Category: Principals and Teachers Network

Solution Weekly May 15-21, 2022

Getting Back to Center

Have you ever felt like you were off-balanced? A change happened in your life, and now things as you knew as “normal” are now the opposite. Oh, yes, the pandemic! The Covid-19 pandemic is one example. Can you think of more? Many things can impact us in positive and negative ways, which cause us to feel off-balanced and not centered; how do we handle it.

Word of the Day

I am a big believer in vocabulary! We do not spend enough time exploring, providing, and giving children time to explore “words.”

It could be because I come from a home where my parents did not know how to read. When I would go to school in my early years, I can remember my Kindergarten teacher saying, “I am sure your parents have read this story to you, but I am going to read it today again.” Nope, my parents had not, and I heard it for the first time. We forget many children do not have rich conversations or have exposure to reading materials or opportunities to visit other places. How can we help to improve their vocabulary for them?

Are you facing “Drainout”?

In our current situations, we have all faced many critical, unpredictable conditions not seen before. We have dealt with in our years of service overcoming what many have referred to as “burnout”, not motivated, exhausted, and leads me to what I believe is replacing all of these words in our workplaces today: “Drainout.”

Think about how you and your co-workers feel right now. How do you feel overall? “Drainout” is not something that happens just at work, it can happen in every aspect of life. We will discuss more this week.

Donuts, Veggies or Ice Cream? Choices

Do you hold meetings? If you do, do you provide a snack? When people walk into your meeting, do they find chocolates or candy on the tables? What do you think about offering food or something for meetings?

I am curious about this idea. I know I have, it seems, always had candy on the tables and offered snacks. During my career, I never used a line budget for my building expenses. I thought doing this was my choice, and I usually paid for it myself. Sometimes I had vendors who would send stuff, but mostly me or sometimes my Assistant Principal would get things.

Fast Forward-Future Skills Needed Today!

As we have witnessed in the past three years, leaders have shifted to rapidly respond, react and realign approaches to meet the needs of change. Change is not something new to leaders, but a change at this level of magnitude left leaders scrambling. We have not seen this level of change happen at his rapid domino pace.

What do we need from leaders based on the experiences from the past three years to prepare for our future? How can we be readily prepared for rapid changes? Can we give this some thought and reflect on what we have learned as we move forward?

I missed the bus! Can I jump on your bandwagon?

I missed the bus is a phrase referring to being too slow to take advantage of an opportunity. In education, it was an excuse for being late to school, like the video attached to the word bus from 1992. Have you ever used that phrase?

Jumping on the bandwagon is another phrase used to join a movement or cause because it is trendy. “Everyone is doing it.” The phrase itself began back in 1848 when a circus clown named Dan Rice would use his wagon to take politicians around to conduct speeches to local people. The music coming from the wagon always attracted a crowd. Have you ever used this phrase?

These phrases may not be utilized as much today as they did in the past, but the concepts are still practiced. Leaders miss opportunities and jump on shiny new things when everyone else gets the popular item. Why do they do this? They are stretched thin and need to find quick results in a fast pace world. Many pressures are placed on our leaders to perform, meet the standards, and be better than all competitors.

As the leader of your organization, you have a great deal of responsibility. There is no more significant responsibility than taking care of those you serve. All of your team members need to know your vision, but most importantly, they need to know they can trust you. A solid foundation builds a team that knows who they are, what they are doing, and where. Our vision is our dream. What we want to achieve in the work we do is the culture created.

The culture of your environment is critical. The vision you have can be incredible, but a toxic environment can destroy it before you begin to build. Culture is how we work each day to move us forward to our vision. In our culture, this is where the actual work is done to make the vision clear for all to see.

What can you do as a leader? Let’s ask hard questions, design plans, and develop habits, processes, and purpose together. Which is more important to have a vision or a positive culture?

Vision and Culture-Both are needed

VISION

A vision is a cornerstone of the organization. It is a statement of what an organization would like to achieve in the future but is more than a goal. A vision inspires and connects employees to purpose. As leaders, we need to work together to develop a vision statement with clarity in decision making, help guide others, and make it part of our daily work. Today’s vision statements need to reflect the changes as we lead out of crisis and into the building.

CULTURE

Our culture is designed by what inspires us daily. It is our interactions together in working to achieve the vision, mission, and purpose. The core beliefs, values, and behaviors of the individuals within the organization reflect the culture. For a continuous improvement cycle to be in place, culture and vision are connected to gain purpose.

Everyone in our organization has to be all in on the vision we have and be actively participating in a positive culture to achieve the momentum needed to grow. Just like putting a puzzle together, when one piece is missing, it can not be completed. When you have one individual bringing negativity to the group and fighting against the group’s beliefs, pieces begin to pull apart.

