Monday, July 29, 2013

What's between your Lead & your Er?

I've been studying and reflecting on my own leadership this summer. As I have been writing my weekly blog and presenting to educators, a reoccurring thought continues to surface. What do I lead?

I could respond that I lead a campus, a great staff or some other grandiose tangible answer. But to get to the heart of what kind of leader I am, a better question to ask is what verb is between my Lead and my Er?

A leader facilitates or guides others to emulate actions and behaviors that are a natural part of his subconscious behavior. His leadership is manifested in his values and attitude. Sure, a leader's words are important, but people follow action not title or position.   

The gap between a person's 'Lead' and 'Er' boils down to one common thread, the behaviors and values that he employs to guide others.  To take this thought a bit deeper, one could say that combining the leader's action of affinity with the 'Er' represents his inner psyche better known as the id. 

So how do we find out what our id is? Lets analyze 2 types of leaders. 

Transformational leaders place progressive verbs like learn, motivate, innovate, create, communicate and collaborate in between their 'Lead' & 'Er'.  In essence, the greatest leaders model these actions of aspiration to such a deep degree of inspiration that the culture is compelled to adopt these values.

Transactional leaders also have actions between their 'Lead' & 'Er', but these managerial-style and top-down actions negatively impact the campus. I'm talking about verbs such as the following: critique, evaluate, correct, blame, direct, etc. If these leaders primarily employ these behaviors as the core of their leadership persona, the culture will respond in kind with reactionary behaviors that are defensive in posture and protective in nature. 

To discover what's between your  'Lead' & 'Er', the answer is not what you believe about yourself. It's actually what others perceive you to be. The best way to reveal what's between your 'Lead' and your 'Er' is to ask others what they believe is important to you. 

The answers to these questions may surprise or affirm you. If they affirm, your words are aligned with your transformational actions. If you are surprised, then it is time to identify the gap that truly exists between the leader you desire to be and the leader that you are today.

Click Picture to check out this video.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How Google is Strengthening our Learning Community

School is about to start and even though I haven't seen a whole lot of people over the summer, I really feel connected to my school community.  I have been in contact more with new teachers than ever.  Parents have been able to stay informed more than ever, and I owe this all to Google.  Here are the awesome tools that I am using to strengthen my ties with my entire learning community.


Blogger has been the very best service to keep everyone informed with detailed information.  I use my Principal's Page to communicate weekly information to my parents and the community, and I push it out through my Twitter and Facebook accounts.  This year, I am replacing my normal staff email with a staff blog so I can encourage more dialogue through the comment feature.  I also have teachers that will be implementing blogs to improve parent communication

Reasons to Use Blogger

  • Comments - Strengthening your community means encouraging dialogue.  This will do that for you.
  • Gadgets - Gadgets are the coolest thing ever because they connect parents and the community to their personal social media preference of staying informed.
    • Follow by Email - Parents can receive your posts by email each time you publish them.
    • Share - Parents can share your posts by Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.
    • Translation Feature - This dropdown feature is AWESOME for your non-English speaking parents.
  • Embed Hyperlinks & Videos - You can't do that on a paper newsletter.
  • Blog Archive - This feature keeps your posts in order for easy reference when looking for a past announcement.
  • Popular Post - This feature keeps the top read posts at the top of your feed.
  • Multiple Authors - Instead of multiple people sending multiple emails that eventually get lost, overlooked or never read, why not have the same multiple people author one blog so your readers only have to look to one source for all of the information that they will ever need. 
Blogger has been a huge life-saver for me this year, and it has really made parents and the community feel like they are a vital part of our learning community.


I use my YouTube channel to flip my communication to parents and staff.  This past year I have flipped many things like: 

  • Parent pick-up procedures 
  • Our discipline management system
  • Promoting our Summer Learning Connection program
  • Showing staff how to set up a Blogger and Twitter account
This Google tool has cut down the amount of time I have to spend communicating to the learning community, but it has massively increased the effectiveness of my communication.  I plan to use this tool a whole lot more this year.


Google Docs

Google Docs are an awesome way to collaborate with minimal conversation.  Using Google spreadsheets and word docs in our learning teams and with our administrative team has increased our collective efficacy because more people are in the know about exactly what is happening.  From placing staff in specific teams to creating tools to monitor student performance, multiple people can look at the same document, edit the same document, and comment on the same document in real-time.  This is the smartest thing that teams and campuses can do to focus on learning and maximize collaboration.

Google Forms

What a great way to gather information from people!  If you want to get everyone to sign up for an event, create a google form, send it out through your blog and your social media outlet, and let a Google Doc spreadsheet collect the information for you.  The data entry is done for you by the people that complete your form and then you can export the form into a MS Excel spreadsheet.  From there, you can mail merge for labels, sort by column or do anything else that will help you strengthen your learning community.  I have used Google Forms for the following:
  • Staff Favorite Drinks from Sonic (#Homerun)
  • Parent Sign-Up for Summer Learning Connection
  • Staff Sign-Up for Twitter and Blogger Training
It's so easy, even a caveman can do it. 

Why Google?

Why not?  Google has taken the middle man out of communication, the student.  Let's face it.  When we send a piece of paper home with a child, there are many factors that determine if the paper will reach the parent's hands.  If I believe that it is important enough to copy and send home, I want to guarantee that parents will receive it.  Sure, some parents don't have access to technology, but that's not a good enough reason to not utilize this valuable tool.

For staff communication, Google removes the barriers of miscommunication and misunderstanding that teachers face when they read an email from the principal.  Email cuts out the paper concern, but doesn't remedy the factor of clarity.  Each Google tool has a specific purpose to eliminate ambiguity from communication.  The only question becomes this. Which tool do we use to remove which barrier to clear communication?  You learn that by actually using this tools regularly over time.

So what are you waiting for?  Take a chance. Get started.  The worst that can happen is that your community will know a little more than they knew already.  If you truly believe in your learning community, you should also believe that your moral responsibility is to do whatever it takes to build the strongest learning community possible.  That is why you should strengthen your learning community with Google.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Making Missions Matter

What is your campus mission statement? In conversations that I've had with people, they generally have three different responses:  I don't know, or it's something like..., or they rattle it out verbatim. Even if you have one and can spit it out on command, that doesn't necessarily mean that your mission matters. It means that you know what it is.

On our campus, our mission statement was developed by all. It was written in a way that anyone can easily remember it. It is displayed throughout the building and on our website, but that doesn't mean that our mission matters.

The heart of the matter boils down to one thing. A mission isn't worth the paper it's written on unless you're living it. You can plaster your mission all over town.  You can talk the walk until you're blue in the face, but if you're not walking the talk, your mission is meaningless. 

So how do we make our campus mission matter?

1. Understand what a mission actually is. 
A mission defines why our campus exists. It is the core of why the staff has been brought together. A mission is bigger than we're all here to educate all kids.  Our campus was created to GUARANTEE that every kid becomes successful. No guarantee, no mission!

2. Visions Matter Too
Knowing why we exist is critical, but defining what we hope to become is just as important. Pose this question. If we all actually committed to these mission words and walked our talk, how awesome could this school really be for all students, all staff and all parents?

3. Values and Goals Matter
Campuses must define the specific behaviors (values) that everyone must exemplify to live the mission so that they can reach the vision. In addition, short term and long term goals help campuses and teams keep their focus on what really matters, all kids and their learning

4. AIM - Align Individual Missions 
Every person has their own personal mission statement. It's not found on a poster.  It is within each and every person on the campus and is manifested in their daily actions and choices. If their personal mission does not align with the campus mission, they have a choice to make. Do they choose the campus mission or their personal mission? In absence of a living mission and the peer pressure of personal accountability, aligning personal missions to the campus mission will never take place.


Steps to Make the Mission Matter

Here is how principals can make missions matter in a meaningful way. 

Collectively ask every member to quietly do the following: 
1. Read and synthesize the campus mission statement. 
2.  Write down the exceptional actions and ideals that the individual must exhibit in his role to help fulfill the campus mission.
3.  Individually write a personal mission statement that encompasses 2 things: embodies the individual's ideal qualities and supports the campus mission. 
4. Have each member post their personal mission statesment beneath the campus mission statement in a prominent place in their room. 

Make your Mission Viable

Finally, missions do not become viable until we breathe life into them. In other words, collective commitment serves as the mission's life support system, and when individuals refuse to commit, they essentially pull the plug on the campus mission. 

So how do WE make the Mission Viable?

Principals must praise members for living their personal mission, support staff who struggle to live their mission and redirect staff who choose not to live their mission. In actuality, you're not addressing their mission statement. You are addressing their personalized translation of the campus mission statement.

Staff members must keep the mission in front when difficulties arise and decisions must be made. Choices can't be made based on feelings or a hunch. They must make based on this question. Does this choice move us closer to further away from our mission?  They must also hold the principal accountable for keeping the mission in the forefront at all times.  #ReciprocalAccountability

Celebrate you Mission
What gets celebrated gets accelerated. 

Final Tweet

Missions matter to people when people see that they matter to the mission.

Does your campus mission matter to you, and more importantly, do you see how you matter to the mission?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The 3 Uns of Change

Change is occurring daily. It is happening by the minute, by the second. Can you see it?  Do you hear it?  Can you feel it?

Change requires movement. It is progress, and it requires activity. Are you ready?  More importantly, are you accepting of the change. 

Change is a regular occurrence in education. With the advent of each new educational concept, change is required. Acceptance is mandatory. Failure to acknowledge or accept change may result in students being unsuccessful. What worked for last year's kids may not work for this year's kids. 

I had the opportunity to attend the Texas ASCD conference in Frisco, Texas. While there, I had the opportunity to listen to Lee Crockett speak. Lee's presentation on 21st century learning and the necessity to embed technology in learning was powerful, to say the least. To drive the point further, he illustrated that the change needed in education today was one of the most imperative in our nation's history. 

When describing the reasons that this necessary change will fail to be implemented by people, he narrowed it down to the prefix, Un.  People who fail to implement change fall into one of the following Un categories:

1. Unaware
For one reason or another, people are purposely or accidentally oblivious to the fact that a change is taking place and as a result fail to adapt. To become aware, one must engage in constant search for new knowledge. Awareness requires seeking which also requires us to drop the blinders of our own experience. 

2. Unwilling
People are set in the paradigm of personal performance and refuse to accept the moral responsibility to make a change that will ultimately benefit kids. To become willing, one must commit to meeting the ever changing needs of kids; and therefore, commit to new and innovative ways that others have found more effective in helping kids learn. If one is willing to make the change, they are more committed to kids than themselves. 

3. Unable
The skills necessary for implementing change can be underdeveloped or nonexistent. If so, those wishing to make the change must commit to learn the skills of change by engaging in professional development. Ability is as much about mindset as it is anything else. If you possess a passion for learning and becoming more effective, you will discover and engage in meaningful personal development which will enable you to move with the change. 

Change is a-coming.  Change is here. By first being aware of changes taking place, we can be willing and able to go with change.  Furthermore, transforming our paradigms of stagnation into a mindset of change and regularly adapting our craft to meet the unique needs of our kids culminates awareness, willingness and ability into a perfect trinity that we call learning. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Most Powerful Leadership Question

Every leader desires to be the most effective leader he can be, but in order to make a lasting impact, he must commit to supporting all students and staff.  Nothing is more aggravating to employees than encountering a difficult situation and having the leader come up, look at the situation, tell you what's wrong and then wishing you luck in solving the problem as he walks away.  This type of leadership behavior is more affective than effective, and I don't mean that in a good way.

Employees are looking to their leaders for guidance, support and service.  The leader has a choice to make.  Get involved or watch the person's commitment dissolve.  In order for leaders to truly get involved and generate increased productivity and commitment to the organization, it all boils down to one powerful yet simple question consisting of 4 little words?

"How Can I Help" conveys 5 Things:
  • Belief in helping all staff and all kids in any way possible. 
  • Understanding that support and service are a leader's 1st two priorities
  • A natural desire to help make the teacher and kids be successful. 
  • No job or task is beneath the leader.  He or she will do anything to help his fellow staff member.
  • Leadership is not about title or position.  It is about support, guidance and service.

"How Can I Help" can be hollow if Leaders...
  • Ask the question but fail to deliver.
  • Never get back to the person who asked for help.
  • Say they will deliver, but have no intentions of getting the job done.
  • Never report back the results of what they did to help.
  • Never check to see if what they did helped.

There are all kinds of strategies that leaders employ to be successful, but the best leaders know that their number one job is to solicit information and input to make the entire organization better. The only way this can occur is to constantly be looking for ways to help the very people that you lead. Helping others is one of the highest leverage skills that a leader can employ.  Clarifying expectations, actively listening, giving direction, relieving unnecessary stress and working side by side with staff are just a few ways that leaders can help.  

People don't follow position.  They follow character.  They follow selflessness, and they follow leaders whose actions demonstrate service to others.  "How Can I Help" is the best question to generate the highest degree of belief in a leader.

So how do you help those you lead?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Shifting the Half Glass Paradigm

Is the glass half full or half empty? That is the question for today's post. The other day I was scrolling through my Twitter stream and noticed Bill Ferriter's picture of a half glass with the hashtag, #HalfFull, beneath it.

The next thought I had was why do I have to choose which of the two mindsets best represents me? I mean either choice seems a little hollow if you ask me. Let me explain a little further.

Half Empty People
The half-empty paradox is obviously vacant. It neglects appreciation and emphasizes blaming one's current lot in life on everything or everyone. These people acknowledge for a brief moment that there is water in the glass, but their focus quickly shifts to complaining about how much water is not in the glass. In essence they don't value the beauty of the present; thus they cannot move forward to their true goal, spiritual fulfillment.

Half Full People 
Optimistic people see the bright side of everything and are grateful for the half they possess. Their positive disposition is contagious because they model for others how to appreciate life for all of the good and bad that it has to offer. 

But there is a downside to people who commit to the half-full philosophy. With their focus being on appreciation for all that they have, they often are blinded to what is still missing, the other half of the glass. 

Fully Full People
These people are a rare breed. They see the glass half full but go beyond that point of view. By being thankful for the half that they have, they use the meniscus (line in the middle) as the bridge between their present and their potential.  By focusing on the meniscus rather than which part is empty or full, they can begin to set their sights on the 'yet to be filled' half in a vastly different way. With this complete change of mindset, Fully-Full people transform a void into a vision. They view the upper part of the glass as their goal, something to strive for. The image below illustrates what I'm talking about. 

By tapping into the power of validation, Full-Full people use their success of their current reality as a springboard to shoot for the opportunity that they have yet to discover. 

Half-empty people can't do that because they cannot value where they are, and half-full people cannot do it either because they can't their sights for a vision beyond their shackles of satisfaction. 

So where is your vision set?  Are you focused on the #HalfEmpty, the #HalfFull or the meniscus which brings the two together to create the #FullyFull paradigm?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

When to Turn your Back on the Crowd

In order for a conductor to effectively lead the orchestra to musical beauty, he must first turn his back on the crowd. This concept seems so obvious, but how does it apply to leadership?

Before we look at leadership, let's ponder this thought a little bit longer. The conductor is responsible to directing every member of the ensemble; and therefore, communication is critical. At the tip of the baton, there is nothing that separates the output of 50 instrumentalists from the unifying force of the waving wand. 

Oblivious to the audience, the conductor and orchestra work in concert to create an auditory masterpiece. The conductor cannot turn to the crowd for approval between every beat or measure. He must wait until the selection has ended to find out if the performance has met their standard of excellence. 

Leaders are no different. In order to lead the ensemble of educators to excellence, he must turn his back on the audience of onlookers, supporters, critics and naysayers. He must lift his baton of influence and direct his team to unify their unique talents into a collective chorus of comraderie and collegiality.

So how do leaders know the steps to successfully turn their backs on the crowd?

Maestro's Entrance

At the very beginning of the concert, the leader must face the audience to be recognized and to acknowledge their presence. This sign of courtesy conveys that the audience is supportive and ready for the conductor to direct. Leaders never forget to establish a relationship with their stakeholders before beginning the difficult task of leading an organization.

Up to the Podium

Once the relationship with the audience is established, the conductor must now ascend to the podium, the position of leadership. When the conductor steps on the podium, the orchestra directs their attention and focus toward him and the conductor reciprocates by connecting his eyes and focus on them. The audience knows that their role is to observe and enjoy. Leaders must also build clear lines of communication where every member of the team engages together to begin the process of improvement.

Start the Music

The downbeat of the piece requires first a connection with the orchestra.  The orchestra and its leader must be on the same page through strong planning and communication. For organizations,  leaders and the members of the organization must also be connected by clear lines of communication.  Exemplary work cannot occur until the leader and organization are in harmony before the work of improvement commences.

Implement Excellence

Once the music begins, there's no stopping until the end. The conductor and orchestra work together to perform the piece to the best of their ability. The leader and the organization should be no different. By working in concert, the organization does its best to fulfill its mission and vision by adhering to its values and striving to reach its collective goals each and every day. At this point nothing comes between the vision and collective efforts of the team.

Concert Feedback

After every selection, the conductor drops his baton signaling the end of the piece. The audience knows that it is their time to give feedback. The level of applause indicates their degree of satisfaction. Likewise, the leader must periodically turn away from the work of the day to engage with the school community to gather insight and input. Without regular feedback from stakeholders, the leader has no idea if the community is in support of the things that are occurring in the organization.  The leader must turn away from the team to ensure that they audience is still in the building. 

Curtain Call

If the orchestra has fulfilled its responsibility of entertaining the crowd, they will be met an eruption of applause that will cause the conductor to repeatedly return to the stage for additional recognition. If the leader and the organization fail to fulfill their job and customer satisfaction is lacking, there will be no curtain call.  One thing is certain.  The audience will tell others about their experience.  If the performance was poor, everyone will know. If the performance was adequate, chances are that no one will hear about it.  To get a curtain call in your community, performances must be majestically memorable.  Performances of this caliber will create outside advocates that will tell the story of your team's excellence and the support that your group provides them.

Turning your back on the crowd is not a bad thing. It is an expectation that most people understand and respect. What makes a leader effective is that he knows when to turn toward the crowd. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reclaiming Independence Day

Independence Day is here, and today I have a question to ask my fellow LeadLearners. Is our culture promoting people to be Independent or in Dependence?  It's a play on words obviously, but this is no laughing matter.

I'm not talking about economics. What I am referring to a basic dependence on others to sustain our own sense of confidence and well-being.  We all enter this world dependent creatures and should be conditioned to one day fly on our own and be independent. 

The problem is that our culture conditions us to believe that we are special and that it is someone else's job to make us happy. Whether it be from a relationship, material possessions, or a position in our career, we are conditioned to expect that it is someone else's job to create the conditions to make us happy. 

This facade of dependent expectations is fatally flawed because no one can read our minds and serve us to our own level of satisfaction. No matter how hard they try, as long as we are dependent on someone else to make our lives better, they can never satisfy us. Genetically we were brought in as dependent infants expected to mature into independent adults. In other words no one can make our lives better than we can. 

Therefore, we must rise up on this Independence Day and make a stand against the glamorized and misguided life of dependence. No product, person or position in life can make us better than who we are already. We must stop searching for a better life.  The search for joy outside ourselves takes us further away from a free and independent life. To move towards independence, we must depend from within and above to gain true freedom from the tyranny of short-term, worldly happiness. 

Liberty is freedom from control. I challenge you to free yourself from the chains of dependence. No longer look to someone to provide you the benefits of life that you can provide for yourself. The next iPhone will not make you happier. The next U is the only thing that will make you happier. 

"Give me liberty or give me death" were the inspiring words of Patrick Henry. I hope this Independence Day you will join me in changing our world from one that is in dependence to one that is independent, and that together we can change the world by starting with ourselves.

Happy Independence Day!