Communication Determines Success

 

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There are many skills that leaders possess and use daily with their school communities.  Likewise, a leader can have many different job titles as everyone is a leader and can influence others.  So no matter what skill or job title a leader has, there is a common component that successful leaders do have and use.  This is the importance they place on communication.

If Leaders succeed or fail in many ways is due to effective communication. This includes:

  • How they communicate
  • What they communicate
  • Efficiency of the communication
  • Does it leave a lasting impression upon others

The authenticity and how sincere the message is shared with others often determines the success of communication.  Communication, or the lack of it, may be one of the few factors that determines why certain leaders, initiatives, programs either are successful or fail.  Below are some important foundations of communication.

Let’s review what we know about communication:

  • Must be proactive and consistent in messaging 
  • Most leaders lose jobs due to poor communication and relationships rather than test scores.
  • Leaders recognize that every day you need to share your school’s story with others
  • Every opportunity to communicate to even just one parent will help either build your school’s vision or weaken it.
  • Always be proactive with communication – if you are not telling your school’s story then someone else is telling it for you.

Key aspects of Effective Communication:

  • Should be truthful with stakeholders about the efforts
  • Must be Relevant/timely and must use quality communication – not quantity.
  • Use varied types of communication (ex. email, phone call, and social media) as some situations call for different types of communication. You will know your school community and what works best – but there are some instances where a personal phone call is the best way to resolve an issue instead of a simple email.
  • If it is a sensitive issue – have the conversation in person or via phone  (no email) and if you are concerned on how something was shared – go to the source and find out.
  • Avoid sarcasm and defensiveness – don’t make it about you – make it about moving your school forward

Communication Within your staff:

  • Be Efficient with staff communication and have a routine when it is distributed compared to “all building emails” all the time  (ex. have an internal weekly email newsletter)
  • Should inform/organize and motivate others
  • To build the vision and culture, keep in mind the analogy of “shout praise and whisper criticism” – so visit individually with someone when there is a concern and then collectively to everyone share the praise and supports
  • Make the praise to others authentic, specific and immediate

Communication is a part of a leader’s job and happens throughout the day…..every day in every face to face conversation, email, phone conversation and social media post. It is a key attribute that effective leaders or organizations all have in common.  The role of a school leader is very complex and each day places different demands upon leaders. Using these basic characteristics will help ensure communication is effective and moves your organization forward.

I look forward to hearing from you about your insights into the importance of communication within your role.  Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

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Why Listening is critical part to Leadership

 

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Leadership has many components but one that is often overlooked in its significance is the importance of listening.  I have often asked myself why? From my perspective it is because the stereotype of leaders are those who are “doing” and constantly making changes. That may or may not be accurate, but leaders do try to challenge the status quo and often find it necessary to be working on implementing change – as they recognize only action creates change. But we must recognize that listening is an important part of making positive change in our school communities.  When we listen to others, the students, staff and families; then we are able to identify from the people we serve if true actionable steps have occurred and also identify areas to grow in. As a reminder, the data is important but it’s more important to be people driven. Simply meaning – we must focus on the people who are the stakeholders in our school community and involve them in the change process as we strive for growth.

 

Below are key questions to consider using with different parts of your school community to help you as the leader to listen and learn.  This allows someone to identify key understandings, what areas are working well but also what may need to be addressed. It is through this process of listening to ideas, positives and concerns that leaders are much more effectively able to be the leaders of people and not just leading themselves. Ultimately, this also allows a leader to identify how to develop others and maximize their impact within the school community.

Listening questions to use with students

  1. What do you want learning to be like in school and does this match the current reality?
  2. How do you feel valued and a part of our school?
  3. What are your passionate about?
  4. If you could change 1 thing about this year, what would it be?
  5. What can we do different to further make our school great?

Listening questions to use with staff

  1. What do you love about our school? 
  2. How is this school year and your instruction different than last year? 
  3. If you became principal today, what would be your 1st change and why? 
  4. How can I support you so that you enjoy being at our school and feel fulfilled as an educator? 

Listening questions for families

  1. Describe the mission or purpose of our school for your child?
  2. Does your child feel valued and excited to be a part of our school?
  3. How we can further involve you in our school’s experience?
  4. What is the greatest strength of our school we must continue and also the area we must address and change to grow as a school?

 

There are many difficult parts to leadership and one of those is time. I believe that listening to others and then acting upon that feedback is essential to your growth as a leader and that of your school. As a result, finding the time to listen to those we serve is not only an important part of the work – it is the most important part of the work. 

True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when leaders take risks and strive to get better. In those instances, there are times a person will fail or have defeat. A critical part of leadership is listening to others, getting their feedback and using that to strive for 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. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

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What We Learn From Defeat

 

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     If someone asks “how do you know if someone is excelling in their job”, typically our society would determine their job title, their last promotion or awards the individual has received. While those aspects do deserve significance, they are not the moments that leaders determine to be the defining moments in their career. In many cases, it is when leaders are faced with tough decisions, how they handled a crisis or are told they are not hired for a position. It is in these difficult circumstances, what some may call “defeats,” that leaders further develop skills, sharpen their resilience that pushes them towards excellence. All of us will have tough moments or defeats, but what makes individuals become leaders is how they respond to these challenges.  In this blog post we look at what we learn about these situations that help us to strive for excellence. Remember, a defeat or failing at something “does not define you as a leader, but rather it refines you.”

     When someone has tough moments, it is human nature to question yourself and your skills. At times, we begin to question what is it that we should be working towards or our purpose. If you self reflect and refocus, then you will remember the most important part of our work is not awards or promotions but rather what others will remember about your impact. This includes 

What others will remember about your impact

 

  • How did you trust others and empower them to be the positive change.
  • Did you support others to become better.
  • Did you place a priority on positive relationships and lead with positivity.
  • Did you model for others innovation and vulnerability.
  • Did you lead with character and competence.
  • Did you care about kids and focus the energy upon supporting them.

 

     If you can refocus on what your impact will truly be measured by, then it helps you to see the bigger perspective beyond the tough situation you are currently in. After processing what happened, you can learn very important things from difficult situations that will make your impact even greater. Here are the important things to remember about difficult situations:

What I have learned from difficult situations:

 

  • Focus on what you can control 
  • Model the behaviors you want others to show 
  • Remember it’s about perspective –  “tough moments but never bad days”
  • The challenging situation will make you stronger growth is a process

 

     When we do have tough moments or defeats, we can be too quick to judge ourselves. In many cases, we are our own worst critic and we look for our faults and not how much we are progressing as leaders. In reality, if you work hard, reflect, focus on the right work then you will grow over time. The important thing to remember is that not only are your growing as a leader, but to remember this during the challenging circumstances. To help focus your growth, it’s important that you can measure your growth so it becomes “visible”. Here is how you can measure your growth:

Measure your Growth by

 

  • Your Impact upon others so they develop as leaders
  • Get authentic feedback from stakeholders 
  • Willingness to learn, listen, take risks and fail and see the progress
  • Remove your blind spots
  • Be Intentional with your work 

 

     As a person moves through a tough situation, it is important to remember that we can only do our personal best. We cannot control others, their thoughts or decisions. But we can control our efforts, attitudes and behaviors.  In addition, it’s important as a leader to remember the following:

Focusing on things we can control includes the following:

 

  • Put others first and focus on the best in people
  • Empower others to help make a difference
  • Celebrate the successes of our work and embrace our failures
  • Trust the people you work with as they can be a great support system

 

True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when leaders take risks and strive to get better. In those instances, there are times a person will fail or have defeat. That does not define the leader but rather provides the impetus for continued growth.  It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

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Keys to School Success

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If you have been in any field long enough, you have opportunities to connect and learn from others. Educators are no different.  We like to share ideas, learn from each other and seek out the “ones who have figured it out”. But when you look beyond the individual and consider the entire school community, it is much harder to pinpoint the factors that lead to success for the entire school community.  School success on a broad sense is where schools develop the human potential of the students in academics, emotional and character traits. It is also where the adults are focused on growth and providing the best for the students through collective efficacy. But what are those schools doing as “keys to school success”? In this blog we share ideas that I have learned from other leaders and combined together to discover what successful schools have in common. 

 

  1. Culture is key – Most educators recognize culture is important, but it is the MOST important part of successful schools.  It represents the cumulative effect of all the behaviors of the students/staff and parents. It also one of the hardest areas to develop or enhance as it takes time and is a process.  The culture of the school aligns to the actions and behaviors of the adults within your building – how the staff interacts is how the students will feel. It is important that students feel safe, positive and happy to be there.
  2. Students are valued and cared for – School is the “job” for our students as that is where they go from age 5 – 18. I cannot imagine going to a place that I did not like or feel appreciated.  It is critical that staff get to know students by name, welcome them each day and learn their passions. Great educators recognize that the purpose of our work is WHO we teach, not what we teach.  Students should feel like school is home to them.
  3. Foundational purpose – As society is rapidly changing, so is the rate of change for schools. This may lead to some schools also changing their goals or work frequently until they find “what sticks.” Great schools know their purpose and remain consistent with their work – they simply focus on getting better within those areas over time. Within this work, they remain INTENTIONAL and have a laser like focus.  
  4. Systems and structures in place – All great organizations and teams have clear expectations due to the systems and structures put into place. This allows the staff to not worry about what will happen or when, but rather focus on the “why” and “how”. This is where you move the needle with instruction and growth of the educators.
  5. The classroom teacher matters – The most influential person to a student is their classroom teacher.  This is the person that not only teaches content but will also model character traits and can either support or tear down students.  Great schools exist because of great teachers, and when you have great teachers then they will attract other quality teachers and they will stay.  This builds a powerful and influential team.
  6. Shared Leadership – A great principal can have a positive impact upon a school, but when the principal develops other leaders then there is a multiplier effect.  The more leaders you have then the more ways your school move forward and meet the needs of students who have diverse needs. It allows the school to function at a much higher level as more staff are “focused on becoming the best for the team, not the best on the team.”
  7. Partnering with families – Schools exist for educating students and who knows the students the best but their parents. Great schools recognize the importance of engaging families and creating ways to get them into the building so they feel connected to the school, share ideas and concerns, support the work of the school and help drive a positive culture.

 

True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when leaders work extremely hard to improve their own learning and leads to an improved school. By reflecting upon “Keys to School Success”,  leaders can self-analyze if they are spending the right efforts towards the work with staff that will move it forward. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

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Make 2020 Great – Focus on What You Can Control

 

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     As we enter 2020 and we are halfway through the 2019-2020 school year, it is important that all leaders take time to reflect upon their work.  Leading the work in a  school is a demanding job. Above all the mandates, reports, communication, and various work that must be done; leaders recognize their primary role is to help lift others up and provide the capacity to grow. However, leaders have found that they must also and should balance the demands of the professional world with their personal life.   This never ending demand for your time, energy and focus places stress upon leaders – so it is important leaders must recognize the key to a great year is to “Focus on What You Can Control”. 

     From my perspective, when you think about what you can control in your daily life there is very little. We cannot control other people, the phone calls or emails we will receive or the situations that we encounter daily. In reality, a person can only control 3 areas of their daily life. We can control our Efforts, Attitudes and Behaviors.  If a person can focus on these three key areas and do this consistently then they will find they are making greater impact, being consistent in their work, developing others and creating sustainable change. Even more important, a leader will feel more grateful, happy and optimistic about their impact. Here is a review of why these three areas are important and how it can help you move forward as a leader:

  1. Attitude – If a person has a positive outlook and approaches each situation with a “get to opportunity” instead of a “have to” it creates a focus and mindset that allows for success. This places the mental approach of the work in a positive light and focuses the challenge as opportunities for growth. This leads to optimism and instills confidence in the leader and others. As we all know, leaders set the tone, and if leaders have a positive attitude and lead with a positive intent then so will the staff. We must also recognize that at times we will fail if we try to challenge the status quo and innovate. In those instances, remind yourself that the failed attempt does not define you; but rather it refines you and your work. It is important to use a growth mindset, reflect upon the work and adjust to continue to strive for excellence.  Your daily work ethic and commitment to the process is what will determine success.
  2. Efforts – The tipping point to change is how leaders model behaviors by their work ethic.  Many people work hard but leaders work extremely hard and focus that effort in the correct areas. Leaders place emphasis on doing the right work and choose to spend their efforts during a day that will impact others. Leaders are selfless, model vulnerability, connect with others and create relationships.  The focal point of these relationships include being grateful, kindness and serving others. This allows others to feel supported, places value on feedback and reflection, and creates a strong team by developing trust. This helps to support a positive and strong school culture.
  3. Behaviors  – Leaders understand that how they Communicate and Collaborate with others will ultimately determine their success.  This communication focuses on instilling confidence in others, listening to ideas and supports them as learners and over time changes the thinking and behaviors in others. As an organization, the communication remind others of their purpose or “why” and values a strong partnership. The collaboration is essential as well as leaders know it is not about them but rather creating the strongest team possible.  When decisions are made, leaders involve others in that process and help create a school that is student and staff led, not top down. This strong culture is created by empowering others, developing trust and occurs by behaviors that are consistent and authentic.

     Leadership is about empowering others, bringing out the greatness in others and serving others. By focusing on what we can control through our attitude, efforts and behaviors then we can maximize our impact as leaders.  As you strive to grow as a leader, I would be curious about your thoughts of what you consider the right work and how you focus on what you can control in 2020. Reach out to me with comments at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

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Everyone Needs a Champion

 

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A leader knows that to make positive change they must be committed to growth. This growth includes helping others and the school community get better over time. This involves hard work, dedication and doing the right work.  Most importantly, it is about serving others. You have to care more (give a little more time, effort and energy) to move the needle. This involves being committed to:

  • Creating the right environment for the students and staff to thrive
  • Making the tough decisions the support the work
  • Developing the strengths of others 
  • Doing whatever it takes to help others be the best they can be. Leaders find ways to extend themselves to others and go beyond the expected.  
  • Being the foundation of consistent, calm presence in the face of adversity. 
  • Caring about the work you do, surround yourself with people who care, show your team you care and build a team that cares about one another.

Doing this work is a challenge and then coupled with doing the daily tasks can be unsurmountable.  Leadership is extremely hard work and can wear you down despite being passionate to develop and improve the conditions for others to grow. Leadership is also a lonely position that is isolating as typically you are the only leader within your building.  To prevent this negative part of leadership, many leaders recognize the value of finding like minded colleagues through PLN that lift them up. This connection allows vulnerability, sharing of ideas, admittance of mis-steps and learning from others as part of the work.  When you have others who serve as your champion, they celebrate your successes, efforts and help you stay the course of the daily grind that leaders face. While experience is still the best teacher (reflecting and learning from failures), having other leaders recognize you and give you “shout-outs” is valuable to your growth as well. I encourage leaders to take some time and recognize those leaders who have helped them drive for continual success.  Leaders recognize the value of serving their staff and students, but sometimes we do not serve other leaders and the ones that helped pushed us and made us better. Serving as a Champion for other leaders does not put an emphasis on success but on being significant in the lives of others. This allows the actions to inspire others towards greatness. This simply act of kindness and validation allows leaders (who are human like everyone else) to receive the support, encouragement and intrinsic motivation to continue to do the right work. Even Leaders need a champion – someone who can be there to say “great job” and “thank you for being the difference”. 

I am grateful for the following leaders who have taken a sincere interest in my work, provided encouragement, shared their personal experiences and gave possible solutions to challenges I was facing. I am better because of these leaders taking the time to be a champion for someone else like me and many others. A sincere “Thank you” to:

 

@schug_dennis

@Tara_Desiderio

@DavidGeurin

@donald_gately

@TedHiff

@MelissaRathmann

@PrincipalFrench

@PrincipalMN

@MrsRackleyCCMS

@Bethhill2829

@posickj

@JayBilly2

@Williamdp

 

True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when leaders work extremely hard to improve their own learning and that leads to an improved school. But being a champion for other leaders is also an important part of leadership as it broadens our impact and helps potential leaders grow into their full potential. I encourage you to take time and Be the Champion for a Leader and recognize them for their work to help you. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

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How do you measure your growth?

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There are many reasons why educators must be continual life long learners and strive to learn new skills. The pace of change within our society and schools makes it a moral imperative that educators learn best practices and researched based methods to help students and staff find success. A part of this learning process is growing yourself as a leader. This requires a great focus, work ethic and passion to improve while making mistakes. I have learned so much about this process from other school leaders and our students. An area that I have spent much time reflecting on over the years is developing a better understanding of how to  “measure your own growth” as a school leader.

Measuring growth is a complex process but is a necessity for school leaders. If we are not growing within our roles as a leader, then our work loses its impact and we are not moving our schools forward. As David Geurin shares a reflective question, “is your school a time machine or a time capsule?” This same type of thought process can be used with leaders and how we either develop over time or stay stagnant. Here are the methods I use to help measure my growth over time:

  • Impact of others as leaders – How leaders develop and grow leaders within their school community is a significant task but also how schools develop over time. If leaders can reflect and see growth in others, then they are becoming more impactful in their work as they are influencing others.
  • Get authentic feedback from stakeholders regarding the work – Too often leaders may feel as if they are making an impact and improving as a leader. While that may be true, unless we ask the hard questions to our students, staff and parents that we serve then we truly do not know the answer. Leaders recognize the importance of sitting down and having 1:1 conversations with staff where you listen to staff concerns and ideas. This similar type of feedback loop can be used with student “feedback loops” and parent surveys or “Coffee with the Principals”.  When others see positive change as a result of your leadership, then you know you are growing within your role.
  • Focus on being Student Driven – Leaders have many thoughts or ideas on how to improve their school, but it is vital that we reflect and recognize “the ideas we implement are more important than the ideas we collect” . These ideas should be student driven – simply meaning developed with students, for students and led by students.
  • Willingness to learn, take risks and fail – Leaders “must be comfortable with being uncomfortable” – that phrase resonates with me and helps to push my thought processes and continually seek new ways to engage our staff, students and parents.
  • Remove your blind spots – Getting feedback is essential for many reasons and one of the areas it helps is to remove the blind spots within your own judgments that may exist unless you get input from others. If we are able to see our mistakes or blindspots, then we are able to adjust and move the school forward at a much more effective pace. 

 

  • Be Intentional with your work – If we want to grow as leaders, then the focus or intentionality of our daily routine will provide the change.  Leaders should ask themselves if their work is intentional in the following areas:
    •  Praise – How you give credit to others 
    • Feedback – Feedback is one of the most important but underutilized aspects within education and is a key to improving.  
    • Communication – When we visit with others, are we listening to their words, both with our own eyes and ears?  We must also be consistent with our messaging and use the same words or phrases with staff-students-parents so there is consistent message.
    •  Modeling – How leaders model their behaviors and actions is the tipping point that determines if others also will use those same behaviors.  
    • Vulnerability – One of the greatest ways to build trust and connection with others is to share your own vulnerability.  

 

True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when leaders work extremely hard to improve their own learning and that leads to an improved school. By reflecting upon “how do you measure your own growth”,  leaders can self-analyze if we are spending our efforts towards the important and right work. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

Learn 

  Engage 

    Adapt 

       Delegate 

         Empower 

           Reflect  

             Serve