Start your Phrase……

Jon Gordon has the Energy Bus. What can be yours? Do you need one to begin to develop what you need to lead out of a crisis and into building back the foundation for the vision and culture required to succeed? Be the Solution Daily in a world that needs you! No need for catchy phrases, just a solid foundation with core beliefs, a vision , and a design of how to get there. It is fun to think of names, phrases, and crazy ways to remember things. However, the importance of the work is what the focus needs to be on. It cannot be like it was, and we must decide what works now.

With the transitions to Covid from Covid and now additional issues facing us, we need to outline the needs in all areas to focus on our realities.

Fitting the puzzle pieces together

  • Identify all areas in your organization or company
  • What are the needs in each of these?
  • Prioritize the needs in each area.
  • Do we see common threads of need?
  • What are the top common threads?
  • Can we develop a plan to address the common threads of need?
  • How can the needs of the organization impact the service we provide?
  • Looking at the needs, how does it change, enhance or reflect our vision?

Now that we are looking at our needs, it is time to complete a deeper dive into a needs assessment. This is the best place to start when beginning to look at building a foundation for continued growth.

Just a basic format to begin to gather data on needs. Deeper dives as you go into specific areas, skills, departments, policies and procedures.

Can we work together to ask hard questions? Can we listen to all voices? I would like to have honest conversations about what we are facing. This isn’t easy because we will not all agree. Doing what is right is not what is easy; jumping on the bandwagon or missng the bus. It is in having the integrity of doing what is best for all of those involved and those we serve. Ken Blanchard, one of my favorite leaders, found that integrity is what everyone seeks out in leadership. Jon Gordon, another famous leader, has a fantastic book just released called The Sale along with his co-author Alex Demczak which is a tremendous tribute to learning about integrity. Please get your copy today. If you think you deserve to have a free copy from me, tell me what you gain from reading these blogs and how you share it with others. Please send me an email after you like the post at yohobren@gmail.com. Thanks for sharing time and space with me daily.

Lead from where you are!

When do you become a leader? Is it when you finally get that top spot or the title you have been dreaming of? Think about the leaders you know; what titles do they have? What characteristics do they have? The best questions are:

  • Why do you think they are leaders?
  • Why do you follow them?
  • Do they know they are a leader?

In our world today, we need great leadership. I have always said, “ Leadership is not a title, a position, or a picture of a person you can describe. It is a heart, purpose, calling, and desire to serve others as you model leadership.”

Where are you today?

Where do you want to be in five years?

What are you doing to help yourself move in the direction you plan to go?

I recommend the book Simple Truths of Leadership, 52 Ways to be a Servant Leader and Build Trust by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. This book will provide you with the best way to continue to grow, build capacity within your team, help engage as a coach or mentor. The book’s setup offers a weekly Simple Truth to follow. The big topics are identified, discussion guide at the back of the book to correlate with the #number you select. You can start anywhere you want! I love this book! I am biased a little because I have followed Ken Blanchard throughout my career! I continue to learn from his leadership.

I bought an extra copy to share with someone else! Who has the best story to share of why they need to have my extra copy? Please pick up a copy or two, share, start a book study! I will be happy to help you through Zoom! We need you! I am happy to serve in helping you grow! We are the solution daily as we work together in a world that needs all of you!

Creativity expands!

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Maya Angelou

Creativity brings value to life. You can see, hear, feel and explore all elements. Through your imagination, you can expand on what everyone experiences to enhance with new thoughts. As a thinker and “tinker,” your intelligence leads you to fun, innovative ideas and attracts others to join in the fun! The essential part of creativity is seeing more solutions than problems, which is my style!

I have so many people I admire, am blessed to know, and experience- good, challenging, trauma-filled, one-of-a-kind times and opportunities to fill my heart, soul, and mind! This wealth of knowledge, information, and experience will fill these pages to bring all of this to you!

Maya Angelou was always one of my favorites! She passed away from this life, but her voice and messages live on as long as others cherish her work to share with others. History can be filled with many things, events, trauma and challenges. However, I never want to lose any of it as we gain so much from it. How to overcome, unite, strategize, innovate and create!

Creativity generates or recognizes ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems. It formulates ways of communicating with others. It helps to find ways of entertaining ourselves and others. We think of creativity in writing, art, music, acting, dance, and all art forms.

Being part of the solution is creative! It is an art form! You will be thinking in many ways to find the right solution for the problem. One of my all-time favorite clips of Maya Angelou is in the link shared below. She provides you with the Top 10 Rules:

  • Just Do Right
  • Be Courageous
  • Love (Self-Love is critical )
  • Be a blessing to somebody
  • Turn struggles into Triumphs (my favorite- is not to let anything or anyone crush what you know you can do!)
  • Learn to say no
  • Always do your best
  • Keep rising (The best one 🌟)

Expanding creativity in your home, school, organization and life; will enhance unlimited possibilities and offer solutions!

Dream, Believe, Achieve, Dare-Do

There are many great men and women in our history we can celebrate, learn from, respect and model our actions. This week we began with a man famous for his speech, “I have a dream.” Dr. Martin Luther King not only had a dream he believed in, but he also believed in what could be achieved if we dared to do what he perfectly stated!

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

“I have a dream today . . .
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning. “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi, from every mountainside. Let freedom ring . . .
When we allow freedom to ring—when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men, and white men, Jews, and Gentiles, Protestants, and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.”
Reprinted by arrangement with The Heirs to the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr., c/o Writers House as the proprietor New York, NY. Copyright: © 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. © renewed 1991, Coretta Scott King.

Also in our history are individuals or groups that made horrible mistakes, took steps, believed in things, and did things they achieved we do not find acceptable. We learned from those as well. It is essential to talk about all of them and build from the learning we discover, not divide, hide or devalue anyone as we move forward. I am thankful for all historians who have and continue to document for us these pieces, which are so valuable. If you have not explored museums, read some of these fantastic books, or speak to individuals who have experienced first-hand some of the historical events, don’t wait. I have been blessed to talk with military veterans Holocaust survivors and visit several museums.

Dream, Believe, Dare and Do is the business practice utilized by Disney. I incorporated this mindset in my approach to serving students in education. Walt Disney was a master at creating environments full of happiness, love, fun, and excitement. He was a servant leader, I believe.

Students in our care need to have dreams! Our staff does as well! The schoolhouse should be a place full of opportunities. Our beliefs in ourselves and each other push us to achieve! When we dare to take risks, think outside the box, and do the work, we find success.

I plan for all to believe; Two Rules can achieve great success for all who dare to do the work to implement the philosophy in their lives. Keep connecting, reading, and thinking! #Bethesolutiondaily

What made your list of leadership qualities to have in 2022?

Being a leader in 2022 is the same, different, or we don’t know? Do the qualities and skills need to be the same? What are your thoughts? Do we need different leadership qualities? What is the most important quality for a leader? Why?

I believe a job title does not define leadership. Leadership is part of our lives at different stages and areas. We provide opportunities for children to explore, experience, and engage in leadership. We have many lists of characteristics and qualities created over many decades to identify excellent leaders. Has leadership changed? Do the qualities change? How can we help children grow to become great leaders?

We need your help! Tell us what qualities do great leaders need.

Solution Weekly

You Matter!

What a privilege I had this past week to help an organization that helped to instill in me the qualities of leadership needed for a successful career. For an organization to grow and to continue to thrive after 50 years is fantastic! The takeaways from the conference are many, but the most important one is, You Matter.

There has been no other time in history where leaders have had to do so many things, so fast, change again, and then change again. Oh wait, we have a few more things for you to do. COVID-19 brought illness, heartache, challenges, and heroes.

Tips and Techniques

Build a classroom for “working learners.”

  • Begin with a blueprint for your workers
  • Provide them with the tools they need
  • Encourage them to look over the blueprints, ask “why” questions to get to the “what” and “ how” of the process
  • Workers need to take their work personally and need to have power in influencing the environment and control of their future.
  • Completing the work on one project can be applied to other projects. Helping workers understand and to see how their learned skills can transfer.
  • Collaboration and teaching each other build skills to strengthen understanding and deepen learning.
  • Looking for solutions, investigating, testing, and analyzing provides workers with opportunities to discover how to question rather than solve. Sometimes solving for a correct answer only misses out on additional learning opportunities.
  • An essential part of “building” is constantly checking to assess the effectiveness and performance, giving feedback, reflecting on work, and determining what works and does not.

Wisdom & Wit

While at the Illinois Principal Conference this past week, I had the honor of hearing from two excellent speakers! Gerry Brooks, author of Go See the Principal: True Tales from the School Trenches, and Luis Cruz, co-author of Time for Change Essential Skills for Transformational School and District Leaders. If you have not watched any of Gerry Brooks’s videos, please do, and yes, he is that funny in person. Please grab a copy of his book as well. Luis Cruz was funny, but his story and dedication to the audience were touching to me. He personalized his talk with the principals and emphasized, “You Matter.” He gave many examples on how to change the description of your title to include many of the things these fantastic leaders do each day. Please pick up his book, get him to come to your school to speak, and follow him on social media.

Leadership

Under the direction of Executive Director Dr. Jason Leahy, the Illinois Principals Association provides a wealth of resources. It supports leaders across the state and with others who have joined forces with them. Please feel free to check out their website. They provide space for school leaders to connect and share resources helping to keep collaboration and networking going. In addition, an Ed Leaders Network hosting 130+ courses, opportunities to post questions, share best practices, and engage with others.

The growth of this organization is because of outstanding leadership, clear vision, a definite purpose, and dedication to core values and beliefs. I am blessed to be a member of this Association since 2003 and proud of all the accomplishments.

Leaders not managers, Managers are Leaders

I do not know about you, but the words leader and manager are confusing! I did not understand these different roles at all until I was involved with the Wallace Foundation. As a Principal, I had the opportunity to work with them on the SAM’s project (School Administrator Manager). https://www.wallacefoundation.org/principal-story/pages/sam-project.aspx

Managers are the key to the success of the day-to-day operations of your organization. These are the leaders who people are directly reporting to and need immediate help to complete tasks. They are detailed oriented and initiate strategies to solve problems.

Leaders are looking at the organization’s vision or “the big picture” to help move the organization forward. Solution-focused and embraces change. Motivates others, inspires, and builds trust for all to feel confident in following them.

Leaders and managers share many of the same characteristics. In addition, they also have the same goal. They both want the organization to be the best. What I learned from working with the SAM’s project is that you, as the leader need to give the manager duties to others to focus on the priorities. Because in education, the leader of the school is responsible for being both! It seems Principals can spend too much time being the manager instead of being the leader!

Develop a plan on who will be in the acting role as your SAM. It is important to check your contracts on how this can be done. We were able to hire a part-time position. It can be designed in many different ways. The link above will provide you with a wealth of information. The goal is to help you to reduce the amount of time on your calendar you spend on manger things to increase to improving teaching and learning.

  • Scheduling athletic events-(Secretary, Coach, Athletic Director)
  • Scheduling Parent activities-(Rotate grade levels)
  • Checking on building needs-(Department heads report needs to office secretary-Kitchen shortage, Buses late, Sub-Shortage-Building Grounds-bathroom out of order)
  • Try to take phone calls or meetings. People always want to talk to the Principal, but sometimes the issue can be solved in other ways
  • Protect your time. Making sure the instructional observations and time on your calendar is protected.

There are many other examples, ideas, and suggestions at the Wallace Foundation link above. Explore it for ideas and start with some small steps. Improving your time with teaching and learning will inspire everyone to work towards this goal.

We are inspired!

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Did someone inspire you to be where you are today in your career or life? I reflect over mine and can identify several points of time where individuals inspired me, encouraged me, and pushed me—so blessed by each one.

“Mark Cole began his career working for John Maxwell 21 years ago. It was an inauspicious start for the man who would go on to be Chief Executive Officer of The John Maxwell Company and his nine organizations.” Mark started in the mailroom.

Bill Dodd shared a great post that follows along with my philosophy of solution-focused leadership. You can read the post about Mark Cole by clicking on his picture below. I pulled from the article the Four Questions all leaders must ask and How to view Leadership Problems. I added my idea of How to be Solution-Focused.

4 Questions All Leaders Must Ask

  1. When is the last time I learned something for the first time?
  2. When is the last time I did something for the first time?
  3. When is the last time I found something better for the first time?
  4. When is the last time I saw something bigger for the first time?

How To View Leadership Problems

  • P – Predictors are a picture of what type of person you are.
  • R – Reminders that life is tough. Leadership is demonstrated under challenging times.
  • O – Opportunity will make you and other people better.
  • B – Blessings. Problems sometimes point you in a more beneficial direction.
  • L – Lesson. What did I learn from this problem?
  • E – Everywhere. Even before COVID, problems were everywhere.
  • M – Message. In every problem, there is a takeaway.
  • S – Solvable. Every problem has a solution.

How to be Solution-Focused

  • Seeking first to answer “why.”
  • Observations of what has been done before, what is happening now, and what is working
  • Listen to all possible solutions
  • Use the best solution selected by the team
  • Try the solution selected, track, assess, and evaluate
  • Implement a different solution if the first one did not have the desired outcome
  • Open-mindedness brings many ideas to the solution
  • Never believe a problem is without a solution

People who have a leadership mindset love solving problems. Every problem is an opportunity to learn and grow. Real leaders know there’s always an answer. Most of the time, there are multiple answers. When you focus first on solutions, we will get more solutions. After spending time on generating ideas for solutions, save them for your next brainstorming session?

COVID taught us to take problems and solve them. If we keep looking at problems, we will keep getting more. COVID does not seem to be going away and continues to be one of those topics that will generate a great deal of debate. Our debate should only be on ideas for solutions.