Tag: Leadership

What Matters Most?

As a leader, especially during this time, the importance of “what we do,” “how we do it,” and “why we do it” are critical questions to ask. We have asked them before, but how does it help us to answer the biggest question of all? What matters most?

“Mother Norman, I am so sorry for the loss of your husband.”

“Oh daughter, I know, let me introduce you to my son.”

Going to the visitation of one of my co-workers from my early years was just like going to a family reunion to see relatives you haven’t seen in a while, even though you may not live that far from each other. “Mother Norman, ” as I have called her for years, was the teacher who I looked up to as I learned to be a teacher. She was one of many who helped prepare me for my journey through education. Her brother would become our Superintendent. He hired me for my first teaching position and then in my first administrator position. So many great learning opportunities and training. Thank you Mr. Tate.

I left the comforts of my hometown to travel a short distance to a larger school district up the road. My first year as principal was terrific. The staff, students, families and everything felt just right for me.

“Mr. Denman wants to see you in his office.”

I can remember hearing those words coming from the phone and the echoes of the voices telling me all day of the sudden leaving of the middle school principal. My heart sunk to my stomach. I could not let anyone see my feelings.

As I arrived to the office, it was true; I needed to move to be the principal of the middle school. I left the building headed back to my school processing all that needed to be done, when a call came asking me if I could return to talk to the Superintendent.

I entered Mrs. Mellen’s office, and she said, “ I am so sorry; I know I told you I would not move you, but I had no idea something like this would happen.”

I understand. Leaders have to make decisions based on what they believe is best. As part of this team and organization, I have to choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. A great deal of work has to be done. One thing I ask is to have permission to talk with my current staff first before they hear it from the news.

“I don’t think you can get that accomplished before the board meeting tonight.”

I can and I will, if I have permission. “I will check with board president and a few others to get this approved.”

Thank you! Trust, my word and helping to guide them through this transition is essential to me. It will provide a better transition for all of us.

Telling news you do not want to give

  • Practicing solution-focused leadership provides a systematic approach to communicating any form of news you need to deliver.
  • First, identify the problem the organization faced. Point out the importance of the time of the year and the needs of all involved.
  • Then provide the possible solutions the organization could have selected from and weigh against outcomes. (In this situation, I was able to pull from the information I thought could be used. I had four years of positive middle school experience previously. Our team worked to secure a grant successfully to change the school to a middle school concept and turned it from failing to succeeding.)
  • Decision made and moving forward. Clear communication of the decision made and how you support being part of the solution is stated. We all must do this to continue the great work we are doing. Provide the connection between them and the decision and the overall mission. (In this case, the school was a feeder school to the middle school I was moving to.)
  • One last thing to remember!
  • We do all of our work together in all of these buildings as one. Students and sometimes staff move around from time to time, but one thing remains the most important. What matters the most? We love what we do for those we do it for and those we do it with because, in the end, what matters the most is the relationships we build along the journey.

Take-Aways

  • Practice solution-focused leadership
  • Relationships matter
  • Clear communication
  • Remember the what, how, who and why to understand What matters most!

How are you?

Do you ask this question to others? “Hi Jane, How are you today?” It is a simple question as part of our greeting and not an in-depth question many may need to answer. As schools returned to face to face, businesses are trying to maintain without workers due to no applicants, and companies are trying to ship materials to places in need as materials become available.

How can we greet our coworkers and employees in ways to help them and to check on how they are? At this time, it is so important to check on others and to let them understand they matter to us. Many things are causing stress to others and maybe even for ourselves. Letting others know is the best way to find solutions. I have a former student missing and a former student who just killed himself. My heart breaks for their families. These young men I think of as “my kids,” and I picture them in the time we were together. The charisma of both these kids is amazing, fun to be around, friends with many, and nice looking. If someone asked me, How are you? “I am fine, just fine.” Am I?

Most people do not tell others the truth. They mask things that are bothering them. People pass you all the time. Do you notice them? How much do you know about the people you work with daily? How about those you use to work with but not anymore? Neighbors? Family? Do you check on any of them? The truth is rarely told on how we are. https://youtu.be/lbqS806GU4I

Change the questions. Change the responses. Let the truth be told, and solutions will be found. #Bethesolutiondaily Find the resources to help others in need. Reach out to others when you are in need. You matter, we matter, together we matter, and we will be fine! Faith, hope, and love for one another.

Input vs. Output

I have questions about the title of this post. Do you have more input or output in your day? In other words, are you receiving (input) information more than you are producing (output)? What are the sources of the information you receive?

Accountability has leaders focused on the source of output and making sure there is a high volume daily. Depending on the field of work, I question the quality of the volume of output measured by the input. Should leaders focus more on the input their staff is receiving?

I spend 60% of my day reading. What are the sources of this reading? I select books based on recommendations from other leaders, also from the organization I work with to help authors with book launches, blogs, podcasts, webinars, articles from professional organizations I belong to, emails, and my daily devotionals/bible. This input is valuable to me, but most importantly, it influences my thoughts.

I wrote a book about school improvement; it’s not good enough. My opinion! I took time to learn more about how to have a quality book, what the steps are, what do you need to do, know, and so many other things. I was gaining lots of input! During this seeking input time, I had opportunities to meet, listen to and gain wisdom. It is a blessing to have taken the time to do this and to write a new book.

Time is a non-renewable gift! I always say, “Unwrap today as a gift. It can not be returned, exchanged, or saved. Use the hours wisely.” The time I have spent on writing has provided me with healing, sharing, ways to serve a purpose, and opportunities to provide support to others.

Take aways

  • The quality of the work we do depends on the inputs of information we allow to influence us.
  • Output accountability should be measured on quality and not quantity.
  • Leaders can support individuals by providing quality resources for input.
  • Time is non-renewable!

Review your calendar, agenda, or schedule. How much time is allowed for input? As a leader, what are you providing to staff to enhance the quality of the input others are receiving? Remember, time is non-renewable! Make all communications quality and not just quantity!

Be the solution daily! Others count on the quality of your output to influence the input they receive!

Positively Energizing Leadership

Positively Energizing Leadership is a new book out by Kim Cameron. He provides readers with a guided walk through the components of virtuous actions, relationships that create high performance, and the heliotropic effect.

This book captures my interest with intriguing arguments, thoughts, and points. I am a positive leader but never classify myself as one. I am instead a focused solution leader with motivational attributes to inspire the best in others. The basic message presented in this book is the thought “all human beings flourish in the presence of light or positive energy.”

The heliotropic effect is scientific in how plants respond to the sun’s rays. This scientific effect has not been verified in humans. However, throughout the book, explanations are provided through the use of relations energy and other forms of light and energy.

I do not want to reveal the entire book and want you to have an opportunity to read for yourself. The look at the organizational chart to training and how to hire is masterful in the thought processes. I am stuck on one piece I want to share with you and hope you will find some feedback to share with me.

In the book, an example is given regarding the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020. A comparison is made between Sweden and the United States. Sweden did not have comprehensive lockdowns as other nations. This is attributed to having a “high trust” culture. In having this level of trust, the nation had high levels of trust with each other and its institutions.

In the United States, on the other hand, public trust was described as being relatively low:

  • Only 22 percent of citizens trust media
  • 8 percent trust political parties
  • 15 percent trust federal government
  • 12 percent trust big companies
  • 22 percent trust their employer
  • 12 percent believe business executives have high ethical standards
  • 34 percent think other people, in general, can be trusted.

When high trust is not present, high levels of social control are required to ensure compliance and obedience.”

I believe the topic of trust is huge. Trust has been identified as a critical piece to every relationship. Leaders need to build trust with those they serve. I am confused by the statement in the book: “When high trust is not present, high levels of social control are required to ensure compliance and obedience.” How does this help in rebuilding trust?

I understand we have evidence of this occurring, but I do not know how this helps—having to have proof of vaccines to go to a restaurant, travel, or work? In the book, it mentions that over time trust is conditioned based on the behaviors of others. When core values of gratitude, integrity, honestly, and generosity, to name a few are present and practiced, this helps to influence the feeling of trust.

I always like to go back and read books a few times. Would you please pick up this book and share with me your thoughts? I enjoy hearing and reading others’ opinions. I like hearing all points of view.

I am looking forward to learning more! I enjoyed this book, and I know you will too! Positive energy creates an environment conducive to success. I agree with many of the points made. Great book to charge your batteries to boost your energy levels. Be the light to shine bright!

Stepping stones and stumbling blocks

“Hi Brenda, glad you could be here today for this interview. You have been in your previous district for a long time. I see it is your hometown. Why move? Are you going to use this as just a stepping stone in your career?”

Great question. I would ask the same question in your position. My career speaks for itself. I am a dedicated employee; I wouldn’t say I like to make changes. I believe consistency in education is essential. I wouldn’t say I like the thoughts of moving people around, which I know this district has done. If I am hired for this principal position, I would ask not to be moved. It takes at least three years to make significant changes for positive growth.

I am making a move now because I am ready for a principal position. I come from a small district, and movement is limited. I have served as an Assistant Principal for the past four years and am ready for new experiences. I plan to retire from this district if I am hired.

As a leader, you often need to ask questions to have the right people in the right places. In this situation, we both wanted to make sure our points were made but for different reasons. The employer wanted to avoid stepping stones, and I tried to avoid stumbling blocks.

Stepping stones are a natural part of moving up the professional ladder. Everyone wants to advance, and when you reach a level with nowhere else to go, you may begin to look for something else. It is natural for people to want to continue to grow. Keep this in mind as you provide employees with opportunities to grow, learn, demonstrate and earn recognitions.

I wanted to avoid being placed in positions that would be a stumbling block, preventing me from accomplishing goals in serving others. It isn’t easy to achieve goals when stumbling blocks are positioned in pathways.

Take a moment a review your current team and the stumbling blocks in place. Are there thoughts, procedures, lack of resources, or others to prevent growth? How do we respond to stumbling blocks?

Recently, my daughter told me they start school in one week, and several of the new hires have quit. Is this considered a stepping stone issue or a stumbling block issue?

Do you place stumbling blocks in place? We could do this without realizing it. Strong beliefs about a topic without allowing debate and listening to the other side can cause an obstruction.

If we can go back to my opening interview, I can tell you I did get the job as principal in the new district. Remember I asked not to be moved? I was moved at the end of the first year to another building to be principal. It was middle school! The previous principal took a job in another district. Was it a stepping stone or a stumbling block? It depends on who’s lens you look through.

Oh, by the way, I never left the district that hired me. Things may have changed over the years, but I never left them. I stand by my beliefs and my word.

Stepping stones are important as long as no one is hurt along the way. Stumbling blocks are part of the journey. Do not let these prevent you from moving forward to accomplish your goals.

Unfamiliar territory? Consult the compass

When traveling in unfamiliar territory, explorers frequently consult their compasses to ensure they have not lost their way or are not headed in a direction away from their destination.

The value of a compass is that it defines one direction—north. All other directions can be determined and selected or rejected based on this knowledge. Explores map out their plans and directions, but change due to external conditions.

As educators, we also need to consult our professional compass. Rather than showing north, our compass needs to point directly at helping students learn. External and internal conditions place changes on directions, but we must always consult before proceeding.

Every issue, every decision, and expenditure of an organizational resource—human or financial—must be judged on its consistency with the point of our compass.

If we are clear and consistent in our pursuit and support of student learning, we can monitor our direction and adjust our course with relative ease. Like explorers, we need to consult our compass and change our course accordingly frequently.

However, our compass is not something we can carry in our pockets. We must keep it in our hearts and mind. Our love for “what” we do always explains our “why.” The destination we desire is not for one traveler, but all, and some arrive at different times along the journey.

As the ships are preparing and the travelers arrive, let us not forget the importance of the compass in helping us to maintain the direction forward to success. It does not matter the length of the journey, only the quality and the arrival to the destination.

Action Steps

  • Prepare for travelers
  • Organize materials
  • Establish goals
  • Understand directional path
  • Identify resources for support
  • Make modifications
  • Monitor progress
  • Evaluate
  • Celebrate

Along the journey, it is all-important to monitor, evaluate, modify, support and celebrate (even small wins) along the way to the final destination.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths….”         Walt Disney

 

Can we make kids do almost anything?

Kids are heading back to school. Teachers are waiting for them with lessons to learn. I don’t think, or maybe teachers, do know all the power they have. Teachers can make kids do almost anything. I know, students don’t do their homework, they act up in class, and the list goes on. But let’s think about what influences we have over the children we serve.

I have included a link to an article written on four things teachers shouldn’t ask students. It is an interesting article to read and to reflect on as we enter a new school year. If we could keep in mind children are smaller versions of adults trying to develop.

No matter what political party you belong to, or if you believe in getting the vaccine or not, we are asking children to wear a mask for an entire school day. We were already trying to conform them with many rules they had difficulties following, and now we are placing one more layer on them. (no pun intended)

Scientists, Doctors, politicians, parents, and school officials can not agree on one thing involving the condition of children amid this global pandemic. There has been only one disease eradicated with a vaccine and mass mandatory vaccines, and that is Smallpox. Covid-19 can not be solved using the same game plan as Smallpox, as Smallpox was not a disease created to be transferred between animals and humans. Covid-19 is much like the flu and common cold, but at a more severe level.

When we focus only on problems and our negative mindset, we fail to think to lead to the best solutions rationally. We lost so many to this horrible disease, but how many have we lost by the actions, decisions, and choices we made/make. The count is still to be determined, but my answer is no more. Stop all of these tactics, leaders; you have placed fear in the hearts of many, set families to make choices they do not need to make, turned people against each other and it is not one political side-it is humankind. No more, stop it today and lead the way you are supposed to lead.

So, can you make kids do almost anything? Look around for just a minute and pause. Kids are miniature versions of adults. Aren’t adults being made to do almost anything by these leaders? Just my question, my thoughts, you reflect, you read, you think, and most importantly……you do what you believe is right, not what someone else is telling you. Be the solution daily for a better day every day!

I have not received a great deal of feedback from my blog posts, but maybe I will. It is important to let you know I have been vaccinated; my husband has as well. My family members have had Covid-19 and survived; some did not. We have lost people we know to Covid-19, as it is a horrible disease. We have also seen arguments, violence, and so much more. It is time to stop and leaders to lead. Leaders are creating more problems than providing solutions.

https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-4-things-teachers-shouldnt-be-asking-their-students-to-do/2019/04?utm_source=eb&utm_medium=eml&utm_campaign=summeread&utm_content=nonsubbest320210805&M=62403154&U=&UUID=9f1ec8cd046f38727e8fde599f9cd108

Actions speak louder than words. Step up and be the standard for all to follow. The chaotic culture needs to be stabilized.

Checking on Leadership

How do you check on your leadership? Do you have a checklist? Ask others? Reflect after reading about leadership?

Many ways to check on leadership as you move through your journey. Are you achieving results, winning awards, and seeing progress on goals? These all demonstrate successful leadership. What do you think about these statements?

  • Leading people is about showing up amid uncertainty.
  • I am showing up reliably in an unpredictable world.
  • We are accepting influx and adapting to change.
  • Being an effective leader in a crisis is be sturdy and solid.
  • Be a stabilizing force; focus on managing the “how” more than the “what.”
  • We can’t control the “what” but can control the “how” we respond.
  • Anchor all leadership behaviors in honoring others in interactions.

It is essential to continue growing as a leader. Always remember to seek feedback from others, self-reflect, and review your progress on the vision in place. Maintaining these three areas will keep you grounded in knowing how you are doing. It is great to ask yourself questions when you reflect. This article I found utilizing questions from John Maxwell are good ones to use. https://www.bizjournals.com/louisville/stories/2004/04/19/smallb3.html

The storyteller

Laughs echo in the hallway. They were coming from the classroom. I open the door to see…..

“Come on in! We are right at the beginning of the story.”

I walk in to find a place to sit. All of the kids, with smiles on their faces, were excited about what this teacher was doing. These were the students who transferred with me to this new school. So we were learning together all of the new faces.

Jerry was their classroom teacher. He was a friendly man who was very experienced. When I first met him, I knew there was something special about him in how he spoke. Today he was dressed in a baseball uniform and had all of the props to go with it.

Tossing the baseball in the air he began, “Now where was I, oh yes. The game had just started and the crowds were excited. They knew Johnny would be coming up to bat. Could he hit a home run to score the winning run to win the game?”

With his sound effects and asking the kids to join in they were all hanging on the edge of their seats. They were making the sounds of the crowd. He tossed the ball up slightly and hit the baseball bat making the sound effect.

“The crowd cheers as Johnny rounds the bases to win the game.” The kids clapped and loved this engaging way of storytelling.

“Now let’s get out our Social Studies books and see how baseball became a part of America’s favorite pastime. We will also look at how it changed over time to include everyone.”

“Thanks everyone for letting me join in your classroom this morning!” I looked at all of them as I shut the door; yes this was transformational leadership in the best way!

Jerry’s classroom was one of my favorite classrooms to visit. When you walked through his doors, you were transformed into an exceptional experience. It was more than just learning; it was creating memories, an experience, and reaching your emotions always to want to grow and learn.

Jerry had one of the girls who had built up a solid break wall around her. I had already worked an entire year with her, so I had made a few chips in the wall. I knew he was going to succeed in reaching her, and he did.

As a leader, do you have transformational skills you use? Do you have others on your team who do? One of the essential parts of transformation is prioritizing people. We are helping to create something memorable, reaching emotions and always continuing to grow. Celebrate those doing this work; most of the time, they do not realize how critical they are to what we do.

Thank you to all of the Jerry’s out there! I know kids still talk about what a Jerry did for them one day in school….twenty, thirty, forty, and more years ago.

Be the solution daily as you are the storyteller who creates the next generation of leaders to impact the world we live in together. You do not have to be in a classroom to help shape the leaders of tomorrow. Volunteer for youth groups, create youth internships, support family activities to strengthen these supports, provide scholarships connected to service, and many other ideas to strengthen youth leadership.

Just like baseball, it is a team working together to win the game. Our world is better when we work together with common goals to reach success.