Friday, November 17, 2017

Want a Better School? Look Inward not Outward

National and state politics are such an annoyance for me.  If you are currently watching our national political climate, both parties do nothing but bash one another about doing nothing when in reality neither one of them are doing much.  And what's worse is that so many people waste their time rooting for one party or the other like it's the SuperBowl or something.  All the while little changes.

The fact is this; no government and no person has the ability to make your life better.  Only we can.  Notice I said we, not you or me.  If we can create a culture where working together, listening to one another and learning from each other becomes a way of life, we will have the world that we will be proud for our children to inherit.   If we want a better school, we must stop looking outward for someone to provide it to us and start looking inward for what we can do.  The same rule applies to our country.

Do you want to be happy?  Start with you.  Do you want your school to be a better place?  Then be a better person for your school.  Changing your perspective won't end problems.  In fact it won't reduce them either.  All I'm saying is this.  Our attitude determines our altitude.  Our reaction determines the impact of our future action, and our outlook on life will determine if we will look out for others.

The video below says it all.  We must refrain from hoping for change.  Hope is not a strategy.  If we want things to change, we must BE the change that we want to see in our world.  If we wait for someone else to change the world for us, we may be waiting a while.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Learning can't exist without "I Don't Know"

Dan Rockwell rocked my thinking when he said this. 

Everything is remembering until someone says, 
“I don’t know.”

Think about the statement, "I don't know".  What does it mean in the ecosystem of traditional leadership?  If we are honest with ourselves, we don't like making that statement especially when we are put on the spot or when it is something we should know.  Just the thought of stating your ignorance makes you feel inadequate and unprepared, doesn't it?  But here's the thing.

Learning can't occur without "I Don't Know".

The best learners don't avoid "I don't know".  They embrace it.  They look for it, and they run to it.  The reason is simple.  Learning can't occur unless you don't know, and authentic learning will never come to fruition unless the learner loves not knowing and wanting to find out.  

As leaders we must reflect on our ability to capitalize on a collective lack of knowledge, for this vacuum of information is the blueprint for systemic improvement.  Here are a few questions that can guide you to lead when you and others don't know.
  • What are you doing to embrace not knowing?  
  • What are we doing to stop one another from judging and demonizing one another or those who don't know? 
  • How are we pushing others to find comfort in not knowing something, and using that comfort to seek information?
  • How are we praising people on our team when they convert lack of knowledge into long-term learning that improves others?
  • What are we doing to create a culture of learning where the goal is to transform "I don't know" into "Let me show you what I learned".

The Secret to Learning

The secret to learning is not found in our current knowledge.  It is found in our accumulation of new knowledge that eventually enhances organizational efficacy.  Does "I don't know" stop you in your tracks, or is it the starting point for excellence?

I'll choose the latter. How about you?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Is your School's Guarantee really a Guarantee?

Every business has a guarantee. Weak businesses guarantee inconsistent service or unreliability. Successful businesses, on the other hand, back up their rhetorical promise with a guaranteed response that matches that promise. In fact these self-imposed commitments are so powerful, that they convince you to buy their product. Your guarantee (good or bad) represents your belief in your product and your confidence in those who provide it.

Examples of Guarantees You can take to the Bank

  • 100% satisfaction or your money back.  
  • If you don't like it, we'll give you a complete refund. 
  • Delivered in 30 minutes or less or it's free. 
Did these guarantees sell you?

What's your School's Guarantee
Source - Brainquote
Looking at the definition of a guarantee from a business perspective, it makes you wonder what schools could guarantee in respects to student achievement from a holistic perspective.  Think about it. Do you deliver on what you promise or do you let excuses get in the way?  Is you guarantee truly aligned to your universal mission of high levels of learning for ALL kids, or does it reflect ambiguous niceties such as making kids feel a sense of belonging?  

Below are a few questions to see if your guarantee really is a guarantee. 

  • What do you publicly guarantee in regards to student learning?
  • Where is this guarantee posted and published, and how often is your guarantee promoted to all stakeholders?
  • What percentage of your teachers, students and parents know what your guarantee is?
  • When was the last time your guarantee was referenced in an RtI or teacher team meeting by someone other than you?
  • When was the last time a parent referenced your guarantee when discussing their student's struggles?

How did you do?
A guarantee is your commitment to deliver your promise to your customers. It is your bond, your word, and even your legacy. To be blunt,  it is the only thing that will ensure that your school truly becomes a success. Is your guarantee truly a guarantee?  The answer to that question will tell if you believe in 'Learning for All' or if you're dimly attuned to the mere idea of it.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The 5 Makings of an Excellent Mentor

Mentoring is one of the most valuable tools to help someone find their excellence, but why does mentoring fail some while it helps others?  It helps to know that the word mentor comes from the person whose actions actually inspired the word.

Mentor comes from Homer's Odyssey. Odysseus, king of Ithaca, fought in the Trojan War and entrusted the care of his household to Mentor, who served as teacher and overseer of Odysseus' son, Telemachus.  Mentor was Telemachus' teacher and overseer, and he was trusted so much that Odysseus left the country because he knew that Mentor would get the job done.  

Here's the crux of mentoring.  In order to be a mentor, let alone an effective one, it requires us to do more than merely agree that we'll help another teacher or leader.   We must oversee and teach so that we can ensure that excellence is achieved in those we have committed to help. 

The 5 Makings of an Excellent Mentor

What does it take to be an excellent mentor?  Below are 5 attributes that mentors exhibit to lead their followers to excellence.

  1. Motivator - Mentors are positive people, and they motivate their mentees to believe in their own abilities.
  2. Ownership - Mentors own the success of their mentees because they deem themselves great only when they bring out the greatness in those they help.
  3. Discipline - Mentors protect their mentees by keeping them focused only on tasks and actions that will help them grow the most.
  4. Exemplar - Mentors model excellence everyday by serving as a living example of what mentees should aspire to become.
  5. Leader - Mentors don't boss mentees around.  They lead them by showing them the way and influencing them to make incremental steps to find their excellence.
The best description of an excellent mentor is found in what they model.  What they do is mentors more than what they say.  How they inspire growth and development supercedes the information they pass on to those they want to help.  In short the best mentors model excellence for those they wish to mentor.

Who will you mentor to find their excellence this week?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Closing the ASPIRATION Gap

There is a massive gap in student success that we know exists, but we never talk about it.  The reason is simple.   It's not slapping us in the face because so many other gaps exist.  Whether it's the poverty gap or the achievement gap, there are so many gaps out there that we don't even think of this gap, and the sad reality is this.  We have 100% control over this gap.

The Aspiration Gap
Research says that by the time kids are in middle school, 93% of them believe they will go to college.  But by the time those same students graduate from high school, only 44% actually enroll.


Why do kids lose this belief between middle school and graduation? Better yet, what role do we educators play in this statistic.  Honestly, I can't tell you all of the factors that play a role in the aspiration gap, but I can tell you one big factor that could reverse it.


What we tell kids every day convinces them that they have or don't have what it takes to go to college.  How we communicate performance through our grading practices tells them they're a failure or a future college grad.  How we instill the value of hard work, grit, determination and perseverance shows them how to be a perpetual quitter or it shows them the pathway they must take daily to go to college or a career pathway of their choosing.  

Finally, what we believe about our own individual impact on students is probably the single biggest factor that could kill this trend.  Think about it.  If every educator believed that his primary role was to be every kid's college prep motivator, what would happen?  We would no longer see kids as students.  We would see them as scholars, future college graduates, and game changers.

WE are the Key to Closing the Aspiration Gap!  
Let's make it happen for all kids today. They deserve it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Most Powerful Question Leaders are Afraid to Ask

Questions are a every leader's best friend. How are things going? How can I help? What do you need?   Questions like these can take leaders to places they have never been and they can solve problems that have yet to be identified.  When followers are asked questions of support from the leader, it lets them know that the leader is interested, that he cares, or that she wants to support you. 

But there's one question many leaders are afraid to ask. 

It isn't a question about helping out. It's not a question of interest to learn from the follower. It's not even a question about the follower. It's this question.

Where am I stifling your ability and performance?

This is one of the most vulnerable questions a leader could ever ask. It's so hard for leaders to ask this question because the leader must invite the follower to critique the leader. The leader must ask this question; however, because failure to find the answer will continue to hold the follower back. It will keep one more straw on the camel's back, and it continue to add one more thing to that person's plate. 

If we leaders want to save those we have been entrusted to lead, we must elicit their feedback on our performance. We must ask questions that help us identify where our leadership is hurting the performance of others.  We will discover where we are overwhelming followers, how we are failing to support them, and where we are neglecting those who feel unsupported. This question will not only open the lines for future communication. It will create a culture of empowerment and reciprocity where the follower is the leader, and the leader is the follower. 

Even the leader must be led, right? 

This week, challenge yourself to ask questions that will lead you to a more powerful impact on those you have been called to lead.  It may be just the question that will empower you to lead all of your followers to discover their excellence. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

What's the Lead Limit???

Every time I'm in the car with my wife, she regularly reminds me of the speed limit. Yes I have a bit of a lead foot, and thankfully for her I haven't been pulled over in a long time (knock on wood). Speed limits are frustrating to me personally but on the flip side, I appreciate just how essential they are to have an orderly and safe society. 

Speed limits are annoying (especially in the city) when you're in a hurry that is faster than the speed you're allowed to go. There is an element of patience than you must adopt, for if you don't respect the speed limit, you'll get a ticket or worse cause an accident that could cause you even greater problems.  

So What's your Lead Limit???
Think about it. As a leader, there isn't a "Lead Limit sign" posted; therefore, we can lead as fast as we want to...  Or can we?  How many times have we been so excited about a new initiative that we led it as fast as we could only to find that we caused mayhem and destruction like that of a race car video game. 

Have you ever got off to a slow start and felt like you're going way too slow for the work that needs to be done? Have others been annoyed because they are waiting on you for next steps to get started?  Leading too slow causes aggravation, decreased ownership, and lower respect and appreciation for the leader. 

What determines your Lead Limit?
Here are a few issues that leaders should consider when determining their Lead Limit they should follow to successfully lead a particular initiative.

1. The number of people you lead. 
2. The speed at which people can adapt to change. 
3. The amount of stress currently in the organization. 
4. The current collective knowledge base in place prior to making the specific change. 
5. The cohesiveness of the people in the organization. 
6. The number of leaders in the leadership team. 
7. The number of people uncertain of the change or actively leading against change. 
8. The amount and frequency of the communication provided by the leader to facilitate dialogue among members of the organization. 
9. How much celebration is used to recognize people who are making growth or going above and beyond. 
10. The amount of reflection the leader does personally and leads with members of the organization. 

What should your Lead Limit Be?
The answer to this question is not based on what you need or your leadership style or even proficiency.  The Lead Limit is determined by the needs of your followers, and its enforced by their ability and confidence to make change.  Follow your Lead Limit and you'll find yourself successfully leading your organization to excellence.