Make 2020 Great – Focus on What You Can Control

 

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     As we enter 2020 and we are halfway through the 2019-2020 school year, it is important that all leaders take time to reflect upon their work.  Leading the work in a  school is a demanding job. Above all the mandates, reports, communication, and various work that must be done; leaders recognize their primary role is to help lift others up and provide the capacity to grow. However, leaders have found that they must also and should balance the demands of the professional world with their personal life.   This never ending demand for your time, energy and focus places stress upon leaders – so it is important leaders must recognize the key to a great year is to “Focus on What You Can Control”. 

     From my perspective, when you think about what you can control in your daily life there is very little. We cannot control other people, the phone calls or emails we will receive or the situations that we encounter daily. In reality, a person can only control 3 areas of their daily life. We can control our Efforts, Attitudes and Behaviors.  If a person can focus on these three key areas and do this consistently then they will find they are making greater impact, being consistent in their work, developing others and creating sustainable change. Even more important, a leader will feel more grateful, happy and optimistic about their impact. Here is a review of why these three areas are important and how it can help you move forward as a leader:

  1. Attitude – If a person has a positive outlook and approaches each situation with a “get to opportunity” instead of a “have to” it creates a focus and mindset that allows for success. This places the mental approach of the work in a positive light and focuses the challenge as opportunities for growth. This leads to optimism and instills confidence in the leader and others. As we all know, leaders set the tone, and if leaders have a positive attitude and lead with a positive intent then so will the staff. We must also recognize that at times we will fail if we try to challenge the status quo and innovate. In those instances, remind yourself that the failed attempt does not define you; but rather it refines you and your work. It is important to use a growth mindset, reflect upon the work and adjust to continue to strive for excellence.  Your daily work ethic and commitment to the process is what will determine success.
  2. Efforts – The tipping point to change is how leaders model behaviors by their work ethic.  Many people work hard but leaders work extremely hard and focus that effort in the correct areas. Leaders place emphasis on doing the right work and choose to spend their efforts during a day that will impact others. Leaders are selfless, model vulnerability, connect with others and create relationships.  The focal point of these relationships include being grateful, kindness and serving others. This allows others to feel supported, places value on feedback and reflection, and creates a strong team by developing trust. This helps to support a positive and strong school culture.
  3. Behaviors  – Leaders understand that how they Communicate and Collaborate with others will ultimately determine their success.  This communication focuses on instilling confidence in others, listening to ideas and supports them as learners and over time changes the thinking and behaviors in others. As an organization, the communication remind others of their purpose or “why” and values a strong partnership. The collaboration is essential as well as leaders know it is not about them but rather creating the strongest team possible.  When decisions are made, leaders involve others in that process and help create a school that is student and staff led, not top down. This strong culture is created by empowering others, developing trust and occurs by behaviors that are consistent and authentic.

     Leadership is about empowering others, bringing out the greatness in others and serving others. By focusing on what we can control through our attitude, efforts and behaviors then we can maximize our impact as leaders.  As you strive to grow as a leader, I would be curious about your thoughts of what you consider the right work and how you focus on what you can control in 2020. Reach out to me with comments at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

Learn

Empower

Adapt

Delegate

Engage 

Reflect 

Serve 

 

Everyone Needs a Champion

 

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A leader knows that to make positive change they must be committed to growth. This growth includes helping others and the school community get better over time. This involves hard work, dedication and doing the right work.  Most importantly, it is about serving others. You have to care more (give a little more time, effort and energy) to move the needle. This involves being committed to:

  • Creating the right environment for the students and staff to thrive
  • Making the tough decisions the support the work
  • Developing the strengths of others 
  • Doing whatever it takes to help others be the best they can be. Leaders find ways to extend themselves to others and go beyond the expected.  
  • Being the foundation of consistent, calm presence in the face of adversity. 
  • Caring about the work you do, surround yourself with people who care, show your team you care and build a team that cares about one another.

Doing this work is a challenge and then coupled with doing the daily tasks can be unsurmountable.  Leadership is extremely hard work and can wear you down despite being passionate to develop and improve the conditions for others to grow. Leadership is also a lonely position that is isolating as typically you are the only leader within your building.  To prevent this negative part of leadership, many leaders recognize the value of finding like minded colleagues through PLN that lift them up. This connection allows vulnerability, sharing of ideas, admittance of mis-steps and learning from others as part of the work.  When you have others who serve as your champion, they celebrate your successes, efforts and help you stay the course of the daily grind that leaders face. While experience is still the best teacher (reflecting and learning from failures), having other leaders recognize you and give you “shout-outs” is valuable to your growth as well. I encourage leaders to take some time and recognize those leaders who have helped them drive for continual success.  Leaders recognize the value of serving their staff and students, but sometimes we do not serve other leaders and the ones that helped pushed us and made us better. Serving as a Champion for other leaders does not put an emphasis on success but on being significant in the lives of others. This allows the actions to inspire others towards greatness. This simply act of kindness and validation allows leaders (who are human like everyone else) to receive the support, encouragement and intrinsic motivation to continue to do the right work. Even Leaders need a champion – someone who can be there to say “great job” and “thank you for being the difference”. 

I am grateful for the following leaders who have taken a sincere interest in my work, provided encouragement, shared their personal experiences and gave possible solutions to challenges I was facing. I am better because of these leaders taking the time to be a champion for someone else like me and many others. A sincere “Thank you” to:

 

@schug_dennis

@Tara_Desiderio

@DavidGeurin

@donald_gately

@TedHiff

@MelissaRathmann

@PrincipalFrench

@PrincipalMN

@MrsRackleyCCMS

@Bethhill2829

@posickj

@JayBilly2

@Williamdp

 

True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when leaders work extremely hard to improve their own learning and that leads to an improved school. But being a champion for other leaders is also an important part of leadership as it broadens our impact and helps potential leaders grow into their full potential. I encourage you to take time and Be the Champion for a Leader and recognize them for their work to help you. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

Learn 

  Engage 

    Adapt 

       Delegate 

         Empower 

           Reflect  

             Serve 

 

How do you measure your growth?

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There are many reasons why educators must be continual life long learners and strive to learn new skills. The pace of change within our society and schools makes it a moral imperative that educators learn best practices and researched based methods to help students and staff find success. A part of this learning process is growing yourself as a leader. This requires a great focus, work ethic and passion to improve while making mistakes. I have learned so much about this process from other school leaders and our students. An area that I have spent much time reflecting on over the years is developing a better understanding of how to  “measure your own growth” as a school leader.

Measuring growth is a complex process but is a necessity for school leaders. If we are not growing within our roles as a leader, then our work loses its impact and we are not moving our schools forward. As David Geurin shares a reflective question, “is your school a time machine or a time capsule?” This same type of thought process can be used with leaders and how we either develop over time or stay stagnant. Here are the methods I use to help measure my growth over time:

  • Impact of others as leaders – How leaders develop and grow leaders within their school community is a significant task but also how schools develop over time. If leaders can reflect and see growth in others, then they are becoming more impactful in their work as they are influencing others.
  • Get authentic feedback from stakeholders regarding the work – Too often leaders may feel as if they are making an impact and improving as a leader. While that may be true, unless we ask the hard questions to our students, staff and parents that we serve then we truly do not know the answer. Leaders recognize the importance of sitting down and having 1:1 conversations with staff where you listen to staff concerns and ideas. This similar type of feedback loop can be used with student “feedback loops” and parent surveys or “Coffee with the Principals”.  When others see positive change as a result of your leadership, then you know you are growing within your role.
  • Focus on being Student Driven – Leaders have many thoughts or ideas on how to improve their school, but it is vital that we reflect and recognize “the ideas we implement are more important than the ideas we collect” . These ideas should be student driven – simply meaning developed with students, for students and led by students.
  • Willingness to learn, take risks and fail – Leaders “must be comfortable with being uncomfortable” – that phrase resonates with me and helps to push my thought processes and continually seek new ways to engage our staff, students and parents.
  • Remove your blind spots – Getting feedback is essential for many reasons and one of the areas it helps is to remove the blind spots within your own judgments that may exist unless you get input from others. If we are able to see our mistakes or blindspots, then we are able to adjust and move the school forward at a much more effective pace. 

 

  • Be Intentional with your work – If we want to grow as leaders, then the focus or intentionality of our daily routine will provide the change.  Leaders should ask themselves if their work is intentional in the following areas:
    •  Praise – How you give credit to others 
    • Feedback – Feedback is one of the most important but underutilized aspects within education and is a key to improving.  
    • Communication – When we visit with others, are we listening to their words, both with our own eyes and ears?  We must also be consistent with our messaging and use the same words or phrases with staff-students-parents so there is consistent message.
    •  Modeling – How leaders model their behaviors and actions is the tipping point that determines if others also will use those same behaviors.  
    • Vulnerability – One of the greatest ways to build trust and connection with others is to share your own vulnerability.  

 

True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when leaders work extremely hard to improve their own learning and that leads to an improved school. By reflecting upon “how do you measure your own growth”,  leaders can self-analyze if we are spending our efforts towards the important and right work. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com

 

Learn 

  Engage 

    Adapt 

       Delegate 

         Empower 

           Reflect  

             Serve 

 

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

 

 

Learn

Engage

Adapt

Delegate

Empower

Reflect

Serve