Finding Your Left Foot

Professional soccer fans are most certainly familiar with Lionel Messi. Widely considered one of the world’s best footballers, Messi is known for having what many consider the best left foot in the sport.

The success of Messi’s soccer career was a focus of Marcus Buckingham’s ATD 2018 keynote address, during which he spoke about excellence – notably, that it doesn’t have to be, and in fact usually isn’t, well-rounded. As Buckingham explained, Messi’s incredible skill relies mainly on his left foot, which is so honed that he doesn’t need to rely equally on both feet to excel, as many professional soccer players strive to do.

Buckingham’s point, which he punctuated in the video clip below of one of Messi’s famous goals scored during the Copa Del Rey Final in 2015, was this: “people do not need to have every skill, or be well-rounded, in order to be good leaders or team members.”

I hope watching the video below inspires you to dig deep into your “left foot” and help those you serve do the same! Helping people find their left foot and then cultivate it intelligently is what great leaders do to build highly effective teams.

Lies About Work

In my over twenty years in public education, I experienced some incredible, thriving work cultures and experiences and some toxic, broken ones. I have seen teams come together to produce outstanding outcomes, and conversely, I participated in teams that couldn’t get it together and failed miserably. When we go through these experiences personally, we develop our own constructs and beliefs about what makes successful organizations, teams, and work experiences. 

So what happens when our developed “well-known truths” about organizations and leadership have become so oversimplified or misdirected over the years that they’re now creating challenges in helping employees and organizations thrive? I have found that many ideas and practices considered settled truths are profoundly frustrating and unhelpful for the people they are intended to serve. Push further, and look at the evidence of the real world, and you find that these practices neither reflect what we know about human performance nor produce the results we say we want. These ideas and practices are what Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall, Senior Vice President of Leadership and Team Intelligence at Cisco, call the nine lies about work. 

In their book of the same name, Buckingham and Goodall explore the disconnect between how we work best and how we believe we work best through the following nine lies and counterintuitive truths about work:

  1. LIE—People care which company they work for. TRUTH—People care which team they are on.
  2. LIE—The best plan wins. TRUTH—The best intelligence wins.
  3. LIE—The best companies cascade goals. TRUTH—The best companies cascade meaning.
  4. LIE—The best people are well-rounded. TRUTH—The best people are spiky.
  5. LIE—People need feedback. TRUTH—People need attention.
  6. LIE—People can reliably rate other people. TRUTH—People can reliably rate their own experience.
  7. LIE—People have potential. TRUTH—People have momentum.
  8. LIE—Work-life balance matters most; TRUTH—Love-in-work matters most.
  9. LIE—Leadership is a thing. TRUTH—We follow spikes.

For the next few weeks, I plan to share a few of these to see what we can do to help each other stop telling them at work. So for this post, let’s explore starting with the first on the list, LIE #1 and TRUTH #1, via the two videos below.

How to Coach Your Employees

According to the research, people don’t need feedback to grow, but they do need attention and acknowledgment.

3 Ways To Be A Better Leader

Performance happens on the team level, so here are three things, from Marcus Buckingham, you can do right now to be a better team member.

How to Start a Movement?

This is a season of change for me. After serving Bend-La Pine Schools for the past eight years, five of which as its superintendent, I am embarking on a new journey as the Chief Student Success Officer for the High Desert Education Service District.

This new role’s formal responsibility is to help Central Oregon’s school districts in the development, implementation, and evaluation of Oregon’s Student Success Act–which passed in May, 2019–representing an historic investment in Oregon’s education system, bringing approximately $1 billion additional annual funding to Oregon schools and early childhood programs.

While that’s the official role and responsibility, the vision and mission I have for this work is really about creating a movement. A movement that delivers on the promise of public education for all students. A movement that pushes back on the impoverished view of education that defines our students success and our success as educators by the average test score of our students and replaces it with one, that believes, the most defining measure of our success as educators and an education system is not what our students know, but who they become in the that is most important.  A movement, that most importantly, catalyzes others into action towards the cause.

A movement obviously takes leadership, but as you will see in this quick three-minute TED Talk by Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby which is the largest seller of independent music on the web, it also takes followship.

My question to myself  and other educational leaders after watching this video clip is simple.  How can we lead in ways that promote followship and follow in ways that elevate the leadership of those around us?

For if we break down what it means to be a leader to its foundation, there is only one thing that all leaders have in common.  It’s followers. Without followers, a leader cannot be called a leader. Leadership, as a concept, doesn’t exist – we can only define and understand it through his or her followers.

Turning the shirtless guy dance into a movement took a mere two-minutes to pull off.  Providing excellence and equity for all students attending our public schools will obviously take much longer, in fact by definition it is a mission without end, but I am encouraged by the practical steps Derek Silvers manages to break down in his lesson on how to start a movement and I look forward to growing in my ability to apply them into action for the students, families, and staff I am privileged to serve.

Shay Mikalson is educator dedicated to providing exceptional education leadership in support of the building, implementation and investment in an education system that meets the diverse learning needs of every student and provides boundless opportunities that support individual student success. He has a proven track record of innovation and an unrelenting focus on student achievement. Shay Mikalson balances his professional passions with life as a devoted husband and the father of five children. You can also follow Shay on Twitter @ or email him at

Historic Investment


Unveiling Our Strategic Investment Plan


At the Feb. 11, 2020 Board of Directors meeting, Superintendent Shay Mikalson shared Bend-La Pine Schools’ Strategic Investment Plan with the board members.

Built on six months of conversations with staff, community members, families and students, as well our Comprehensive Plan, Bend-La Pine Schools’ Strategic Investment Plan outlines our plans to invest approximately $18 million in additional funding from the state of Oregon. Through the Strategic Investment Plan, we will hire more than 125 new staff members focused on three strategic priorities:

  • supporting students’ health and safety,
  • reducing class size,
  • and increasing access to a well-rounded education.

The Board of Directors will discuss the plan during the March 10 meetings.

Learn more at our Strategic Investment Plan webpage

Read our Strategic Investment Plan:

Listening and Learning from Our Families, Students, and Staff

Screen Shot 2019-12-27 at 11.34.54 PM.pngBend-La Pine Schools invites all members of the Bend-La Pine community to dive into the newly-released Excellence & Equity Review. This effort, which included 36 listening sessions with families and students, staff feedback, results from a family survey and more, is a big swing with a big goal: to gain a deeper understanding of students’ and families’ experiences in our schools and to use that information to direct change. We are taking our values of excellence and ensuring they are being applied equitably for all of our students.
Read the Review
We hope you will dive into our review and learn more the Excellence & Equity Review purpose, process and plans for the future.