How do you learn from great leaders?

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During everyone’s journey in their professional career you will work with and come across many people.  Most are caring, supportive and truly good people. Some may even be lifelong learners.  A few are leaders that develop other people/organizations and strive for excellence.  Their greatest gift is that they focus on developing others. This year the COVID pandemic has revealed true leadership and who the transformational leaders are in schools.  If you are fortunate, you may have the chance to work with one of these leaders or have opportunities to connect with them through social media. If this occurs, learning from great leaders and their experiences is one of the greatest opportunities and gifts someone can be given.  In this blog we discuss “How Do You Learn From Great Leaders” so not only are you developing but learning from your mentor or leaders beyond just knowing them.

First it is important to know that everyone has opportunities to grow, learn and develop. It is a choice, a mindset and a passion to strive for excellence. This occurs daily and growth occurs more often from failures than successes. As a result of their reflection and passion to succeed, leaders themselves learn new skills and practices by:

  1. Resources  – This would include learning from books, social media like Twitter, FB and podcasts. Many leaders pursue these resources daily to stretch their thinking and strive to improve.
  2. Experiences  – The experiences that leaders go through provide learning opportunities and activities where they apply their thinking.  They also then reflect upon those experiences for greater motivation and learning opportunities.
  3. Learning from other people – Most leaders started like other typical professionals with a desire to do their best. While most people fall back to average over time, some are fortunate to have Mentors and as a result, they learn from other people. This is important as the mentors or leaders demonstrate the actions and behaviors of leadership. The individual also has the opportunity to not only observe what they model but ask the right questions to learn from their perspective.

We will focus on what types of things should you ask your mentor or leaders.  This allows the greatest gain and insight that leads to deeper conversations and growth in learning.  

Here are the Questions to ask a leader/mentor you work with:

  1. What are your passions that you spend your time on? 
  • This insight will allow you to see most leaders have passions that show a work/life balance and keep them grounded. 
  • You will notice that they have a focus and are intentional with their time.
  1. How has failure shaped you?  
  • This will allow you to remember that most often people fail, not succeed, but from these failures is the greatest opportunity for growth. Please recognize that “Failures do not define you, they refine you.” 
  • It is how the leaders respond from the failures that allows insight into their skill set and why they are successful. 
  • Hearing their experiences will show you how leaders are vulnerable and willing to admit failures but they view that as a learning opportunity.
  1. Who do you know as a leader that I should connect with to learn from as well?
  • This will show you why being connected is so vital as everyone learns from others. This may broaden your network as well.
  1. What experiences as a leader do you suggest that I also consider as a way to build leadership experience?  
  • In this question, it is important to not focus on the title/position but what the experience provided for the person.  In other words, specific jobs have different tasks but typically revolve around leadership traits like Leading people, making decisions, and communication.  
  • Focus on how those experiences developed the skills they learned and now demonstrate.  
  1. How did you develop others and express gratitude to others?  
  • Developing others is the backbone of leadership and learning how they developed their employees lends new ideas and different perspectives.
  • Learning how they appreciate their employees by adding value to their work provides insight into how they care about people.
  1. What are your core values that you have used to guide your professional work and how did you arrive at those?  
  • All leaders have core values that guide their work and is their compass they use to make the hard decisions.  Those conversations will help further lend you perspective and allow you to refine your core values that fit your style of leadership.

Learning from leaders is a great opportunity that no one should pass up without having a conversation with them to learn and develop oneself.  True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when you work extremely hard to improve your own learning and that leads to an improved school. In this instance, to improve yourself you must be intentional to admit you need support and ask a mentor if you can spend time learning from them. By reflecting upon “How do you learn from Great Leaders”, you can self-analyze if you are spending  efforts towards the important and right work. Leaders must continually identify how to see the current reality and prioritize how to be efficient but yet effective.  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 

How to make it through the busiest times

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Each school year inevitably gets very busy and this causes educators to lose track of their purpose and impacts their effectiveness. April and May might be the busiest months for school leaders.  This includes finishing standardized testing, teacher appraisals, budgeting, hiring staff and completing end of year events.  As you can see, there is much on a leader’s shoulders and time is in short supply.  The tasks listed above did not even include the typical but very important school day happenings such as building relationships and culture, supporting staff and encouraging students in their efforts as they develop into learners in a rapidly changing world. This is the real work and one that leaders cannot lose sight of.  With everything happening,  the question becomes “how do we make it through the busiest times” as both internal and external forces are putting too many demands upon an already busy schedule. This blog post focuses on how leaders can be both efficient with time and effective in leading their school leaders.

This starts with a“focus on the things that you can control”.  As a leader, we must prioritize our work and know what must be done now and what can wait (and what may not get done and that is ok).  This prioritization allows leaders to focus on things they can control and truly focus on things that can make a difference in school…..supporting its people.  

