How difficult experiences shape leadership

 

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Leading an organization is a complex process that involves many tasks. This includes managerial roles, visionary components, budgets, and utilizing resources.  When you consider the aspect of leading people –  the leadership attributes become very different and complex.  School leaders recognize that working with people involve making connections on a personal level, attending to their needs while yet providing the framework to help each person improve. It is a daunting task that leaves many leaders feeling exhausted, worn down and unfilled. Furthermore,  leaders may find themselves not growing from the process and as a result, the organization remains stagnant.

From my perspective, I recognize that dealing with an upset parent or staff member is both important and a routine part of work. Likewise, when staff are not growing then working with them in that area can be challenging.  In addition, dealing with a safety crisis and communicating to the school community is a stressor. However, developing a positive school culture and changing instructional practices from traditional to student centered is also a daunting task over time.  All of these experiences have shaped me and my perspective as a leader. From these experiences, I have learned valuable things from difficult situations and how to use that to grow as a leader. This all leads to the question……..How do you continually grow and develop as a leader?  The answer comes back to learning from  difficult experiences and using that to help shape you as a leader and propel growth.

What I have learned from difficult situations:

  1. Focus on what you can control. 
  2. Model the behaviors you want others to show. 
  3. Make the best out of each tough situation.
  4. Don’t make decisions in a vacuum.
  5. The challenging situation will make you collectively stronger. 

How to grow from experiences

  1. It is important to focus on the process and being reflective upon the work.  
  2. Growth is not automatic so learners must set aside time intentionally for this purpose.  
  3. Growth is what separates those who are successful and those who are not.  
  4. Learners who are growth conscious develop an awareness of how they need to grow
  5. Leaders grow daily

Leaders experience challenges that test them as leaders, but this is how someone matures in their profession.  The challenges also reveal a leaders potential and maturity, both of which are pathways to progress. Leaders may not always make the right decision, but as they reflect they learn from mistakes and recognize that each challenge is a stepping stone for later challenges that will arise that will allow them to be successful. All of the challenges that leaders face help shape and define who they are as leaders.  Each situation provides tests or challenges that determine how committed we are to our organization, reveal our true motive to our work of developing others, how we use resources, and demonstrate our character in how we respond to situations. Leaders will encounter difficult situations in leadership but how a person handles that situation, reflects and grows over time will ultimately determine the leadership impact of an individual.

I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts about how you have been impacted by experiences and how did you use that for positive change.  Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

Learn 

  Engage 

    Adapt 

       Delegate 

         Empower 

           Reflect  

             Serve 

Growth through reflective questions

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As educator’s we strive to grow and improve in our practices over the course of our career.  How we do this varies from one person to the next.  The most important thing is that leaders recognize the importance of growth. In my last blog post we shared 10 areas leaders can focus on for growth in their position.  In this blog post, we want to focus on the types of questions that leaders can use to reflect upon their work/experiences that leads to growth.

As leaders, we must continually have a vision for our growth as well as the school community and the staff we support. It is important leaders develop core principles that set a vision and a process for continual growth.  For me personally, developing core beliefs allowed me to set a vision on being “A Lead Learner that is future driven on helping students, educators and administrators collectively to grow and learn from each other.”  Here are the types of reflective questions that I have used to help develop core beliefs and also reflect upon experiences to see mistakes, avoid blindspots, get feedback from others that allows for revisions to my work process. These reflective questions include those to use daily, over time, to consider other points of view, if we are creating trust and if we are making meaningful change. The questions include:

 Daily Reflection

  • What has challenged you?
  • What has been reaffirmed?
  • What will you do moving forward?

Reflection over time

  • What did I do well this semester?
  • Where do I need to grow?
  • What things will I challenge myself with next semester?
  • How will all of these answers impact the learners I serve?

 Reflection questions to consider a teacher’s point of view 

  • Would I want to be a teacher in my school?
  • Do I consider “What is best for this teacher”?
  • Do I know my teachers passion areas?
  • What are ways we can create a learning community ?
  • How did this work for our staff?

 Reflective questions for leaders if you are creating trust? 

  • Do people often ask me for permission or guidance?
  • Have I created an environment where risks are not only encouraged but expected
  • Have I highlighted the great work being done by our school to others in and outside of the organization?

Questions to reflect if you are making meaningful change 

  • Do I know and build upon the strengths of those I serve
  • What is the “clear” vision for learning in our school?
  • What are the few purposeful areas that we are focused on?
  • How do we share openly and regularly to further our own learning and development?
  • Do our Professional Learning opportunities mirror the learning we want to create for our students?

I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts related to how you use reflective questions to get feedback in your work.  Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

 

10 Areas to focus for Growth as a Leader

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Great schools exist due to its people, but behind every quality school, there is a great leader. It all comes back to leadership. Leadership is a trait that is the topic of many books, blogs, and podcasts and more. In many of these platforms they try to answer the question of “What are the traits that allow some individuals to grow and thrive as a leader?”  In this blog, we identify the 10 areas that allow individuals to grow and strive for excellence.

First, it is important for leaders to understand why growth matters.  As Dave Ramsey shares, “Organizations are not limited by their opportunities; rather they are limited by their leaders.”  This statement resonates with leaders as it helps to understand the significance behind continual growth in our role and in our profession. A leader’s impact is measured by how they develop others. However, to develop others, leaders must first develop themselves.  When a leader grows, then everyone wins.   My hope is the following areas provide a focus to your growth and bring value to you:

 

  1. Mindset – This is pivotal for growth, as someone must understand that growth happens by what you do today, not tomorrow. We must strive to get a little better each day at our craft and how we work with others.
  2. Develop Core Beliefs – An impactful leader has core beliefs that help guide their work and decision making. These core beliefs often come back to their integrity and values. If a leader has core beliefs, then it will make the decision making consistent and support the right work.
  3. Challenge Status Quo – Great leaders set out to make a difference, so to achieve that end then individuals must recognize we must continually ask, “How can we make this better” and “why has it been done this way.” Leaders do not change everything, they change the areas that move the school towards excellence and that support the mission and vision.
  4. Influence Others – As educators develop in their careers they typically aspire to become leaders. This growth pattern allows the individual to recognize at some point that true leadership is not about being the best, but being the best for the team. Leaders focus on developing others and creating sustainable change within their school. A single strong leader cannot take a building as far as a group of committed individuals who have strong collective efficacy. Leadership allows the united efforts of many to come together.
  5. Intentional Efforts – A key to growth and success is the intentional efforts within the work and day-to-day functions of a school. Leaders recognize that they must be intentional with the following:
    1. The rapport and connection for others
    2. Feedback they provide for staff and students
    3. Modeling desired behaviors
    4. Sharing one’s vulnerability
    5. Servant leadership
    6. Building unity and optimism
    7. Communication

The success of a leader is no accident.  It is hard work, intentional efforts, perseverance and being passionate about our work.

 

  1. Reflection – Most educators are very humble people but can be their own harshest critic. This prevents true reflection from occurring more often. However, we must recognize as John Dewey shares, “We do not learn from experience….we learn from reflecting on experience.”  Furthermore, leaders recognize the more reflective they are, then the more impactful they become.  Reflecting should also include at some level getting feedback from others. This allows us to see the blind spots within our own thinking that may limit growth.  The amount and frequency of reflection can vary…but making it a consistent part of your work is essential for growth.

 

  1. Broaden your Learning (Power of PLN) – Leading schools can be an exhausting job and one that is isolating. It is essential that leaders continually learn the most impactful strategies that build their own learning, their leadership, and ways to improve culture and strengthen relationships.  Learning from and with others will allow someone to see different perspectives, listen to new ideas, share your thoughts and all of this propels growth.

 

  1. Model your work (Be Vulnerable) – The most important part of any school are the relationships of its people. The staff and students do not follow a mission statement. They follow a person first and that only occurs when the leader demonstrates the importance of connection through sharing stories and examples that resonate with others.

 

  1. Know your WHY – Leading a school and others can be a balance of many different hats. Without having a true focus, leaders can inadvertently make decisions that do not support the work. If leaders know their “why”, then it allows for greater purpose to your work and helps others to grow, as there is collective mindsets.

 

  1. Positivity – Life and leading a school is challenging work. In many cases, there are negative impacts that leaders deal with daily. Nevertheless, we must remember, we “are the thermostat, not the thermometer.” How leaders act, behavior and interact with others set the tone for others.  If leaders have a positive outlook then others will follow and also have fun and demonstrate their passion. Being positive does not mean ignoring the negative. Being positive means overcoming the negative.

 

In closing, there are no great schools without great leaders.  It just does not exist.  When you have great leaders, then great teachers come, and they stay, they work hard, and they grow too.  For educators, we must strive for growth through the areas mentioned above but recognize that growth is a process and takes time.  As my mentor reminded me, growth is a “marathon, not a sprint.”  I encourage you to use these 10 areas as ways to consider stretching your leadership and propel you forward with growth.   As a leader, it is our moral imperative to strive for excellence for our students and staff.  I learned over time that it was my responsibility for my own learning and growth – so I developed these areas as ones to propel my skills, attitudes and beliefs as a leader.

 

 

I look forward to hearing from you about your reflective thoughts on how you focus on growth and how it applies to your role as a leader.  Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve

 

 

“How do you Build Belonging in your School”

 

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The key to a successful school  year is the quality of relationships within the school and the school community. Great leaders recognize they must continually work on building great culture where everyone in school feels like they belong and the school community feels connected and supports the school.

The question is how is this achieved? While there are many components that lead to everyone feeling like “this is my home”, the one key aspect that is incorporated with these components is how the leaders must model the desired behaviors. Let’s take a look at how this is achieved:

  • Leaders understand the importance of leading with positivity.
  • Leaders are vulnerable with staff and students by sharing stories and examples that connect through emotion and stories. This helps drive continual growth through trusting relationships.
  • Leaders lead with grace and kindness as they are the first to congratulate the hard work of others and also the first to apologize when something does not go according to plan.
  • Leaders find ways to get student voice within the school by having regular “feedback loops” with students to listen to their ideas.
  • Leaders implement methods to support whole child initiatives by recognizing students for great character,  support inclusivity and daily SEL work.
  • Leaders have consistent opportunities to share with parents the work of the school so they are informed.

 

Leaders understand how they treat others and develop an inclusive school community is the foundation of their work. This takes intentional efforts through modeling the desired behaviors and leading with vulnerability.

I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts on how you build community within your school.  Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

 

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Reflect

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Name ONE characteristic of all GREAT middle school leaders

 

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     There are many great middle school leaders that I have been fortunate to work with and get to know through my PLN.  I have listened to them, shared ideas and gained many new strategies/ideas. I am grateful for our connections and I owe so much of my success to their support. As I reflect upon their work, while they have many differences they also have shared qualities as well. One characteristic they all shared is the great leaders recognize “it’s about others, not about themselves.”

     You can call this servant leadership or simply refer to how they focus on others much more than themselves. Great leaders understand that to help drive a successful school, it always comes back to people and how can you influence their behavior, actions and beliefs. This means connecting with them, supporting their work and activities and finding ways to help them grow. This approach is the same mindset for students, staff and parents. This mindset puts a premium on making school a place that people enjoy coming to and celebrating the work together.  They create a school culture that is demonstrated by healthy, positive relationships led by strong teacher leaders that empower students to be the difference. This only occurs because the leaders recognize the importance of developing other leaders and that only occurs with a focused vision on supporting and developing others. As Jimmy Casas shares, “In the end, your legacy won’t be about your success. It will be about your significance and the impact you made on every student, every day, and whether you were willing to do whatever it took to inspire them to be more than they ever thought possible.”

I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts regarding the one common characteristic of middle level leaders.  Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

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Empower

Reflect

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ONE characteristic of all GREAT middle school teachers

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     Successful teachers are those that build strong relationships, personalize learning, use effective strategies and help kids learn at high levels. How this is achieved will look different depending on many factors such as the grade level, building needs and school community. However, the one common characteristic that is shared by these great teaches is their “Focus or intentionality”.

     This focus or intentional work allows teachers to maximize their interactions with others, be efficient with time and supports the right work. They operate from an understanding of their core beliefs and how it supports their “why”. Teachers must make so many decisions within a day, so this focus is what allows someone over time to continue to grow as a teacher leader and impact others.  It starts with connecting with others, building relationships through trust, using researched based practices but then also reflecting and growing as an educator. This only happens from a focus on getting better each day. 

I would encourage each of us to consider “what is your focus” or how do you spend your time?  This answer will tell you how you are maximizing the limited # of opportunities that exist to help others strive for excellence. 

As you strive to learn and stretch yourself as a leader, I would be curious on what you view is the common characteristic of all GREAT middle school educators.   Reach out to me with comments at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

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Empower

Adapt

Delegate

Engage

Reflect

Serve

 

 

“Who is your Go To Person”

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For every great leader, a mentor pushed that person into their current reality. I have recognized that is is vital for growth to have a “go to person”. However, when I asked myself that question I recognized that is has been many people and those experiences that I would define as my “go to people.”  So not 1 individual person but rather different people over time from a varied of experiences. When we think of “who is you go to person”, my core beliefs and decision making practices developed from a combination of experiences and individuals.  This has been pivotal in my development and from my perspective; here is why a group of mentors is so essential:

 

  • Learning from others increase greater capacity for growth
    Leadership is influence upon others. You must find time to consistently learn latest strategies, reflect and challenge the status quo. You can learn in isolation, but you have greater capacity for growth when you have multiple people with different perspectives and experiences to learn.
  • It Provide multiple opportunities for reflection
    Having an extensive PLN provides a platform where you get feedback from others.  They can share different strategies that you can consider for next steps.

 

  • Growth is not automatic but connecting with others becomes intentional practices.  Leaders have very busy lives filled with a variety of tasks, but when you have “go to people,” it provides daily practices and time set aside to reflect and challenge your thinking.  Growth is what separates those who are successful and those who are not. It takes time to grow and when you have a PLN pushing you, then you will develop over time as a leader. 

Having a “go to person or people” is critical in any person’s development as it provides capacity for growth, reflection and intentional part of your work.

I look forward to hearing from you about who is “your go to person”.  Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve