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Principles of Confrontation

Leading people will always be difficult and not everyone will follow. That is natural. It will be impossible to get everyone to follow 100% of the time. People stray. That is in our inherent part of our imperfect lives that we live.

Due to this flaw that is ingrained in all of us, there will always be a time for confrontation in our lives. That could be a confrontation with a spouse (careful guys, this might not work out for you), a family member, friend, or even a colleague. Regardless, confrontation is part of our lives.

At that moment when you know that you as a leader must confront somebody for whatever reason, remember these eight simple steps to help guide you and preserve the relationship.

  1. Be firm – This is important. The other person cannot come away from the conversation thinking that it was a casual conversation between both of you. It is not fair to them and certainly will not get you anywhere.
  2. Affirm all you see that is good – Everybody likes hearing good things. Especially when it is a good thing about themselves coming from another individual. Who doesn’t like compliments? Take this moment seriously and do not berate the individual. Provide them with some good from the conversation as well. It will make swallowing that “pill” ever so much easier.
  3. Be accurate and honest – When you are describing the situation that has to lead you to this confrontation, be as accurate as possible. Also, be honest with them. If it bothered you, let them know that it bothered you.
  4. Know the facts – When confronting an individual, make sure that you know the facts behind their actions. Some people make mistakes and don’t know they are making them until someone points them out. Give them as much feedback as possible in this initial conversation. You will not want to come back later to give them more. You will just make them feel like you are attacking them.
  5. Follow up after the confrontation – Always follow up with the individual after the confrontation. Check back in with them and see how they are progressing after receiving your feedback. One of the biggest things I hate is when I receive feedback and my supervisor fails to connect with me later on and let me know how I am progressing or asking me how things are going. This is important, at least it is for me, to help preserve the relationship and lets me know what I have improved on or what I still need to work on.
  6. Be gentle after being firm – It is always easier to fall back and be gentle after that initial confrontation. It is more damaging to the relationship and the organization if your actions are gentle up front and then realize that you must be firm.
  7. Speak words that reflect the message and not your ideas – Use your word carefully. You only get to use them once. Make sure that you are sending the message and not sending ideas. The message must be received if you want to affect real change. Ideas are for sharing and discussing.
  8. Use discipline only when all else fails – There are times after the initial confrontation where nothing changes. It does not mean that you did not follow these steps or were not successful with these steps and the relationship. Sometimes some people simply do not want to change. After multiple attempts, then you will need to resort to discipline. BE CAREFUL!! This is the step that will certainly change the relationship. Rarely, does it change it and make it better.  This step is to ensure that the message is clear and will be followed. Sometimes discipline is necessary, but it must be used with caution. The purpose of any discipline is to help people, not hurt them.

Thank you for taking the time to read these tips on confrontation. I hope they will serve you well in your leadership journey.

Be a learner more than a knower

How often do we sit back in our heads as somebody is talking and say to ourselves “I know more about this topic than this guy!”  I have to admit, I have done that.  It is especially true when it is about a topic that I am very passionate about.

It is true that you may have a more in-depth knowledge about a topic but are you the world renowned expert that has no more capacity in your brain for such topic?  I am willing to bet that even though you have a great deal of expertise in the subject area, there is always room to learn something new.

Many leaders make the mistake of believing that since they are now at the top that they no longer need to lead.  They will go through the motions and find excuses to not be professional development while teachers and other support staff are there learning.  People notice this and do not think for a second that they are not thinking “Who does he think he is that he does not need to learn like we do!”

Leaders need to be life long learner just as much as teachers.  Everyday we must fill ourselves with something new that we can pass on to the people we lead. The belief that you’re an expert closes your mind. What will you learn today to pass on?

Make them feel special, because they are!

When was the last time you had somebody do something for you that made you feel special? Chances are it was fairly recently.

What about your students in your classrooms? Chances are that if it was not you that did something to make these students feel special, then nobody did. 

Our kids come from the roughest of places.  Many thrive at school, because it is the best that they know.  They know when they are here they are warm, fed, and taken care of.

Some never know where their next meal is coming from or where they will lay their head tonight.  Many live in cramped housing with two, three, or even four other families.  Chances are that the eyes that you look at are needing something special and that something special was you.

How will you let your students know that they are special everyday?

At the end, is not the end

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As we come to a close of 2018, many will spend the necessary time to reflect.  For my and me family, 2018 was very rough.  We were still adapting to a new area of which we recently moved, my father-in-law had just past late 2017, and we were going through our first home purchase, which some would say is exciting but it took us 6 months to complete the process. Even still, 2018 brought forth a great deal of lessons and as a husband, father, and educator, I am stronger for it.

As part of my reflection process for the year I would like to offer you these three tips as you head off into 2019.

First, never forget to be humble. Everybody knows something or has some special skill that the next person just doesn’t quite match up to, but at the end of the day those skills or that knowledge doesn’t amount to anything if you are not humble. Be still, calm, and quiet, to make sure you are hearing all that is around you, as you may learn something from the very person standing beside you.

Second, never forget to be kind – Everybody needs somebody that is kind to them. You never know with the people you meet how you will change their lives just because of the one kind moment that you had with them, whether that be in the grocery store or at the gas station.

I remember recently I was at the gas station and there was this very old vehicle coming in from the street with an old couple driving. Just as they exited the street, it was obvious that they ran out of gas. With 30 – 40 yards left before they got to the pump, the old man tried to start the vehicle again and again to no avail. Just then a young individual, who couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15 years old walking by at the time, ran over and pushed the back of the vehicle until they got to the pump.

As they arrived at the pump, the old man rolled down his window and said to the young man “Thank you son! Glad to see that there are some kind young men still left in this world.” The young man said no problem and walked on. Now here are two very different individuals in this world, one who needed nothing and one who needed a push. Neither will likely cross paths again, but both are strengthened by the simple act of kindness. This reminds me of that saying “It is always cool to be kind.”

Finally, never underestimate the power of challenge. Now what I mean by this is somebody who will push you further each and every day. I am lucky that I have two individuals that do this with me each day. First is my wife of 18 years. She is the most loving, caring, and selfless person I know. Of course, she is the first person to tell me when I am screwing up and I love her so much for that as it helps me get back on the right path.

Second is my current principal. She is wise beyond her years. She thinks of things that I never would think of. She always thinks about what she does and how it will affect the relationship. She does not shy away from having difficult conversations, but does so in a way that the person walks away not feeling hopeless and can make some real changes to better students. I know, I have been one of those people.

As 2018 comes to a close, what are you thankful for and how will being humble, kind, and challenging people help you for 2019.

The Servant Leader

Recently I was given the opportunity to read a book entitled “The Servant Leader” by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges.

Below are my notes that I took while reading this book.


As you lead ask yourself “Am I a servant leader or a self-serving leader”. Be brutally honest with yourself. It will take you to the core of your intention and motivation as a leader. (Pg. 17)

Alice came to a fork in the road. She asked the Cheshire Cat which road to take. The cat asked where she was going, she didn’t know. The cat responded, “Then it doesn’t matter”. Without clear direction, your leadership doesn’t matter. (Pg. 47)

What are the key values of your organization? Which is the most important? True success in servant leadership depends on how clearly values are defined, ordered, and lived by the leader. (Pg. 51)

The vision of your organization must be bigger than you are. Servant leadership starts with a vision and ends with a servant heart that helps people live according to that vision. (Pg. 57)

STRIVING TO BE A SERVANT LEADER

You must elevate growth and development of people from a “means” to an “end” goal of equal importance to the product or service of the organization. Servant leadership requires a level of intimacy with the needs and aspirations of the people being led that might be beyond the level of intimacy and ego-driven leader is willing to sustain. (Pg. 58)

Sustainable servant leadership behaviors will only emerge as an expression of a committed and convinced heart. (Pg. 58)

Servant Leadership Involves ….

  1. Setting the vision
  2. Defining and modeling the operating values, structure and behavior norms
  3. Creating the follower environment with partners in the vision
  4. Moving to the bottom of the hierarchy with service in mind

Servant leaders have a role in facilitating change. Leaders must recognize there are four levels of change that vary in degrees of difficulty and time required.

  1. ”Knowledge” – Easiest and lest time-consuming thing to change. To increase knowledge we can read a book, take a class, or listen to an expert.
  2. ”Attitude” – Emotionally charged bits of knowledge. People either feel positive or negative about something. Changing somebody’s attitude is more difficult than changing their knowledge.
  3. ”Behavior” – Much harder and more time-consuming to change than attitude and knowledge. Now people have to actually do something. Before it was just having knowledge about a topic or adjusting your feelings on a topic. Now you must ACT on a topic.
  4. ”Organization” – Most difficult to change and most time-consuming. You have to influence knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of many different people.

Why is change so hard?
Change is a must. We adapt or we die. The same is true for organizations. As a servant leader, we must determine which changes are needed to implement the vision and help people move in that direction.

The Seven Reactions People have to Change

  1. People feel awkward, ill at ease when confronted by change.
    • Tell people what to expect.
  2. People will feel alone even if everyone else is going through the same change.
    • Structure activities that create involvement. Encourage individuals to share ideas and to work together to help each other through change.
  3. People will think first about what they have to give up.
    • Don’t try to sell the benefits of the change effort initially. Let people mourn their perceived losses. Listen to them.
  4. People will think they can only handle so much change at once.
    • Set priorities on which changes to make, and go for the long run.
  5. People will be concerned that they don’t have enough resources to implement the change.
    • Encourage creative problem-solving.
  6. People will be at different levels of readiness for any particular change.
    • Don’t label or pick on people. Recognize that some people are risk-takers and others take longer to feel secure. Someone who’s an early adopter of one type of change might balk at another type of change.
  7. If the pressure is taken off, people will refer to old behaviors.
    • Keep people focused on maintaining the change and managing the journey.

Encouragement and Feedback

We do the best we can but we still need outside information to help us see how we’re doing. (Pg. 102)

Two main ways growth takes place:

  • When you are open to feedback from other people.
  • When you are willing to disclose your vulnerabilities to other people.