When we think of “focusing on things we can control” that specifically includes using the following strategies:

  1. Importance of your daily routine.

Leaders must take care of themselves in order that they are at their best for staff and students.  They must also be efficient with their time and effective in how they use their time. 

  • Leaders must first recognize the importance of self care and how that allows them to be their best to care for others.  How leaders start their mornings allows them to further learn through reading, listening to podcasts or exercising. This allows them to clear their mind and get ready for the day.  Each person is different but they must have a consistent way to clear their mind and stay sharp in their focus on their work prior to arriving at work each day.
  • How leaders organize their time is very important too.  What can be delegated to trusted staff, what timely tasks need to be tackled first and then prioritize what will give you the greatest return of your time are important strategies to consider.  The more leaders can find ways to  build up staff so they feel valued which in turn allows them to be their best for students is also most important. Leaders must recognize what work must happen when everyone is at school and what can be done after school.   Leaders must prioritize time by determining tasks into the following categories:
    • Important and Urgent
    • Important but not Urgent
    • Not Important but Urgent
    • Not Important and not Urgent 
  1. Lead with your feet by being visible.

 It is very easy to get caught up in your office by responding to phone calls and emails.  Some of this is needed, especially on matters that are time sensitive or need privacy to visit with someone. However, leaders can help by being proactive by being visible in the building as this allows conversations to happen with staff, eliminate potential problems and you can model the calm, positive mindset that staff and students need to see.  This is showing your school community that you put others first and your focus is on people – not email.

  • This is most effective when leaders are authentic and find ways to make the feedback to staff that is timely, specific, and public.  It is more important to “catch your staff” doing great things than it is to catch them making little mistakes on managerial tasks that don’t impact people or the structures that exist within the school.
  • The best way to connect with others is by listening.  In order to listen you must be present in the classrooms and hallways so the dialogue can happen.  You can connect with others by listening, asking questions and seeing what can be applied to your role to help lead your school.
  1. Keep a strong and healthy school culture.

       Leading a school is a great responsibility but also brings great joy. However, we must remember it is not our school – we are there to help empower others to help make it “our school.”  This can be achieved by:

  • Empower others to help make a difference and help develop solutions to problems.
  • Celebrate the successes of our work and embrace our failures.
  • Trust the people you work with – you hired them for a good reason and they are leaders too.
  • Share your appreciation for the efforts of your staff
    •  An authentic message, email or handwritten card mailed to a staff member can help lift their spirits. 
    • Work with your students to find ways to help thank your staff for their efforts.
    • Leaders set the tone of their building. When you lead with gratitude then others will follow.  A simple “thank you” goes a long way to helping others feel valued.
  1. Communication must be adapted to meet the needs of others.

  This means the info you share with students, staff and families can be adapted to each group to meet their needs. Everyone needs proactive communication but also clear and consistent messaging.  Leaders must be purposeful with their communication, and timely in their delivery. If people are busy but yet we want them to read our communication, then consider making your communication:

  • Concise 
  • Connect back to the work of the school 
  • Provide platforms for feedback 

Educators must remember that creating positive change must be intentional efforts incorporated in ways that meet the needs of the people at the specific points in the school year.  This is most essential when things are busy and that is when leadership is needed the most for students and staff.  The leadership provides the groundwork for others to provide greater focus to their work moving forward and keeps everyone “rowing the boat in the same direction”. Leaders must continually identify how to see the current reality and prioritize how to be efficient but yet effective.  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 “how to make it through the busiest of times” as a leader by considering the 4 strategies mentioned above. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

Demanding Without Being Demeaning

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This school year has stretched educators in many ways. The result is educators are tired, worn out but they also have grown in many ways too. The challenge is this growth is not consistent across our country, yet alone in the same district and sometimes not even in the same school. Great schools exist because there is a shared understanding that all staff are committed to levels of excellence. This blog post looks at how all educators can help hold each other accountable so we are demanding without being demeaning.

Educational Leaders must identify within their districts and school the Levels of Excellence they desire to aspire to daily. These items should be focused on our purpose: importance of relationships, learning and collective efficacy. The exact words or phrases will vary by district/schools but most likely are linked to:

Effort – each person giving their personal best for every student, every day.

Attitude – each person leads with optimism and assumes positive intent by others.

Behaviors – each person understands the importance of modeling appropriate behaviors. 

It’s important we create an environment that supports helping each educator hold each other accountable.  This shared accountability helps others and allows students to experience growth and success.

How to hold each other accountable 

  • Modeling is a powerful example (We cannot take ourselves too seriously, but we can take our work seriously)
  • We can be demanding without being demeaning by:
    • We must be willing to lean into conversation and speak up 
    • Asking questions that cause the person to think about their actions
    • Sharing an example from your viewpoint that contradicts the other person’s viewpoint

During the moments or experiences when a staff member falls back into a comfortable, easy and ineffective routine and are not willing to give their best is when teacher leaders must be willing to have the hard conversations with the specific colleague. Yes, this should be done by administrators too, but often, administrators are not in every conversation to have that dialogue. It also empowers educators to help set the tone of their building when they take ownership and pride in their work. Hard conversations sound like it should be negative, but it doesn’t have to be. In many ways, these discussions can be approached by simply when a teacher leader asks a question or shares their personal experience. This allows the person to be reminded of the shared expectations for excellence for the school/district and redirects the colleague back to the targeted focus. Here are the types of questions or comments teachers’ leaders can use to help redirect colleagues:

Feedback for people who have failed: 

  • Let’s discuss the process, not the end result, so we can learn from what happened.
  • How did your choices (in your effort, attitude and behaviors) affect the outcome? What might you do differently next time?

Feedback for people who are struggling with something:

  • You’re not alone. I have struggled with this too, but I found success when I…..
  • You’re not feeling successful yet, but I do see how this is helping. Remember that it takes time to make progress.
  • How can I help you with this challenge?

Feedback for people who don’t try:

  • You haven’t gotten started yet – anything I can help with?

Feedback for people who succeed with standards of excellence:

  • You should be proud of the effort you’ve put into this. Remember where you

were when we started? 

  •  I appreciate your time, effort and enthusiasm on this.
  •  Let’s talk so I can learn from your work on this, which will help me with ….

This last year has been unlike no other due to so many external factors and the constant unknowns. Leaders must keep common principles in front of them so they can focus on growth and supporting others. One of these key principles is making sure we are developing teacher leaders who can help hold each other accountable to standards of excellence. The guidance mentioned above will help educators navigate through a busy spring and have a positive impact to help their school have a great year. True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when you work extremely hard to improve your own leadership. This will allow you to focus on spending the right efforts towards the important work of leading 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. 

Learn 

  Engage 

    Adapt 

       Delegate 

         Empower 

           Reflect  

             Serve 

Finding your Marigolds

Spring is a time of renewal, refocus and energizes everyone after a long, cold winter. In schools, spring is also a tremendously busy time as leaders are working hard to finish strong in the current year but also must focus intentionally on topics for the next school year. This year, due to COVID-19, Spring brings even greater renewal and a sense of hope but also the mental and physical exhaustion of supporting staff and trying to move schools forward in a pandemic.

As a way to continually find balance in my life, I enjoy listening, reading and learning from others. One such person is Jennifer Gonzalez and her work with the online site Cult of Pedagogy. She has many wonderful resources and the article Find your Marigolds is one we have used with new teachers every year. We use this in August each year to help our new teachers understand the importance of Surrounding yourself with good people.  That concept, finding good people, resonates with me for leaders as well.  In a year that may be the most challenging, exhausting  and potentially innovative for school leaders, it is even more important to find your Marigolds. I also learned from John Maxwell  in his podcasts in reference to leadership that “you are the average of the 5 people you spend your time with”.  This blog post takes a look at educators who aspire to help grow and influence others how they must find and surround themselves with leaders so they can be their best version of themselves over time and strive for excellence.

When you think of leaders who serve as Marigolds, you may think of mentors or people who help coach others.  The Marigolds focus much of their time/efforts on helping others and recognize that their greatest impact is influencing and developing other leaders. They multiply their impact.  Here are characteristics of Marigolds and how having them in your life can impact your leadership journey.

Qualities of Marigolds

  • Have a Mindset of positivity, leading with vulnerability and continually seeking to improve.
  • Use Reflection as a mechanism to seek feedback from others and thoughtfully examine if their work is producing desired results.
  • Model passion for making a difference through helping others, lead by action more than words and “bring it” every day.
  • Connect with others as they know the only way to truly help someone grow is to build trust and develop strong relationships.
  • Share ideas and opportunities with others as they are not focused on building a resume but rather through their impact they leave a legacy.
  • Humble to recognize they don’t know it all so they remain Hungry to learn and grow.
  • Lead with Character as they listen to others, model integrity in decision making, maintain poise in turbulent times and are self-aware.

How do you find your Marigolds

  • As you learn as a leader (ex. listening to podcasts, on voxer groups, FB, Twitter), who are the other leaders that also have the same purpose?
  • Identify the people who are innovative, making positive change and being the ones to jump in the water first. These are risk takers and ones you can reach out to create a connection.
  • Ask yourself who are the people who are invested in their schools or invested in growing as a leader. These are people who are committed to growth and striving for excellence. They want to make a difference and are likely to help you.

What do you ask or share with a Marigold

  • Be willing to share your vulnerability by admitting areas where you are challenged or struggle and ask how failure has shaped them?
  • What did they do as a leader that helped propel their growth and influence that you should consider?
  • What is their passion or where they spent their time, effort learning?
  • Share your desire to grow and ask them who did they learn from or connect with that you may consider learning from?
  • How do they add value to others so you better understand how to support others?

Working with Marigolds will help you remember

  • You can lead but still ask for help.
  • You can be confident but still have doubt.
  • You can expect excellence but still be empathetic and supportive of others.
  • You can be direct to others but still kind.
  • You can be demanding without being demeaning.
  • You can work with urgency but still be patient.
  • You can be strong and still be vulnerable. 

Why having Marigolds transforms leadership

This will help you identify ways you can add value to others, develop skills and influence your journey by understanding:

  • What can you do for people to help them succeed?
  • What do people need from you  that they may not ask for?
  • What can you become better at that will help you serve others?
  • How will you know if you are helping others?
  • How can you serve others that will inspire them to help others?

This year is unlike no other due to so many external factors and the constant unknowns. Leaders must keep common principles in front of them so they can focus on growth and supporting others.  One of these key principles is connecting to mentors or Marigolds. The areas mentioned above will help leaders navigate through a busy spring and have a positive impact to help their school have a great year.  True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when you work extremely hard to improve your own leadership.  I encourage all leaders to reflect upon who are your Marigolds and how can they learn from them to continue the pursuit of excellence.  This will allow you to focus on spending the right efforts towards the important work of leading 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. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn 

  Engage 

    Adapt 

       Delegate 

         Empower 

           Reflect  

             Serve 

Emotion before Logic

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Despite the many differences within districts or regions, education leaders encounter many of the same challenges within their schools. These probably fall within a few areas and may include things like “raising student achievement, connecting with the school community, supporting staff in a pandemic, and increasing effectiveness of school systems”. In most cases, many of the challenges leaders face deal with motivating, empowering and getting the best from their staff.  A leader can lead with presenting data, strategic plans and logic but to really help staff feel connected behind a common vision we must first use emotion to connect to the staff. This blog post focuses on why leaders when working with staff need to focus on emotion before logic.

Why connecting with staff with emotion is most essential

  • 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.
  • In order to focus on collective results and have a unified vision, this can only be achieved if there is trust among the staff. This is developed and achieved through a focus on the human characteristics – empathy, vulnerability and valuing the people within our walls. 
  • Who you are as a leader is who you will attract to your school. The data doesn’t tell the story of a school – people do. When leaders lead with humility, positivity and genuine care, then it places people at the heart of the work. School leaders with this mindset attract educators who are “in it for the kids” and are lifelong learners.
  • The values of an organization are an expression of the people within it. Leaders must continually build others up and focus on culture as this will allow them over time to focus on data informed decisions and strategic plans.  In order to get to the desired results, we must “go slow to go fast” – take time to connect with people and then the results will happen quicker down the road.

Strategies to connect with people with emotion

  • How we connect and develop people is most important but there isn’t just 1 way, there are numerous. How a leader connects with people through emotion may vary based on many factors but could include the following:  
    • Instilling confidence in people so they believe in themselves.
    • Give others hope for a brighter future and something to believe in by sharing stories/videos that reflect experiences within the school and impact the educators can have upon students.
    • Listen to people so they are understood, see different perspectives and a focus on “we”.
    • Be visible in the building and “walk with people” so you see their challenges and help find ways to remove the barriers so people can focus on their role and find success.
    • Celebrate small wins or show your staff your appreciation. There is a lot of power in a handwritten note or a 30 second genuine conversation.
    • Focus on the needs of others first, not your needs, so your focus aligns with your work. Leaders must be servant leaders who put others’ needs in front of their own.

By connecting with staff through emotion and experiences, leaders will help staff get to know who they are, how they want to develop others within their role and can motivate their staff. This will lead to a foundation of trust that can be expanded to a commitment to collective results with a unified vision.  A single person can make a significant difference.  True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when you work extremely hard to improve your own learning and that leads to 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. I encourage you to reflect and better understand what is within your grasp as a leader so you can connect with staff with emotion before logic. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

Seeing reality through others

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Every person goes into Education to make a difference.  For many, their early years had some growth through learning experiences – both positive and challenging ones too. For some educators, as they continue in their careers their passion and purpose seem to lessen and they lose their way as they become stagnant. For others, they continue to aspire excellence and they seek leadership positions to have greater impact. In both instances, if someone only sees their impact from their point of view then you truly never know how your actions, efforts and attitudes are impacting others. We must see our current reality through others.  This blog post takes a look at both WHY it is important to get feedback from others and HOW that has been done to give some possible ways you can incorporate this into your work.

Why important to see your impact from other points of view 

  • Our roles are not performed in isolation but rather as part of a collective whole.  If we want to see how our work helps others, then we must seek input from those we serve.
  • When we involve others in our reflection or review of our work, then it serves to provide greater purpose moving forward. We are better together.
  • How do you measure your impact if you don’t see how it impacts others?  We must look for trends in quantitative data, listen for qualitative viewpoints and determine if you are moving the needle in the right direction. If a leader’s job is truly serving others, then you must look at data from several points of view including whole school, specific levels and individual growth in others.  

How to get Feedback from others to see the current reality

In my role as a Principal, to help me see the current reality of my work then I must get feedback from everyone I serve. This includes the students in our school, the staff I work with to support and the parents/guardians I partner with to support their children.

  1. Feedback from students to see their reality – Within our daily bell schedule, prior to COVID, students had a class period daily that is like a homeroom time that serves different purposes.  I worked with our staff and asked if we could use that time, once a month, so myself and our admin team could meet with our students to listen and learn about their points of view.  Our staff was excited to provide this chance for myself to visit with our students.  We aimed to have around 20 students each month (per grade level) where we could ask 3-4 specific questions to listen/learn about our school vision, academics, SEL and overall school culture.  These questions include those below:
  • What do you want learning to be like in school?
  • What have you enjoyed about this year?
  • If you could change 1 thing about this year, what would it be?
  • Do you have a trusted adult here at school?
  • At the end of the year, how will you know if you had a great year?
  • When do you feel the most successful?

This year with COVID we still aimed to get this feedback but had to do it more through Zoom sessions or google forms. We look forward to getting back to where we can have face to face conversations.

2. Feedback from staff to see their realityI try to do this in 1:1 sessions where I can listen to each staff member and truly listen to concerns or ideas. This also helps each person to feel valued and an important part of our team. If things are too busy, then google forms or small group sessions are used. Here are the types of questions I have asked staff previously:

  • What do you love about our school? 
  • How is this school year and your instruction different than last year? 
  • If you became principal today, what would be your 1st change and why? 
  • How can I support you so that you enjoy being at our school and feel fulfilled as an educator? 
  • In what ways can we utilize your strengths to help others?
  • Do I know and build upon the strengths of those I serve 
  • What is the “clear” vision for learning in our school?
  • What are the few purposeful areas that we are focused on?
  • How do we share openly and regularly to further our own learning and development?

3. Feedback from families to see their reality – This is harder due to everyone’s schedules, but we have offered Parent Sessions for this feedback but we also incorporate into Parent Teacher Conferences when parents come to the building. In addition, google forms are an efficient way to get feedback too. Here are some of the questions we have used:

  • Does your child enjoy coming to school and feel connected?
  • Does your child have a trusted adult?
  • How does the school provide consistent and clear communication?
  • What is our  school’s vision when it comes to student learning?
  • Do you feel like our school provides families opportunities to be involved and a part of the school community?
  • Is the administrative team open to hearing your concerns and working with you on behalf of your child?

Educators must remember that creating positive change must be intentional efforts incorporated in different ways but focuses on the culture within the organization.  This culture and learning about impact can only happen if you intentionally listen to those you serve. This provides the groundwork to either reset the work or provide greater focus to the work moving forward. Leaders must continually identify how to see the current reality from those they serve.  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 “seeing reality through others” as a leader. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

Creating ripples in the water

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We are currently in the middle of the school year so it is natural for educators to find time to reflect upon their efforts. This reflection can be done to determine progress related to goals or just how someone is progressing within their role. In any instance, the reflection helps to identify what adjustments are needed to strive for excellence. In any year, this progress is challenging and in this year making positive change is even more difficult.  Despite best attempts, failures to make a significant difference over time is due to the following for leaders:

  • Too many demands upon their plate
  • Isolation within their position
  • Limited Resources or training for the position 
  • People within their organization resist change 

In this blog post we focus on How to Create Positive Change in an organization which is similar to creating ripples in the water. In the water, if you create a ripple it will continue its progress as it moves outward from the source. Similar to school change, once momentum has started then the positive change started within a group can much easier continue its impact and will grow over time as it impacts others. This positive change can be achieved by focusing on the critical aspect of Culture within the organization. How can we create ripples in the water so that culture within the organization is positive, brings significance to others, adds value to their impact and empowers others to be their best.

Culture within the organization is where you must start and always focus on as a leader to create a ripple of change. This work should include activities with students, staff and parents/guardians. Here are ways leaders can focus to build culture and examples we have used within our school community.

  1. Staff PD – How a leader builds and carries out Professional Development can either add excitement to a staff or it can diminish their passion.  A focused vision that builds excitement around the idea of “growth as educators” can be achieved by ensuring teachers help develop PD and also lead the work. Leaders must work with the teachers to ensure the PD is systematic and builds upon the school goals so there is consistency and it adds values to the teacher’s daily roles.  Some examples of PD that we have used that incorporated staff voice and brought out their excitement to learn and grow includes:
  • Genius Hour sessions incorporated over the course of the year where staff choose topics to learn about and incorporate into their role/work with kids. This included PBL, Blended Learning, how to create Podcasts, Differentiated Pathways etc…
  • Staff Ed Camp sessions where they choose topics to discuss and share ideas.  This had no pre planned ideas but rather focused on staff sharing insights and listening to others.
  • Staff Leading assemblies and work with families that highlighted student work but provided staff opportunities to be part of the endeavors.  This allowed our staff to use some PD as ways to brainstorm how we can create experiences for kids that they have never had and that included leading our assemblies or work with our families.

Every staff member is a leader and if you know their strengths and provide opportunities for each staff member to lead, then it adds value to their work and develops collective efficacy.  Leaders must be intentional about understanding each person, their strengths and what motivates them, and then be creative on how we can have staff help find the passion and purpose with others within their work.

  1. Connecting with others – Leaders must find ways for their staff to spend time with each other to learn, connect and find deeper meaning as educators. We have incorporated the following activities with our staff that connected them together for a shared purpose:
  • Staff Gallery Walk of the building to determine the “hidden culture” that exists by our murals, paintings or slogans within our walls.  When we took time to really take a step back and see what we are about as a school it opened our eyes about what our students see within a day.  This gallery walk was also done as a team builder where groups then presented their findings to the whole staff, so we learned from each other. We also had each group share out what their next step would be to improve the culture of our building so they were part of the solution.
  • Staff Scavenger Hunt or team building activities that incorporate fun and teamwork.  What has helped the most during COVID times is remembering that people come first and if we take care of each other then we can overcome anything.
  • Social outings that provide time for staff to connect as people first, educators second.

It is important to remember that “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected”. When leaders spend time helping their staff to connect together then it will pay dividends as they will be more likely to support each other in their work with students when things are challenging.

  1. Staff Appreciation – Sometimes the most important things may be the smallest and easiest to do. These are things that brightens someone’s day or add value to their work and include:
  • Treat Trolley Cart or Food for staff. A few good snacks can brighten someone’s day and when leaders go around delivering it to staff, it reminds students that we are all in this together.
  • Notes of Gratitude to individual staff members where you celebrate their efforts.  It takes time to write notes but most often, a staff member may forget what you wrote over time but they will remember that you took time to thank them and help them feel valued.
  • Share videos with staff made by students or families as a way to help staff remember the impact. 
  • Visit with staff and listen to their Feedback that relates to your leadership and the work of the school.  
  1. Empower staff to be the change – When we involve others as part of the change efforts they will not only buy into the purpose but be an important reason why success occurs. Here are some ways we have involved our staff to help create positive change.
  • Staff Led Home Visits for incoming students
  • Staff Led Parent Ed Camps 
  • Parent Inclusivity Panels led by staff
  • Student Panels led by staff
  • Student Leadership work initiated by staff

There are many things that can help buildings find success for students in this most challenging year. We cannot forget about our staff too.  Educators must remember that creating positive change must be intentional efforts incorporated in different ways but focuses on the culture within the organization.  Leaders must continually identify how they can build culture that leads to collective efficacy with their staff, students and families.  As a leader, I focus on my students by focusing on the work and culture I provide for my staff. If I take care of our people then they can take care of our students. 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 how you can create “ripples in the water” as a leader for strong culture. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

What is within your grasp

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This past year has seen incredible changes in education and in our society. No one could have predicted what has occurred due to COVID-19 and how it is still impacting us. Educators have been challenged in so many ways, yet also have grown through these experiences. This past year has not been easy on educators but some have found a way to make the best of the situation to support students and each other. In many ways, education is being re-invented right in front of us and leadership is being re-defined. However, this is not true for all educators and leaders. Why do some people have failures but still push forward and find success while others cannot get out of their own way and stay stuck with the past?  I think many leaders ask themselves these same types of questions as they are driven by how they can provide support to others and they want to maximize their opportunities. From my perspective, the importance is knowing “what is within your grasp” for each challenge and then focusing your attention and being intentional with your efforts with those endeavors.

Leaders need to recognize that everything that happens is within 1 of 3 areas:

  1. What is within their control 
  2. What is out of their control 
  3. What is within their influence 

How leaders handle the challenges and experiences they face determines the effectiveness of their leadership. It is important they recognize which area each circumstance falls under.  This determines if they are able to be successful or if they struggle through the situation. Simply put, leaders must recognize “what is within their grasp” so they are not putting time/effort into areas that will not have any impact. For example:

  • If it is within their control – leaders must take responsibility for the action. This includes being honest, vulnerable and authentic with those they serve. Leaders must lead the way through tough situations with their character which is demonstrated by how they handle the situations, the effort they put into the work and how they model optimism. They must communicate clearly and effectively so all stakeholders are on the same page.
  • If it is out of their control – leaders must trust those they support within their system or organization. Trust is one of the most important traits leaders can demonstrate and sharing that they trust those that make decisions in these instances will help those people around them feel a sense of calm and stability so they can focus on their specific roles and the work within it. It may not always be the decision a leader wants, but when you trust those you work with you are demonstrating key character traits such as loyalty and commitment which is needed to be part of a successful team and organization.
  • If it is within their influence – Leaders must be thoughtful and wise to how they handle these situations. We must remember that our purpose is to positively influence and develop others. To do this, we must love those we serve, listen to their thoughts/concerns and then work with them to help find a better way. This includes validating their efforts and helping them feel valued as part of the team. The importance must be placed on collective efficacy or teamwork.

How leaders handle situations and “what is within their grasp”, allows a leader’s influence to grow as they appropriately focus on solving problems and serving others. It also allows a leader to connect with others by demonstrating “what can I give” to others and leading the way with authentic and transformational leadership. Each of the 3 mentioned areas above provides leaders with opportunities to demonstrate who they are as a person and leader, provide the vision for their school and take action through their efforts/actions to support others.

A single person can make a significant difference.  Leadership entails skills that can be developed over time. By understanding “what is within your grasp” as a leader you will be able to be proactive, demonstrate strength in challenging times and yet model the vulnerability that unites people behind a shared vision. True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when you work extremely hard to improve your own learning and that leads to 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. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “what is within your grasp” as a leader. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

Turning the page – how you reinvent yourself

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As we enter the new calendar year there will be many SM posts about “your 1 word”, Hopes for 2021 and much more. These all are valuable and can have impact as it provides Hope as it helps someone reflect, find gratitude and move forward.  As many of you recall from earlier posts, I do reflect often and value this important aspect of leadership. Recently, I was reflecting upon my journey and where I am currently at as a leader and how do I find new opportunities for growth.  I think many leaders ask themselves these same types of questions as many educators are driven by how they can provide support or help others and they want to maximize their opportunities. The challenge is knowing how to turn the page on your leadership journey and how do you reinvent yourself as a leader for continuous growth. I must remember that leadership is a privilege. When someone is in a leaders role, your influence may affect the trajectories of peoples entire future careers (and often their lives).  This blog post shares some insights I have about my own journey and helps me maximize the opportunities I have so I can be the best version of myself as a leader.

Leadership is the moments and experiences you provide for others – The people you serve may remember your PD and style of leadership. But they will remember more vividly all the little things you do for them. How you encourage others, support and inspire them. I must remember to find value in these opportunities that really make the monumental difference for others.  They happen every day and can happen every hour.  Taking the time to listen to someone’s concerns, share a note of praise and just be there for them may be some of the most significant things I can do this year moving forward with those I serve.

Keep the focus on people and family first – In my role there are constant demands to increase academic student performance, respond to emails, complete reports and justify our school goals. I get that these are important but I must remain focused on people first.  Great schools exist because of its people, not because of a singular program, technology or fancy building. I must continue to stay true to people and find ways to value them and what they bring to our school community.  One of the most important things to do is remind your staff that family comes first. I must remember to model this by not emailing staff on weekends (unless absolutely necessary) and giving staff grace when they need to leave a little early to get to their child’s b-ball game, medical appointment etc..

Recognize others and be happy for their accomplishments – I must admit, there are times when I too, do want and need to be validated for my efforts.  It is a basic human instinct.  But I must also remember that I must stay focused on helping others and if I do that then in turn, I will grow too.  I do hope my staff will remember how I encourage them, treat each person in our school like they are important and value their contributions.  It is important to celebrate their wins or areas of growth as that will stimulate further growth and it cements what our focus is on in our building – people and their growth.  As Simon Sinek shares, “Leadership is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in your charge.”

Lead with optimism and fuel it with passion – Leading the work in schools is demanding and in many cases overwhelming with uncertainty, negativity and demands placed upon us.  I must find ways to lead with optimism and fuel that positivity with a desire to help others (which is my passion).  People can sense someone’s emotion and that can either ignite or distinguish their own efforts for growth. The more I can model for others how to lead with positivity and be focused on intentional efforts to grow, lead with vulnerability and lean into conversations then it can help them connect with me in an authentic way.  I must be humble in my confidence yet courageous in my character as I model vulnerability and share my mistakes. This creates a shared ownership or collective efficacy in our work that ultimately will lead to trust.

A single person can make a significant difference.  Everyone has the same opportunities in life. However, some people are content with the status quo, don’t take the time to reflect and are not willing to continually learn.  This blog post shares some of my reflections as I take the next steps in my leadership journey and how I can help others grow. As John Maxwell shares, “Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” It will also help me to remain humble and stay hungry for growth as a leader.  True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when you work extremely hard to improve your own learning and that leads to growth. I encourage all leaders to reflect upon your experiences to help define your next steps. When you can self-analyze your past and what you learned from those experiences, it allows you to focus on spending the right efforts towards building 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

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

How Failures Refine Us To Build Success

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When we think of the concept of a leader, we picture someone who has found success, things come easily for them and they are respected by everyone.  While some of this may be true, in reality many leaders would share with you their journey as a leader has been anything but smooth, has consisted of many challenges and long hours of work. Furthermore, many leaders would share with you they have had more failures than successes.  As we think about this further, why do some people stop growing when they have setbacks while others push forward and continue to strive for excellence.  How do failures refine leadership?  Here are some perspectives and what I have learned from my own failures. This awareness helped me to recognize that “Failure is not the opposite of success. It is part of success.”

  1. Importance of reflection – Trying new strategies is important for growth and most of these resulted in failed attempts.  This has caused frustration and setbacks but over time I have come to recognize that growth doesn’t happen just by trying a new approach but by the reflection of the experience. When we reflect it is natural to think of our setback but we must refocus our mindset on our efforts to improve by recognizing how to be more strategic, consistent in our work and intentional with our purpose.  In any moment, we have 2 options:  we can step forward into growth and lean into our experiences or step back to where we do what we have always done.  Fear is what holds most people back from trying something new. However, the amount of fear is the same in people who are reluctant to try something new and for those that take the steps of change. I encourage you to reflect upon your last opportunity where you tried something new and why it worked or why not and most importantly – what will you do differently next time?
  1. Be the Leader you would follow – Early in my leadership career I was mis-guided about what I thought a leader should be. This included how to behave with others, my approach to situations and my day to day focus. After honest conversations with the staff I served, which was not easy, I recognized I needed to focus on being ME. I strived to be the leader that I would follow if I was a classroom teacher. I focused on my character and how I treat others by being sincere, authentic, admitting my mistakes and leading with positivity. I should always help the other person feel as if they are the most important person in the schoolhouse. I now believe that Modeling is the tipping point and is supported by our listening and communication. Leaders know lots of information but who we are matters more.  How we treat others will be more impactful than any PD or well crafted email that we can send.
  1. Make it about others Having a title is irrelevant in today’s society as any person can be a leader.  Leadership is not about your title but how you empower others and influence their actions and behaviors that lead to growth.  This anonymous quote resonates with me:  “If serving others is below you, then leadership is beyond you”.  There are many long hours of a leader’s job involving deadlines, reports, hours of supervision and endless emails and phone calls. All of these are important parts of the job. But when we struggle to remember our purpose it may be helpful to remember this scenario:  during your first interview for a teaching position remember what you said you were going to do for students as you sat in the interview chair.  You can probably remember that emotion, nerves and excitement that focused on helping others. Those same emotions are what we need to remember about leading others – it comes back to the heart and focuses on others.  There is a quote that John Maxwell has shared many times that inspires me about my work with others: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but rather it’s thinking of yourself less.  If we focus our attention, time and energy by pouring ourselves into others then our influence increases”.
  1. Mindset is most importantLeading others causes many hard conversations. At times, we can get sidetracked on procedures, policies and traditions – these are not bad things but they are not the most significant part of helping lead others. It is our mindset. There will be tough moments but I try to remind myself to never have a bad day but recognize the opportunities we each have in a day to make it special. This phrase by George Corous reminds me of the importance of being optimistic:“Being positive doesn’t mean ignoring the negative. Being positive means overcoming the negative”.  One way to be positive is to show gratitude towards others and build others up. This can be done by handwritten notes, sharing genuine praise and simply listening to someone when they need it.  There are many challenges and some will result in setbacks. This could be angry patrons, staff sharing negative vibes behind your back or others wanting “what we have always done”.  Leaders must remember, when you cannot control what is happening, we must challenge ourselves to control the way you respond to what is happening. This is where you will get your power and motivation from to press forward.
  1. Connect to other leaders – Leadership and Learning are indispensable to each other. Results happen over time, not overnight. You must work hard, stay consistent and be patient. Yes, you can do this alone by reading, podcasting and writing. However, you can go much further if you invest time to connect to other leaders through developing your PLN. Connecting with others allows you to grow in your vulnerability to share failures and experiences, listen to others as they share feedback and apply it to your setting. As leaders continue to grow, they will strive to reinvent themselves and find new ways to stretch their thinking. This results in innovative practices and growth and can be most effectively done by a connected network. This can also positively impact those you serve as when a leader takes risks, then teachers will be much more likely to take risks; resulting in students taking more academic risks too. 

  Everyone has the same opportunities in life. However, some people are content with the status quo, don’t take the time to reflect and are not willing to continually learn.  When you analyze your failures, it helps you to remember the things you have accomplished, your setbacks and what you need to do to continue to grow as a leader.   It helps to make you humble and stay hungry for growth.  True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when you work extremely hard to improve your own learning and that leads to growth. I encourage all leaders to reflect upon your failures as that is part of the growth process in leadership. When you can self-analyze your past and what you learned from those experiences, it allows you to focus on spending the right efforts towards building 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

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve