Saturday, March 7, 2020

4 Ways to Spring Forward in your Leadership

The time change is here, and since it’s spring, that means we move our clocks ahead one hour. Sadly that also means we will need go get up one hour earlier. While I don’t like getting up one hour earlier, I love the benefits of having extra daylight in the evening. Springing forward gives me a brand new perspective on my day and its new opportunities. More time is always a good thing.

With this ‘extra’ hour, we can get out more. We can attend more events. Ultimately, we experience more of what’s outside our office or buildings because the new season and the new time change entices us to seek the beauty of spring. With all of the personal benefits of the time change, it is important to explore how springing forward can impact our leadership?

4 Ways to Spring Forward in your Leadership
With the time change, there are 4 ways to leverage spring to get even more out of our leadership. 

1. Visibility - Getting out more offers leaders more opportunities to connect with more stakeholders. Use the spring to get out of the office and gather information of where the organization thrives and where it needs improvement. 
2. Spring Cleaning - Now is the perfect time to identify ineffective actions, initiatives, and resources that need to be removed from the organization. Remove the clutter or waste from your daily routine, and springing forward will be a breeze. 
3. Planning - Summer is right around the corner, and that means preparing the school to excel to even higher levels next year. Summer work can’t truly excel without spring planning. Spend time each day mapping out the next steps for organizational and personal growth. 
4. Feedback - Since spring serves as a springboard for next school year, leaders can make time to elicit feedback from students, parents and staff on the effectiveness of their leadership, communication, and support of the school. Feedback is the fertilizer for new growth. 

How will You Spring Forward?
Where does your leadership need to grow?  Where does it need to be pruned both in personal work and organizational inefficiency?  The answers to those questions lie in the leader’s ability to honestly reflect, but the results of the time change are ultimately determined by the leader’s courage to both embrace the new time and to take advantage of opportunities given this spring. 

Happy Time Change. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

The 5 Plays of a Championship School

Everyone wants to be a champion, but only champions do what it takes to become a champion. At the end of the day, what makes a champion is work, but not just the ordinary work that everyone else does. It takes the right work to become a champion.

If you think of transforming a school into the premier school in the same way you think of making a football team a state or national champion, you quickly come to realize that excellent schools do a few things really well. To be more specific, becoming a champion boils down to running a few plays extremely well, and those plays are executed with precision in order to reach the mountaintop. 

5 Plays of a Championship School 
1.  Consistency- Championship schools understand that consistency is the key to their success. From the front door of the school to the classroom and everywhere in between, the adults in the building strive to be consistent with one another because they know that consistency sets the foundation for every student to become a champion. 

2. Set the Bar - Championship schools identify the bar that every student must reach to become a champion. Within each subject educators identify the skills that every student must master in order to master the subject, and they challenge every student to believe in their ability to reach them. 

3.  Measure the Bar - Once the bar has been set, educators define how they will assess all students in order to determine which kids are making progress or even becoming proficient in reaching the bar.  More importantly they inspire kids to own their data and believe in the hard work it takes to reach the bar. 

4.  Plan to Reach the Bar - Building assessments is great but championship schools and the educators within them make specific plans to help every student master the assessments. Those plans result in fun instruction, powerful lessons, targeted interventions, and specific strategies that all students will specifically designed to prepare all kids to master the assessment. 

5.  Professional Learning - Champions never stop learning, and they never stop reflecting. They know that championships only come when they invest in their own growth and development in their craft. The best educators are no different. They know that their success and their students’ success is greatly impacted by the depth of their own learning. 

What Plays Would You Add?
So what other plays would you add?  What else does it take to become a championship school? What other actions do schools take to reach the pinnacle of excellence?  Always remember. Your school’s championship is within your reach. The question is will you have the courage to inspire your school to run the plays to reach it?

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Continental Decide

The other morning I saw an advertisement where a pastor told the story of 2 raindrops that landed at the top of the Continental Divide.  One landed just half an inch to the west of the peak and the other landed just half an inch to the east of the same peak.  That inch of separation made all the difference in the final destination of those 2 drops.

The drop that landed to the west followed its path winding through creeks, mountains, rivers, and valleys and eventually wound up in the Pacific Ocean, while the drop to the east journeyed to the Mississippi River and found its way to the Gulf of Mexico and eventually the Atlantic Ocean.  One inch changed the trajectories of the 2 drops forever.

The Continental Decide
This powerful story is no different for us, and this is how it applies to us.  We have a decision to make and this decision is so powerful that it could quickly take us to the land of pacification or it could take us to unbelievable places.  The decision is whether or not we want to commit our lives to discovering our unique excellence and why we were placed on this earth or if we want to simply accept mediocrity as our lot in life. 

The choice of mediocrity will not require a lot of work, and it may make us content and possibly happy, but the downside is that the path of mediocrity will never lead us to discovering our true gifts and abilities that were given specifically to us.  The choice of excellence will make us open to new ideas, challenging ourselves to constantly become better, but it will also be relentlessly hard work that will exceed the normal hours others will want to work.  Both paths will have upsides, but they will also have their downside. 

It took the 2 drops roughly the same amount of time to reach their destination.  We also have the same amount of time allotted to us to live our lives.  We can choose to discover our inner best or not.  The interesting thing about the Continental Decide is that neither decision is bad, but the choice we make will take us to 2 totally different places while we are on this earth.  I'll choose excellence.  How about you?

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.