New View EDU Episode 5: Schools for Developing SuperpowersRead the full transcript of Episode 5 of the NAIS New View EDU podcast, in which hosts Tim Fish and Lisa Kay Solomon explore the idea of creating school environments that allow us to see the “assumed awesomeness” in everyone. Now, more than ever before, school leadership is about modeling hope, resilience, and a sense of possibility, so we can support our communities in developing their collective superpowers. The guest is Sanyin Siang, CEO coach, author, and executive director of the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics at Duke University. She offers insights into developing learning environments for relational education that recognizes the personal contributions each person can make to a team.
Lisa Kay Solomon: How do leaders model hope, resilience and possibility? How do they create environments that support the development of individual and collective superpowers and lives of significance? On today's New View EDU, we'll be talking to Sanyin Siang, CEO coach, author, and the executive director of the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics at Duke University.
Sanyin has worked with four star generals, world-class CEOs, athletes, startup entrepreneurs, and Nobel laureates. She's also a LinkedIn influencer and Thinkers 50 thought leader. Whether it's her work as a CEO coach, as an educator or author, Sanyin teaches individuals and organizations to find champions within themselves, and then gives them the tools to keep on winning. Tim and I are so thrilled to speak to Sanyin today about how school leaders can help their staff and students become champions of life.
Sanyin, we are so, so glad to have you here. Thank you for joining us.
Sanyin Siang: Uh, Lisa and Tim, I'm so thrilled to be here and I'm humbled.
Tim Fish: Well, Sanyin, thank you so much. And on behalf of our school leaders who are listening to this podcast, we just want to say thank you. We are grateful for you giving of your time and expertise and ideas, and it has been such a joy getting to know you virtually over the last few weeks and reading your materials. You know, one of the things that I have found so interesting about your work is this idea of coaching. You know, certainly you're the Executive Director of, and founder of the Coach K. Center for Leadership Development.
And so one of the things we just heard was that Coach K. Is in fact retiring after 40 years. You know, I'm curious about what your sense is having been at Duke for the amount of time you have, both as an undergrad, getting your MBA at Duke and now, and now working in the Center. I'd love it if you could give us a little bit on what impact you think Coach K. has had on the university and what elements of leadership and coaching has really come through in his work?
Sanyin Siang: I've learned so much from Coach K. in the nearly two decades I've known him. And one of the things that really I find compelling about him is this idea of a lived legacy. Right. Like he is living—he is thinking about his legacy, as we all should be, not many years from now, but at this very moment, and then living out that legacy. And you know, when the announcement came out, I was thinking about the idea of legends. What makes for great legends? Because he is certainly a legend in coaching and sports, in the leadership world. And here's where I landed on. They are legends because they develop other legends and they pave the way for other legends to come into being. And the next legend will be John Shier, who we're so excited about.
And John has been learning under Coach K. and growing with Coach K. And so I think about this idea of developing others, and one of the things with Coach the second thing I learned from him, is whatever platform or platforms you have, leverage those platforms to make the biggest impact that you can have. And so whether he is coaching the Olympics or coaching Duke men's basketball, or he is writing a book, or with the Emily Krzyzewski Center, these are all platforms and he's constantly strategically knitting them together to make the biggest possible difference there is in the world. So he's very other-people-focused, and he is, I know, living legacy. And it's always about making the biggest possible difference in big moments and in small moments, because if you were to meet him, what you see in the big moments is the same person that you would meet in the small moments.
Lisa Kay Solomon: I love that so much already, Sanyin. I'm thinking about, imagine if school leaders thought about the platform as their schools, right. And all of the mini moments that they have to develop legends. Right? Like imagine school leaders. So like, what do you do? And you know, one of the things that I know Coach K. is really known for is making the best out of a team, this notion of net positive. And I wonder if you could talk about that in the context of what you've learned from working with leaders across many different disciplines, about what it's like to show up as a net positive, as an amplifier of others.
Sanyin Siang: I love that phrase, net positive, because that's a choice, right? We have agency to create net positives. So one thing about teams—and I learned this from Sue Gordon. Sue is a Dukie. When she retired from national intelligence, she retired as the second highest ranking leader in the national intelligence community. And Sue and I had a conversation recently and she said, you know, you don't get to choose the team you have. So what we have to do as leaders is really draw out the best in the team that we have. Just looking at our team, they are enough, and we must believe, and we, and they must believe that it is so. And so when I think about leadership and whether it's in sports or national security or non-profits, I think there's so much in an individual's potential, the human possibilities that have yet to be fully realized. And it's not very much from the standpoint of being a school leader. When we look at our students, like we're dealing with human possibilities here, why can't we look at our teams the same way and say, Hey, I wonder what awesomeness there is that have yet to be discovered about you, that you don't even realize, and how we can draw that out? And I think, you know, connecting it to the original question about coaching, we don't see ourselves clearly.
And so we need others to help us see ourselves clearly, and we can be that for others. And so what if we are looking at each other and instead of thinking, you have to earn your spot here, say, you know what? You're here. Let's assume you have awesomeness. Let's go and discover that awesomeness together and use it in this platform to make a net positive for everyone.
Tim Fish: I love that idea of assumed awesomeness. What a great way to think about working with individuals in a school community or any community. One of the questions I've always been curious about is how, as a coach, whether that be working with someone in the military, working with someone in a corporate environment, working with somebody in the educational environment, how is a coach to that leader, different from a consultant to that leader?
You know, how do you, how would you describe the difference between coaching and consulting?
Sanyin Siang: The way I describe it is, you know, years, many years ago, someone asked Michelangelo, how do you create these masterpieces? And Michelangelo's response was, well, I look at the stone, and I chip away everything that isn't. Right? And so I think about coaching in the same way, that, because we don't see ourselves clearly, because the person we're working with don't see themselves clearly, we help discover the best in them. And let's just take away everything that isn't. The other thing I do is superpowers. That lets us unleash our innate or instinctive capabilities and strengths. And oftentimes what gets in the way of unleashing those is really behavioral detractors.
Those are like the little pieces of stone that isn't. Like for example, I'll just be very vulnerable here. One of my big insecurities is that I'm sometimes afraid that people will realize I'm not that intellectual. And it's a, you know, it's a worry of mine, but if I stick to that, that's going to color everything that I could be. All the good possibilities. But because I have great mentors and great coaches all around me, and great friends that help me like keep that at bay, I'm able to focus on the things that make me the best version of me. And I think about that as a key role of a coach. Right?
And by the way when the coach does really great? Guess what? The coach is the one who does all the hard work. It's just like with teachers and students, we can share, we can share experiences, share advice, but the student has to be the one who does all the hard work. They're the true heroes, you know, of taking that first step and seeing themselves clearly and improving as well. All the courage and vulnerability that's needed. And so I think that is... with a coach there's a lot of emotional connection. I know the great coaches all care deeply and want to see only the best things happen for the person they're working with.
Tim Fish: I love that. And the Michelangelo story says to me, this notion of the assumed awesomeness, right? When Michelangelo saw that block of granite or marble, he assumed its awesomeness and just chipped away what was standing in its way. Right? What a beautiful way of seeing that, as we think about this idea. And I love that notion also, with a consultant, often you hire a consultant because you need them to do the work, because you don't have the time or expertise to do it. So you're hiring them to do that for you. But here, in this sort of coach, it's that you're just nudging and guiding and questioning. And I love that notion of just being present with someone. Thank you so much for that. I think it's really helped me to understand, if I'm describing it correctly, sort of that one of the differentiations, that notion of just being a leader, being present in that coaching role with another.
Sanyin Siang: Yeah. And more and more, I see, you know, in the world of coaching. Because things are so uncertain. Now we know we're now, look, living in what's called a VUCA world, volatile, uncertain, chaotic, ambiguous. Now that can feel scary, but there's also a huge number of opportunities. It just means things are changing all the time. In this type of a world, it's not only the leader, the person in the leadership position. They can't just be the captain of the team. They also have to be the coach of the team. They have to come up with the leadership playbook for the context that they're in. So now, you know, the principals out there, the board members, you are all coaches, coaches for your team. That's now part of the responsibility in the role. And the word that came up as you were talking, Tim, is "seeing." You know, and I'd like to sort of pause on that a bit, because it's seeing possibilities. It's when are we pausing to really see, see the other person and what they can bring into the table rather than what, say, the system prescribes as the only measures of value, are we seeing the full range of value?
Tim Fish: Yeah, and are we seeing the awesomeness as opposed to the areas of improvement, right? That notion of building on strengths, as much as areas of growth, I've just loved that about the role. And particularly at this moment in schools, I think it's so important.
Lisa Kay Solomon: I think there's something, Sanyin, that we're going after, around this New View EDU, around language, that I think you're zeroing in on, and this notion of coaching as a model of leadership for school leaders and how they're working with their teams, their admin teams, and how they're supporting faculty and, and how faculty are coaching students.
And what I'm hearing is really this relational approach to personalized growth. I mean, it is the embodiment of a growth mindset. And as you said, an unleashing of possibilities in people because of that trust. And this is a very, very different perspective than I think how we've tended to think about education, particularly in these younger years, which is about knowledge acquisition, or performance. Versus this, you know, getting at a way, thinking about behavioral detractors. Like what's getting in the way of our learning and what's getting in the way of these new possibilities. And I think this is such an important topic and, and opportunity to lean into coming out of the year we've had, where we've been in reactive triage mode, striving for answers without any blueprint, without any precedent. And now things are coming back to, or not coming back. They are entering a new phase. And so what are the choices leaders are making to hold onto the creativity of what got us through, hold onto the resilience of what got us through, hold onto the relationships of what got us through, and to bring that into a new way of showing up?
Sanyin Siang: I think we're also moving from eras of transaction, to eras of relationship. When you think about knowledge acquisition, that can feel transactional. Knowledge is very individualistic. But the world is moving so fast, no one single person could have the answers. And so we now are moving to a world of, instead of individuals, to teams. And so with moving to this world of teams, we have to talk about relationships. The answer is not in the individual, the answer is in the network, right? I think that's one of the big shifts I'm seeing in leadership. It was always there, but it's now, it went from a nice to have to, like now it's an absolute need to have.
Lisa Kay Solomon: I love also that point you made around all of us thinking as coaches, too, including the board, right? Like that is a game changer, around thinking about the kinds of partnerships that we might have with our board and our parents. So critical to the sustainability, growth, and resilience of any school. And there was one article that you wrote with a couple other leaders, including generals, around resilience for the long haul. Sanyin, that really, really changed my mindset on what resilience is and how to think about it. And you make the point in the article that we tend to think of resilience as bouncing back from an episodic event.
What happens if you didn't win the game? What happens if you didn't do well on that test? What happens if you didn't get the opportunity that you wanted? And instead you talk about resilience as a set of characteristics and skills and practices that we can embody in our everyday, about our thinking and feeling, and I want to talk to you a little bit about that, about that mindset shift from resilience from the episodic moment, to resilience as something that we can build in an ongoing way.
Sanyin Siang: We can't change the past. So this idea of bouncing back, what is it bouncing back to?
So it's something I think a lot about, is how do we bounce forward? I know, and you, as a futurist, you, we had a lot of conversations about future thinking, right. Rather than backwards thinking. Um, so this idea of bouncing forward. But I think core to resilience is this, instead of it being individualistic, it's really about, we're more resilient as teams and as communities.
And we've felt that, right? Like in, in the, this past year, we've, we've come face to face with our own individual limits on resilience and we recognize how much we need community, team, family. And so it goes back to the relationships that we have. By the way, this is how the military built resilience. Not as individuals. As teams and community. This is how Coach K. builds resiliency. It's resilience as a team, not as individual, right? And collectively, we're so much stronger.
Lisa Kay Solomon: You say in this article, "The soulful shape of enduring resilience is about our character, our thinking, feeling, living, and perceiving, woven together. It's how we learn to navigate the uncertainties, the turbulence, the anxieties of a war or a pandemic. The soul isn't a once and for all thing, it is something we cultivate and nourish. And like a reservoir, it can become depleted and needs to be replenished." I mean, imagine if schools said that. That's what we're doing. Right? We are first and foremost, building a reservoir, a spirit and set of practices that cultivate and nourish resilience and possibility.
Sanyin Siang: One thing this past year has changed is there is no work life anymore. It's all blended. And so for the first time language such as hope, or soul, you know that has been more the, when it comes to the political leadership domains or religious leadership domains, it's now seeping into the corporate world, right. And the other spheres of leadership. So soul, soulful leadership is so very much needed now.
Tim Fish: You know, and that brings me to the book, the Launch book, which, you know, thank you also, Sanyin, for putting that into the world. What's interesting is I've read, I, I sort of am a dabbling entrepreneur a little bit, and I've read a lot of books on entrepreneurship. And they often look at this idea of honing the idea, test, build, learn, you know, go out, how you prototype, all really good stuff.
What I love about your approach is the humanistic approach. That in your five areas that you call out in the book, number one is Be You. Right. And, and know you and know what you bring to the table. Number two is what we were just talking about. That idea of build your tribe. And for me, what I'm so curious about is, as we look at school leaders who are now going to be, they're not launching a new school or a new company, but they're launching a new year.
And they're launching a year in a very, very unique moment. Any thoughts that might come to mind about what they can learn from your, from your great book?
Sanyin Siang: Thank you so much, Tim. The book and the article, there's an intersection here, right? Because when we talk about in the article that quote, that Lisa pulled out, it's really about part of that character, character values is also this idea of we're resilient when there's a purpose, right? Because that's what makes us brave, when there's something bigger than ourselves, when there's a purpose, a meaning. For the school leaders, why did you go into this career path in the first place? The higher up we go, the longer we've been at a place, the less we visit back to that moment that drew us here in the first place. So I would ask all of you who are listening, share with each other. What's a meaningful moment about why you're here? What's part of your origin story about why you chose this career and this path? Can we remind ourselves and remind each other of that? I think that's a start because that's going to be a wellspring, that purpose and meaning. I would imagine that unleashing human possibilities and making a big, big impact, positive impact in the world, is a part of the reason why you're here.
And when you're reminding yourself of that, and each other of that in very concrete terms, that's, that's where you start, right? Because everything pivots around that, everything pivots around that. And then the second thing on the tribe is: remember each other. We're stronger together. We're more resilient together. We're more imaginative as a collective. You know, don't be afraid to pivot. And the idea of failure, I mean—we're all high achievers. And one thing I know about us high achievers is we tend to play our mistakes over and over and over in our head. And instead of thinking about them as mistakes and failures, can we just reframe failures as simply outcomes different than the ones we had hoped for or anticipated? I mean, that's so much more manageable, right? So then let's figure out what are all the things that led to that new outcome, and what are all the learnings, and then can we, you know, think about it as an after action review, and then take all of that and apply it to the next thing that you're trying. Because gosh, it might be that, that different outcome that leads to the next great thing.
Tim Fish: You know, I have this idea that I picked up once from a school leader, Sanyin, where there's this notion of... this person called it, C ideas. Right. And the basic premise was that you often have an early idea, which you might refer to as an A idea. And you go test it, you go try something, you think there's something there, so you go do it. And it kind of bumbles along and, and you learn something. And from that you see a nugget of potential.
And so you go to a B idea. You go to try something else and you're moving something, and it's gonna, it's kind of moving, it's kind of not working. And then emerges, then you, then you stumble upon, through the B ideas, you stumble upon the C idea. And the C idea is transformational. And the notion is that you never would have uncovered C had you not tried A. Right? That A is the pathway to B, B is a pathway to C, and sometimes it's actually K ideas, not C ideas, that we have to actually stay with it for even a longer period of time. But I love how you're talking about the connection of together we're strong. Together we have even more resilience than on our own. Because I think one of the things I've heard, from many of the school leaders I've spoken to, is that I think last year many have found that it feels pretty lonely, that the operational decisions they're making can be really hard and the community is not united. And it's been a tough, tough time. And yet finding that strength in community as you described it, I think can be incredibly powerful. So thank you.
Sanyin Siang: There's a nugget of an idea I've been thinking about quite a bit, and it relates to this, because we've been talking about community in terms of resilience, but there's also community in terms of freeing us of the shackles of our own biases. Right? Because we all have blind spots. So going from that B to C to D to E, there may be things that we individually fail to see. But others might see. And when we have the community and we invite others to co-create with us, that's when we see. And one of the things I've been reflecting on these last few weeks is, what is it that leaders need to be able to do nowadays?
I know this sounds a little funny, but one of the things that leaders need to do nowadays is predict the future. And I was thinking about how do the great leaders predict the future ably. I'm reminded of Marty Dempsey. General Marty Dempsey was the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And when he became the chair of the joint chiefs, he did something interesting. He did two things that are interesting. One is he created a role, called his personal chief learning campaign manager, and Colonel Dave Horan's job was to go out there, read books and meet interesting people, and then bring them to General Dempsey. And what Dempsey was doing was really expanding his perspective. Because the higher up we go, we tend to just be more, even more—because of the demands of time and attention—more narrowly focused in scope and in our jobs, when we also need to get a broader range.
Right. And then the second thing was he created space on his calendar that was sacred space for him to reflect. So this idea of bringing the outside in and seeing a larger set of things, plus the reflection time, is, is what gives, I think, leaders the ability to more ably see the potential future trends and things that might affect their institutions and their organizations.
I'm looking at the futurist. Lisa, do you agree?
Lisa Kay Solomon: A thousand percent. I mean, in many ways that is a role of a chief learning officer, is to say, my job is to learn as much as I can from different perspectives and be able to have the space and time to reflect on that. And we know we can't predict the future, but we can sense it. We can prototype it, we can explore it. We can allow ourselves to imagine a multiplicity of possibilities. How do we do that? We do that by exposure. We do that in conversation, we do that in discovery together. And so I love those two things you just talked about. One is like having a discipline around that, you know, really taking a look at my network. Am I getting in enough perspectives? And I think leaders, particularly coming after this year, are barraged, when you're in reactive mode and you're struggling to find that thing that's known, you're not going to turn around and be like, let me be creative and imaginative and take a look at all the things I'm not seeing.
Right. I mean, so it really takes a lot of discipline to do that. And the other, which I want to follow up and ask you about is to make space for it, right. To make time to reflect and sense, right? That's a different mode of thinking. And I wonder if Sanyin, here we have an opportunity to, to really support school leaders, making some different choices.
What should they take off their plate? What should they stop doing? I mean, you—you've had a front row in, in really talking to so many leaders across different disciplines, asking them about what mattered in their lives, what led to the significance, that—that living legacy you talked about earlier, what should they stop doing in order to make room for that?
Sanyin Siang: Oh, that's a good question. I think one of the traps we all fall into is we try to keep on doing the things that made us good, what got us to where we are. Right. So if you, I would imagine the way the career progresses, one is a great engineer and then they get promoted to be a manager. Well, you have to let go of some of the things about engineering, because your job is no longer jumping in and getting to be the answerer, your job as a manager is to know, have that broader scope to be able to ask all the right questions. Same thing here. Um, you were, you know, school leaders were promoted probably from being great teachers, but in order to be great administrators of school, you have to let go of some of the things that you used to do, that you are really great at, and instead develop others and empower others, because that's the only way you can scale.
You can keep on doing those same things, but you won't be able to scale, you won't be able to make space for doing and discovering, maybe, other new superpowers you might have that remain to be discovered.
Lisa Kay Solomon: One of the things, Sanyin, I'm realizing, and I'm smiling because my gosh, what an opportunity to rename the roles that we have. And I know you wrote another fabulous article about this, that leaders become the comforter in chief. So what if we have a comforter in chief, what if we have a relationship builder? And the other that I heard you talk about, and I know we're going to want to talk a little bit more, it's like storyteller, like how do we connect to our origins? You know, so let's get rid of the, the, you know, head of communications and let's instead call them chief storyteller. I mean, I just think that there's so much room to really honor what's needed to be done in the roles, and allow ourselves to imagine what that could look like, to shed the old, as you were saying, and bring in the new.
Sanyin Siang: Let's play with that a little bit, because I think, you know, there's functional roles, but then there's also hidden roles that different people assume, right. Because they have a propensity towards that. So a while back, this has not been in an article yet, but it was an idea I've been playing with, is this idea of the four invisible roles that led to organizational continuity.
And what, as I've observed, there's, like just the four type of roles. One is the mentor or the coach, right? Because that's a, you know, mentors are not just only imparting knowledge, and we all know those people, they just can't help but share out knowledge and the norms. So there's, in a world where there's so much churn in our organizations, mentors, you know, people who have that propensity, basically they create that continuity.
The second type of person is the emotional glue. We all know these people, this can be the executive assistant, or it can be the principal, you know, but this type of person, the emotional glue, the team is better when they're on the court, but they're, they're great at assists, right? We don't record assists. Uh, why not? You know, when assists are just as important, and so the emotional glue, I mean, Shane Battier is a great example of this. When Shane's individual stats were not as stellar as some of the greats, but when Shane is on the court, the team wins.
And then a third type is the catalyst. And I can see this is, we all know those people, where they either are great at asking those questions that make us take a step wise leap in imagining, or they could be skeptics, you know, they're very skeptical. But they pose something on the table that made us rethink.
Right. And then the last type I think about is the integrators. So we know the importance of diversity on our teams, but given how busy everyone is, we also need that person who loves going around learning what everyone is working on. You know, and then they just, they just pollinate. They're integrators. Great. Now intellectual cross pollinators. And these, I call them invisible roles because these roles exist sort of, we don't intentionally create them in our organizations, but when they exist, at least they better chances of organizational continuity, but they're not often that recognized. Like, when did we last promote someone because they're great at being a conflict diffuser or they're being a great mentor. We don't. Or a great connector, you know, but it leads to a rethinking beyond just functional roles.
Tim Fish: I think what you just described in my way, in my thinking, in many ways, are the sort of forces that create culture in an organization. That as those four invisible roles interplay and intertwine, you end up developing these elements of a culture, right.
And a healthy culture—I'm just playing with this idea, but it seems to me that healthy culture has all of that going on. Right. It has those different people so that everyone in that community will bump into people in those other roles. And will be able to sort of develop more their natural tendency in one or many of those invisible roles, but they also have ways that they can benefit from others who are acting in that way. It's that person who you talked to in the parking lot who, who, whose functional role may be completely different, but they have a way of listening. Right? And people seek them out because they listen, you know, and if they're absent, if one of those roles is absent from the community, I think it can really affect the way it feels to be part of that organization. Because there isn't somewhere to go with that. So they're so essential that way.
Lisa Kay Solomon: You said a few times, like, what if we recognized those that gave the assists. Okay. So then we know we honor the stuff we measure. So if we start to measure it, right, first we have to articulate it, because otherwise we go to that mythical hero, hero as cascader of ideas versus, you know, honoring the leadership in integration. The leadership in cross-pollination, and these are skills that can get developed early. Right. But we have to sort of support them in development.
Sanyin Siang: Yeah, it's and I think if we really truly believe that teams are the, now the new atomic unit of the organization, not individuals, because we're beyond the Ford assembly line days, right? Then for teams, we also have to—the assist is just as important as the dunk, you know or the home run or whatever sports analogy we want to use in here. The assist is just as important. When we are, you know, hiring someone, do we hire someone who is also an assist player, like Wayne Gretzky? Wayne Gretzky's record is the greatest number of assists in ice hockey. That's also what makes him great. You know, can we honor that too in, in our systems, this is part of a new way of seeing, isn't it? A new way of recognizing.
Lisa Kay Solomon: Gosh, Sanyin, you just gave me a huge idea, which was, you know, earlier in these wonderful conversations, we talked about helping build stronger bridges between K-12 and higher ed, and making sure that K-12 heard from higher ed, what kinds of qualities they were really looking for in their students. And Tim, I'm just imagining that we're going to see, hopefully in the future, thanks to Sanyin's insight and thought leadership. We're looking at assists, we're looking at teamwork, we're looking at, you know, how you show up and build units how you think about really uh, bringing out the best in others.
And, you know, if we think about so much of what I think higher ed tend to look for is the individual, is the performance, is the, uh, development of skills that might help in the past, but not necessarily inform the future. So Sanyin, I think you're just giving birth to something that's really profound here.
Sanyin Siang: Well, and I think there's some... I've, I've thought about the college admissions process. Right. And what gets recognized and in today's world, suddenly there was a pivot to everybody starts creating their own organizations, because I also think about institutions quite a bit too, as a collective impact, right. Um, institutions have had, they're not perfect, but, and they've been on the decline in the past years, but institutions have a role and a role that's very powerful to play. But in the age of entrepreneurialism, entrepreneurial spirit is wonderful, but suddenly it's like, oh, if I want to go help, you know, a developing country, let me go and start up my own organization. And by the way, that's going to be rewarded much better on admissions. It looks far more impressive than someone who assists, say, an existing institution in making a larger impact. And I wonder, are we looking at that? This is this is all hypothetical, but I'm wondering if, is that the reality nowadays? And does that need to change? Do we need to also see that kid who is a great assist player because they're making just as big of an impact?
Tim Fish: You know, one of the things that has been a thread that's run through many of our conversations, Sanyin, has been this idea of agency. And you mentioned it earlier in this idea of really providing pathways for people to, and students in particular, and staff, to really find their way and find their voice. What I liked so much from this conversation is, what I'm hearing is about the notion of also agency for a team, right? That it's not only agency for the individual, but it's agency for the team to be able to, to really work together. And one school, I was, I—friends had said I needed to go visit.
And so I go to the school and I sit down with the head of school and I said, you know, some friends have said, I have to come see this, see your school. And I said, what is it about this school that, that people—and you know, the head of school, wonderful woman said, you know what? We don't want anything to do with the superstar teacher. We want to be about superstar teams. And it was so interesting because so often schools honor and celebrate the individual, the magic teacher who does the special third grade project for 20 years. And those are lovely. It's a lovely experience, but what I'm also hearing is the multiplier effect of a team.
Right? And I just love that concept of how we play on that idea and extend it even farther into the idea of what can a team be together? And what do I learn when I learn what I bring to that team? So I think that, and that's, it's the superpower also of not only the individual, but the superpower of the team, I think, that can be incredibly powerful.
Sanyin Siang: And the collective superpowers can also bring out other superpowers in that individual. Right? I mean, we're, it goes back to something we started off with, relational rather than transactional.
Tim Fish: That's right.
Lisa Kay Solomon: I want to talk to you a little bit about this work you've been doing around trying to understand leading a life of significance. So you've been having these conversations, regular conversations, where you bring together the most extraordinary, the most accomplished leaders. And you have them share very vulnerably to reflect on their life and what led them to be the kind of leader that they are. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what you're learning from this work, and particularly as it might relate to being more intentional, instead of, you know, having these leaders at the top of their game, maybe they're retired looking back and saying, wow, this is, you know, what, what was so meaningful to me. Perhaps something we could share with school leaders as they think about, as Tim had said earlier, building these cultures and really honoring and investing in different ways that students can become more aware of that in themselves.
Sanyin Siang: A big part of this past year is that by the way, the failure is if we remain exactly the same person that we were when the pandemic started, right? We all have been transformed in some way, shape or form. And this past year has really caused us to rethink how we want to matter. What matters. And also hopefully having a broader perspective around who matters. And so we started playing around with this idea of what does it mean to be significant versus important?
And the thing is everybody can have lives of significance. The choice—agency—the choice is yours. Uh, we've been pulling together a little round tables of about 10 to 15 leaders and influencers such as Lisa to come and just share in a, in a safe space, what is significant in their lives. And who are the heroes? We think about in stories we, ourselves, as the heroes, let's flip that around, who are the heroes in your story, besides you? And what we've discovered is some key themes such as big moments matter, but to be true in the big moments, you have to be true in the small moments. And moments, moments matter.
And we don't know the immediate effect of a moment, but when you stop and you tell that person that you're speaking with something about them that they don't yet know about themselves. Something just even like, I believe in you, we don't know the impact of that, but if we reflect back on our own lives, you know, we know that those are the moments that have mattered in our own lives. That friend, that teacher, you know, even that stranger. You know, and so we can be that for others.
And then the other thing is, interestingly, in these round tables, every one of this, when I asked them to reflect on a hero in their own lives, they always, always, the idea of a teacher comes up. And it really made me rethink like, huh, what is the real role of education? Is it only about knowledge? And, and is it creating workers for, for the economy? Or is it about something bigger, more purposeful than that, which is unleashing human possibilities? Because teachers, I think the reason why we think of teachers, is they were among the first to really see us. And when we see someone that's how we matter. And that's the impact we can have. Our sense of relevance is really about creating a sense of relevance for others around us. Helping others see their relevance and their significance.
Tim Fish: It makes me think about this conversation and where it's taken us and how it's connected to so many of the other things that we've been talking about. And so, first of all, I just want to say thank you for bringing your ideas and your expertise, your vulnerability, and your honesty, and your willingness to engage with us in this conversation has been amazing.
Going back to this notion of: As school leaders are beginning a new year, to see that new year—to your wonderful Michelangelo quote—to see that new year in the community as that untapped block of stone. And how can I, as a school leader, unleash and uncover and reveal the potential that is within that, that block of stone. That moment of opportunity. How can I learn from what I've taken away from the pandemic year? How can we build on that and think about how we've been transformed? How can we build in that time for reflection? How can we unleash the human potential that is resident in our community? This is it.
Lisa Kay Solomon: What I'm really taking away from this is this notion of the intentional choices we can make to really think about how we foster hope and resilience through growth, possibility, and most importantly, seeing and honoring others.
And so that is just a huge gift, I think, to all the school leaders, to be reminded that we all had that agency at the individual and at the team level. And so I'm really so grateful for you sharing your ideas and your belief in others in this really generous and abundant way.
Sanyin Siang: Thank you so much. I loved our conversation. Thank you, thank you, thank you for inviting me here.