The Impact of Gratitude

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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

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

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

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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

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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

What should leaders Start-Continue-Stop Doing

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Like so many professions, educators get better by learning from others and applying this work to their own craft. It happens in the business world, coaching and within leadership too.  As I study and learn about leadership, I intentionally try to learn from great leaders within the field of education. Recently I was reading the blog by friend and leader Danny Baeur (twitter handle @alienearbud) called 15 Things Great Leaders Do. His read provided a great reflection tool as he interviews, studies and learns from greater leaders from across the globe.  In this particular instance, the reflection upon those 15 traits allowed me to see where my strengths are, be aware of blindspots and understand how to intentionally grow to improve.  Overall this provided me an opportunity to be aware of areas for me to START doing, others to CONTINUE to do and add a few to STOP doing.  This mindset of continual growth and pushing to get better provides the action for positive change. 

Here are the 15 traits that were listed that great leaders do  (I put into my own words)

  1. Invest in self
  2. Put things into action 
  3. Work in their strength zone
  4. Serve others – not please others
  5. Daily habit – start it right
  6. Journal your findings
  7. Communicate the vision
  8. What type of feedback are you giving to others
  9. ALL means ALL for every student
  10. Develop others
  11. Develop your EQ (the ability to control your emotions and read others emotions)
  12. Express gratitude
  13. Choose your mindset
  14. Collaborate with others that will allow you to influence others
  15. Re-energize self 

While having a list like this is helpful, it will not make any impact unless you take the time to reflect upon your strengths, become more self aware, and identify how you intend to grow moving forward.  A person could look at the list and identify which areas are your strengths and ones to continue. To help with this, consider asking yourself the following questions in relation to the 15 attributes:

What do I do well?

What do I want to do?

What do others say I do well?

What do I do as an area of strength that I can keep getting better at in the position/role?

What skills or experiences am I learning in my role?

Who am I developing within the role?

What makes me happy?

What do people need from me daily that they may not want to ask me for?

What can I work on that will help me serve people better?

How will I know that I am serving people well? 

The answers to these questions will help you identify areas to continue to do and even some to start doing.  It is just as important to recognize you must stop doing some things as well as the quality of your time/focus is more important than the quantity of what you focus on. As we all recognize, leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.  But to lead others we must lead ourselves first. Once you recognize attributes that are your strengths please be mindful the best way to grow is to continually stretch yourself within your strength zone. That is where you can gain the most as a leader as you will continually grow and it is what will separate you from others.  I encourage you to take this a step further and identify what you can start-continue-stop in all facets of your life as this allows you to have a better balance as a leader.  The chart below shows how to think through this part of the reflection.

Reflection and how to be Action Oriented within your:

Area StartContinue Stop 
Positional role 
Professional role 
Personal like
Passions or areas of interest

The important thing about reflecting and trying to improve is that it is much more meaningful to write the specific areas  down so it becomes visible to you.  If something is visible on paper or a computer, you can look at it often and reflect upon your work within each area.  

Overall to move forward with your growth:

  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 greatest growth accelerator – ask yourself what do you need to change about your current learning and growth process

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 starts with recognizing how you can continue to grow, what you need to start doing and also what you can stop doing. 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 should leaders start-continue-stop doing” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

Impacting others 

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The phrase by John Maxwell “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less” describes how true leaders can change their environment by their impact upon others.  As I think back over time to the best leaders I have worked with, they didn’t all give great professional learning, not always the most visible and communication was okay. However, what they all did was influence those around them and as a result, had a positive impact upon others and their schools. 

This blog post describes different ways someone can influence or impact others. There are many parts to leadership, but of all attributes most important to sustaining excellence in schools, is the development of others. This is achieved when the leader is intentional with their efforts, focuses on the right work and builds others up by developing their confidence, influencing their actions and behaviors. This leads to an improved effort by staff that collectively builds towards excellence. This is how you impact others and here are the characteristics that are found within those efforts.

  • Integrity

Leaders must be many things to those they serve but the most foundational is to provide the character and values that help drive the organization and its people.  When leaders know what they stand for and what you do is the right work, then it multiplies the significance in others and allows the school to have a solid foundation based on trust.

  • Care for others

Many schools have great equipment and technology. Some buildings even have the latest floor plans with open seating and brand new furniture. These are nice but not the characteristics that move the needle on excellence. When leaders care for others, and put their needs before the leaders, then you are committing to love your people for who they are and what they bring to your school organization.  We all have faults but also strengths. Leaders accept people for who they are, maximize someone’s strengths and value others for what they bring to their role.  

