Category Archives: Leadership

Change in Three Equal Parts

Successful change can be seen as an equation of three parts. It takes intellect, behavior, and emotion, not necessarily in that order, but always the sum of the three in equal parts.  The equation begins when one part leads the way. For instance when a person falls in love, emotions charge out as the leader often over riding the other pieces. It is when clear thinking and behavior catch–up a person is able to participate in the new relationship in a way that is sustainable and successful. Consider another example, the ability to successfully change a personal habit like smoking. A person may want to quit because they possess information about the benefits of not smoking, but it is when the information is coupled with motivation and a plan for a new behavior that eventually permits successful sustainable change to occur.

The same is true in the places and systems where we work and volunteer. Data and information (intellect) can lead a process of change, but without a clear and adaptable plan on how to get there (behavior) and a let’s give it a try attitude of the people involved (emotion) then success will be difficult.

How many of us have been given a top down instruction to change the way we are doing something because the data says it will be more productive, but have not been given a plan or the resources to do it? Or on the other hand we have been given instructions to do something in a new way without the data to support why? In both of these situations people react with emotional negativity loaded with the fear, frustration, and mistrust that notoriously stifle successful change.

When systems change is approached from an understanding of the three parts equation, then it stands a much better chance of being successful and sustainable.   When information is available and a clear plan is developed then emotional resistance comes around much easier. When information and positive attitudes come together then a plan or new process can be developed.

Life is a series of ongoing personal and professional changes. The next time you are faced with change rather then dragging your feet and trying to stop it, use the three parts equation of intellect, behavior, and emotion. Be curious and gather information for understanding, develop an adaptive behavior plan, and face forward with openness and positivity. Remember it does not matter which piece leads the way, but to be sustainable the other two must follow.


Mas Conoceimiento – Menos Discriminacion


The cornerstone of our experience, based on practice, theory, and research, is the image of the child as rich, strong, and powerful.  The emphasis is placed on seeing the children as unique subjects with rights rather than simply needs.  They have potential, plasticity, the desire to grow, curiosity, the ability to be amazed, and the desire to relate to other people and to communicate.  

                                                                                                                                              ~ Carlina Rinaldi

More Knowledge – Less Discrimination

luz groupo

Last month, I had the honor of spending 7 days in Honduras as a service team member at Montana de Luz (, a non-profit organization that provides a loving home, education, and a hopeful future, for children with HIV/AIDS. The priority of Montana de Luz (MdL) is to help the children who reside there heal, thrive, and grow. The staff functions as a family, providing loving relationships and opportunities for each child to develop to their full potential.

In Honduras, as well as many other countries around the world, HIV/AIDS has a terrible stigma and those who are inflicted with the infection are often marginalized due to lack of knowledge and misunderstanding.   As a way to defend themselves against this stigma, the teenage children residing at MdL have created a group known as Luz: Para Las Personas Con HIV who have designed an interactive presentation on the Myths and Truths of HIV/AIDS. As part of our MdL service team experience, we had the opportunity to attend the presentation that included PowerPoint slides, a pre and post quiz, humor, and detailed facts, completely presented by the children. For me it was one of the highlights of the week. I was amazed how poised the children were as they shared insightful information in a way that was on par with any of the professional presenters I have experienced in my life. I saw beyond each of the children’s strength and potential to become contributing citizen of Honduras, I witnessed their abilities as current and future leaders of Honduras.

Although one of the uses of the presentation is to educate service teams while on the grounds of MdL, its greater purpose is its use beyond the gates, in churches, schools and community centers, to dispel assumptions, educate with facts, and advocate for all people who are infected with HIV/AIDS.  Each time these children who are 13-17 years old, leave the safety of their home to take their presentation to others, they exhibit their ability to face forward and to be strong leaders. They exhibit bravery, facing their own fears, as they head out into a society who stigmatizes them. They exhibit their readiness to take risks as they face audiences who have assumptions about who and what they are. And they exhibit confidence as they work together to share the facts of HIV/AIDS and advocate for their rights and the rights others.

The following YouTube clip has been created by MdL and the Luz group. It shares a small portion of the information in the hour-long live presentation and stars many of wonderful children who call Montana de Luz their home.  I hope you find it as inspiring and hopeful as I do.


Early Childhood Care and Eduction: A Field of Leaders

The following is an article that I wrote and was published last fall  in the California AEYC journal Connections. 

A Field of Leaders

When we think of a leader, most of us think of the President, the Quarterback of our favorite NFL team, the CEO of a major company. But when you look closely at the definition of a leader – a person who directs or guides others, you see that any person who works in the field of early childhood care and education (ECCE) is in fact a leader because they guide children everyday. It does not matter if you are a lead teacher, a home care provider, a classroom assistant or the staff person preparing the meals, the work you do with children is leadership and as a field we need to begin to recognize and take the role seriously. Further, ECCE must go beyond simply being a field of leaders to becoming a field of effective leaders so our status can be advanced in the public eye. Here are some steps to get us started.

Effective leaders are intentional in what they do. In ECCE this means you are intentional in the work you do for and on behalf of children and families.   You establish routines based on current research and best practice so the children you serve can develop to their full potential. You recognize how your work is supporting the individual development of each child in your care and how it will affect their future. You maintain a high level of professionalism at all times.

Effective leaders share what they know. In ECCE this means not just being effective with the children, but communicating with others about what you do. You talk with families each day about your approach and their child’s progress so you can work together to support their child’s development. You collaborate with ECCE colleagues to support each person’s professional growth. You showcase the field of ECCE in your community to advance public awareness. You share your expertise with your elected officials so they support policies and practices that positively affect young children and families.

Effective leaders take risks. In ECCE this means you get out of your comfort zone and take a step forward to becoming a more effective leader. Although you are scared, you commit to taking a class or entering a certification program to increase your professional knowledge.   Although you are shy, you commit to talking to each child’s family everyday.   Although you are busy, you invite colleagues to meet regularly to network and share ideas. Although it means more work, you contact a local business and ask them if they would host a Week of the Young Child exhibit. Although you have never done it before, you send your congressperson an email asking them to support a piece of important legislation.

As a field of leaders, the ECCE workforce must be intentional in our commitment to advancing our field, taking one small risk at a time until we have the status we deserve, wages that are worthy and all children and families have access to affordable, high quality, early childhood programs.













Experiencing and Reflecting on Leadership Abilities

In March of this year, I wrote a blog post titled The 4 Characteristics of a Leader . In the post I identified and described four important leadership abilities I hold close, based on my professional experience and research. They are the ability to build positive relationships, the ability to develop and communicate a vision, the ability to be collaborative, and the ability to be adaptable. Recently, while I participated in a grass roots volunteer effort at my daughter’s school, I had the opportunity to personally feel how a participant’s experience is affected by the abilities and effectiveness of the leaders.

Wanting to contribute to and support the PTO of my daughter’s school, I answered an email call for volunteer help for the “43rd annual Halloween Carnival, the largest fundraiser of the year”. Although I never received a follow-up email or any details, I arrived on the indicated day ready to give 3 hours to the effort. As I entered, I observed the PTO leadership focused and hard at work. Recognizing there were not many other volunteers present, I quickly asked what tasks they had for me to do. Surprisingly, the leadership group was not able to immediately come up with a definitive answer. Luckily I had been a volunteer during the previous year’s event, so I was able to find myself a job and got going.

Shortly after I got started, the mother of a kindergartener arrived to help. We were acquainted because her child had been in my preschool class. As we talked, I could tell she was excited to be participating in the effort on behalf of her son and I recognized her potential to become a long term committed PTO volunteer and as an emerging leader. While we were talking she expressed uncertainty as to what she should be doing. She had also asked for an assignment from the PTO leadership and had not been given anything specific to do. I helped her find a job and on we went, a bit confused, but doing what we could. As I continued to set up and later during the event, I could not help but reflect on this situation and recognize that several of the key components of effect leadership were missing.

With respect, I want point out the PTO leadership was working tirelessly to make the annual Halloween Carnival a success. They were dedicated to getting the job done no matter what it took on their part. Even as they were focused on this year’s carnival, they were working on a project to make next year’s setup more streamline. THEY HAD A VISION… The problem was they were not prepared to communicate their vision and delegate responsibility so others could successfully contribute. In the end they did most of the work themselves while the rest of us walked away feeling confused, underutilized, and a bit disrespected. The long-term effect of this type of leadership is a burned out, resentful leadership group and volunteers who are not compelled to come back.

Whether in the workplace or in a volunteer position, people show up, physically and mentally, because they want to contribute to something in a meaningful way. An effective leader respects this desire to contribute and reciprocates with a plan. To do this well, the leader takes the time to build relationships and get to know those with whom they will be working, enabling them to utilize the energy and talents of their team members in the best possible way. In turn, everyone responds by working hard and feeling good about their contribution. The long-term effect of this type of leadership is all participants, including the leaders leave the experience feeling energized and open to next steps and new possibilities.

In the book Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence the authors explain when leaders share their vision to “help people to see how their work fits into the big picture, lending people a clear sense not just that what they do matters, but also why, it maximizes buy-in for the organizations overall long term goals” (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002).   Based on my recent PTO experience I have pinpointed a few simple steps that any organization can take to help move them toward maximum buy-in from their team.   Leaders must start by recognizing a participant’s willingness to contribute by responding to messages and being prepared when they arrive to participate. Leaders must continue by sharing their overall vision along with a collective list of tasks and responsibilities, asking participants to provide input on how they feel their strengths can be utilized. This sharing of information transforms the leaders vision into a collective vision with each participant understanding how and why they can be involved in a meaningful way.  Finally, each task should have a clear goal with a beginning and an end so everyone can feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as they contribute to reaching the collective vision.

When leaders take the time to use their ability to connect and build relationships with their team members, their ability to develop and communicate their vision, and their ability to work collectively and collaboratively, everyone feels valued, creating a foundation for continued and expanded involvement.



Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. E., & McKee, A. (2002). Primal leadership: Realizing the

power of emotional intelligence. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School


Tidbits of Wisdom

We do not progress from error to truth, but from truth to truth.   Thus we must see that none can be blamed for what they are doing, because they are, at this time, doing the best they can. We learn only from experience.

Swami Vivekananda

During my nearly 30-year career, I have been fortunate to have had wonderful mentors who supported and challenged me as I developed as a leader.   Often when reflecting on how I approached a situation, I recognize a tidbit of wisdom shared by one of these mentors that contributed to my ability to maneuver through the situation successfully.

Recently I found myself thinking about one mentor, my former supervisor from St. John’s Medical Center, Sandy Cameron. She was a member of the human resources department and acted as a liaison between the employees of the medical center and the administration. Sandy had a beautiful way of handling difficult situations with respect and fairness. She always focused on what was not working in the process rather then the individuals involved. She had high expectations of professional conduct and if an individual was open to coaching she believed everyone could be successful.

The following are three tidbits of wisdom Sandy shared with me that I hold close and would like to share here. They were presented to me in the context of the workplace, but I have used them in all aspects of my life, especially the first one.

Assume positive intent

 “Assuming positive intent in the workplace means consciously choosing to assume that our co-workers are operating to the best of their ability, and are acting with the best interest of the company and their colleagues in mind (

In my experience both in the workplace and beyond, when it really comes down to it, most of the time individuals are not consciously making decisions using a hidden agenda to sabotage an individual, a project or an organization. More often they simply have a misunderstanding or different interpretation of what they should be doing or they may not have the skills and abilities to do what they have been asked.   Another possibility is they may see another, sometimes better, way to get to the same outcome. By assuming positive intent in any of these situations, we open ourselves up to be respectful as we ask for clarification and work together to reach common ground.   In the end, when we assume positive intent we are able to focus on the process and positive outcomes without negativity or disrespect.

Your human resources are your most important resources treat them with respect.

 A good leader understands an organization is made up of people and for an organization “to grow and adapt, the leadership must recognize the value and contribution of people” ( While an organization’s bottom-line, efficiency, goals and outcomes are important, they can only be met when leaders create an environment that reflects respect, reciprocation and responsiveness to the people. To do this, leaders must be courteous in even the most difficult situations, maintain open lines of two-way communication, and provide the training, resources and support necessary for individuals to get their job done effectively. In an environment where the people are respected and supported they have the confidence and desire to respect and support the organization right back.

 Don’t make it personal.

An organization’s people bring with them a variety of personalities, life experiences, and perspectives. A good leader has the ability to build respectful relationships valuing the individual, while also being able to communicate clear expectations. In some cases the expectations will be the policies and performance standards of a business, in others it might be the amount of time and attention someone can give to a volunteer committee or even a book group. In any case, creating a respectful environment focused on agreed upon expectations removes much of the opportunity for individuals to make things personal.   In other words it is not about who the person is, but rather their ability to meet the established expectations.  And if an individual is challenged to meet expectations it creates an opportunity for shared goal setting and supported growth allowing them to develop through experience.



The Rocking Chair: A Leadership Reboot

Last week, I summited the 13,770 foot Grand Teton. I had attempted the climb over 12 years ago, but was turned back because of weather. The climb remained a personal goal of mine over the years. Thanks to a push from my cousin, Kate Carlin Giller last February, we decided we were going to attempt the “Grand” together at the end of the 2015 summer. I once again set my focus on the goal of reaching the top of the “Grand” and this time I successfully met the physical and mental challenges it took to complete the climb.

The morning following my 14-hour climb, descent and celebration dinner, I pulled myself out of bed because my friend Luis Hernandez, an early childhood specialist from the Western Kentucky University, was facilitating at the Children’s Learning Center staff retreat and I did not want to miss him. I was delighted I did because we had a fantastic morning focused on early childhood leadership… my favorite topic.

When I returned home that afternoon, I began to feel the “blues” caused by the emotional letdown from my huge accomplishment the day before. I had spent so much time preparing for my climb. I had set my vision more then 12 years prior, taken steps to reach the summit, both literally and figuratively, and now the accomplishment was behind me. I had been leaning into the process for a long time and now there was nothing to push against.

A couple of days later, when my body felt good enough to take a walk again, I began to reflect on my feelings of letdown and my thoughts brought me back to Luis, leadership, and a book he co-authored with Holly Elissa Bruno, Janet Gonzalez-Mena, and Debra Ren-Etta Sullivan called Learning from the Bumps in the Road: Insights from Early Childhood Leaders, specifically the chapter titled The Great Impostor: Unmasking the Burden of Self-Doubt in Our Professional Lives. It occurred to me during my emotional letdown I had begun to question my accomplishment… had I really been good enough or was it a fluke? Did I have it in me to gear up to take such a risk and meet similar challenges again? And more importantly, do I need to set a new vision and start working on it immediately?

Last winter I attended a dinner where we had an intentional conversation about the idea of leaning in, a concept made popular by Sheryl Sandberg in her book of the same name. As part of our discussion some of us decided it is physically and mentally impossible to lean in all the time. Life is more like a rocking chair, you lean in rocking forward with persistence and determination for periods of time and at others you rock back and reboot.

As I detailed in my March 17, 2015 Blog post, 4 Characteristics of a Leader, I believe great leaders must have the ability to set and lean into a vision. Based on my successful Grand Teton climb and later reflection, I also know that if you are lucky enough to reach your vision, or even a significant milestone along the way, it is time to rock back, reflect, and breath. Give yourself a chance to celebrate who you are, why you made it, and remind yourself what is important to you. It can be a time to live and work focused on daily goals and challenges rather then long term visions. By taking time to rock back you give yourself the ability to reflect on your past accomplishments while creating fresh dreams and ideas, before you know it a new vision will spring forth to inspire you to lean in again.

Grand Summit

Colby the Exum climbing guide, Kate and Betsy (Me) on the Grand Teton Summit

Bruno, H. E., Gonzalez-Mena, J. Hernandez, L. A., & Sullivan, D. R. (2013). Learning from the Bumps in the Road: Insights from Early Childhood Leaders. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

Sandberg, S. (2013). Lean in: Women, work, and the will to lead (First edition.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf.


Reflections on Joy, Strengths and Being

I am just returning from New Orleans where I have been attending the 2015 NAEYC Institute for Professional Development. It was this year’s theme that drove me to attend The Early Childhood Profession We All Want: What Will It Take To Get Us There? As a person who is continually thinking about leadership and leadership development there are many ideas swirling in my head which will manifest themselves into various blog posts that I can share, but for today I want to keep it simple.

During one of the sessions I attended, the presenter recommended asking people what in their work gives them the most joy? She suggested, in their answer you will find their strengths. For me, my immediate answer was people and relationships. Later on I asked a group of colleagues I was talking with, “what gave them joy in their work?” As each person shared their answer, such as organizing, research, technology and building relationships, I began to see by using this simple tool; a leader could begin to build a collaborative team with diverse strengths. It also provides a natural opportunity for collective leadership allowing members of the team to lead a portion of the project using their strength. Knowing my strengths lay in relationship building and setting vision, a good organizer, researcher and technology lover would be necessary to lead other aspects of a project not in my skill set. Once again this demonstrates the sum of the parts of a team is exponentially greater then the individuals.

Perhaps even more importantly by using this tool to identify what gives a person joy in their work, they can make sure they are able to use that strength as much as possible in their daily efforts. Of course as a child care center director even though I was not crazy about creating a budget and number crunching, it was a necessary piece of my work. I could not get away from it. However, when the number crunching was starting to get me down I would remember to get up and go do a classroom visit so I could interact with the teacher and children, which always provided a little dose of joy.

Reflecting on this notion that using our strengths brings us joy, I am drawn to think about being. Being is defined as all the physical and mental qualities that make up a person. Our strengths are our most well developed qualities and part of our being. They are simply part of our authentic self and should be easily available. These qualities are not static. As part of our journey it is possible to add to and develop other qualities as we need them and they too will become part of our being. It seems logical then, when our best qualities are simply part of who we are and we are easily able to use them in our job, we are able to feel contentment and satisfaction in our work and life.

Consider then, what brings you joy in your daily work? Do you recognize it as one of your strengths? Can you add more of it throughout your workday? Is it part of your being? I hope you will take a moment to reflect on these questions. I know I plan to some more.








Walking the EC Leadership Talk

Early Childhood Leaders speak out  for what they know is right for young children and families! 

Below is a letter to the editor I wrote concerning a possible zoning change that would limit the size of home based child care in my community.  It was published today in the Jackson Hole News and Guide.

To the Teton County Business Community and its leaders,

Child care is not just a family issue it is a community issue. Right along side housing and health care, child care is one of the most important segments of a community’s infrastructure. Without safe, affordable, child care options businesses suffer and our community suffers.

Businesses depend on their human resources to be productive and thrive. Research shows when employees lack adequate child care they can be distracted, tardy or absent, limiting them from functioning fully in the workplace.   This strain on the individual employee often produces more work and stress for their co-workers causing the entire workplace to be affected. Furthermore, lack of adequate child care often deters bright, experienced, hard working employees from returning to the workforce, causing unnecessary turnover, adding hiring and training costs to a business’s overhead, and limiting the talent available.

Let’s talk trickle down economics. Statistics show that an average annual child care tuition exceeds the annual tuition of a year at the University of Wyoming. When Teton County families, who are typically at the beginning of their earning trajectory, incur this tremendous monetary strain on their household budgets, it limits their consumption. In other words, the high cost of child care hits the bottom line of individual families, limits their discretionary spending and has repercussions for the economic growth and wellbeing of our community.

The Teton County Planning Commission is recommending a prohibition on certain home-based child care centers on high-density rural properties smaller then 10 acres. Currently, with a special use permit, these types of properties allow a home-based child care center to have up to 11 children in their care at a given time. The change would limit these small businesses to 6 children lowering the overall spaces available in Teton County. Furthermore, planning commission members stated in the May 13, 2015 Jackson Hole News and Guide article “Home Day Care Limits Loom”, day care centers are more appropriate in commercially zoned areas.

I would suggest if the proposed changes for home-based child care centers in Teton County occur, our business community will suffer. Existing home-based programs will be forced to down size, decreasing the number of child care spots available to working families as well as reducing the revenue of these important small businesses. The cost of child care will increase because home-based programs will be forced to increase rates to make up for lost revenue and potential new child care programs will be driven to pay impossibly high rents for space in commercial zones. Fewer adequate affordable child care options in Teton County will challenge our workforce and will be reflected throughout our business community.

I recommend all businesses, large and small, consider the adverse affect this proposed change will have on their employees and their ability to run successfully. Teton County’s child care needs already exceed the safe affordable spaces available. Allowing this proposal to move forward will exacerbate an already existing problem. Let’s do what is right for our community and stop this proposal from moving any further forward.

Betsy Carlin,  MS Early Childhood Studies


Shared Goals and Nonviolent Communication

Communication during conflict has a reputation of being aggressive and unproductive, however it does not have to be that way at all. In fact, working through opposing views using nonviolent communication (NVC) techniques can lead to overall stronger outcomes by weaving the best of all perspectives together. The Nonviolent Communication model is based on empathetically listening and honestly expressing (Center for Nonviolent Communication, 2013b). When a person listens with empathy, they observe the other person openly and without judgment, seeking to understand their feelings, needs, and motivation for their requests. When a person expresses honestly they openly share their observations, truthfully express their feelings and needs, and make their requests without demanding them.

By listening with empathy and expressing honestly, communicators and collaborators are embracing the 3 Rs of communication. They are participating in respectful, reciprocal, and responsive interactions. When listening with empathy and expressing with honesty an individual is being respectful to their communication partner by considering their unique perspective and needs. They are being reciprocal by continuously sharing ideas back and forth. They are being responsive by taking the time to understand the big picture and to come to a common solution. By using the 3 Rs a person is choosing to be a competent communicator.

When working in collaborative situations with a variety of stakeholders, everyone comes to the table with a set of goals. Often the goals are aligned, but the focus is skewed based on the needs and perspectives of the individual organization or contributor. When these organizations or individuals only focus on what will best move their work forward without considering what is best for all, then they are contributing to unproductive conflict.   When they take the time to observe and understand what they need and make a clear request, as they observe and understand the needs and requests of the other stakeholders focusing on the goals of the entire group, then they are committed to NVC.

In the field of early childhood, it seems we often live in the silos of our particular interest, home care, for profit centers, non profit centers, Head Start, TANF, higher education, accreditation, QRIS, Strong Start and other special interest groups. Although we all have a common goal focused on creating programs, policies and practices that are in the best interest of all young children, their families and the professionals who work with them, we can become skewed by our particular focus and hold tight to our needs. As a field of practice, I would suggest, all facets of the field of early childhood care and education must embrace NVC techniques and use the 3Rs of communication so we can weave together the best of what each of our perspectives are and reach our shared goal.



Center for Nonviolent Communication. (2013a). NVC Concepts. Retrieved from

Cetner for Nonviolent Communication. (2013b) The NVC Model. Retrieved from:


4 Characteristics of a Leader

In June of 2012, after 20 years, I left the director position of a hospital affiliated early childhood center to pursue new ways to support the well being of young children and families through leadership development in the field of early childhood.   At this transition in my career, I paused to reflect on my leadership style and effectiveness. What characteristics did I have that motivated others to contribute their best? What were other essential leadership characteristics? Through an ongoing process of reflection and research I identified four essential characteristics I believe a leader must possess, the ability to build positive relationships, to develop and communicate a vision, to be collaborative, and to be adaptable.

A leader who can build respectful, reciprocal and responsive relationships bound in good communication is able to create an environment of trust. When relationships are established in an environment of trust, connections are made that will support the growth and commitment of others. It creates an atmosphere where people are willing to take risks and contribute their best effort.

A vision is an aspiration for the future. It helps to predict a course, create a purpose, and motivate action. When a leader is able to affectively develop and communicate a vision, then other people begin to see how they might contribute to the process. They begin to understand what the future might hold when the vision is realized.   The vision of a leader, when developed and articulated well, becomes the common vision of the group, guiding them forward.

A leader who has the ability to be collaborative recognizes the collective is greater than the individual. They understand their personal strengths and weaknesses. They value other people’s abilities and sees how they add to the overall strength of a group. They appreciate diverse perspectives and opposing ideas, constructively weaving them together to achieve strong outcomes.

A leader who is adaptable and flexible takes things one-step at a time, building on each success and challenge.  They set a vision, but they know it will be a process to get there. They understand that what appeared to be the best way to proceed at the start might not be as the process unfolds. They are open to new ideas and the possibility of diverting from the course they have set.

Leaders in the field of early childhood, whether guiding a group of children in an early childhood classroom, working with a staff, or leading a team of adults in an advocacy project, can benefit by possessing these universal characteristics. When you develop trusting relationships with each member of the group, paint a clear picture of your hope for the future, recognize what each individual can contribute, and are flexible in your plan, your accomplishments will be endless.