Study Skills Resolve Half of Caseloads, According to School Psychologists

By Susan KrugerSusan Kruger

Our first home as young newlyweds was a small bungalow built in 1942.  We purchased the house in the month of August, many months before we discovered the drafty windows.  As the Michigan winter rushed in, it literally rushed right through our house.  Day after day.  Month after month.  Winter after winter.

It took a few years, but we finally saved enough money to buy new windows… five-thousand dollars!  The windows were installed one summer and we looked forward to finally being warm as winter approached. But, we weren’t. The house was still cold!

We spent a few months in denial.  $5,000.00 was a hard pill to swallow!  The fact that we were still cold was beyond our comprehension.

Eventually, we noticed an ever-so-slight crack of daylight showing under the bottom of the back door.  The weather stripping had dislodged from the floor track.  But, as my husband and father evaluated the situation more closely, they determined that we needed a new door.  They went to the store, purchased a $200 door, and installed it within a few hours.

Suddenly… instantly… we were warm!

Of course, it was great that we could finally thaw out in the living room, but it was really disappointing to realize we spent a few years’ savings on windows when we only needed a $200.00 solution.  We simply never thought to evaluate the door.  The windows looked very old, so our attention was fully fixed on them… for years!

I would be willing to bet you have a similar story where you pursued a complex solution to a problem, only to discover that the best solution was pretty darn simple, less expensive… and right before your eyes.

This, of course, happens in all aspects of our lives and throughout the world.  Education is certainly no exception!  A few weeks ago, Response to Intervention (RTI) expert, Pat Quinn, addressed this phenomenon in his newsletter.

He discussed the most popular question he gets about RTI, which is, “Where do I start?”  His answer may surprise you: Whole-class instruction!  He recommends focusing initial efforts on improving the whole-class instruction (Tier I) before anything is done to develop Tier II or Tier III.

As he says “The most important first step in successfully implementing RTI is ensuring the quality of full-class instruction.” Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions may be what everyone is talking about, but full-class instruction affects more students.

The fastest way to increase learning at your school is to improve full-class instruction.  The least expensive way to increase learning at your school is to improve full-class instruction.  The change that will affect the most number of students at your school is to improve full-class instruction.

I know that isn’t the most exciting answer, but it is the right answer. And there are a lot of schools spending a lot of energy running around trying to implement a complicated system of Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions when much of that energy would be better spent simply focusing on improving Tier One, full-classroom instruction.

In many schools the need for Tier 2 small group interventions could be drastically reduced if Tier One full-class instruction was at a high level in all classrooms.”

This is completely congruent with my experience in teaching and tutoring hundreds of students; when the instruction is solid from the beginning, the need for intervention-on the whole-becomes far less significant.  Obviously, study skills play a HUGE roll in my experiences; students thrive when they know HOW to learn and study effectively.

Unfortunately, I find that most schools are only interested in study skills for their at-risk, special education, Title 1, or otherwise-labeled “struggling students.”

My question is… do we really need to let ALL of those students get that far?  Is there any chance that teaching study skills in the whole-class setting would improve student performance and reduce the number needing special services?

That is exactly what a team of school psychologists in Prince George County, VA determined!  They analyzed their caseloads across their district and discovered that over 50% of the students referred to them for academic problems were simply struggling from a lack of organization and study skills.

One out of every two “special education referrals” were resolved with study skills instruction Originally, it seemed like these students had a $5,000 problem.  After analyzing the problem more carefully, these educators discovered a $200 solution!

Susan Kruger of SOAR(r) Study Skills is a Certified Teacher with a Master’s Degree and the author of the book SOAR Study Skills.  Her Homework Rx(r) Toolkit at http://studyskills.com includes “25 Ways to Make Homework Easier…Tonight!”, Homework Scorecard, Homework Inventory for Parents and a free subscription to the Homework Rx eNewsletter to help you and your child get started on the path to homework success.

The Engaged Workforce: Who is Responsible?

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Walt Disney once said, “Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.” He understood perfectly whose responsibility engagement was – it was his. He was a hands-on leader, personally involved and engaged with his workforce.

