Moments of Truth. Difficult, but worth it.

I am currently reading “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni.  In the story, the new CEO of a tech company is put in a position to have to confront one of her team members.  While she was put in the position she resisted the temptation to confront the team member via email and knew that it was a moment of truth for her as a leader and that it needed to be done face-to-face.  I won’t ruin the book for you but I felt her she handled this situation above reproach.

Recently, I received an email from a staff member outlining a long list of issues that needed to be addressed by our administrative team that impacted their department.  There were many of these issues that we could not address.  We simply did not have the resources to tackle all of this issues.  At the end of the day, we had to make a decision that was best for kids and preparing them for graduation and life.  One of these concerns we easily dealt with and took care of the concern.

Now when I addressed these concerns, I did so in an email.  After reading this part of the book and how the new CEO handled her particular situation, I reflected back about if I should have sent that in an email or went to them in a face-to-face conversation.  Doing so in an email did make it easier, but was it better?  I struggle with this day in and day out.  I believe the most important quality in any leader is the outgoing need to develop relationships with the people that you lead.  Did sending this email help that or hurt that?

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please post comments below.

How are you making students feel?

As an attempt to change up how I am blogging and am starting to record videos on my thoughts.  I usually have plenty of time to record a 4-5 minute video while I am driving to and from the school.  I figured this would give me a more authentic posting and more frequent posting as well.  I rarely have time to sit down and write a long post about what I am learning or struggles that I am going through to share with other educators.  So for 2018, it is my hope that this will inspire you and help you along your way to being a successful educator.  You can find a link to my YouTube Channel on the sidebar.

Remember, what will you do with the time that you have been given? (#WWYDWTTTYHBG)

You will run out of tomorrows….. What will you do today, for those that need you?

I recently read a tweet (pic below) from Danny Steele (@SteeleThoughts) that had me thinking more about the power of relationships. While every leader in the world would stress the importance of relationships, some do not practice this life skill or have the passion to do so. I have been so blessed to have many good examples of relationship builders in my life.

With the recent passing of my father-in-law, I have spent more time in reflection than I normally have in the past.  Most of my reflection has been centered on the importance of relationships and how they are so crucial in all aspects of life.

My father-in-law Dave was a teacher at a small school middle in Oregon for 21 years.  During his 21-year tenure, he had many impacts on students, parents, and community members like many teachers do.

This morning I overheard my mother-in-law reading a message to my wife that she received from a lady that was connected to the school.  In her message, she said that she did not get to know Dave well other than the few interactions that she had with him during his time at the school.  She said that all of the kids that left that school to head on to high school have been hit very hard by the loss.

This is just one story of the students and parents that have been hit with this loss.  There have been hundreds of others.  Phone calls, cards, trains, planes, and cars have come from all areas of the country to be with him in his final days, and after, just because he put them first before himself.  A prime example of servant leadership.

But, did he realize the impact that relationship had on them?  Did he know that the relationship that he had with them would impact their lives forever?  Do any of us know this?  Whether we know or not, the relationships that we have with others will set their path along with ours on a different course forever.  What course do you want the relationship to go?

Today, you have a choice in each relationship that you have.  Whether at work, home, church, or the community.  How do you want that relationship to move forward?

  1. Listen twice as much as we talk.  This is why we have two ears and only one mouth.  Use them in that proportion.
  2. Let your yes be yes and your no is no.
  3. Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
  4. Never let the sun set on our anger.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow.  We only have today to make a difference.

We were designed to be a people that crave and need relationships within our daily lives.  Without these relationships, we are nothing but an empty shell riding this rock until the end of our days.

We are all in this together.  You will run out of tomorrows, so what will you do today, for those that need you?  Dave would say “We cannot change who we are, but we can change who we are going to be.”

I am in your corner…

This weekend, as I was reflecting on my week, I ran across an article by Daniel Steele entitled “Letter to a Discouraged Student“.  This was a very profound letter.  Beautifully written from a principal to student perspective.  While I have no idea if this was actually written for a specific student or for the general masses.  One thing is for sure, it applies to every student who struggles with school and every student who did struggle with school.  I can relate to this letter.

We as educators always put ourselves in the place to make things better for kids.  I am not the type of person that likes to be at the front of attention, especially in large crowds.  Being in a leadership position at times does put you at the forefront.  Remembering my first year as an Athletic Director being put in the position of heading one of the largest departments in the district was a real growing moment in my professional/personal life.  At the end of each year, we held an athletic awards banquet.  Of course, the MC?  Me.  This was a nerve-racking situation for me all year.  I started working out what I was going to say months before it was time.  In the end, it was fine.  I was nervous, to say the least.  The next year I repeated the event and pushed through.

While I know that this was a weakness of mine, it didn’t stop me from doing what was important, being there for kids.  Most recently I was in a similar position where our student-body was looking for people to be part of a fundraiser that in the end, the winner would get a pie in the face in front of the whole school.  There were some pretty popular teachers as well as the Principal that all signed up.  I figured I would be way down the list before getting picked.  Nope!  I was in the top three.  So that meant pie in the face!  Now, this is something that put me in front of everybody again.  I did it because it was important to kids.

Kids, I know my weaknesses and I know my strengths.  Being part of the attention is not one of them.  But know that even if it means being front and center with the spotlight on me, if that is what you need, I will do it.  Know that I am in your corner.

 

Positive School Culture

What school culture really looks like

Be relentless about creating, maintaining, and sustaining a positive culture in your schools. What students experience becomes their norm.

We all know that many of our students experience norms at home that we would not want in our schools, but we must counteract that with a positive culture. That all begins with the relationships we develop with our stakeholders, most importantly our students. While high-quality instruction and rigorous content are important, relationships trump all of that. I am often taken back to a quote that my former high school principal said to me when I was in grad school. “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” There is so much truth to that statement. The roadmap to being a great teacher with solid relationships with students is no different than being a great parent. It is filled with love and high expectations.

Just remember moving forward that school climate is how teachers and students act when the superintendent is in the room but culture is how they act when he/she is not in the room. Focus on culture, not climate. Climates change from day-to-day but cultures will stand the test of time.

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Starting Proficiency in the Classroom

Ten years in the classroom is now approaching.  Last year I got adventurous with my professional goals and decided to link using Facebook as one of my goals.  At first, I was scared about going down that road and so were many others, but it worked out just fine.  This year I may have gone overboard….

Back in March, I had a reflection time that took me to a place that I felt was being a responsible educator, I examined how students were truly doing in my classes.  From the first look it would appear they were doing great, and for the most part, they were.  But there were some that were not performing at the level that their grade said they were.

At this time I decided to get even more adventurous.  The State of Oregon recently adopted HB 2220 which defines proficiency and lays out the groundwork for schools districts to start implementing in the coming years.  While our district is not based on proficiency, I took it upon myself to implement a full proficiency-based system in the classroom.

As the year progresses, I will be posting my trials and tribulations on this blog to share with all of you.

Five characteristics of successful leaders/entrepreneurs

  • Showing up – Rosabeth quotes Woody Allen’s famous saying that 90% of success in life comes from just showing up, and I agree.  In the context of leaders and entrepreneurs that means getting started on things and being visible, and that includes when things are difficult/might not work.  In fact, not putting off the difficult things is what separates effective people from the rest.
  • Speaking up – we all know that great leaders make great speeches, and often those speeches come to define the period of leadership – think about Martin Luther King and you quickly think about his famous “I have a dream” speech.  It is still inspiring nearly 50 years later (if you haven’t heard it recently listen here – 9mins in is a good place to start).  More prosaically CEOs and founders are most effective when they are vocal within their companies shaping the debate and articulating the conclusions at team meetings.  I recently asked a former employee of successful UK SEO/SEM agency The Search Works why the company had prevailed over its competitors and his answer was that Nick Hynes, the CEO, had a special talent for articulating the vision and direction of the business and getting everyone at the company believing and pulling in the same direction.  Think about that for a moment.
  • Teaming up – great companies aren’t built by individuals, they are built by teams.  Usually that is a team of co-founders and in just about every case there is a team of executives who have real power and operate as a team.  Delegation is a pre-requisite for success.
  • Looking up – I’m going to quote directly from Rosabeth’s post here, as she nails it “Looking up: the power of values. Higher principles help people transcend the conflicts and concerns of the moment. Standing for something larger than mere self-interest gives leaders moral grounding and provides a basis for inspiring and motivating the work. Those who are honored as great leaders are not merely good at getting results efficiently, they are able to find grander goals that help people look up to see the big picture and set their sights higher.”
  • Not giving up – much has been written about the importance of persistence, and for good reason.  It is something that is easy to forget when the going gets tough and reminders are useful.  As Rosabeth says “everything can look like failure in the middle”.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

10 Ways To Make Each Day A Leadership Masterpiece

10 Ways To Make Each Day A Leadership Masterpiece – Forbes

  1. Excel in the moment.
  2. Invest in a relationship and build trust.
  3. Help someone else achieve and grow.
  4. Listen.
  5. Connect someone to your vision, mission, and priorities.
  6. Thank someone.
  7. Prepare for the known and study for the unknown.
  8. Prepare for an important decision.
  9. Leverage white space. Avoid the trap of filling every minute of your calendar.  Better to commit to less and deliver more than to promise and not come through.
  10. Grow physically, mentally, spiritually.

Visionary Leaders

I love what @Leadershipfreak writes on a regular basis.  His leadership insight is that cannot be matched and is perfect for any industry, especially education.
This below is taken from his website.  Vision is important for any leader.  Without vision, execution is a hallucination.  It is extremely important for educational leaders to have a clear vision.  I believe that many schools have leaders that have execution but lack the vision.  So essentially things get done but with no large goal in mind.  So, how do those leaders ever know when they have broken through a barrier and accomplished something?  Are those schools just aimlessly doing the day by day hoping that they are doing right by the children that are in their halls?
If you ever feel that you are just doing the day-by-day and not making any headway to achieving a goal, what vision have you laid out for yourself lately?  Always remember that work without vision is drudgery.  Vision without work is just dreaming.  But when you combine work with a vision you will achieve your destiny.

The Seven Qualities of Visionary Leaders | Leadership Freak:
Vision:

  • Creates vitality.
  • Focuses energy.
  • Explains purpose.

Apart from clear vision:

  • Distraction directs.
  • Desperation disrupts.
  • Despair discourages.

Seven qualities of visionary leaders:

  1. Optimistic about the future.
  2. Focused on the best in their people. They focus on the unique strengths of every employee.
  3. Never satisfied but always content. They seem happy where they are but refuse to stay there.
  4. Consumed with making tomorrow better than today. Hopeful leaders never settle.
  5. Accepting of change.
  6. Inclusive, not exclusive. Hopeful leaders invite others into their vision.
  7. Personally bought in. Vision is inside them.”

Three Qualities Traditional Leaders Reject

Three Qualities Traditional Leaders Reject | Leadership Freak:

Emptiness is opportunity.

The downside of curiosity:

  1. People want to know what you know as well as what you don’t.
  2. Questions feel pushy and threatening when filled with expectation.
  3. Constant curiosity spirals inward and downward.
  4. Creating options causes confusion.