, we (parents) could re-direct them to the Habits as necessary, and they also could post a photo reflecting one or more of their goals as if achieved. So, while Jacob wants to win a competition, Nia decided she wanted a dolphin on her board to reminder her of wanting to scuba dive (like father like daughter!). We’ll be working on those boards over the next week as well as getting Jake’s Golf Goal Space off to a good start.

Nia and I also read a beautiful new book, which nicely reflects Habits 1 and 2 as well as the 8th Habit, which is all about finding your voice and inspiring others to find theirs. The book, titled The Curious Garden, is a simple and beautiful story about a little boy who lives in a big, cold city with lots of big buildings. He finds some weeds growing up through an old, long train track, and decides he will help the plants flourish. Soon, the entire track is filled with beautiful gardens. His work later inspired others in the city to grow gardens, changing the energy of the city altogether. When I asked Nia how the boy was proactive, she said to me “Mom, he helped the garden grow and then other people grew gardens too!” I actually couldn’t believe she got it! I guess you CAN teach a 5-year-old how to be proactive! She loves the new word and is beginning to use it often. Bingo. Next week we will tackle Habits 3 and 4… Put First Things First, and Think Win-Win, while continuing to strengthen the first two.

So, Week 1 of infusing the 7 Habits into our world is feeling positive. In The Leader in Me it is clear that one of the reasons A.B. Combs was so successful is because the teaching of the Habits was ubiquitous. They didn’t teach one habit per month (referred to as character education) or just pick a few activities to initiate during the year. No. The Habits are built into EVERYTHING the school does. It has become the foundation for the school’s culture.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a simple song developed by an A.B. Combs kindergarten teacher to help her students remember Habit 1 (to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star):

Be Proactive Every Day,

Be Proactive, Stop and Think.

Even Though it’s hard to do,

I think you should try it too.

Be Proactive Every Day,

Be Proactive, Stop and Think.

My Relaxed Book Club will discuss selections from books I feel help high-achieving professionals continue to develop themselves and work on their personal leadership leading to more fulfilled, balanced and successful lives and careers.

by Jay Morrison

We can all thank Muriel Thomas Summers, the principal of A.B. Combs Elementary in Raleigh, North Carolina, for being the first person to take the timeless 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and develop a formal process for teaching them to the students and teachers at A.B. Combs, beginning with students, age 5.

She comments about a session with Stephen Covey she attended as a student of leadership:

“Everyone was hanging on to every word being said. I believe they were sensing the very same thing that I was sensing, that what Dr. Covey was sharing was a set of timeless, universal principles.” She continued, “I found myself listening with the head of an administrator and the heart of a parent. And the more I listened, and the more I looked into the eyes of the people around me, the more I kept thinking, ‘Muriel, if you could teach this to young children, they would not have to wait until they were adults to learn these principles. If they looked through that lens for the rest of their lives, how different not only their lives might be, but how different our world might be.’ “

I couldn’t agree more with Muriel. What’s interesting about what happened next is that the parents and community members surrounding the school, when surveyed, didn’t even mention improving the academics of the school (failing at the time!) as something that critically needed to change. What they wanted to experience was a group of students who were responsible, caring, creative, compassionate, and who respected diversity and knew how to do the right thing when faced with a difficult decision. Wow!

A.B. Combs, which was about to close its doors, was transformed into a Leadership Magnet Elementary School, and the results were astounding. In fact, what all schools that implemented The Leader in Me program (reported in near unison) experienced within the first year included:

  • Improved student achievement
  • Significantly enhanced self-confidence and esteem in students
  • Dramatic increases in teachers’ and administrators’ job satisfaction and commitment
  • Greatly improved school cultures
  • Parents who are delighted and engaged in the process, and
  • Business and community leaders who want to lend support.

In fact, A.B. Combs’ enrollment doubled and now has a waiting list!

In the book it is clear, and recommended, that parents implement these same principles in the home. As I mentioned in my last post, that’s what I’m now embarking on. Anyone joining me out there? 🙂

So, my first assignment is to ensure that the 7 Habits are visible in our home so we can easily refer to them. For those of you who have not had the awesome opportunity of reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or taken a course, here they are:

1. Habit 1: Be Proactive

2. Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

3. Habit 2: Put first things first

4. Habit 4: Think win-win

5. Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

6. Habit 6: Synergize

7. Habit 7: Sharpen the saw

I’m not going to go over them in great detail at this time, but I will as we move ahead in blogging about this book and our activities at home. This week coming up, my plans are to do the following:

  • Have the kids help me to create some visual representation of the Habits throughout our home
  • Discuss the very basic concepts of each Habit
  • Brainstorm about ways each of us can make small steps to improve upon the first two Habits
  • Read books (age appropriate) that express the proper use of the principles (as recommended in the Parent’s Guide)

In thinking how this may work for us, I’m going to ask the kids to journal (I will help Nia with hers, since she is only 5!) about how they feel they are doing and what positive changes they are experiencing through using the Habits. My intentions, truly, are to have simple discussions, short weekly activities, and refer back to the principles as needed during our daily doings to reinforce their positive use. After all, we are very busy professionals and parents, and I want to ensure my children are able to grasp these concepts and make them theirs. At the same time, this is an opportunity for my husband and I to also reinforce these principles for our own good. I’m looking forward to taking action.

I hope you will join me for a nice discussion next week, as I hope to have some juicy nuggets of what’s working and what needs to work better!

On the leadership trail…


My Relaxed Book Club will discuss selections from books I feel help high-achieving professionals continue to develop themselves and work on their personal leadership leading to more fulfilled, balanced and successful lives and careers.