Engagement is a leadership necessity. Once hired, it is leadership’s responsibility not Human Resource’s to keep employees engaged. When the leader of an organization is not engaged on a regular basis, trust and productivity rapidly erode. According to recent research being truthful and connected are huge factors in engaging, maintaining and increasing workforce productivity and loyalty. When a leader is totally involved and committed to an engaged workforce, everyone’s efficiency and productivity improves and profitability increases.

Where Engagement Begins: Experts often say engagement comes from the top down and permeates the workforce. Others say no, it’s a bottom up process. The answer is – it is both and then some. Engagement comes from inside out. If it only comes from the top down all you need is one mid-level leader to drop the ball and the game is lost. If it begins at the bottom, as soon as a member of the workforce runs into resistance from their management the chain is also broken.

There is a natural flow to the engagement of the workforce and it must flow from the inside out – from the heart and soul of an organization to the workforce in order to permeate it. It doesn’t matter if your business is a three-person accounting firm or a Fortune 500 organization, the natural flow of engagement is the same.

Engagement begins with a decision within the core operating culture of a business to make an engaged workforce a top priority. If not created at this level, the results will be mediocre at best with average productivity and reduced profitability instead of exceptional productivity and increased profitability.

The Flow of Engagement: Engagement flows through the workforce in a circular movement, not linear. When leadership at all levels becomes engaged with their workforce, productivity continues as is. When the workforce is in return engaged with leadership, productivity skyrockets.

Understanding that this is a circular flow is critical to successfully creating a workforce that is focused on the best interests of the business or organization.

What’s Next?

Get into the game by recognizing the need for creating an engaged workforce, discovering where it begins and how it works. Create a leadership roadmap that includes developing, promoting and participating in a full-time circular engagement program.

Crunch the numbers to see how much your productivity will increase with a more engaged workforce. Recently released research by Gallup shows that only 33% of the surveyed workforce is engaged in what you want and 49% are disengaged. Even worse, 18% of the workforce is actively engaged in causing failure.

Industry research analysts believe that up to 95% of employees are unaware of their company’s top objectives. Without understanding how important their contribution is to the company’s overall goal and what role their contribution plays, they will disengage, missing deadlines, dropping production levels and negatively affecting profits.

It will be obvious when you crunch the numbers; even a slight increase in the engagement of your workforce will yield significantly increased productivity.

Schedule Road mapping time to unleash the potential of an engaged workforce. If you do not plan to succeed you are by default planning to fail. Evaluate the circular flow of engagement energy in your workforce to see where it needs improvement. If you don’t have an obvious flow to the engaged energy of your workforce, create a roadmap to get your there. Then, take action and make it happen. Start today.

Walt Disney’s legacy lives on because he knew he was responsible for the engagement of his workforce and took an active role in creating the future he envisioned. The circular flow of engagement is evident in every aspect of the Disney Empire and was one of his success strategies — a strategy you can apply to create the results you envision.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

The 3 A’s: Ingredients for a Peaceful Office Life

By Esther Francis JosephEsther Francis Joseph

With many different personality types in an office setting, the workplace can either be a pleasant place to be or hostile territory. A lot depends on the dynamics and interactions between personnel. When a coworker has done something inappropriate in their role as a manager or as an employee, destructive emotions and reactions can arise. In either position the repercussions can affect the entire department and ultimately the company’s bottom line.

For example, John and his coworkers had been working on a project for one of their largest accounts for the last few weeks.  On the day before it was due to be presented to the client, John left work early with no explanation or forewarning.  Understandably, his coworkers were furious that he skipped the final preparations, and the company ultimately lost the account.  Now John is faced with working in a hostile work environment, knowing his coworkers are extremely upset with him.

If you are the person in the wrong, it is important to know what to do to resolve the tension you’ve created when seeking to improve office morale and return to a positive, productive workplace once again. A strong, respectful working relationship with bosses, colleagues, and subordinates can be achieved by utilizing these 3 A’s for a peaceful environment that everyone can enjoy being part of.

Apologize for a Peaceful Workplace: A disagreement among work staff can emerge from any number of situations.  An email that seemed a bit too harsh in its language, personal phone calls when that 5 p.m. deadline is looming; numerous other circumstances and reasons can lead to an interpersonal conflict that requires a subsequent resolution.

John knew that to successfully continue his work, he needed to apologize to his coworkers. John gathered them together and said, “I would like to apologize for leaving work early Monday, the day our project was due, without informing anyone. I realize my actions wasted weeks of everyone’s hard work, and cost us the account. You guys have every right to me angry with me.”

If you are the person who is at fault, whether you are an executive or staff member the first step is to apologize. For decision-makers this might be difficult to do, but for most people an apology is a powerful first acknowledgement of responsibility. No matter the title, it means that the individual apologizing understands his or her error and is not likely to repeat it. It helps to dissipate the anger and other negative emotions from other staff associated with the situation.

In terms of the act of apologizing, it is extremely important to be concise.  Frame your apology around the situation at hand, and do not stray from its focus.  Avoid long explanations and excuses for your behavior. Acknowledge what you have done and the impact it has had on others. Show that you regret your action and mention how you will act differently when faced with a similar situation in the future.  Perhaps most importantly, conduct your apology in a conference setting if possible, where there is an opportunity for further conversation from the offended parties.

For most people an apology involves a degree of embarrassment; one has to be humble to apologize. Humility often breeds compassion in others. This exchange of vulnerability and compassion is a necessary step in obtaining closure in many conciliatory situations, even in the office.

Agree for a Peaceful Workplace: It is equally important to simply agree with whatever feedback you receive from your apology if your goal is to restore that fragile working relationship with your coworkers. Agree with whatever your boss or coworkers have to say in regards to the circumstance. This act of agreeing emphasizes that you are willing to work through the situation, repair it and move beyond it.

After John apologized, he gave his officemates time to respond with their feedback.  Some expressed anger and disappointment but many expressed their anxiety over the real possibility of layoffs as a result of the lost account. Though it was hard, John listened attentively to everyone’s comments, only interjecting to say that he agreed with what they were conveying.

If you have apologized and shown remorse for your conduct, it is beneficial at this point to just listen to the input of others without offering any feedback of your own. By paying attention and accepting their contribution no matter what they might be, you are proving that your regret is truly heartfelt. Your office will see that and be more willing to forgive you. You’ll be perceived in a more favorable light.

Accept Responsibility for a Peaceful Workplace: Accepting responsibility for the situation is the third element in mending a workplace wrong you have committed. Be upfront and readily accept that the situation is, indeed, your fault. Any attempts to deflect fault will leave you appearing less than genuine. Readily accepting responsibility for both your successes and failures in the office shows that you are a mature individual and an asset to the company.

In his efforts to restore office morale, John finished with, “After listening to your comments and agreeing with everything that has been said, I’m willing to accept whatever reprimand is deemed appropriate. If necessary I am willing to offer my resignation to save another staff member their job. Once again, please accept my sincere apology; I promise that this behavior will not happen in the future.”

When implemented, these three important A’s – Apologize, Agree and Accept Responsibility – will establish more positive and productive relationships in the office. Everyone makes mistakes, and problems will arise in the workplace at one time or another. The ability to handle these situations effectively is the sign of a superior manager, employee or coworker.

Esther Francis Joseph is a personal coach and author of, “Memories of Hell, Visions of Heaven: A Story of Survival, Transformation, and Hope,” her personal story of survival and perseverance, despite a violent childhood. Growing up on the picturesque island of St. Lucia, Esther molded her literary talents with her childhood experiences as she continues down her path to leading a joyous and fulfilled adult life.

Hire Fast, Fire Faster: Keep the Right Players on Your Team

By Nathan JamailNathan Jamail

There is an old but true saying, “the best candidate doesn’t always get the job.”  If you have ever made a bad hiring decision, don’t worry you are in good company.  All leaders and managers select bad hires even if they don’t know it.  The difference is, really great leaders recognize their mistake and fire faster.  All hiring managers are sure to make bad hiring decisions, because they made a decision based on situational questions, content on a resume and mostly by their emotions or more notably referred to as “their gut feeling.”   Selecting a bad hire is understandable; but accepting it and not doing anything about it will cost an organization greatly.

There are several beliefs and opinions on how to hire the right person or how to better identify the best candidates and they range from interviewing skills, to aptitude tests, as well as situational scenarios. However, at the end of the day nothing can truly ensure success. There are, however, three things a leader can do to help ensure they have the right people on their team.

Interview before you have an opening: Build your bench. This means managers should not wait to hire until they have an opening, rather, they should prepare for an opening.  Many bad hiring decisions are made because of the urgent need for a person to fill an open spot and they don’t have the time to properly interview candidates to ensure the best candidate is chosen.  Building the bench is also a great way to allow a leader to hold their current employees accountable to high achievement.  Much like in sports where professional athletes must perform every year to keep their jobs (in some cases everyday), due to draft day coming every year and the fact that there are many players looking to get that job.

In business we should hold ourselves to the same standard.  A leader owes it to the entire team to always be looking to add higher caliber employees to their teams and employees should expect it.  This is not a loyalty issue; loyalty should not be based on tenure, it should be based on contribution.  Everybody wants to be a part of a winning team and leaders of great teams recruit to hire better people, not to replace those that left.

Action item:  Regardless of your budget restraints, actual open head count or current success; conduct one interview per month for the rest of 2012-and let your team know you are.

Don’t hire a victim: No skill or experience can outweigh the bad effects of a victim.  No matter the track record, years of experience or how well the interview went, under no circumstances should leader who desires to build top teams and hold their people accountable hire a person with ‘victim disease.’   A person with ‘victim disease’ believes it is always someone else’s fault when they fail or run into obstacles.  They often believe they work harder than everybody else and that their former managers and/or co-workers did things wrong.  Keep in mind, this means that most likely their future manager and/or co-worker will do everything wrong as well.  This person never takes personal responsibility for failures or when they do, they have an excuse that points to something or someone else.  Most importantly, a person with ‘victim disease’ rarely knows they have it.

Leaders need to ask questions during an interview or conversation to find it. There are many such questions out there, but here are a couple of them:

“Have you ever been part of a project that failed but it wasn’t your fault?”

“Tell me about your least favorite and then favorite supervisor.”

“Why were they your favorite or least favorite?”

There is no one answer that will tell the hiring manager that the applicant is a victim, but the feeling and energy they give while answering the questions usually will tell the interviewer.  Side note: a person with ‘victim disease’ gets passed over when they don’t get a job or promotion they wanted, but a person without victim disease understands that at that time a different person was chosen because the hiring manager felt the other person was a better fit and they are working toward becoming the right fit as well and can tell you what specifically they are working on.

Action item:  Prior to interviewing, know the attributes and skills you are looking to hire and more importantly what attributes you are looking to avoid.

Fire faster: The only thing worse than a bad hire is keeping one: As stated, all leaders make bad hiring decisions. The key to not letting it destroy the success in your team is not always in the hiring, but in the firing.  This does not mean to throw new hires to the wolves and see if they can survive, rather to give new hires the tools necessary to succeed and hold them accountable to the right attitude and activities.  Many companies have probationary periods where the applicant can be terminated without all of red HR tape.  Regardless if there is a probationary period or not, it is the leader’s job to work within the rules and laws to make sure all bad hires don’t become long-term bad employees.

What is fast?  That is up to the leader and organization to decide, but some would say that 30 days is pretty fast.  Once a leader indentifies that a new employee is not doing the right activities or does not have the right attitude, they need to address it with the employee immediately.  Be sure to ask the employee their perspective and give clear expectations as to what it will take in the near future to remain in the organization.  Remember a bad hire does not mean they are bad people, sometimes it just means they are not a right fit for the position or organization. Doing the right thing is rarely easy but always right, for all parties.

Action item:  Spend time with new employees and pay attention to their activities, attitude and results and take the necessary action.

Final thoughts: Not every hire is the right hire and not every job is the right job, but accepting a bad decision is wrong-for everyone involved.  A leader does a disservice to the team, the organization and the “bad hire” by not taking immediate action.

Nathan Jamail, president of the Jamail Development Group and author of “The Sales Leaders Playbook,” is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and corporate coach. As a former Executive Director for Sprint, and business owner of several small businesses, Nathan travels the country helping individuals and organizations achieve maximum success. His clients include Radio Shack, Nationwide Insurance, Metro PCS, and Century 21. To book Nathan, call 972-377-0030.

The Curse of the Passionista: How to Make Your Passion Work For, Not Against You

By Amy ShowalterAmy Showalter

One of the most old-fashioned and overrated pieces of advice for any influencer is to “be passionate” about your cause. Some consider it the answer to all influence challenges, as if passion is 90% of successful persuasion.  If that were true, everyone would get what they want by showing some passion. But they do, and they don’t get what they want.

Because “being passionate” is easy on the ears, many people stop there with their influence tactics. But as you strive to get your projects adopted, make the sale, or win votes, you are the underdog and are engaging in upward influence. Persuading up the food chain requires different techniques; it is markedly different from peer-to-peer influence, and passion isn’t the panacea.

Are you a “passionista” and thus limiting your upward influence success? Ask yourself:

  • Do you come across as self-righteous, but think that you are simply acting on your convictions?

  • Is your request focused on how it will help you, or how your influence target can benefit by becoming a hero?

  • Do you get overly emotional when others disagree with you?

  • Will agreeing to your request make you a hero, or your persuasion prospect a hero?

  • Will your influence target make enemies by agreeing with you?

  • Do you engage in challenging influence situations when you are tired or low on energy?

The Curse of the “Passionista” In a research study conducted with powerful people regarding attempts to influence them, they were asked what persuasion tactics didn’t work. They used phrases like: “too emotional,” “can’t see the other side,” “fist bangers on the desk,”  “pushing me to make a decision quickly,” and so on. Think about it – those behaviors demonstrate passion, don’t they?

The problem is, they make your influence target think you are unpredictable. Let’s face it, when someone becomes overly emotional or raises their voice, we don’t know what’s coming next. And psychologically, being able to easily interpret someone and predict that person’s behavior feels good mentally and physically. It requires less work and, fair or unfair, human thinking is hard work that makes us uncomfortable, because then we have to think more about what this person will do next, and none of us like to think that hard. Don’t believe it?

Social psychologists have reviewed the brain waves of people asked to solve hard math problems and comparing those brain waves to when the same people put their hands into a bucket of ice water. The brain waves were the same both times. The researcher’s conclusion? Thinking is  physically painful! When your prospect has to think harder, they like you less, and less liking = less influence.

When Can You Parade Your Passion? When does passion work? According to the people interviewed, it’s when one of two conditions were present:  1) they would be a hero by agreeing to the request; and/or, 2) when they would make new allies, friends or supporters by granting the request.  You need to do your homework to find out what those instances actually mean to your target, as “hero” to one person is “zero” to another.

Can you Manage Your Passion? Passionate outbursts usually stem from a lack of self-control, so make sure your willpower tank is full before running full speed into upward influence encounters. The more reserve you have, the better you can cope with the unexpected; the less you have, watch out.

Here’s the good news: Willpower seems to get stronger with use. For example, increased willpower runs rampant in military training where recruits learn to overcome one challenge after another. Whatever the explanation, consistently doing an activity that requires self-control seems to increase willpower. This reflects a greater ability to delay gratification, which is associated with success in life. Build up your willpower muscle and see how increased self-control can assist in your efforts to persuade up the food chain.

Don’t lose the power of your own conviction, just exercise some self-control. Passion is best used judiciously when you can make the person you are trying to persuade feel like they are a good person by helping you.  When you’re on the wrong side—that is, you’re not helping your influence prospects win friends and be perceived as a good person, your passion can easily be interpreted as anger. And while anger can be interpreted as a persuasion tactic, albeit a crude one, after you do your fly-by and their ship is smoking and listing in port, you won’t have future influence opportunities.

Amy Showalter is the author of “The Underdog Edge: How Ordinary People Change the Minds of the Powerful…and Live to Tell About It.” She a speaker and consultant who helps organizations and individuals get powerful people on their side. Her clients include Southwest Airlines, Pfizer, The American Heart Association, NFIB, and International Paper. For more information on Amy, please visit showaltergroup.com or underdogedge.com. Amy can be reach at 513-762-7668 or amy@showaltergroup.com.

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