Developing your most important asset – your people

As I progress in my journey and role as an educator, things have become more clear.  This is even true in my new role this year that has presented new challenges and opportunities.  This has provided me a chance to evolve in my thinking around school leadership. I recognize that the impact that I can have within my current role largely depends upon how I can help develop our most important asset – the people within my building. When I reflect upon my growth, I want to learn and grow into a more impactful leader and help others by influencing their thinking, developing their skills and giving them confidence to help influence their growth as a leader. I think this applies in the following ways about developing leadership.

Take aways how your impact can develop people

  1. My leadership skills determine many aspects about how the people I work with can develop into leaders. The impact includes:

A. How many staff can develop into leaders 

B. Quality of people (how they treat each other) 

C. The culture of the school 

E. The impact of the school within our district 

So the question becomes “what do I need to do to help others”.  Here are some strategies I remind myself of to ensure that I am giving my best to the staff I work with:

  • Be Intentional with the time you spend with staff – Spending time with staff in PLC work, classroom visits and hallways is important. Focus that time on building connections or discussing the work of your school. 
  • Find time to reflect with staff about the professional learning so there is a focus on growth – the only way to grow is to reflect about the work that is being done so that there is a focus on learning. This should also focus on data and results.
  • Find ways to move your school forward so there is continual improvement – use the reflection to discuss “next steps” so it becomes the norm to focus on growth.
  • Focus on strengths of staff and school community – everyone has strengths and also areas that could be improved.  Play to your strengths.  Get to know your staff and how they can contribute to your school so that you bring out the best in your people.
  • Model the way – How you as a leader act, spend your time and interact with others will say much about how your staff interacts and responds to others.  You can never go wrong by caring, being humble and being a servant leader. This also starts with listening to staff (and students and families) so everyone feels like they have a vested interest in your school.

2. You attract leaders who you are; not who you want 

Most educators want to work in an environment where they trust their leaders and also know there will be a consistent focus.  As a leader, your character will define how you will be thought of and that causes a ripple effect on how staff treat each other.  Your character starts with integrity and what you model is what people see and emulate.  Character is the foundation of leadership – you cannot lead unless you are a person of high character.

3. You cannot lead people beyond your level of trust and credibility.

Trust is the glue that holds a school organization together. Trust is also the most important factor in relationships.  You build trust be being:

  • Consistency 
  • Honest communication 
  • Being Transparent in your decisions and communication 
  • Humility 

Developing trust takes time and it can also be lost quickly.  When mistakes happen, it is important to be honest and admit mistakes or share your thinking. Always remember, that decisions should not be made in isolation so getting the feedback from others to help make the decisions are important.

4. You cannot lead people beyond your level of commitment

People notice when leaders are present, what part of the school day and at what activities. Staff notice, so do the students and families. It doesn’t mean that one person must be at everything in a school but what it does mean is that you must be willing to invest in your school and find ways to support all facets of the school community. The amount of time is not as important as the quality of the interactions you have with the students in those endeavors, meeting families and making sure you support the staff that are leading those activities.

Leaders recognize that their efforts and work are important to a school. But to create the biggest gains, the leaders must understand how we can be our best and continually improve and this means over time developing our people to their full potential. Now is the time to put intentional practices in place.  This takes an investment of time, energy and effort and pouring into others.  Educators must remember that nothing is easy. In fact, if you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only lead yourself but learn how to best support your people. This creates the greatest gift a leader can provide to an organization.  It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand your role so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

In a new year – the 3 most important letters

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The new year is upon us and provides everyone with lots of opportunities.  What type of opportunities depends upon the person. For some, it will be a chance to set new expectations, possibly start over in some facets of their life or even think about the bigger picture and their impact.  As I reflected over break, for me the new year brings a refocus and opportunity to ensure I am grounded on trying to be my best so I can help my staff and students to be their best. Sometimes people may refer to this type of thinking as “what is your one word” but I rather see it as a focus area for the upcoming year.  I choose three simple letters that I hope will allow me to meet my core values and help others within the context of my day.  Those three letters are JOY.

Leaders must always find the right balance within their work and their life. This is ever more important as we get ready to start 2nd semester as it allows continued growth of my work and our school. More importantly it provides a “focus” to my day and role.  The right work may differ to some extent within a school/district and it may vary to some extent for a person based upon their level of experience.  From my perspective, if I can find JOY within my work and interactions with others it will allow me to contribute to the following:

  • Build Culture – Culture is the most significant factor influencing the success of a school.  Culture drives expectations and beliefs and that leads to the behavior of the staff.  As leaders, we help decide that culture by our modeling, our passion, optimism and purposeful tasks. As Simon Sinek shared, “Leadership isn’t about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.”  If I can lead from a place of joy then that will allow me to best  support, encourage and develop the staff so the culture becomes the positive driving force behind school change.
  • Set the vision  – Leaders must continually set the vision for our growth as well as the school community and the staff we support. If our vision involves bringing a positive and growth mindset that we model in our interactions with others, then that allows others to also take risks in the classroom that propels growth that best supports students. If we operate from a lens of finding joy within our work, then we can best learn, engage others within the work, adapt, delegate to others as there is trust, empower others, reflect together upon our work and serve the professional needs of others. 

How I intend to find JOY within my work role includes the following:

  • Stay positive and build connections
  • Be honest with my limitations – involve others (teamwork)
  • Be organized and look ahead for upcoming tasks to limit stress
  • Lean on others and stay connected with colleagues
  • Keep kids/staff as the center of our decisions
  • Be Patience-Calm-flexibile

Leaders recognize that their efforts and work are important to a school. But to create the biggest gains, the leaders must understand how we can be our best and continually improve. Now is the time to put intentional practices in place.  This takes an investment of time, energy and effort and pouring into others.  Educators must remember that nothing is easy. In fact, if you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only lead yourself but learn how to best support your people. This creates the greatest gift a leader can provide to an organization.  It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand your role so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

Leadership Strategies during complex times 

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In a school leader’s role there are many complexities to the role that have changed in recent years. These challenges impact a leader’s work and how someone responds will determine the impact staff can have with students. Ultimately, it will determine the levels of student learning with your school.

The complexities that have greatly increased in recent years include:

  • Difficulty finding teachers
  • Increased frequency of unfilled para roles and unfilled subs
  • Student attendance issues
  • More frequent student behaviors
  • Lack of time for staff to implement new strategies into the work
  • Changing staff mindsets from fixed to growth mindset where growth is the priority
  • Student learning and SEL vs Student Achievement levels
  • Outside forces of society impacting our work/focus as school leaders
  • Technology impact and social media 
  • Family involvement

Leaders can move their school forward by focusing on what matters most – the people within the school and helping each person become their best version of themselves and focus on growth.  Leaders must focus on both what they can control and what matters most.  In the book by Barry Posner and James Kouzes book The Leadership Challenge, the authors discussed researched proven strategies that help organizations move forward and leaders to be their best.  This work is most essential as it allows the following:

  • Transform values into action
  • Transform vision into realities 
  • Change obstacles to innovation
  • Go from isolation to solidarity
  • Go from risks to wins 

Here are the 5 strategies leaders can incorporate into their work of leading schools that helps the leader to be their best and having the greatest influence. 

  1. Model the way

Leaders establish the principles of how

  • People should be treated.
  • Work towards excellence.
  • Set the example of how people act, interact and behave.

In other words, a leader leads by example and how someone acts, interacts and behaves impacts the climate and culture. 

  1. Inspire a collective vision

Leaders believe they can make a difference but recognize they cannot do this alone. We must see the work through the eyes of others. Leaders create an image of what the school can become and then through their influence, connections, and listening they enlist the help of others to make this happen. This will breathe life into the vision and get people excited to see the possibilities for the future.

  1. Strive for continual improvement

The leader searches for ways to improve, takes risks and generates small wins to build momentum in the positive change. Things to remember include:

  • Leaders make things happen – so you must be action oriented and take initiative.
  • Innovation requires more listening and greater communication than routine work.
  • Leaders are the most passionate learners.
  1. Shared leadership 

Leaders must foster collaboration by building trust, facilitating relationships and developing others’ capacity as leaders.

Leaders develop trust by:

  • Demonstrate competence in your role
  • Lead with character and model vulnerability
  • Make Communication a priority
  • Be Transparent 

Leaders empower others by:

  • Be firm with principles, flexible with practices
  • Ask questions, don’t give answers
  • Help others develop confidence in themselves
  • Give feedback and positive affirmation when appropriate 
  1. Connect back to the heart

Leaders express pride in their school and leadership is truly a “Labor of Love”. There will be many challenges but we must remember that we are working with people and if we  treat each staff member like a “10” then they themselves will believe in themselves and help contribute to the work and be happier as well. To this end, you must value people, magnify their strengths and develop a culture of “people – not programs”.

Expect the best in others by:

  • Show them you believe in themselves
  • Be clear about your expectations
  • Give Feedback
  • Personalize recognition 
  • Get close to people – get to know their strengths 

Leaders recognize that their efforts and work are important to a school. But to create the biggest gains, the leaders must understand how to lead during complex times as our roles have greatly changed in recent years.  Now is the time to put intentional practices in place.  This takes an investment of time, energy and effort and pouring into others.  Educators must remember that nothing is easy. In fact, if you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only lead yourself but learn how to best support your people. This creates the greatest gift a leader can provide to an organization.  It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand your role so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

The Impact of Gratitude

Ph
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Our lives are busy, challenging and each of us have different hurdles we must face. We have choices in life, and we each choose our perspective, mindset and how we respond to situations.  An educator is a rewarding career but also very demanding as we pour so much of ourselves into others, yet rarely do we have the time and energy to do much for ourselves. We understand that it takes time and effort to help others as this gives us great satisfaction and serves our purpose.  This takes long hours and endless pursuit to improve. It may not be easy, but we have that choice.  I am THANKFUL to each of you for your role and how you contribute to schools and our society.

This blog post shares the importance of Gratitude and how that mindset provides the fuel for the inner drive for leaders and school communities.  As a school leader – consider “what aspects do you take time to reflect and celebrate, with both your staff and you personally that moves your school forward”?  Specifically, we will look at how you can build the mindset of Gratitude within your school and within your professional growth.

Gratitude within your school

The most important thing a leader should do is impart positive change within a school. This starts and always comes back to school culture. Within a school culture, if leaders can develop and foster an atmosphere of gratitude where everyone feels seen, valued and heard then staff and students will make their school experience their very best as they will have  a vested interest. What we celebrate and how we celebrate others is important.  From my perspective for our school, the celebration includes:

  • The “intentional steps” our staff takes to transform our classroom instruction from a traditional model to creating engaging student experiences focused on ensuring high levels of learning for students. 
  • The school climate we have created is based on our interactions with each other through positivity and kindness that promotes a school community where students and staff feel they belong.
  • A shared vision that is modeled by staff throughout the building that places an emphasis on “what is best for kids”.
  • A strong partnership with the parent and school community that is established by being visible, accessible and communicating in a clear, consistent manner.
  • Empowering our staff to help lead professional learning and be the change agents within our school.
  • Creating opportunities for students to lead within our school day and giving students a voice in their school by listening to what they think is working and what needs changing so we can improve.

Most importantly, it is important  to recognize that staff are willing to take risks and grow. This growth process at times means we fail or make mistakes, but we learn from our experiences and that opportunity gives us greater insight into becoming stronger educators. We have reflected with staff and this clarifies the importance we place on the work and focuses our journey with a shared vision.

Gratitude within your personal growth

Overall to move forward with your growth, at various levels you need to:

  1. Find a mentor who can push you and give feedback
  2. Build strong connections to those people who value you and make you better 
  3. Develop others 
  4. Change is the greatest growth accelerator – ask yourself what you need to change about your current learning and growth process. Recognizing what needs to change for your growth can best be identified through conversations with others.

How you show gratitude within your personal growth is to focus on what you can control by:

  • Put others first and focus on the best in people
  • Empower others to help make a difference
  • Trust the people you work with….you hired them for a good reason – they are leaders too.

By using this mindset you are developing your influence and impact with others. This is how you grow as a leader and modeling servant leadership increases your role as a leader. 

Leaders recognize that their efforts and work are important to a school. But to create the biggest gains, the leaders must have a mindset of gratitude and have that be the foundation of their work. Now is the time to make this shift in mindset and put intentional practices in place.  This takes an investment of time, energy and effort and pouring into others.  Educators must remember that nothing is easy. In fact, if you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only lead yourself but pour into developing others and it starts with gratitude.  This creates the greatest gift a leader can provide to an organization.  It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “The impact of Gratitude” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

Now is the time

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The school year is in full swing and you are busy, extremely busy. All educators have the desire to do their best and be their best for others.  The days may seem long but the weeks go by so fast and before you know it the school year will be in 2nd semester.  Leaders recognize that many people have ideas and plans on improving but very few actually make improvements that are action oriented. Why?  Most individuals, despite good intentions, get bogged down in the “busy” of the work and lose sight of moving forward over time. Yes, there will be moments, even days, where you must attend to a situation that demands your time, effort and attention. But the best leaders recognize that it is their daily habits and the consistency of their work that allows them to grow over time. “Now is the time” shares some simple strategies or ideas to keep in mind that allows you to focus your time, effort and energy on things that matter most – Improving yourself so that you can help others improve too. 

Student learning is the foundation of the work we all do for students despite many of us having different roles within schools.  To help each student learn at high levels, there are some key attributes educators can incorporate or be mindful of that will help each of us be our best for kids as “Now is the time” to strive for continual growth and excellence.

I will focus on this important work from both a lens of 1) within your role and 2) the time you are not directly working within your role so that you can maintain a mindset focused on growth.

When you are within your work role:

  • Focus on what you can control – In many situations there will be problems or challenges that may range from lack of budget, schedule constraints, lack of enthusiasm……but leaders focus on finding solutions and not focusing their time/efforts on things that they have no control over.
  • Model the behaviors you want to create within your classroom/school – When striving for excellence, others will look at the leaders and see how they handle stress, conflict, interactions with people – so how you model kindness, positive intent, empathy and a focus on kids will resonate with people.
  • Gather energy from interactions with others – Leading can be draining both physically and emotionally.  Leaders who lead with humility and find ways to show gratitude when they interact with others get energy and strength from those individuals. In those interactions, they are strengthening the relationship which builds greater momentum.
  • Be a learner – Leaders continually find new ways to learn from others.  This may be through social media such as Podcasts, Voxer Chats, Twitter or Facebook.  But it also includes reading books and listening to others through conversations.  It’s the mindset that they continually want to improve that is most important and is seen and noticed by those they lead.
  • Inspire others and their behaviors through influence – Leaders recognize the most impactful thing they can do is Influence others by supporting them, encouraging their growth and providing feedback along the way.  
  • Develop leaders through shared vision – Leaders recognize that the “smartest person in the room is the room” and strive to help others realize that when they work together there is no limit to what can be accomplished.
  • Create sustainable change – Leaders know that they cannot do it alone; the most powerful thing they can do is create leaders who can carry on when they are not there so the organization continues to run at high levels in their absence.

When you are not within your role:

Having a life work balance is important for many reasons. When you are away from your work may provide the best opportunities for growth and reflection when you are doing things not related to your role. This includes:

  • Find time to rejuvenateYes, perhaps the most important thing to grow is finding time to get away from our work for periods of time.  Why?  This time away allows us to find balance in our lives and if leaders do not fill their cup, then they will not have anything left to lead  for students, staff, parents  or the school.  It may be vacations, fishing, spending more time with the family – whatever it is, those times allow us to not only relax (which is so essential) but also to find time to do deep thinking that may not be available during the busy time of year.
  • Find time to reflectReflection may be the most important aspect of growth for a leader.  We learn by doing but it is most impactful when we reflect upon the work we tried to implement.  The following reflective questions from George Couros and Connected Principals resonate for me:
  1. What did I do well this past week/month?
  2. Where do I need to grow?
  3. What things will I challenge myself moving forward that will make me a better leader?
  4. How will all of these answers impact our school community?

In summary, when you have a mindset of “Now is the time” to improve and grow you can be more intentional with the time within your work role and time when you are not directly leading within your role.  By having an intentional focus, you can find ways for you to grow and move your school forward.  Leaders will find that if they embrace an open culture it will stimulate more ownership among staff and students. Over time, this will allow you to narrow the focus of your school and the school improvement efforts.  This will challenge each other to think about past practices and why those were used, how did it benefit learners and are there other options to consider that would better serve our learners? Then you can Focus on strengths of staff and maximize their impact with your school community.

Leaders recognize that their efforts and work are important to a school. But to create the biggest gains, the leader must develop people to their fullest potential. Now is the time to make this shift in mindset and put intentional practices in place.  This takes an investment of time, energy and effort and pouring into others.  Educators must remember that nothing is easy. In fact, if you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only lead yourself but pour into developing others.  This creates the greatest gift a leader can provide to an organization – impact others. Leaders focus on specific strategies and so their efforts help support and develop others as leaders. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “Now is the Time” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

Are you Ready for Student Learning?

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The school year has started and educators are working harder than ever to be their best for kids.  We all have hopes and dreams for our students so that they can find success and happiness.  To allow this to occur, it can be helpful for educators to take a step back and think about our roles in a larger context.  Our schools overall have the fundamental purpose to help students learn. The question we each need to answer: “are you ready for student learning”?

Student learning is the foundation of the work we all do for students despite many of us having different roles within schools.  To help each student learn at high levels, there are some key attributes educators can incorporate or be mindful of that will help each of us be our best for kids so we are ready to support student learning.

  1. It starts with us

Each educator is a leader as the impact we have upon young people is significant. We have a great opportunity daily to create positive change for students that helps each student learn. To achieve that end goal, we need to recognize that being a leader means we must continually learn. The new learnings may be about instructional strategies, content specific, PLC concepts or how to incorporate SEL components within our work. The bottom line is that if we are learning then we are growing and that allows each of us to be our best for kids.  The continuous learning mindset allows our students to see and value learning.  Our young people will do what they see us do – what we model to students as far as trying new strategies to improve our classrooms or improve our school matters.

  1. Focus on purpose and lead with passion

Each educator went into this profession for a specific reason. In most cases it is because along our journey someone took an interest in us to help us be successful or motivated us to reach our potential. It is important we remember our purpose:  to help connect with kids and create classrooms and schools where kids feel connected and valued. If this occurs then learning at the highest levels can occur. It takes intentional work to create these classrooms and schools and must happen daily. If we each lead with our passion to make a difference then students will feel and see that impact which will help them feel connected and ready to learn.

  1. Add value to other leaders, multiply value to others

Professional learning is a significant part of the growth of an educator. How can we include other educators in that professional learning is important so we are learning from each other and sharing best practices. This allows you to find like minded educators who also want to grow and improve. We must be willing to take an intentional approach to supporting other educators so they improve and grow as an educator. This will not only help them but also develop your influence and increase the effectiveness of your school.

  1. Names matter as does someone’s voice

Students need to feel included and a part of something bigger than just a classroom. Classroom teachers and building leaders need to get to know the names of each student. We tend to overlook the significance of saying someone’s name in the course of a busy day but that is how you can make them feel included and a part of something bigger. Just as important is finding time and ways to listen to students – they have positive ideas and creative ways that can make a classroom or school better.

  1. Begin with the end in mind

For classroom teachers, Focus your instructional work on what we want students to be able to demonstrate, know and be able to transfer over time to different settings. The curriculum standards are very important and educators must begin their unit planning by asking themselves what would the end of unit assessment or products look like based on key essential standards. This allows the right instructional work to be the purpose of an educator’s classroom lesson plans which then leads to focusing on developing quality lessons. The individual lessons need to have students at the heart of the work where the kids will be doing relevant work through rigorous activities. Teachers should also measure student learning with formative assessments and use data to adjust instructional practices to determine which students need differentiated learning opportunities. 

For building and district leaders, we must ask ourselves, do our teachers know what we want our classroom learning to look like that allows for high levels of student learning?  It is always important to be clear about our focus and then design quality Professional Development that models the type of classroom learning experiences we desire in each classroom.  This should involve following your district’s strategic plan so PD is aligned and has systematic ways to be incorporated over time that keeps the focus on what matters most – school culture and student learning.  Also include teacher voice in the planning of the PD and have teachers help lead some of the work as their voice matters and their expertise is some of the best PD.

Leaders recognize that their efforts and work are important to a school. But to create the biggest gains, the leader must develop people to their fullest potential as “you grow as a school community by growing your people”.  This takes an investment of time, energy and effort and pouring into others and the focus should be on student learning.  The greatest thing a leader can do for someone else is give them confidence; the confidence to step outside of their comfort zone to grow in their skill set.  Leaders do this by seeing what people can become and working/motivating them to learn and develop over time.  Educators must remember that nothing is easy. In fact, if you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only lead yourself but pour into developing others.  This creates the greatest gift a leader can provide to an organization – impact others. Leaders focus on specific strategies and so their efforts help support and develop others as leaders. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “Are you ready for student learning” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

It starts with supporting others 

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As I write this blog I am thinking to myself “what do I need to do to help ensure our school has a great year”?  That is a big question with many possible answers.  I actually reflected upon that question all summer and I finally recognized it all starts with supporting others.  Great schools exist because of great teachers and support staff.  It all starts and comes back to people.  That is the most important resource for school leaders as they can develop, nurture and support their own people. This is true every year and this year it is even more a top priority for leaders as the teacher and staff shortage is real.  Educators are tired, stressed and worried about many things that make their work of being a success for kids a true challenge. School leaders must place a priority on supporting their staff.  Below are key areas that use a relational and culture building lense to help leaders move their staff forward in a positive direction so continual growth and success occurs.  I believe that the single greatest indicator about the health of a school is the quality of the relationships of the people within it. As Simon Sinek shares, “Leadership isn’t about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.”  Leaders must recognize the importance of taking care of their staff and here are some key areas that will provide this focus. I share 4 themes and then some strategies for each theme that can be utilized in any school setting to help support others.

Enlarge the heart

  • Interact with staff – It is a true challenge to find the time to get around to every staff member daily. I have learned that it is not the quantity of interactions with staff members that create the relationship but rather the quality of those interactions. Leaders must be present in each conversation (ex. do not look at the clock) and keep your eyes and attention on that person. It’s important to be a great listener and see the topic from their perspective. 
  • Develop Trust – We develop trust over time through small behaviors such as the fist bump to a teacher who tried something new, a high five when they experience success and a pat on the back when they need support. When there is trust, staff are more likely to feel cared for and will then come to leaders for support when needed.
  • Be Visible at school events, carlines, lunches and get into classrooms.  Staff value leaders who they see in action.
  • Show and tell staff how you value them – Send handwritten notes or postcards to staff. In addition, have students make videos about staff impact and share back with staff.  

Empower Others to Act

  • Involve Staff – It is important to focus not on “changing someone” to fit a certain desired culture but focusing on the “growth” of the staff member. In other words, how can you maximize their strengths and “what skills they do have” to help your building. When people feel like they are being given a chance to contribute, they will be more confident. We must find ways to develop confidence in our staff as “Confidence” is the most powerful thing a principal can give a teacher and a teacher can give a student
  • Examples of how to empower staff include:
    • Staff led PD sessions
    • Staff led parent events
    • Feedback loops with staff 
    • Genius Hour for staff PD
    • School developed goals 
    • Staff Personal Growth Plan 

Inspire a shared Vision

  • It is essential for leaders to keep the focus simple and “laser like” for their staff so there is a clear understanding of the purpose of the work. We must communicate our vision through stories, emotions and create engagement around the priorities. 
  • Develop collective efficacy by creating strong teams. Keep in mind that “1 person cannot make a team, but 1 person can break a team”. A strong team will help each other stay focused on the right work and be there to help each other when they need it.
  • Examples of collective efficacy that supports a schools purpose
    • Staff led home visits to new families
    • Staff led parent book study
    • Staff created videos for families

Model the change 

  • Leaders set the tone as we are like the thermostat, not the thermometer. Leaders must Model the behaviors that we want in the building. Lead with positivity, grace and flexibility. Modeling is often the “tipping point” towards positive change. Leaders achieve vulnerability through active listening, sharing their mistakes and embracing discomfort.  

Every school year has challenges and this year is unlike no other due to so many external factors and staffing shortages. How leaders maximize positive momentum for their staff  is through consistency and a focus on supporting others.   This will allow you to focus on spending the right efforts towards the important work of leading others. Leaders need to show gratitude towards staff for being in this most challenging profession, focus on positive relationships,  share your excitement about the opportunities we have to help others, be authentic in your leadership style and always have a teachable (learner) mindset.  I encourage you to reflect upon how you can make your school year great and what methods will you use to support others. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “It starts with supporting others” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

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Greatest Challenge in Leadership – leading yourself.

As leaders rest and recharge over the summer for the upcoming school year there will be opportunities for reflection and growth. For some individuals this may include participating in conferences, graduate work and work within their roles in their district. For educators there is a desire to improve their craft and help impact others.  This blog post shares that the greatest challenge in leadership starts with leading yourself and how that can be done.

There are many conferences, social media posts and opportunities for educators to learn how to improve. Most of this involves improving others or the teams that you are a part of. While this is important work and can improve your school organization, the top leaders point out that this work all starts with first leading yourself.  If you cannot lead yourself and improve your leadership, then why would others follow you and how could you develop and influence them?  If you think about the role of a leader within an organization there are several common areas the job focuses on:

  • Setting direction
  • Developing the learner
  • Developing others 
  • Making the organization work 

To help each of these areas improve in your organization you must first understand how you must improve your own leadership skills so that you can apply the work to your organization. Here are key areas to focus on to improve your leadership first before pouring into others:

  1. Lead yourself daily 

This sounds simple but can be very challenging due to the variety of tasks leaders face, multitude of decisions and trying to balance work and personal life. There are areas to consistently focus on within your day that build over time and produce significant results. This includes:

  • Managing your time so you focus on priorities and areas that deliver results.
  • Manage your energy and emotions so you do not put efforts into areas that distract from the work.
  • Manage your thinking so you can focus on being solution focused, setting a vision and on growth.
  • Managing the areas mentioned above allow you to focus on managing your personal life so you can have a balance which is essential for long term impact.
  • Be a lifeline learner who is committed to growth. This is done by consistently reading, listening and learning from others who also are demonstrating excellence and growth.  You cannot lead without being a learner as the landscape is constantly changing. The only way to be effective is to learn and apply those new ideas to your work that allows for personal and professional growth.
  1. Communication 

Most leaders who underperform and over time have little impact are not due to someone’s talent or work ethic. Instead, it is because the leader is unable to communicate to others that make a relationship connection.  Communication matters.  Here are some important reminders for leaders when they communicate that allow them to be effective at sharing the message and resonating with others.

  • Be authentic with your message through sharing a story or an idea that the readers/listeners can connect with.
  • Keep your message clear, simple and to the point so there is clarity and no confusion.
  • Focus on 1-2 key ideas that allow everyone to understand your purpose, what you are about and how you are trying to improve the organization.
  1. Lead exceptionally well 

Before you can help develop others and lead an organization you must demonstrate that you lead yourself at a high level.  People will follow the leader first and then the vision or message.  Here are some strategies you can use to demonstrate that you are leading at a high level:

  • Be consistent with your efforts and lead with character that places decisions on what is best for others.
  • Go the extra mile as that is the difference between good vs. great. That means at times you may need to take the tough job or be willing to do what others will not.  
  • Always develop and share a solution when you mention a problem – be solution focused.
  • Be a team player for the organization as that makes you a part of something bigger and helps others connect with you.
  • Be action oriented and “walk the walk” by living your core values through your actions and how you treat others.
  • Lead with humility as the position is not about you but rather how you can make the position one of influence upon others.
  1. Invest in relational chemistry 

The most effective leaders are those that have influence with others. To develop this influence, you must first be someone who has the attributes that allow others to be drawn to you, connected and then believe in you as a person and then as a leader. This is achieved by incorporating the following strategies:

  • Listen to others before talking so you know their priorities and how you can connect to them.
  • Learn someone’s strengths, work with their weaknesses.
  • Be willing to admit your mistakes and be vulnerable enough to share this with others.
  • Believe that everyone on your staff or within your organization is a “10”. How you view people matters as that is how each individual will feel when they interact with you.  Everyone has strengths and areas to improve but if you can focus on their value and what they bring to your school organization then it allows the trust to be built over time.

In summary, educators go into this profession to make a difference and to help others. This work takes passion-persistence-patience.  How a person makes a difference may vary from organization to organization but a common trait for all leaders of influence is that they know how to lead themselves at a high level first before they try to develop and lead others.   If you want to create a difference then you must be willing to lead yourself first.  By recognizing and understanding this importance, you can be intentional with your time, efforts and energy that allows you to be your best version of yourself.  Leaders focus on specific strategies and so their efforts help support the overall purpose of pursuing excellence and help to ultimately create their influence within their organization.  It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “Greatest Challenge in Leadership – leading yourself” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

Leaving Footprints in the sand

Photo by Miriam Fischer on Pexels.com

Most educators are in summer or will be in a few short weeks. This is an important time so one can get needed rest, re-charge and do things other than our job roles. The next school year will be here soon. Some educators will be in their same positions next year but others will be in a new position, new school or even outside of education. As we all start the summer break at some point, our impact from all of our hard work this past year will be measured by those we worked with and work for and how they carry forward into next year the skills, habits and culture with those around them.  How many “footprints” we leave behind us or how much our impact lasts depends upon the significance of our work and influence we developed in others.

This blog considers what is the work that will allow you to have significance and influence with others so that you can leave footprints in the sand or in other words – your impact will carry on once you are no longer in that role.  There are many strategies or attributes one could work on to ensure their impact occurs over time.  But we will focus on the most essential that transcend any building level or role and apply to anyone who is in charge of leading others and creating positive change.

Building others up and developing leaders

As John Maxwell has shared, “leadership is influence, nothing more – nothing less.”  When leaders take an approach where they focus on building staff up and helping them grow, they are positively impacting the entire school community. To do this, leaders must recognize they need to lead with humility, find the strengths of each member of their team and find ways for that person to contribute. When leaders take an invested role and go one step further and coach their staff who are committed to growth then those staff multiply their impact as staff develop as leaders and the organization move forward. It is better to lead with a strong team and not an individual person.

Culture within the organization 

This is where you must start and always focus on as a leader to create a ripple of positive change. This work should include activities with students, staff and families or all stakeholders within the organization. Examples of ways leaders can build this culture are most important in their daily habits and what they model by example but can also include Staff PD, Staff appreciation, Empowering staff, listening to students and partnering with parents within the school experience. 

Connect with staff is important on many levels 

Leaders must develop and communicate a shared vision.  But people don’t follow data or a mission statement; they follow someone they believe in. Leaders must connect with their staff so staff have a sense of a broader purpose that is united by human connectedness. Staff will work hard for anyone as they are in it for kids, but for staff to give the “extra” that does truly make the difference they must believe in the people that lead them. This starts by building trust. This is developed and achieved through a focus on the human characteristics – empathy, vulnerability and valuing the people within our walls. 

Developing the growth mindset of your school

A school community that develops into an excellence school is one where there is a focus on continual improvement and focus on growth.  Growth of each person where they continually learn and strive to get better. An important part of this work is reflection. Leaders must model reflection and imbed this as part of the work. This should include reflecting upon past experiences and then identifying what practices will be put in place moving forward for growth.  

Leaders set the tone 

I do believe that leaders include everyone within an organization, not just the administrators. However, it is also true that it’s human nature for people to notice what the “leaders” are doing.  As a result, I remind myself that if it is important to build culture then I should:

  • Model the behaviors that we want in the building.
  • Show that it is okay to make mistakes and admit when I am wrong.
  • “Be the thermostat not the thermometer” – in other words it is important to be consistent, calm and purposeful with our work.
  • Empower others to lead and give them chances to grow within our culture,
  • Take care of the staff and show how much I appreciate their efforts. As Simon Sinek points out that “Yes, we want to develop leaders and from that we know that someday they may leave for greater leadership opportunities but it is also true that you should treat them so well that they do not want to leave”. Very well said!

In summary, educators go into this profession to make a difference and to help others. How many “footprints” we leave behind us tells our story of our work. This work takes passion-persistence-patience. How we work with others needs to have enthusiasm, empathy for others and empower others to take part in developing the culture.  If you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only lead yourself but pour into developing others.  Great schools exist because of the teachers/staff so all of our focus should come back to building the culture with the people that work directly with our students.By recognizing these components then you are more intentional with your time, efforts and energy and can pour into others.  Leaders focus on specific strategies and so their efforts help support the overall purpose of pursuing excellence and help to create their “footprints” within their organization.  It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “Leaving Footprints in the sand” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

What is the most important thing

Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

Through my years as an educator, I have always enjoyed learning about new trends and ideas/strategies to help me improve. Over this time, I have asked myself this important question – “What is the most important thing a leader should do to impart positive change within a school”?  As an administrator, I have researched this topic as I truly  want to learn what I should be doing to help my school, staff, students and parent community.  The various books, blogs, twitter chats have shared different perspectives. While all are valuable, they all have some differences but they also come back to one common theme – CULTURE.  As a result, here is my perspective on ways a leader can develop a postive culture within their learning environment

It is all about people 

As an educator, I have been in many different buildings during my time and have always strived to build strong connections and relationships. After some successes, but also failed attempts to create relationships to impact culture, I have come to realize that it is important to focus not on “changing someone” to fit a certain desired culture but focusing on supporting the “growth” of the staff member and learning what value or strengths each person brings to the school. This simply means that instead of focusing on what someone “didn’t have” as far as strengths, I now focus on “what skills they do have” and help them to excel in those areas. This has led me to the concept of finding value in each staff member and finding ways how that person can contribute to our culture.  I believe that the single greatest indicator about the health of a school is the quality of the relationships of the people within it.

How to create that relationship

It is a true challenge to find the time to get around to every staff member and create these relationships.  I have learned that it is not the quantity of interactions with staff members that create the relationship but rather the quality of those interactions.  As Susan Scott wrote in her book “Fierce Conversations”, the 

“The conversation is the relationship”. I admit when I first read that idea I was unsure of how relatable that would be to culture. However, I have found that when I have been visiting with staff members about an issue or topic that the conversation (done correctly) does lead to greater understanding from everyone involved which in turn creates a stronger relationship. This require me during these conversations to:

  • Be present in the conversation (ex. do not look at the clock) and keep my eye and attention on that person and topic.
  • See the topic from their perspective.
  • Provide praise (if appropriate) to the staff member in an authentic way with specific examples and give immediate feedback.

As I have transitioned into more than one building, I have reminded myself that when we are talking about building relationships, “It is better to go slow and build relationships built on trust then go faster towards creating a culture without the relationships in place.” It takes time to get to know people, but we must “know people to grow people” as it relates to our culture. 

Leaders set the tone 

I do believe that leaders include everyone within an organization, not just the administrators. However, it is also true that it’s human nature for people to notice what the “leaders” are doing.  As a result, I remind myself that if it is important to build culture then I should:

  • Model the behaviors that we want in the building.
  • Show that it is okay to make mistakes and admit when I am wrong.
  • “Be the thermostat not the thermometer” – in other words it is important to be consistent, calm and purposeful with our work.
  • Empower others to lead and give them chances to grow within our culture,
  • Take care of the staff and show how much I appreciate their efforts. As Simon Sinek points out that “Yes, we want to develop leaders and from that we know that someday they may leave for greater leadership opportunities but it is also true that you should treat them so well that they do not want to leave”. Very well said!

Create learner centered learning environments

To help create our schools that are future focused and developing students with skills so they can be successful in any career, then as leaders we must:

  • Develop capacity within others to lead our schools (shared leadership)
  • Use the approach of “fail forward” and give teachers permission to try new strategies or lessons that create higher engagement and skill development.
  • Get parents involved in our work so they have a better understanding of our purpose.
  • Most importantly, as Jimmy Casas shares in his book Culturize, the leaders must “be a merchant of hope” for students. When I read that line I thought it was so important for leaders to create meaningful ways for staff to remember the “why” they went into teaching and how they do influence kids on a daily basis.

Communication is the key

  • As I reflect over the years, I have been disappointed in myself at specific times, as I did not provide the correct type of communication for particular situations. This has allowed me to remember that every action I take (ex. every interaction, every decision and every expression on my face, tone in my voice and body language) conveys my thoughts/emotions to a person.  These interactions earn trust or erodes trust and it is up to me to communicate effectively.
  • When I interact with a staff member about an issue, I remind myself of the phrase “Asking good questions will inform us but asking great questions transform the relationship”.  I have found that it is best to have Face/face interactions and if not possible then a phone call.

In summary, I try to remind myself that developing the culture is the most important thing every school leader should always be working on. Every day, Every Year. This work takes passion-persistence-patience. How we work with others needs to have enthusiasm, empathy for others and empower others to take part in developing the culture.  If you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only lead yourself but pour into developing others.  Great schools exist because of the teachers/staff so all of our focus should come back to building the culture with the people that work directly with our students.By recognizing these components then you are more intentional with your time, efforts and energy and can pour into others.  Leaders focus on specific strategies and so their efforts help support the overall purpose of pursuing excellence.  It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “what is the most important thing” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve