Tag: #vision

Acceptance brings peace

Change is always happening! The pandemic ushered in several shifts in our lives and education! It is when we can accept things we cannot change we can continue to move forward. There are things we can change and with these we follow our core values.

Identify the ‘what”, the “how” will follow. We cannot make the “how” an excuse not to face and accept the “what.” “When” we accept the “what” and “how” as our own, the realization of “who” needs to do the work required to make change is found.

Acceptance brings peace and reminders of our “why,” “what” we do, “how” we react, and “when” we accept, positive change can happen.

Harvest time encouragement

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9. The Harvest is Coming is a chapter in Dr. Femi Skanes’s book, Encouragement for The School Leader’s Soul. You can purchase a copy on Amazon! Connect with her at:

https://www.fssleadership.com

Dr. Skane is a Principal in Chicago, Illinois, and one of the breakout session speakers provided at the Illinois Principal Conference this year. She held two sessions which were both excellent. My favorite one to help all leaders was her session on Family Engagement Reimagined.

If you follow the news and politics, you know parent involvement and engagement are the centers of conversations. I say amen! Education should always be a priority for everyone. If you noticed, I used two words, involvement and engagement. Why? Great question! There is a difference between the two and you need both!

When we discuss the involvement of parents and families, we mean “doing to” them. While engagement indicates “doing with” families as they bring ideas, thoughts, and actions to collaborate. Let’s look at a couple of examples to see if you can see the difference.

We ask parents to come to school for a meeting. During the meeting, we ask parents to look at the new reading books we received. Please read with your child each week and track it in the reading log.

Is that involvement or engagement?

Parents and families are invited to come to our “New Reading Night” to highlight our new reading books. We will be looking at fresh ideas of ways to explore, excite and engage all students. Hope to see you there with great ideas to share!

Is this involvement or engagement?

Parents need to be involved and engaged with your school. You share the same goals and wants for the children. You accepted the position you hold because you want to bring out the best in all you serve. This includes your families and communities.

We are leading into a time of fatigue for educators if we have not already reached it. However, we must not lose sight of the fantastic harvest heading our way because of our collective efforts. We will, we are, and we remain the core of what makes America. Without education, you would not have a well-structured home to live in, roads to travel on, grocery stores to go to, doctors to visit, churches to attend, and so much more. All because of education.

The school year is almost half over, and many students will begin new chapters in their book of life in which you helped with many of the pages. Take some time for yourself and help staff as much as possible to make the second half of the school year unforgettable. Bring a sense of stability to the world of uncertainty as leadership continues to have different views. Take time to plan, have a strategy, have a welcoming environment inside and out, provide and ask for feedback, take action on the information you receive, develop partnerships, network, and most importantly, bring FUN to all you do.

The first question above is involvement, and the second is engagement. It is simple to remember by doing to or doing with individuals; they are involved or engaged. You will find the same philosophy in my approach to all I do in my book Two Rule School.

Vision for the future

This week I focused on inspiration. As the weekend is here for family, friends, and fun, can you take a little time to think about your vision? What is your professional and personal vision? Do they work together? If you are a leader, do those you lead know your vision? If you follow a leader, is it because of their vision or another reason?

Ambition

Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher

Cultivating Healthy Ambition

Ambition is an essential element to an organization and individual. Ambition begins with understanding the desires, aspirations, and goals you have for yourself and your team. What exactly are your desired outcomes for yourself and those of your team?

Knowing and understanding how far to reach is key to harnessing healthy ambition. Setting goals that require just the right level of difficulty push and struggle helps ensure to reach beyond your current abilities. Suppose the challenge is too great; a risk of giving up or becoming discouraged when target goals fall short happens. If the challenge isn’t significant enough, a risk of disconnecting, not being engaged, and never reaching the levels of total performance is accomplished.

I worked with a young ambitious leader who was very talented. His desire to accomplish was greater than the skill levels of himself and his team. They pushed full steam ahead, but lacked the ability to sustain all of the components of their plans. Piles of data was collected, but being able to utilize it wisely with a targeted purpose was missing. They could accomplish some small wins, but the frustration levels grew with trying to maintain the action plans. Creating the action plans was difficult to establish because the data seemed to become outdated by the time they reviewed it together. It became overwhelming with the stacks of data collected.

There is more to accomplish than performance with ambition. We need to think about growth, achievement, sustainable and solution-focused ambitions. Each of these requires more in-depth conversations we can continue in future blog posts. We need a balance for ambition to find the formula for success. In the meantime, ponder these questions with your purpose of performance:

Questions for Focus

  • What are our current performance goals?
  • What goals can you reach with your efforts?
  • What goals can you help guide your team in accomplishing?
  • How can the efforts of “all” work together to accomplish the goals?
  • Do the goals need to be prioritized?
  • Have you assigned timelines, responsibilities, tasks, or other ways to accomplish them?
  • What do I wish was different today?
  • What frustrates me the most?
  • Have I asked the team any of these questions?
  • Do I listen to the team, data and information?

When we work only on performance ambition, our teams may look to us in different ways. If our goals seem unattainable, they will look at us as being “unrealistic.” Maybe you have set too many or too high of goals. The team believes you are setting them up for failure.

What if you do not take any risks and have too few of goals? The team thinks you do not believe in them, you are not a risk-taker and you have low expectations.

We do not want to lose our sense of purpose. Our team must believe in the goals, values, and beliefs we establish. It is essential to keep a check on the level of ambition we have and to maintain high sustainable energy to develop the accomplishments we want to achieve.

Critical piece

"The miracle is not that we do the work, but that we are happy to do it.”-Mother Teresa

Leaders provide lots of information, data, strategies, and models for success. As a leader, you have attended workshops, webinars, read books, and researched all of the knowledge of “what works” to achieve success. Still, after all of this, you scratch your head when you see the data come in with results you think should reflect better outcomes.

Why? All of these efforts and the same results. How can we explain this? “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.”-Craig Groeschel. Training, strategies, looking at data, and utilizing models proven to be successful should help us see growth and positive outcomes.

“You cannot solve a problem at the same level it was created.”-Albert Einstein. It is finding solutions to problems or issues we face that are complex at times. It isn’t that all of the things I listed are not necessary, but what is missing that is critical to ensure positive results?

It is a culture with a clearly defined mission, vision, and values. Leaders can explain the purpose of the organization in one sentence. Meetings, conversations, and communications refer to the mission, vision, and values frequently. Decisions are based on these as well. However, is it talking points and papers in a binder?

Ask these questions to reveal the answers to help guide in the understanding of the culture you have, what you should have and cannot have to thrive.

Culture Questions

  • Does your team enjoy being together?
  • How do staff interact together?
  • Do you have a process for the continuous development of staff?
  • How do staff feel about their job?
  • Do leaders model and encourage self-awareness and intentional personal development?
  • Are you able to have open discussions about the work environment?
  • Do you handle conflict?
  • How do you monitor or know about the culture?
  • Do you trust one another?

“When we have to protect ourselves from each other, the whole organization suffers. But when trust and cooperation thrive internally, we pull together, and the organization grows stronger as a result.”

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek pg. 16

If you have ever tried to work in a toxic culture, you know first hand it is exhausting, and nothing can be accomplished. When individuals feel safe, comfortable with their team, and valued by everyone, they are inspired. We want to have these kinds of cultures as individuals love what they do, where they do it, and most importantly, “why” they do it.

Leadership is 360 degrees and 365 days

As we study math and science we learn a great deal about measurements. When we discuss 360 degrees, we can recognize this as a reference of measurement in angles, a circle’s circumference. If we compare to the temperature in Fahrenheit, it is above 212, the temperature of boiling water. If we include a calendar year, it contains 365 days. Leadership encompasses all of these components.

John Maxwell’s book 360 Leadership is a great book. His description of organizations needs leaders who can lead in every direction. Then Jon Lockhorst’s new book, Mission-Critical Leadership, reconfirms the importance of leadership at every level with the ability to support others at different levels.

The qualities and attributes of leaders identified as 360 leaders include:

  • Adaptibility
  • Discernment
  • Perspective
  • Communication
  • Security
  • Resourcefulness
  • Maturity
  • Endurance
  • Reliability

Leaders do not work every day, but their qualities are present 365 days a year. On some days the temperature of the situation they are working on can reach 212 degrees. This is when the steam pushes them on to reach extraordinary levels of accomplishment.

One of the elements missing in the description of a 365 leader is initiative. My favorite way to provide professional learning on this subject is through the book The Dog Poop Initiative by Kirk Weisler.

Action Plan

  • Call a team meeting
  • Prepare the meeting room with pooper scoops on the tables filled with candy (tootsie rolls).
  • You can tell the story as written or change it to meet the needs of your organization. I have retold the story utilizing slight variations.
  • Parts of the presentation provide pauses in asking questions to make choices and decisions. You can add: Pieces of litter on the floor, Empty bottles of drinks, money on the floor, chair with something on it (gum, spilled drink)
  • When you came in today, who noticed the _____ Who pointed? Who walked by? Who did something to clean it up?
  • Now you don’t want to call people out. This is shaming, bullying and can be a bad situation. We can do these as hypothetical questions. You can find video clips to use as examples to help reinforce the message. But as a presenter coming in we could get by with pushing the envelope without calling people out. They all know who they are!
  • Reinforce the importance from the story of the time lost, opportunities missed, and how one individual or group can impact the change needed to accomplish a goal (no pun intended.)

“Why you lead and the way you lead are important. They define YOU, your leadership, and ultimately your contribution.” -John Maxwell

As an organization, our goal is to be the best, serve others with high levels of respect and support each other to accomplish our goals.

Action Steps for leadership 360

  • Lead Self first- to lead in all directions, begin with mastering self-management. People will not follow you if you have not taken control of valuing your own time, have a clear focus and purpose. You are disciplined in handling your emotions. Could you make them want to follow you?
  • Lead in the middle-across- Leading in this position is a consistent state of developing and maintaining credibility. Individuals need to influence and build on relationships of trust. Providing peers with success, opportunities to voice ideas with allowing the best to achieve credit. Most individuals in the middle will not receive credit for the work they do, but they need to know others’ know-how valuable the work they do is.
  • Leading down- Learning about all of the staff is an excellent part of understanding how to serve your teams better. Know the strengths of the individuals to make sure they are working in areas to maximize the skills they have and prevent burnout. The goal of leadership is to help people succeed. Their success is our success. Inspire them through the vision and providing what they need to succeed.
  • Leading up-, It is important to remember we started with ourselves. To help lead up, we must be the best “us” we can be. This allows the entire team to succeed and provides upper leaders with valuable resources. When you perform well, you can step in to help with the responsibility of the top leadership to support the overall growth of the organization.

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!

Turning Gears into Action

One of my first posts was about gears. I made this reference as it was part of the original writing in my book. I did not know everything I needed to know about publishing a book. So even though my gears were turning, I did not have all of the ones I needed to move forward successfully. A rewrite was done, and it will be coming out soon I hope.

The goal I have is to help other leaders in their journeys of success. I will share all of my information, ideas, practices, actions, and everything I have with those who want to continue to be the solution daily for those they serve. Today I want to revisit the thought of gears as you begin to develop an action plan to address your planned improvements.

I utilized my conversations with my husband to talk about the motors he worked on for companies and local farmers, as they compare to the work in education. The importance of these motors for the work being done is critical to the whole process. If one gear is not working, damage can happen, and work is stopped. A farmers’ work depends on the weather conditions; it is critical to get back to work when the weather is good. In education, we weather all of the storms that come our way.

In our educational system, we have gears as well that are critical to the work we do. I divided the gears into the following:

  • Leadership
  • Instruction
  • Curriculum
  • Assessments
  • Professional Learning/Collaboration
  • Culture/Climate
  • Communication
  • Community/Partnerships
  • Systems/Program Evaluation

Gears are connected to a shaft. This cylinder shaped piece of rotating machine element, is used to transmit power from one part to another, or from a machine which produces power to a machine which absorbs power. Compare this to your organization.

Gears are the identified areas of focus. Our focused areas are those in need of attention to produce the successful energy we need. Often my husband has spent time completing a rewind of motors because they have burnt up and need an overhaul. Sometimes they are beyond repair and are scrapped out. New motors are purchased if it is cheaper to do this than to fix the motor.

In education, it seems at times we have situations or things that are beyond repair. However, we cannot scrap them out and purchase new things. We have to make adjustments to try to make it work. I can think of textbooks, programs and curriculum. We spend a great deal of money, time, and energy in the selection of these materials. Our budgets do not allow us to throw things out. However, when new shiny things are the buzz, we through out and turn our attention to the new. Examples could be: Whole Language, Touch Math, Cursive Writing, Phonics, Sight Words and more.

We intend that we will produce enough energy our students will absorb the learning. However, it is not the energy from the materials and tools but those teaching our students producing the energy. It is when our students are engaged and have ownership in their learning the energy sparks.

The shaft is our mission as a foundation. It is what we are doing defined by our vision. Our vision is inspirational and connects emotionally with what we do. A well-oiled, lubricated, or greased machine keeps it turning. This is our values and beliefs. Working together and turning in the right direction is fueled by families, communities, and stakeholders. We have focused leaders, collaborating staff, engaged families, supportive community, and stakeholders, producing achieving students as outcomes are the results.

As you begin your work, identify your focus areas. Which gears do you have in your plan? What do you think at first glance needs your attention first? Be careful not to burn out all of your bags and destroy your shaft. Some things are not repairable, and we do not have enough time to repair them all. We cannot afford to throw anything out.

Counting on you to be the solution for those you serve today as they will serve tomorrow!

ABC’s to Leadership

LEADERSHIP

Writing each day is a blessing for me. I enjoy each day in finding ways to spark a fire of excitement, light a lesson of inspiration, shine enthusiasm on kindness, plant a seed of hope, and turn a problem into a solution one post at a time.

Leadership is daily, 365 days a year, and even 24 hours a day. We have thoughts, ideas, visions, dreams, and hopes throughout the day. No one sets out to be “the leader,” and many will tell you this if you ask. It just happens as they work, and a passion builds inside that can be explained by my ABCs.

  • Authentic learning, leading, and listening.
  • Building relationships daily.
  • Communicating and connecting first before correcting.
  • Daily inspiration for all, lifting spirits each day.
  • Encouraging others and engaging as we work.
  • Fueling others with energy for success. (maybe chocolate and lots of snacks! I find these to work best!)
  • Gardening throughout the day, planting seeds for growth, and maybe pulling a few weeds.
  • Heart full of kindness, celebrating birthdays and good deeds. (Always keep cards of all kinds and small gifts in case you need them.)
  • Inviting feedback and questions.
  • Joining in collaboration, diversity, and teams.
  • Keeping an open mind.
  • Leading by example. (Model for others what you expect to see.)
  • Motivating others. (It is the small things you do that count.)
  • Never giving up, especially on you! (Special dedication to one of my students who thanked me for not giving up on him. He was shot and killed at the age of 19.)
  • Open door policies!
  • Praise for jobs well done!
  • Quick to put others first, especially kids.
  • Recognizing problems, focusing on solutions.
  • Shared leadership, roles, and responsibilities. (Teach everyone how to do your job, you never know when you will not be there!) -Thanks Robin
  • Time to listen, learn and explain.
  • Understanding (Everything!)
  • Validation! Others, feelings, viewpoints- You do not have to agree but validate them.
  • Welcoming environment, friendly, safe, opinions can be shared.
  • Xceed expectations when limits are placed on you and expectations are low.
  • Your purpose-the why you do what you do!
  • Zest to be the best!