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

Adversity…Do we Go Through it or Grow through It

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The current school year has put a burden and responsibility upon educators like no previous year. The responsibility is from the typical challenges of working in a school setting including personalizing learning for students, responding to student needs and the increased workload. The burden is a result of educators feeling like they must give more to others then take care of themselves and find ways to connect with students and colleagues in difficult times.  This has resulted in adversity and challenges that create a “fork in the road” for educators. Each individual, at some point in the year, will come to a realization that they can either find ways to go through this year till get to May/June or be innovative and demonstrate grit to grow through these experiences. If you are reading this blog post it demonstrates that you are someone who cares, gives extra effort and seeks to grow and maximize their opportunities as a leader. This blog post takes a look at some of the challenges leaders are facing, the impacts it is causing upon their role and suggests strategies to grow through these difficult times to become even more of a transformational leader.

Some of the challenges leaders are facing within their roles include:

  • Decision Fatigue 
  • Emotional Exhaustion 
  • Time spent on Management vs Leadership principles  
  • Being on 24/7 and responding to emails and phone calls

We all understand why these items are occurring with COVID, but the significance is the impact it is causing upon a leader’s role. It has created Barriers to Excellence that include

  • Lack of consistent and clear communication
  • Lack of Trust 
  • Inability to adapt 
  • Lack of Visibility
  • Lack of Action Orientation or improvement 
  • Isolation

Leading within schools is busy with new aspects added to our plates like contract tracing, covering for shortage of workers in para positions, kitchen staff, and custodial support. As a result, our workload has increased and taken on even greater capacity that is limiting our impact upon those we serve.

But the good news is that anyone can choose to grow through these difficult times and not just make it through till the end of the year.  It is important to “focus on things we can control” that specifically includes using the following strategies within your role:

  1. Importance of your daily routine.

How someone takes care of themselves, focuses on the most important resource (our people) and manages their priorities is essential. Leaders should ask themselves when determining how to prioritize their decisions if the item is either:

  • Important but not Urgent
  • Important and Urgent 
  • Not Important but Urgent
  • Not Important and not Urgent 
  1. Lead with your feet by being visible.

During these tough times the staff and students will ask themselves “what is the leader doing”.  Taking the time to visit with people, listen to their concerns or ideas, being positive and leading the way with your behaviors helps those around us feel a sense of comfort and calm.

  1. Keep a strong and healthy school culture.

It is not always easy to lead daily and that is ok. When leaders lead with authenticity and are transparent with their staff, it helps everyone feel a sense of unity and togetherness.  That is the healthy part of culture.  A strong culture is developed by incorporating fun and engaging activities/traditions with opportunities for staff to share ideas, express concerns and help lead the work.  This empowerment develops into a healthy culture.

  1. Communication must be adapted to meet the needs of others.

People look to school leaders for answers. That reflects the important role of educators and the trust our society has in schools. Communication is an important part of keeping schools as a central and integral part of our communities. Communication can be effective when we focus on:

  • Communication that is timely
  • Communication that is clear and straight to the point
  • Communication that connects to the heart of people
  • Communication that provides the next steps or vision moving forward

Within your profession as an educator and leader, it is important to remember the importance of 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. 

Educators must remember that nothing is easy. In fact, if you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only go through tough times but find ways to grow through difficult experiences.This can be done by understanding some of the challenges you are facing and then the barriers it creates in your work.  To grow through this year, 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 “Adversity….Do you Go Through It or Grow Through It” 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

Leading in unprecedented times 

As we near the midpoint of this 2021-2022 school year, I have been reminded by just how challenging and unpredictable this year has been.  This leads to many people asking questions to school leaders about why this year is hard yet also expecting more from students/staff than ever before despite unprecedented shortages of staff, hardships and lack of resources.  Everyone wants what is best for schools but often few understand the challenges of leading staff during these challenging times so that the educators can be their best for students to support their academic learning, connections and SEL growth.  These challenges help me to remind myself that we are leading in times that have never been seen before but leadership is what makes the difference.  As I reflect upon the work of this school year, the following leadership traits are helpful if leaders apply to their work and the skills leaders need to use with others.

Leading Self 

The following traits are essential for leaders to use within their role during times of complex change, unpredictable changes and external negativity.

Humility and Grace – We must be humble and not put ourselves at the center of the thinking but rather focus on those we serve. Ask ourselves for others what their needs are, what support they will ask for and how we can connect with each other. As John Maxwell has shared, the definition of humility is “not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less”.  At the same time, it is important to give yourself grace as you will not have all the answers.  The key is not having all the answers but developing the right questions that will develop solutions.

Be Flexible and adaptable – While it is important to prepare to lead, we must be ready for changes and when it happens, then embrace it.  Our mindset of how we handle adversity is critical to support and lead others as they will look to you for guidance.  Adaptability is one of the most essential skills for our times and leaders must model this for others. To be adaptable, keep your core values or principles in mind and model the way for others.  When we connect with others and lead with our core then others will trust our actions. This will allow the pivot to be effective if significant adaptations must occur.

Connect with others and have conversations – No single person has this figured out.  It is just not possible. As a result, an important part of leadership in uncertain times is to connect with others, listen and ask questions. Learn from others and determine what can be applied to lead your organization. Find ways to connect with those that will challenge your thinking, give different perspectives and accelerate your rate of growth. Be a learner, a listener and understand everyone has something of value to share. Great leaders are learners first and always.

Importance of Reflection and Action – When you think of great leaders there are a few common traits they share. One of these is the importance they place on reflection.  They use this to learn from their experiences, understand mistakes and adjust for greater growth.  However, reflecting alone will not move the needle. Most important part is then putting that learning from the reflection into practice by action.  Hope doesn’t create change, action does.  Leaders understand the importance of innovation or trying something new to create better results and they are willing to take that risk.

Leadership Skills to use within your role with others

The following skills embedded within your work with others will allow others to be valued, empowered, connected and feel the sense of purpose to drive continual change.

  1. Relationships – This should always be the most important focus area of any leader as the quality of your relationships will determine your level of influence and impact.  Helpful reminders to use, especially during unprecedented times:
  • Model the type of behaviors you seek to create in your school organization. 
  • Be authentic with others .
  • Maximize your staff by playing to their strengths and empowering them to lead in those areas.
  • Use face to face communication as much as possible.
  • Your behaviors and integrity are more important than any strategy.
  1. Communication – If Leaders succeed or fail in many ways is due to effective communication or lack of it. It is important that leaders communicate clearly the vision to staff, be proactive with communication and are consistent.  The authenticity and how sincere the message is shared often determines the success of communication.
  2. Build Culture – Relationships are the foundation of a great culture. However, culture is also how people act and their behaviors towards others. Leaders set the tone for the culture and how a leader treats the staff is typically how the staff will treat students.  While Leaders cannot control other people, we can control how we respond with our words, actions and emotions. We need to model positively, kindness and the mindset of “all in for kids”.  We must be the “thermostat” and set the tone and climate within our organization.
  3. Visibility – This is probably the most important to staff and parents. Leaders need to be in the classroom to see the teaching/learning to understand how to support teachers and get to know the passions of its students. School events are a great opportunity to get to know parents and have authentic conversations with them and allow them to see you as someone who cares about their child and the school.  The beginning of each day at car line or bus drop-off also presents another opportunity to greet students and start their day with energy and feeling supported at school
  4. Challenge the status quo – This is very difficult as leaders have so much on their plate then how do they find time to improve themselves and their organization?  It comes back to your daily discipline and being a learner first. This simply means to stay humble and hungry to always grow as a leader and think about what they can do for others to help create a better version of the school.  Leaders must model their innovative thinking and be comfortable when teachers try new approaches and it does not work.  But providing that framework of “let’s try” and supporting teachers will allow the narrative to always focus on “how can we do this better for kids”.  Educators must also be “connected” learners, simply meaning learning from others in and outside your organization as that provides the spark for many innovative ideas!  To drive continual change, leaders must be aware of not asking too much of staff so that they don’t feel overwhelmed while applying enough tension or need for change so there is a continual push to get better.  This balance for a leader is what I like to refer to as “push n pull” as sometimes we must allow the rate educator improvement to be their empowerment and at other times help initiate or pull the improvement. 

True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when you work extremely hard to improve your own learning and that leads to an improved school. I encourage all leaders to think about how they can grow from the items mentioned above and how that will put your school organization in a position of success. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better.  Leading in unprecedented times we must be willing to let go of what we have done to pursue an unknown better.  Growing as a leader can only happen if you intentionally spend time looking at your mistakes, learning from experiences/others and then adjusting to your work.  We owe this to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand your role and “Leading in unprecedented times” and what will give you the greatest impact. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

Walk Slowly Through The Crowd 

It seemed just like yesterday we started this school year and now we are several months into the 21-22 school year. In a few months we will be entering the final quarter of this school year.  That is how fast, at times, it feels like the school year goes. I believe this comes back to how busy leaders are, the vast amount of workload and how vested we are in striving to help others.  As I reflect upon the last few months a little closer, I have been perhaps the busiest I have ever been in my 26 years in education, but I don’t want to miss out on great opportunities to build connections with others, develop others and make a positive impact upon the school I lead. I believe the answer lies in that I must remember to “Walk Slowly Through The Crowd” and have the mindset to slow down at times to focus on the right work with others. As I reflect upon this idea, I recognize that I can do better and I must do better if I truly want to help make an impact in the busiest year yet. 

Leading within schools is busy with new aspects added to our plates like contract tracing, covering for shortage of workers in para positions, kitchen staff, and custodial support. As a result, our workload has increased and taken on even greater capacity.  However, as I reflected that being “busy” at times doesn’t always mean we are being more productive. We must find ways to slow down and have meaningful connections with others.  Where this occurs may be at carline drop off -pick up, monitoring lunch for students, walking through the halls during passing periods or just finding yourself going into classrooms to observe teachers working with students. There are multiple opportunities that leaders have and we must capitalize on Walking slowly through the crowd as it provides the following impacts:

  1. Leadership is developed daily…..not within a day.  

As a leader our behaviors, actions and words matter.  As John Maxwell has shared, most humans learn from experiences and interactions as research shows 70% of what they learn is visual or through experiences (remaining is 20% from mentoring and 10% from formal training or reading). So if a leader is visible and interacting with others it gives you a greater opportunity to model the culture you desire to create in your organization and connect with others. It also allows you to be more aware of potential barriers or issues that you can help find solutions for.

  1.  “Where your focus goes, your energy flows”

This quote was said by Tony Robbins. For leaders, it is very easy to get caught up in handling the management of unfilled subs, covering classes, dealing with Tik Tok Challenges and student behaviors. This is important and at the moment they must be handled. However, if that is where we spend all of our energy and efforts daily…..then how will you be helping your building over the long term move forward with instructional work or building culture ?  The answer is your organization will be stagnant and very little growth will occur.  Leaders must have an intentional focus on how they can help their buildings improve to help students. This is reflected by your intentional energy you put into leading staff professional learning, leading with clear communication and connecting with others so you develop them as leaders.  These are the things that will make a difference.

  1. Develop others so they multiply the impact

When you walk slowly through the crowd you can help others as you learn their strengths and how they can develop as leaders while increasing the impact upon your organization.  If you can spend some time working with others, you will increase their confidence by listening to them, walking with them or model how things need to be done and support them as they lead endeavors.  On the front end, this will take a little time but over the long haul they will start to carry more of the workload and be able to have a broader impact for your organization.  

  1. How you treat others matters

People understand leaders are busy – they get it. But they also will remember when you stop and listen to them, take that phone call on a Friday night at 5:30 p.m. or respond to an email late at night. We cannot do everything, but we can place people at the forefront of our decisions and actions.  How we lead with character, kindness and empathy is important. Leaders are not perfect, we will make mistakes. Own up to your shortcomings or when you are at fault – lead with vulnerability.  But if you lead with a servant leadership mindset it will make a difference. It will allow staff to feel valued, retain them in our building so there is consistency in your staff and school improvement efforts. For students, this is important as they will develop a sense of trust and connections and from that foundation greater learning can occur. As a parent, I feel a sense of calm knowing that a leader cares about my children and that increases my engagement in the school.  That is what I aspire to create for conditions for my parent community.

Educators must remember that creating positive change must be done with intentional efforts that transform the organization with a focus on the culture, learning and leading people. This can be done by Walking slowly through the crowd as our daily efforts matter, energy is in the right work, we develop others and we treat others with respect/kindness.  Growing as a leader can only happen if you intentionally spend time looking at your mistakes, learning from experiences/others and then adjusting to your work.  It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand how when you “Walk Slowly through the Crowd” as a leader you can have your greatest impact. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

The Dangers of Leadership

Leadership is a constant but is most commonly recognized by others during change processes or big events. Leadership occurs daily in the simplest moments. Leaders are always “on” as they must respond to staff, situations and the community. As a leader, you are always putting yourself on the line where others may judge you and challenge your actions and decisions.  The challenge of leadership is that you can build trust and help empower others to make change, or if your actions and decisions are not matching the vision, then you can lose trust and credibility. Leading is hard, really hard but that is also what makes it special.  Leadership growth happens daily over a long time in many different areas as our challenges are continuous and changing.  In this blog post we look at the dangers of leadership and what you can do to avoid these blindspots so you can lead with purpose, authenticity and unapologetic passion to make positive change.

The Dangers of leading others and solutions for each challenge 

  1. The change process

Leading schools means there are times we must embark upon change in an effort to strive for improvement. When this occurs, the process requires others to change their attitudes, their values or behaviors. The deeper the change then the greater the amount of new learning and resistance that will come.  As leaders drive the change process they do put themselves in a position where they will face dangers.  These dangers include where others try to marginalize you,  divert your work, attack your character or try to provide special appeals that cause you to lose focus in your work.

Solution

As a leader you lead or are involved in the work. But at times, you must step back, observe the process and then get back in the middle of the work to make necessary adjustments.  Here are some helpful strategies to safeguard against common leadership traps including:

  • You must identify what type of challenge you are facing. Is it a challenge that requires readjusting plans or a much harder one where people function within the team is dysfunctional and must be addressed and fixed.
  • Find ways to measure the progress along the way so adjustments can be made if necessary.
  • Listen to the people and their concerns.
  • Read the behaviors of your superiors to determine if they still support your work.

Leaders must have a vision and a plan, but you cannot script from moment to moment what happens. We must adapt to the circumstances. I think this past year and a half has provided everyone with an example of this situation. However, leaders can navigate through these hurdles by using your credibility, leading with character and modeling competence.

  1. Leading in isolation 

Typically in a district there is 1 Superintendent and within a building there is 1 principal. The way we structure our systems almost puts oneself in a position where you are isolated.  If you lead in isolation, you are putting yourself in a situation where you are not aware of your own blindspots.  This can lead to uncertainty from others, inaccurate information or miscommunication.

Solution

There is  importance in finding accountability partners as they can provide protection and help create alliances that support your work.  When you work with others, it is important we model the calm, visionary approach and intentional purpose to our work.  We do this by: 

  • Accepting responsibility for your part in the mess.
  • Acknowledge to others that during a change process there will be some loss of what we have known in the pursuit of a new and unknown better. 
  • Model the calming and positive behavior so others will follow you because they trust you as you model competence in your actions and character in your decisions.
  • Accept that there will be some individuals who won’t join the cause but together we will stay united in pursuit of a new better.
  1. Empowering others but they lead in a different way

There has been much research shared about the importance of empowering others. But what happens when they lead in a way that you disagree with or take away from the purpose of the work. Despite your best efforts to help groom others for this purpose, we must provide them the opportunity to lead as not only is shared leadership the best way to improve an organization but it also helps others to grow. 

Solution 

  • Create a trust with those you work with so you can help tackle the challenges together.
  • Be a thermostat and control the temperature of the process by applying tension, and at times reducing the tension, in response to what your staff needs.  This means in many ways you can lead “from the side” and apply or reduce the tension appropriately by adjusting timelines or expectations.
  • Pace the work so it is consistent without too many interruptions. Also provide points of feedback with those that are leading so it is natural and the work can be adapted without damaging the overall plan.
  • If you have trust with the individuals, don’t hesitate to sit down and have a real conversation.  Remember that as you grow in your leadership your desire to lead must be greater than your desire to be liked.  Leaders must have honest conversations and that may mean sharing difficult news with a colleague.
  1. The Hurdles of change process takes the purpose away

Leading others and the change process has constant interruptions and new challenges. You cannot predict these as COVID, Budget implications, new societal trends, and all change the work and scope of the process.  No one can predict these unannounced challenges, but the key is how we respond.

Solution

  • Leaders must be steady in the change process and keep people focused. At times this will involve taking the heat but the leader must help others keep the focus of the work at the heart of the decisions. This can be achieved by sharing perspectives and stories to help people remember their purpose.
  • Leaders can help everyone know the importance of  how we must find a balance in our lives. We must assess the current reality, engage those in our working environment and we must pay attention to ourselves so we have a good balance so we can give our best to others. 

In the past several years, the school I serve has adopted a new bell schedule, developed a new mission statement, gone to a 1:1 student device rollout, switched to a student centered approach that moves us away from traditional practices and now we are renewing our work with PLC’s and formative assessments. In addition, we have had to learn how to deal and work with COVID and its impacts.  We have definitely been working through the change process.  This concept of understanding the dangers of leadership has allowed me to maintain a balance, importance of getting perspective from others to avoid blindspots or negative pushback.  Leadership is hard work, almost to the point currently where very few people will be able to have sustained leadership work over many years due to the many negative impacts. Leadership is all about influencing the staff you work with while continually trying to improve. This requires change and in our current reality, the change is accelerating. 

Educators must remember that creating positive change must be done with intentional efforts that transform the organization with a focus on the culture, learning and leading people. This occurs when a leader understands the dangers of the leadership journey. Growing as a leader can only happen if you intentionally spend time looking at your mistakes, learning from experiences/others and spend time stretching yourself within your strength zone.  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 “Dangers of Leadership” as a leader within your journey. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

How to play the game

The start of the 2021-2022 school year is here.  Hard to believe what all educators went through last year and now we are ready to tackle the challenges of another school year with new obstacles.  Or, are we ready?  It is important that leaders understand how to play the game as far as leadership journey as it is never ending.  In this blog post we take a look at what aspects allow leaders to continually grow over time, not just within one school year or position.  Leadership growth happens daily over a long time in many different areas as our challenges are continuous and changing.  Yes, leaders recognize that they ultimately must help others grow and develop, but they must first grow themselves that then leads to organizational growth. Continual improvement as a leader combines reflecting on past experiences and mistakes, but then using that to learn so it can be applied moving forward to your professional and positional growth with a mindset focused on visionary and innovative practices.

How to play the game of leadership 

Some fall into the trap of thinking once they get a certain position or title they have arrived.  They believe that others will respect them for simply that role, their ideas and others will automatically do things they say to improve the school organization.  There may also be instances where some leaders get focused on the wrong things that distract or take away from the important parts of leadership that previously allowed prior success to occur in the first place.  So what are the components of the leadership journey that one can use to play the game so there is continual improvement for the school focused on the right things?  These are big picture items that one must keep in front of you at all times and use as a guide to your decisions and incorporate with your core values as a leader.  

  1. Vision focused on continual improvement

Most educators recognize culture is important, but it is the MOST important part of successful schools.  Culture represents the cumulative effect of all the behaviors of the students/staff and parents. In other words, it is how the school operates. It is also one of the hardest areas to develop or enhance as it takes time and is a process.  Any educator will have setbacks or tough moments but the culture will support one another and a positive culture will keep everyone “rowing the boat” in the same direction even in the most challenging times. Leaders must take responsibility for their building’s culture and lead by modeling patience, grace and flexibility. Culture is a part of the vision of leading others. Leaders must help their school community define and keep their vision at the center of their decisions.  As society is rapidly changing, so is the rate of change for schools. This may lead to some schools changing their goals or work frequently until they find “what sticks.” Great schools know their purpose and remain consistent with their work – they simply focus on getting better within those areas over time. WIthin this work, they remain INTENTIONAL and have a laser like focus that starts with culture.  

  1. Build trust and relationships with People

The purpose of schools is to help ALL students learn at high levels and develop key content learning, skills and dispositions. This occurs when leaders focus on supporting the people who work directly with the students – both the teachers and families. Great schools recognize the importance of engaging families and creating ways to get them into the building so they feel connected to the school, share ideas and concerns, support the work of the school and help drive a positive culture. Leaders also recognize the importance of supporting staff so there is Shared Leadership.  A great principal can have a positive impact upon a school, but when the principal develops other leaders then there is a multiplier effect.  The more leaders you have then the more ways your school moves forward and meets the needs of students who have diverse needs.  It allows the school to function at a much higher level as more staff are “focused on becoming the best for the team, not the best on the team.”  Building trust takes time but leaders can do this by leading with character (how they treat others) + competence (how well they lead others) and being consistent with their practices.  This allows staff and families to trust the leader and help support the work so everyone is focused on the same purpose.

  1. Learn from other leaders who push you to get better

Educators who grow into impactful and great leaders recognize the importance of connecting with others. They recognize that they do not know it all – they are vulnerable and have a willingness to admit that they can learn from others.  I read recently where John Maxwell shared “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”. So as a leader, if you are not connecting to other like minded educators who are humble about their work but yet hungry to improve and passionate about learning then you have put a lid on your potential. When you connect to leaders who are doing it better, then it stretches your thinking and provides different perspectives which in turn challenges the status quo.  No single person has it figured out.  It is just not possible. As a result, the best way to learn nuggets of leadership and then apply to those you serve is to connect with others, listen, ask questions and see what can be applied to lead your organization. The medium or methods you use to connect to others may vary but remember that who you spend the majority of your time with will determine in many ways your rate of growth – so find ways to connect with those that will challenge your thinking, give different perspectives and accelerate your rate of growth. Be a learner, a listener and understand everyone has something of value to share. While most people fall back to average over time as they lose their purpose, some are fortunate to have Mentors and as a result, continual improvement is at the heart of their journey. This is important as mentors help drive leadership improvement. 

  1. Be able to adapt to changing needs

The last year taught us many things and one of those was the importance of being able to adapt to changing circumstances.  Some do this better than others. When a leader is able to adapt it allows the school and staff/families to have a sense of trust and “we got this” where the focus doesn’t waiver from what is best for kids. Impactful leaders enjoy change as they recognize that is how we improve. In fact, some leaders love the unknown and grow through changes as then it allows the organization to continually improve and focus on the future – not the past.  Leaders create the structure and systems within their schools to allow for this pivot but they lead with:

  • Humility and Grace
  • Flexibility 
  • Learn with others and admit  you don’t know it all  
  1. Lead with courage and vulnerability 

Leadership isn’t easy and at many times there will be people unhappy with your decisions.  Leading others requires that you put yourself on the line. The current society and COVID challenges impacts require leaders to continually adapt but yet provide consistency and sustainability for their organization. This is hard work and at times, we will make mistakes. But leaders understand the hard part of leading is what makes leadership and learning with others great. This mindset is what is needed to create excellence in schools.  Along the way, leaders must incorporate the important aspects of listening, reflection and then action into their work.  We must lead and model vulnerability in our actions. Leaders are able to adapt quickly, know the strengths of those you serve and empower them to help drive positive change within your organization.  Leading others is a passion as it provides meaning and purpose in our life so the leadership journey is well worth the risk.  

Educators must remember that creating positive change must be done with intentional efforts that transform the organization with a focus on the culture, learning and leading people. This occurs when a leader understands how to play the game of the leadership journey. Growing as a leader can only happen if you intentionally spend time looking at your mistakes, learning from experiences/others and spend time stretching yourself within your strength zone.  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 Play the Game” as a leader within your journey. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

The Conversation is the relationship

As we near the start of school I recognize my plate will become overflowing with responsibilities and my time will be very limited.  The start of each school year is always special and enjoyable, even when there are still many unknowns related to COVID, or just the typical start to the year.  As I reflected last week as I enjoyed my morning coffee looking at my calendar already filled with meetings, “to do” lists and much more; I remembered the most important part of the school year will be welcoming our staff back and taking the time to have connections with students and families. Yes, there will be so many demands upon my shoulders but the conversation is the relationship that will put people at the heart and center of my focus and work is most important.  This is always important work but even more so as we try to work through another year with COVID mitigation measures and the varied emotions attached to that topic. Here are some key points to keep in mind why you put people and the conversations with them at the focus of your time and efforts despite a tremendous workload:

  • Administratively we recognize we have many things to do, but culture is most important and it takes time (“Rome wasn’t built in a day”). It will be very important to “go slow to go fast” with your workload and welcome our staff back as they filter back in the buildings by having conversations with each of them, checking in on them and seeing how they are doing. It is with the utmost importance to make them feel like they are the most important person in the room when they are visiting with me. This sincere and genuine time with a staff member is hard during a school year so taking time early before the year starts to reconnect provides the framework for strong relationships.
  • The more I talk with each staff member, it helps me to know them a little more about them including their passions, strengths and how I can help them develop as a leader. More importantly, it helps to strengthen the trust.
  • As we talk, most often staff will share things they have thought about over summer and want to try this coming year.  I love when staff have ideas and I want to make sure they know they have the “green light” to try new ideas when it is good for kids and have invested their time/effort into the work to innovate and improve. This support for their ideas helps to cement the concept of  “I support their work”. I recognize that some of these practices may fail, others may be a win. In the big picture, when you take time to listen to an educator and support their ideas then you are creating the conditions where staff are developing as leaders. As an administrator, I remind myself that my role is “to develop my staff so they can become leaders and leave but to treat them well enough so they don’t want to leave”.
  • Research often talks about data and using results to improve and yes, that is very important. But not everything can be counted as data.  When you take the time to have a conversation with someone it makes them feel like they are part of a team.  You cannot measure gratitude, teamwork and positivity but you can see it and feel it.  So can our kids and parents too.
  • I love walking the building the days leading up to staff returning to see teachers working in their rooms to get ready for the new year.  It provides those moments of authentic conversations with staff that they will remember – when you just popped in to say “hi” and 30 minutes later you left but the words and discussion provided the uplifting feeling and passion for the entire year. Those things don’t happen unless I get out of my office and go to the people.
  • When parents come into the office, that 1 minute conversation with them about their day or how I can help them may seem like a small gesture. But for a parent, they will remember that you took time out of your day to help them. That initial impression is what matters and what they will remember. It creates trust and confidence in you, as the leader, and the school.  That trust is what allows schools and families to partner together to create uncommon experiences for kids.
  • Seeing students in the school prior to the 1st day is always special. Special for educators as that is why we want into this field – to help youngsters improve and find success. For students, those moments when you stop by as you were walking down the hallway to check on them and when you said their name – well it creates a sense of “family” and that school does care about them as a person. The 30 second interaction in a hallway where you stopped to talk to them may be the highlight of their day and give them the reassurance that the school year will be a great one.

Educators must remember that creating positive change must be done with intentional efforts that transform the organization with a focus on the culture, learning and leading people.  This starts with a leader who understands the importance of taking the time to visit with others as the “conversations is the relationship” and provides a focus on achieving excellence together.  The intentional conversations creates the framework for success and builds a solid foundation that all school improvement efforts can rest upon. It also builds trust in our most important school resources – our people.   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 share feedback upon “The conversation is the relationship.”  Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

The Power of Windows and Mirrors

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Summer is here and for educators it provides a much needed rest time and break.  This sacred time is most important for recharge, getting away and reconnecting that maybe isn’t possible during the school year.  Summer also affords itself more time for leaders, where there are less interruptions, to have more dedicated time for intentional thoughts where ideas can be evaluated. I like to think of summer as providing the opportunity to use the Power of Windows and Mirrors where we look back (mirrors) and reflect to help us learn, adjust and plan a vision to look forward (windows).

Leaders recognize that they ultimately must help others grow and develop, but they must first grow themselves. Summer is a great opportunity to spend time on the “mirrors” – reflecting on past years experiences, mistakes, learning from failures so it can be applied moving forward to your professional and positional growth. 

Mirrors (reflecting upon past experiences)

Here are questions I use with others that I serve so they can provide me feedback.

  • What do I do well leading our school improvement efforts?
  • What are areas of this work that need to be improved to support you?
  • How can my communication strategies be improved to better inform you?
  • What are areas where I have challenged the status quo that have resulted in improved efforts within our school and student learning?
  • What are areas that I have blinspots where I am not aware that it is detracting from our efforts?

Learning from my staff, students and parents this late spring this feedback allowed me to understand the following themes:

  • What others say I do well.
  • What do I do that has a productive return for my school community?
  • What do I do that I can keep getting better at.
  • Are the efforts of our work helping  the people I serve improve and be better educators for kids?

I firmly believe as a leader that it is essential to have other like minded educators to learn from and to push my thinking.  I asked my PLN folks and my accountability partners some of the following questions as well as they have seen my innovative and reflective work over a period of time.  This provided much needed insight about my work that sometimes the school community may not fully understand.

  • What should I learn from you?
  • How has failure shaped you?
  • What is your passion and where do you spend your time and effort to grow in that area?
  • What did you do as a leader as far as experiences that I should do as a leader?

Windows (what practices will I put in place moving forward)

The opportunity to learn from others about my work and for me to reflect upon my own work allowed me to further develop my core beliefs. This feedback served as “windows” or things that I must continue to implement as part of my work moving forwards including:

  • Importance of humility and vulnerability 
  • Inspire a shared effort 
  • Leaders model character in their decision making 
  • Communication is essential to success
  • Constant learning and applying it to your role is vital 

These affirmations allowed me then to set goals for myself and involve our building leadership team to set school improvement goals for our school. To help clarify and be intentional with efforts even more, I developed a 30 day x 60 day x 90 day plan for my own growth as a leader and also a plan for leading our school. I highly encourage all leaders to set this type of timeframe as it allows you to be intentional with your time and efforts and have a daily focus on your work. Here are the “window” aspects that I developed for my growth areas from the “mirror” activities:

  • Be intentional with daily habits of learning. 
  • Stretch myself outside of my comfort zone (but within my strength zone) so I can experience maximum growth.
  • Connect with others at deeper levels to ensure we have trusting relationships. 
  • Be courageous in my journey to apply my work to new situations. 
  • Develop others as leaders by:
    • Help others learn what their strengths are. 
    • Help coach others to set goals where they stretch themselves. 

Educators must remember that creating positive change must be done with intentional efforts that transform the organization with a focus on the culture, learning and leading people.  This starts with a leader reflecting upon the past to put strategies in place for the future so there is a focus on achieving excellence together.  Leaders should do this work with others for their organizational growth but they must also do these same practices about themselves so they grow as a leader too. This learning can only happen if you intentionally spend time looking at your mistakes, learning from experiences and spend time stretching yourself within your strength zone. Putting your thoughts down on paper in the form of a 30 x 60 x 90 day plan will provide greater focus to the work moving forward.  It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “The Power of Windows and Mirrors” as a leader. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve