Recently at a national education conference, I had the opportunity to listen to some of the biggest names in educational leadership and connect with talented educators. I probably attended around 20 sessions and downloaded around 15 more documents from other presentations. So much powerful information that it can make your head spin as to “what do I do with all of this information.” On the flight back home, I was thinking what are my takeaways or things that apply to my work within both the school and my profession. Almost all the presentations came back to 2 topics: Culture and Relationships. While I agree these 2 areas are most significant in a school setting, something else stood out to me as the most important work that provides the greatest gains – it is being INTENTIONAL in your efforts with culture and relationships. Here is what I mean about the importance of being INTENTIONAL:
- Intentional with Relationships – How you treat people (students, staff and parents) speaks volumes about how you view its importance. I feel it is so important to say someone’s name, look them in the eye and take genuine interest in their day. Learn about their interests and listen to what they have to say (not easy to do in the busy world we live in). As a leader, you will have many intense conversations. They are never easy but the more we do them the more effective we become (and easier too). During those moments when we are having the real conversation, it is possible to deliver the message but we can be kind too. It takes humility, quiet confidence but it leads to a culture focusing on the right things.
- Intentional with Praise – How you give credit to others by saying their name and “thank you for …” is pivotal in helping others understand it is about “we” not “me”. Likewise, leaders should shoulder the blame or admit mistakes when things go wrong and not place that on others.
- Intentional with Feedback – Feedback is one of the most important but underutilized aspects within education. Too often, we assume the other person understands our comments….but we must actually say the words “I am proud of you”, “You did an amazing job” or “Thanks for going above and beyond.” When giving feedback regarding instruction, we must be specific, clear with examples and supportive in nature.
- Intentional with your Vision – We cannot assume that others know what we want for our school. Leaders must be specific and clear about their core beliefs, the schools’ purpose and what staff work towards as goals. This is best articulated through stories that connect to the emotions/feelings, but we must also speak the actual words of our core beliefs and purpose.
- Intentional with 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. As George Couros shares, “We need to make the positives so loud that the negatives become almost impossible to hear.”
- Intentional with Modeling – How leaders model their behaviors and actions is the tipping point that determines if others also will use those same behaviors. This is what causes change – modeling the desired behaviors. It is important to remember, “Your future is determined by what you do Today, Not tomorrow.” In other words – if leaders want change then they must initiate it and model it.
- Intentional with Vulnerability – One of the greatest ways to build trust and connection with others is to share your own vulnerability. This allows others to see that you are not perfect, that you have struggles but you are committed to growth, reflection and focused on others. This unites people behind a common theme or bond that will also drive innovation.
Excellence is not a skill but an attitude – leaders who excel are intentional and they focus on the right work. As George Couros says, “In reality, you can’t make anyone change; people can only change themselves. What you can do is create the conditions where change is more likely to happen.” Being intentional in the areas mentioned in this blog allows the conditions to exist for positive change. True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when leaders work extremely hard to improve their school. By reflecting upon “what provides the greatest gains”, it provides leaders a great way to 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 firstname.lastname@example.org