In this episode, my guest, Susan MacDonald talks about her work in early childhood leadership and how she is bringing appreciative, strength-based, positive change into educational settings. How I came to meet Susan is a great story. It was via email. Susan requested permission to include one of the workshops in my book, Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions: 21 Strength-based Workshops in her new book. Susan shared: “I find your AI workshops outlines very helpful for engaging school leaders and educators in meaningful dialogue and would like to include one in my book.” Naturally, I was delighted to receive such positive feedback and wanted to learn more from one of my happy customers!
Episode Overview – Early Childhood Leadership
Susan MacDonald’s consultancy is Inspiring New Perspectives. She provides vision-focused leadership support for early childhood educational programs. She’s been developing and delivering inspirational courses and workshops for over 25 years.
Later in 20i6, Susan’s book will be published. The title of her book is Inspiring Early Childhood Leadership: Eight Strategies to Ignite Passion and Transform Program Quality.
Power of Impacting People
Susan was literally born into positivity and strength-based beliefs and practices. Her mother worked for 42 years in the Family Childhood Care arena, so growing up Susan witnessed first hand the power of impacting people’s lives.
Starting out her career in early childhood education programs, Susan experienced the dominant worldview of leadership as one that focused on all the things that didn’t work in programs, policy and practice. In her first job, she was asked to find out all the things that were wrong and fix them. She intuitively knew there had to be a better way and set about educating herself to learn how. Most impactful for Susan was undertaking trainings in coaching. A major influence on her work has been the work of Bob and Megan Tschannen-Moran whose mission is to transform schools one conversation at a time; and it’s through their book Evocative Coaching where Susan was first introduced to Appreciative Inquiry. Susan describes this discovery as “very exciting.”
Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions
Appreciative Inquiry resonated deeply. As with most of us who find out about AI, it speaks to us because we find what we have been looking for. It speaks to our own deep knowing that people are innately good and want to contribute and have a voice, and given the right tools, they seek to see best in each other; and are inspired when they can do meaningful work and have a positive impact. Susan found that Appreciative Inquiry complemented her own intentions in the way she was bringing transformational change into the early childhood leadership space.
It was during this time that Susan discovered my book, Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions: 21 Strength-based Workshops. During our conversation, she reveals how she has been inspired by many of the ready-made workshops I offer in this book.
Susan most genuinely stated that building strength-based communities, inspiring strength-based leadership, and helping people be respectful and positive was already living in the materials in my book. Her three favorite workshops that are foundational to the work she is doing are:
- Flourishing Communities
- Appreciating Collaborations
- Respectful Relationships
How to Introduce Appreciative Inquiry to Others
Including my workshops in her own work with educators in early childhood leadership has been fun, challenging, invigorating , and the work continues to have immediate impact. Susan offers how using Appreciative Inquiry workshops has transformed people and changed their relationships. Time and time again, the participants are inspired and want to bring “this” back to their own schools or administrative contexts. “We need to be doing this!” is a constant refrain after people experience an AI workshop or summit. This is the common experience of all AI practitioners. This work is called magical because transformation happens. Appreciative Inquiry truly touches the heart, making it transformation. There is a lightness and an intensity that shifts people beyond their head space into their hearts, and they want others to have a similar experience.
Many Success Stories
Listen in to a number of success stories that show how the participants bring their inspirations of working together during the workshops or summits back into their own workplaces. Susan relays a number of touching examples of how summit participants bring the key concepts and their change agendas to life so they will continue to make a difference long after the initial energy of the workshop experience.
A Positive Vision for Program Quality in Education
Susan’ book Inspiring Early Childhood Leadership: Eight Strategies to Ignite Passion and Transform Program Quality (Gryphon House) is out in September 2016 (link below). Susan’s focus in writing this book is about bringing quality into programs and leadership in education and how both impact the broader community. Leadership in education is not just about achieving a certain score. It’s about vision and positive actions across the entire system: children and families, staff meetings and the community. The book offers reflective practices and many “how tos” to help leaders step out of their suits of armor of yesteryear into the quality of early childhood leadership required for the 21st century.
Links and Mentions
- Susan’s Website: Inspiring New Pespectives
- Susan's book: Inspiring Early Childhood Leadership: Eight Strategies to Ignite Passion and Transform Program Quality
- Susan on LinkedIn
- Susan’s on Facebook
- IPEC Coaching
Books Mentioned in this Episode
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