  • Listening 

The next time you are in a meeting with many individuals who are the head of their organization I encourage you to observe interactions.  There are some who will speak first and often, others who are not engaged to the extent they should be and others who are soaking everything in and will share when needed.  Leaders understand the value of learning from others, seeing other perspectives to help understand someone and then making informed comments and decisions.

  • Develops others

The leader recognizes that their efforts and work is 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. The leader sees potential in everyone and makes it their responsibility to connect with others.  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.  Leadership is built on integrity and character but the cornerstone are the people who make that school foundation.

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 “Impacting others” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

Time to turn the page  

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Time doesn’t stand still. That phrase is so true, even though at times in the pandemic it may seem as if it was.  The last few years have been challenging for everyone but it also has shown us the importance of making moments matter, appreciating the small but significant parts of life and taking advantage of opportunities to make them matter most. Those who aspire for growth and want to strive to maximize their leadership, recognize the importance of continual improvement and growth.  This blog post shares my perspective as I have made a career decision as I recognized “it was time to turn the page” and try a new leadership journey. The purpose of this blog is to share the reasoning behind my decision to strive for greater growth so I can become the best version of myself and maximize my leadership journey.

Self Awareness

As a leader you must discover your purpose as this puts all your efforts and focus in the right direction. Self awareness is a critical attribute of leadership. I was reading a book from author John Maxwell and he shared that Leaders must continually ask themselves the following questions that drive self awareness:

  • Am I investing in myself and my growth?
  • Am I contributing to the growth of others?
  • Am I doing what I love and love what I do?
  • Am I investing my time with the right people that continually allow me to improve?
  • Am I working in my strength zone?
  • Is the organization better because I lead it?
  • Have I taken the organization as far as I can take it?

As you become self aware it allows you to stretch yourself in your strength zone and have a greater impact upon others.  This reflection allowed me to greater understand:

  • What I can improve upon tomorrow
  • What do I need to start doing, stop doing and continue doing.
  • How can I help others grow in their craft?

Practicing Quality Leadership

There are many factors that contribute to quality leadership.  Once someone is self aware and recognizes their strengths but also their deficits, then they can also self examine their leadership qualities upon the organization. James Kouzes and Barry Posner shared that there are 5 practices to great leaders:

  • Model the way – This is where you set the example for others by aligning your actions and words to your purpose.
  • Inspire a Shared Vision – You create the future for your organization by together developing the dream and then creating opportunities for everyone to be part of the work.
  • Challenge the process – This is where you seek to improve the school by challenging the status quo and this is done by your daily habits and routine.
  • Enable others to act – This is a critical part to the development of an organization as the work should be done by everyone – not just you. Together we can achieve so much more than in isolation.
  • Encourage the Heart – This is where you must value the people, know their strengths and find ways to allow them to practice and develop their leadership.

As I became more self aware and learned the qualities of effective leadership, then I was better able to understand where I was at in my growth journey and what decisions I had to make to strive for continual improvement.  This type of leadership concepts were utilized in our pandemic as we have strived to help our staff help our kids during the most challenging times. The COVID pandemic has definitely provided everyone with opportunities to impact those they serve. When leaders can define reality for others, remind them of their purpose, help them develop a plan, promote teamwork and give hope then the team of people you serve can stay together and achieve greatness.

Growth process

On my desktop computer there is a quote that says “Courageous – The hardest decision you have to make will often lead to the best thing you ever will do”.  I have looked at this almost daily as my self awareness and desire to grow in leadership has reminded me the importance of growth and being action oriented.  To maximize anyone’s growth, you must recognize to:

  • Focus on the journey
  • Mature and develop people
  • It is a lifelong commitment
  • Recognize you must take responsibility for your own growth 

These reflections led me to stretch myself and take on the process of interviewing and being selected to serve a new building next year. While I am bittersweet about leaving the people I currently serve and worked so closely with, I also recognize that this decision will help lead to greater growth for me and my team is well prepared to lead without me.  As I plan the next steps of change, I recognize that for the staff I will lead, I must remember the following about the transition from 1 leader to the next: it all comes back to people, building relationships and strong culture and creating great moments together.  This includes

  • Reminding them of their purpose as educators
  • Sharing with them the pace of the work
  • Showing them the path or how the work will be done
  • Describing how each person has a part in the work.

Educators must remember that nothing is easy. In fact, if you want to create a difference then you must be willing to take ownership for your growth plan .This can be done by understanding some of the challenges you are facing, be self aware, reflect upon your leadership work and then decide your next steps. To grow over time,  leaders can focus on specific strategies and understand what is within their control so efforts and time is spent in the right areas. 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 “Time to turn the page” so you can have your greatest impact. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve