Saturday, January 11, 2020

WHY Your Day should Start with Your WHY

This past week, our district had the opportunity to have Ken Williams speak to our district staff. (By the way, if you haven’t heard him, you’re missing out. Click here for an example of what I’m talking about.). His message reminded me of the real reason we do what we do, to create men and women who are not only successful employees, but ultimately influential leaders, mothers, and fathers of future generations.

Think about that for just a second. How much more powerful would our work and daily efforts be if we constantly reminded ourselves that our work was designed to build future leaders?  How much more committed would we be to our work if we knew our work was building mothers and fathers? Chances are that we would be more connected to our work with that compelling why as opposed to a work-based why like improving test scores. 

Your Why Influences your What
If your why is compelling, your what will follow suit. If the reason you exist is to simply get the job done, your work will be driven by numbers and tasks, but if your purpose on earth is to build men and women of the future, not only will you instill values into your students and those you work with, but your numbers (test scores or whatever bottom line you need) will grow even more. 

Ways to Stay Focused on your Why
Your day is not impacted by your Why unless you wake up to your Why. Some great strategies to start with your why include:  
  • Posting your Why in a prominent place that you can see when you wake up, 
  • Post your why in your car on your way to work, or on your desk or board in your room when your arrive at work,
  • Tell others what your why is. When you profess it, it’s power grows. 
  • Set an alarm on your phone that reminds you to focus on your why. 
  • Have a morning routine where reviewing your why is one of the things you do. 
Our work (WHAT we do) often fails to reach its potential because we are influenced by emotions of the day or even hour, unexpected issues and even setbacks. When these things come up, our why can lose focus and ultimately it’s effectiveness in making a difference, but when we start our day with the WHY, those unexpected obstacles stand much less of a chance of negatively impacting our work because our why drives our perspective. 

Simon Sinek said real change starts with the WHY. If we take that simple yet powerful concept to the next level, we could conclude that real change occurs only if we commit to change for the better everyday; therefore, we would start everyday with our  why and keep our focus on that why throughout everyday. And when we start each day’s work with the why, what we do will yield results and relationships beyond our wildest needs. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

10 Tips to Make Sure 2020 isn’t a So-So Year

The 2020 New Year and new decade are here, and now is the time to make sure this new year is anything but a So-So year. When it comes to New Years and even new decades it’s easy to just think, “This year is going to be my year!”  But it’s not that simple. This year will be your year if and only if you do the work to make intentional plans to make it your year!

10 Tips to Make Sure 2020 is Your Year!
1.  Set a Health Goal - 2020 wont be good if you don’t feel good. Set a goal for exercise and healthy
2.  Set a Relationship Goal - Make plans to spend quality time with those who mean the most to you!  They are your support system and who you will spend the most time with in 2020. 
3. Set a Professional Goal - Set a goal for your career that you want to accomplish this year?
4.  Make a Weekly Schedule - If you want to accomplish these goals, you have to make time for them in your schedule every day. Putting it on a calendar gives you a greater chance of accomplishing those goals. 
5. Sunday Reflection - Make time every Sunday to review your goals, make your schedule support your goals, and evaluate your progress. 
6. Wake Up Routine - Develop a 5-15 minute morning routine that gets you focused for the day. It may be spending time reading or in prayer. This prepares your mind to reach your goals each day. 
7. Turn Off Notifications - Our cell phones are our biggest distraction. Turning off all notifications except for text and phone calls keeps our phone from hurting our plans and productivity. 
8. Set Timers - Using your phone or watch timers and alarms helps you optimize your time so that you don’t waste time on tasks or excessively long meetings. 
9.  Make Appointments with Yourself - If our work, health and time with family is important, use your calendar to save blocks of time so that you guarantee that your time is spent well. 
10.  Have Fun - Life is too short not to enjoy it. Realize that 2020 can’t be a good year unless you’re having a good time in your new year.

The new year is an opportunity for a new you!  It can be the best year of your life if and only if you make the most of it. I challenge you to optimize your time. Make the most of your relationships, and remember that you and only you are the only reason your 2020 will not be a So-So year. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Top 10 Posts of the 2010's

The 2010 decade is coming to an end, and boy has it been amazing.  I have enjoyed leading amazing schools, and I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you for almost all of this decade.   As I reflect, it is hard to believe that I have been sharing my thoughts with you through this blog since 2012.  There have been ups, downs, celebrations, and failures throughout this decade and with each event, it prompted a thought that I shared with you.

It is because of you that I wrote the book, "A Leader's Guide to Excellence in Every Classroom", in 2016 and followed that up with my latest book, "A Teacher's Guide to Excellence in Every Classroom".  You inspired me to create a movement, #LoveMySchoolDay, where every year on a school day around April 11 (4/11), educators across North America give their communities the 411 about all the reasons they love their school.

So it is with great excitement that I share with you the LeadLearner Top 10 of the 2010 Decade

Top 10 of the 2010's
#10 - #GrowthMindset: Failure TO Learn vs. Failure FOR Learning
#9 - 26 Traits of Terrific Teachers
#8 - The 5 Prerequisites to Rigor
#7 - 5 Ways to Assess Learning without Giving a Test
#6 - Walkthroughs Don't Work!!!
#5 - 7 Traits of a Transformational Leader
#4 - The Teacher's Summer Excellence Checklist.
#3 - The Principal's First 20 Days
#2 - 5 Alternatives to Asking New Teachers How They’re Doing
#1 - The Principal's Summer Excellence Checklist

I would also be remised if I didn't share my top 10 posts for 2019.  Here they are!

Top 10 of 2019
#10 - The #1 Thing You MUST Give Teachers BEFORE School Starts
#9 -  The Key to Unlocking Student Engagement
#8 - 6 Exit Tickets to Improve your Leadership
#7 - 7 Serves of a Super Leader
#6 - 7 Sentence Stems that Strengthen Student Motivation
#5 - How to Know If You’re a Leader or a Boss
#4 - 6 Steps to Becoming a Really Good School Right Now
#3 - E, The Only Letter that Matters in your A-F Rating
#2 - The MOST IMPORTANT JOB of a LEADER at the End of the School Year
#1 - 4 Steps Away from Transformational Leadership

The 2010's were a fantastic decade.  Thanks to you, I grew by leaps and bounds.  I appreciate you for reading my thoughts and giving me feedback through your comments and shares.  I wish you the best in 2020!  Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The 2 Minute Warning for Learning

In football the 2 minute warning is an intense push from the team to score before going into half-time or the end of the game. When it comes to halftime, success during the 2 minute warning gives the team a huge momentum boost heading into the locker-room. If you think about it, the 2 minute warning can change the trajectory of the rest of the game.

No matter if your team is ahead or behind, you expect them to give everything they've got leading up to half-time.  In fact, you would be pretty frustrated if your team shut it down and let the clock take them into the lockerroom.  The last 2 minutes of the 1st half sets the stage for the 2nd half.

Now Let's Apply this Analogy to your School

In schools, the 2 weeks before Christmas break is very similar to a 2 minute warning. If done well, the last 2 weeks can send the kids home for break fired up about the spring semester. But if we shut down our engines early, it can hurt the impact we make on kids during the second semester.  The weeks leading up to break have the potential to strengthen the momentum needed to reach our goals for the spring semester.

To finish strong in the 2 minute warning, we must keep our intensity.  We must make the extra effort to build upon our relationships with all kids.  Most importantly, we must avoid the temptation to go into the locker room before the clock expires. 

Students deserve to go into their break believing in how much growth they have experienced in the first semester, and they need to leave with confidence that they will achieve their growth goals in the spring semester.  Momentum is motivation, and we control how much motivation students will have going into break.

So how will you manage the clock during your 2 minute warning?  The answer to that question will result in your plan that will set the stage for success or failure during the spring semester.

Monday, November 25, 2019

9 Statements to End the “Just a Teacher” Mindset

All great leaders are teaching, and all great teachers are leading.  
Rick DuFour

Whenever I talk with an educator I’ve just met, I always ask this question, "What do you do?", and invariably I get the usually responses.  "I'm a principal."  "I'm a teacher", or "I'm a director".  You get the point; they answer with the name of their position.

But that's doesn't answer my question.  

Your title doesn't tell me what you do.  It tells me the role you play.  The point for asking this question is to see how teachers view the potential in their role. Whenever I hear someone say "I'm just a teacher", or respond like their role isn't very important, I whence just a bit. The "Just a Teacher" response tells me that something or someone in the teacher's culture or in that person's experience has obscured the person's vision for optimizing the value of their role as something bigger than merely being responsible for teaching kids.

Let's be real for just a minute.  Teachers are much more than "Just a Teacher".  In fact the reason that education is becoming more successful every year is because teachers AREN'T just teachers.  They are changing the landscape of education one day at a time and one student at a time, and as leaders we owe it to teachers to combat the mindset of minuteness by convincing teachers that they have a much greater impact and play a vastly bigger role than they could possibly imagine.  

Ending the Just a Teacher Mentality
Here are a few phrases that leaders could use with teachers through daily interactions that could compel them to give up the mentality of "Just a Teacher".
  • You have expertise that I don't have.
  • You possess knowledge that others need.
  • You see things in kids that we can't possibly see.
  • You influence your peers in ways that I can't. 
  • You have the potential to lead in ways that others can't.
  • You add tremendous value to our organization.
  • We need you to NOT be just a teacher
  • We need your help in leading our school.
  • You ARE a vital piece of the puzzle.
What if every leader took a few minutes every day to have these kinds of conversations with one or two teachers per day?  What kind of school could we create?  What kind of potential would we discover?  What level of talent would we unleash?  What kind of leadership capacity would we build?  Can you see what would happen. 

The ability to lead our schools to the top begins with unleashing the leadership potential in every teacher. Every teacher has a superpower, and the best leaders remove the mindset of “Just a Teacher” by building the confidence and competence in every teacher.   And when this mindset is transformed, it permeates throughout the entire school by fostering a mindset of continuous growth that is fueled and nurtured through both shared leadership and perpetual learning.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Key to Success in #NoExcuseNovember

No Excuse November is upon us. (click here for original post). It is a time to reflect on goals that we are committed to reaching and reaffirm our commitment to not let anything get in our path so we can accomplish our goal.   

Why do we have #NoExcuseNovember?  Excuses are the enemy of excellence. They lower our expectations, and therefore, detract our determination and commitment. So how do we ensure that our commitment to excellence does not fall to the almighty excuse during the month of November?

Love Tough
We have been taught that our children need tough love if we want them to grow into their potential.  We don't accept excuses, and that definitely falls in line with #NoExcuseNovember.   But in Jon Gordon‘s book, “The Power of Positive Leadership“, he challenged us to reframe  the concept of Tough Love into a more powerful concept,  Love Tough. When it comes to Tough Love, our primary focus is to be tough while our secondary consideration is to care about the individual, but if we Love Tough, we are the exact opposite. We care about our people first and foremost, and because we care about them so much, we hold them to a higher standard with our care, support, and attention.

As we kick off #NoExcuseNovember (post about kids), it is important that we commit to not accept any excuses that hold us back (by the way most of them do), but we make that commitment by understanding more about excuses, where they come from, and what they actually mean to the person making them.  We must be thankful that the person felt comfortable enough with us in the first place to make their excuse, and then we must leverage our relationship with the person in such a way that lets them know the following things:

  1. We, first, care about them, 
  2. We care about them enough to not allow their excuse to be the reason they fail, and
  3. We are committed to helping them overcome the barrier to their success.
November is here.  Excuses are everywhere, and all of them exist to hold our organization and the people within it back.  What will you do this month to love your people through their excuses, and push them to new heights?  You hold the key to success in #NoExcuseNovember.  The question is will you have the courage to unlock the door?

Saturday, October 19, 2019

5 Facts about the Happiest Leaders

Abraham Lincoln said it best when he said, "Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be." If that's the case, then why are some leaders always happy while others seem to never be.  The secret may lie not in their ability to choose happiness, but in the mindset they have before they even have to make a choice. There are 5 powerful characteristics that the happiest leaders possess.

5 Facts about the Happiest Leaders 
Humility - Leaders who are the happiest are the most humble and never put themselves above others.
Attention - The happiest leaders pay the bulk of their attention to others, while the most unhappy want all of the attention to be on themselves. 
Pride - Happy people take pride in promoting everyone and everything in the organization, while unhappy leaders are prideful in their actions and interactions. 
Patience - Happy leaders know when to wait, while unhappy leaders are frustrated anytime they have to wait. 
Yet - Happy leaders know they’re a work in progress and believe in the power of growing closer to what they can’t do yet.  Unhappy leaders are perpetually disappointed because they’re never satisfied with their current status and why they’re not there yet. 

The difference between unhappy and happy leaders is their self-perspective. Happy leaders seek out, while unhappy leaders base their outlook on their own feelings, priorities, and needs.  When it comes right down to it, if you seek what's best for yourself first, you will be unhappy some if not most of the time because the world doesn't exist to serve you.  But if you choose to be happy, you will rarely put yourself first, and focus on putting others first.  

Choose to be a happy leader.  Your attitude and those impacted by your attitude will thank you for it.