Thursday, December 28, 2017

Why You Need a RADICAL New Year's Resolution

Every year I am searching for the new change, a way to be better, an action that is a game changer for others, or a decision that will make my life easier.   It only makes sense.  Change is essential.  Becoming a better person is something we all want to do, and with the New Year comes a new opportunity to make a new commitment for improvement.

That was until I listened to Rick Warren

I thoroughly enjoy listening to the Rick Warren podcast because Rick possesses the powerful ability to turn the complexity of my faith into a simple action that I can implement immediately.  The most recent series he spoke about was titled Radicalis, and in this series, he challenged me to make a better resolution, live a radical life.


Source -
Yes, radical.  Here's the beauty of radical.  We really don't know what it means.  We think of radical as something fanatical, something that is ridiculously or vastly different from where we currently are.  

But in its original definition, radical was never an outlandish change.  This nebulous word was actually designed to be the exact opposite.  Radical in its initial definition is a return to our roots or fundamentals.  The word comes from the Latin, radicalis, which mean return to our roots.  Radical is a ROOT.  

The problem is that we have given this word an earthly definition that simply means ridiculous change, not a return to who we were designed to become.

So how can we return to our roots?
In my presentation and leadership work, I often say the following:

For my New Year's Resolution, I want to make a radical change in my life.  I want to rediscover my roots, and in order to do that, I will have to identify actions that I must let go.  The surest way to ensure that I return to my roots will be to identify, challenge and then drop actions that are not aligned to my purpose.  

As you end the old year, ask yourself this question.  "What is my purpose?"  After that, identify what you need to do to be more connected with that purpose, and before you make your New Year's Resolution, ask yourself this question.  "What must I stop doing so that I can be more successful at what I must be doing?"  Asking these questions will lead you to your "Radical Resolution". 

#HappyNewYear and Live a #RadicaLife in this year

The +1 Principle

Rick Sharp taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my leadership career. When I was principal of a comprehensive high school, I was very committed to making the campus excellent. I wanted the students to achieve like never before. I wanted the teachers to be empowered more than ever before, and I believed that all we needed was one more thing.

Now Rick was and still is one of the most direct and hilarious people that I have ever met. He is passionate about his work and his school. He is beyond committed to students, and he has absolutely no problem doing one more thing.   The reason I know that is because he told me this. He said, "John, I have no objection to what you're asking me to do, but I have a question for you.

What are you going to take off of my plate?"

Blown away by his question, I really didn't know how to respond. After all I didn't know what he could take off of his plate, much less what needed to be taken off his plate. My response was pretty much a typical principal come-back. "What do you think you need to take off of your plate?"

That was the wrong question, not because Rick didn't know what to take off of his plate.  It was because I hadn't considered what was on his plate to begin with.  As leaders how often do we ask more from our followers without taking into consideration how much we already ask them to do?  Too often our expectations are not lacking in specificity for our followers, they lack in consideration for all the work people are already doing.

The +1 Principle
To ensure that we take care of those in our charge, we should consider the +1 Principle.  Before you
add 1 more thing to their plate, identify 2 things to take off of their plate.  By doing this, we communicate understanding of the load they carry, and we show our support of the one more thing by removing mundane, redundant, or ineffective tasks or responsibilities from everyone's plate.

You might be thinking, "there's nothing we can stop doing".  If that's the case then remember if you want the one more thing to be done well, folks will need time and support.  That can't happen until you remove or help followers remove unnecessary things from their plate.

What can we help people remove from their plates so they can succeed in the +1 Principle?

Friday, December 22, 2017

The LeadLearner Top 7 Posts in 2017

2017 was another great year, and I would like to thank everyone for taking time to read, share and give me feedback on my posts.  In this post, I am sharing the most popular posts in 2017.  I hope you enjoy a look back at my thoughts from 2017.

#7 - The 2nd 20 Days of Excellence

#6 - #TxEdTuesday - #TxEd's Opportunity to Tell Its Story

#5 - The 8 Accelerators of Change

#4 - 4 Questions for Building an Excellence Support System

#3 - The Biggest Barrier to School Improvement

#2 - Walkthroughs Don't Work

#1 - The Teacher's Summer Excellence Checklist

Bonus Post - My favorite sleeper post was The Secret about "Good" Data

I look forward to sharing some new and radical thoughts in 2018.  Thank you for reading, and I hope that 2018 is an epic year for you.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Real Reason behind the 12 Days of Christmas for Educators

Every December I love my job even more. The reason is because of the 12 days of Christmas. This is an initiative that I started about 10 years ago as a principal, and each year I have found it even more valuable than in the first year I began the tradition.

The reason that I like the 12 days of Christmas is not so much because of the gifts that I give, but the value that I can add to our employees. Teachers and support staff are the reason a school excels or fails; therefore, the value that we add to our teachers is huge especially if we want them to stick around even longer. Teachers deserve to hear, see, and feel how valuable they truly are, and teachers deserve to see receive gifts of appreciation even if it’s in the smallest form.

Beyond the Gift

But let's go to an even deeper place with my mission within the 12 days of Christmas.  It’s about the kids, and our students need to see and hear how valuable teachers are and how much they mean to us leaders. Teaching is by far one of the hardest jobs there is, and our students cannot fathom how much effort teachers put in each and every day to prepare students for the future. Students need to see that teachers must be revered, and students need to see that the leaders of the school hold teachers in the highest regard.

Last our parents and community need to see that we don't subscribe to the false narrative about "our failing education system".  Our parents, students and teachers all need to definitively know that the teaching profession is not what is perceived on the media and in Hollywood. They deserve to see and feel our heart-felt appreciation of teachers and all that they do to shape each student and the future of our country.

To accomplish this goal, we leaders must be in every classroom every day showering our educators with not only gifts but our narrative of why teachers are amazing.  We must leverage the power of social media to tell the story about how outstanding teachers are.  We should tell every student why they should hold teachers in high regard.  If we don't do it, no one will.

Give the Gift of Appreciation
The 12 days of Christmas is about gifts sure, but the greatest gift that we could give our teachers is not a material present.   The greatest gift every one of them should receive is affirmation, appreciation and the message that they matter.

This week I challenge everyone to tell and show every teacher, support staff and educator that they are a gift to mankind.  They certainly deserve it.

Merry Christmas to all the teachers out there, and thank you for what you do to shake each child day by day year-by-year.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Great Game Plans won't Work with Poor Fundamentals

All the players in the world won't help the football team if they collectively don't know how to block. Great defensive schemes won’t work if your players can't tackle. If you can't run, throw, and catch, you might as well forget going back to the drawing board to find a new play to help you win the game.

How does this analogy apply to schools?  Curriculum is a plan, but plans don’t work if they are being carried out by those with poor fundamentals. Bottom line, curriculum is worthless in the hands of an educator who can't manage children. Formative assessments will never work in a classroom that fails to engage minds and inspire excellence. Interventions will never work for kids in a classroom with ineffective instruction. 

The key to winning any game successfully requires every player to possess the basic fundamentals of guaranteeing excellence in their performance.  In education, instructional fundamentals in every teacher are the foundation of academic excellence in every chid.  But the secret to winning the learning game does not rests in the hands of simply one or two "all star" educators while everyone else plays a secondary role. Every educator must possess the fundamentals and talent to perform at high levels in order to get all kids into the end zone we call excellence. 

 To accomplish this lofty goal, leaders must transform into coaches and create systems that give all educators the basic fundamentals that lead to excellence. In other words, leaders must create intervention systems for teachers in the same manner they would for struggling students and pervasive professional learning plans to grow the rest. If this can be the goal of all school leaders, the success of every school and ultimately every student would be found in the collective efficacy in the team, not the contributions of just a few all star performers. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Where do your Principles Reside?

Being principled is essential to being a transformational leader. But here’s the thing. You will never know what your principles truly are until you placed in a difficult position to use them. Principles are never tested when things are going your way. They are revealed when you have to make the hard decision, when you have to have the uncomfortable conversation, and when you have to take the unpopular action that will cost you political capital.

Everyone of us has ideals, and ideals are great, but they disappear when we're put the test.  But one thing is for certain.  Our ideals can become principles when they are held to the fire of confrontation, conflict, and standing up for what's right.  The only way that ideals can become principles is that they must be born.

Principles are not convenient. They are driven by conviction.   They will cost you acquaintances but acquire friends.  The funny thing is that you will find out if you have principles when you stand up for what's right at the moment when all you have standing tall with you is your principles.  If you want to find them, principles reside with courage, vulnerability, moral authority, and greater good.

Where do your principles reside?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

3 Tips to Making your Mark Matter

Thanksgiving break was a huge learning opportunity for me as our family embarked on a road trip west.  On the way home, we discovered Cadillac Ranch just outside of Amarillo, TX.  An eclectic row of soil-submerged Cadillacs line the middle of a seemingly random corn field.  Its purpose is simple.  Stop and make your mark.  And this unusal mission is accomplished daily as tourists from all over the world park on the side of the road to leave their mark on these strangely half-buried cars.

As I examined the cars more closely, I noticed layers upon layers of spray paint indicating that I was not the first to make my mark, and I definitely wouldn’t be the last. In fact I doubt that my mark made it through the day after I left. The reason was simple. Everyone wanted to mark their mark and there wasn’t enough room to preserve someone’s else’s mark while adding their own.  Marks eventually are marked over. 

Are We Making a Meaningful Mark?
So how is a row of random West Texas Cadillacs similar to school?  Even if you make a great mark on your school, chances are it will be forgotten by most people because someone else will come behind you and make another mark on the school. The reality is that the tangible marks we make on schools eventually fade into oblivion.  So the question that I have to ask myself is this.  How can we leaders make a long-lasting and meaningful mark on our schools that will endure long after our leadership is gone?

Below are 3 marks that I believe all leaders must make.

1. People Marks 
The longest lasting and the most meaningful marks we can leave are on the individual people we serve.  Whether good or bad, you are making marks right now.  Leaders make marks on people, but great leaders make motivational marks on them.

??? - What are you doing to touch people in a way that adds value to their work and inspires them to make their mark on the world?

2. Movement Marks
The Cadillac Ranch in and of itself is a mark on the world. It inspires and invites everyone to come and be a part of something bigger than themselves.  This place is more than a strange sideshow.  It is a subliminal symbol that illustrates how we all can move people beyond the scope of our normal reach.

??? - How can you create a movement like this that makes a permanent mark on your school?

3. Visionary Marks
In education Rick DuFour made a dent of a mark on the education world by creating a vision of what schools could become if they envisioned a new and brighter world for education where educators worked interdependently to ensure that all students succeed. But the beauty of his vision is that he didn’t do it alone. He had to build a team that would not just join him but own their role in making this vision a reality. DuFour's mark is visionary because it continues to grow after his passing.

??? - How can build a team of passionate leaders that can create a brighter vision for your school and work closer toward it everyday. 

On your Mark... Get Set...  Mark!!!
Cadillac Ranch is a powerful vision of what our schools can become. People will come. People will go. People will make their mark, and people will come behind you and cover your marks with marks of their own. One thing is for certain. Cadillac Ranch, like the school, came before you and will continue long after you leave, so the question that we must ask ourselves is this. What kind of mark will you leave on our school that will continue to inspire long after you're gone?

Legacy is based on what remains long after we’re gone.  Ready... Set... Mark

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.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The 2nd 20 Days of Excellence

The 1st 20 days of school are critical to starting your journey to excellence, and now they are coming to an end for many students.  So what does that mean and what is the next step?  That means that what kids have done everyday since the first day of school is now a habit, and the next step is to break bad habits and solidify habits of excellence.  

So What Habits have your Kids Formed?

Do your students have productive habits?  Have the built habits that will lead to excellence, or have they created habits of avoidance?  Do they instinctively jump into a new task with a groan once it is announced, or do their eyes light up because they are conditioned to embrace uncertainty?   The answers to these questions culminate into one question.  

How well did you do at establishing your vision for excellence in the 1st 20 days?

If your vision of excellence is not where you want it to be, that's ok.  In fact, that's great because acknowledging you're not where you want to be means that you want to make meaningful change to get back on the path to excellence.    

The next step to making the 2nd 20 days of school great for all kids is to see what kind of habits have formed with individual students especially those who struggle.   

  • Resources - Determine how competent kids are with your resources for learning.  If they don't like the resources or don't know how to use them, that reinforces habits of avoidance.
  • Routines - Assess your routines and procedures and determine where students need higher expectations or even accountability from you. 
  • Relationships - Identify which students have negative relationships with you, your content or with students in the room.  Relationships are critical to success in learning.
  • Engagement - Evaluate where your lesson planning fails to meet struggling students head-on.  The failure to engage specific students guarantees that habits of poor performance that become petrified and therefore unbreakable.
  • Rigor - Which content is too challenging for kids?  How can you make it more accessible and ultimately attainable to learn?
  • Differentiation - How many minutes of learning are students empowered to chase their learning through intervention and extension?  The answer to this question will lead you to create need learning experiences to reinforce positive learning habits.
  • Celebration - What are you celebrating?  Better yet, what are the kids celebrating?  If it's the end of class, it's time to build celebration into your instruction.

The 2nd 20 Days = 1st 20 Days + 1 Focus on Excellence
The 1st 20 Days of school establish the pathway to excellence, but the 2nd 20 days can either accelerate or stall your growth towards excellence.   If we want the next 20 days of school to accelerate growth, we must reflect.  We must brave enough, vulnerable enough and critical of ourselves and our work so that we can find our areas or opportunities for growth (aka weaknesses).  Then and only then will we discover how to make the 2nd 20 Days of School even better than the 1st 20.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Moving from Maximized to Optimized Leadership

Leaders always want to get more done, but does getting more done lead to optimum performance or even ultimate impact.  Seth Godin made a great point in his post "Optimum or Maximized".  Maximum speed is not the same as optimum speed.  So if you apply this idea to leadership, what is the difference between optimized leadership and maximized leadership?
  • Maximizedshort-term output level of high stress, where parts degrade but short-term performance is high.
  • Optimizedthe best or most effective use of a situation, opportunity, or resource.
  • Leadership - service, influence, the function of a leader, the action of leading a group of people.
Leadership is essentially a vehicle for systemic improvement.  Even the word has a vehicle in it (ship). You can go as fast as you like, but if you're chasing maximum output, your vehicle will overheat and eventually burn up.  Maximized leadership will go faster than optimum leadership, but it will eventually burn the leader out and destroy the organization.

Optimized leadership, on the other hand, can never burn out because this form of leadership optimizes every situation.  It gets the best out of all people.  It makes the most of all time available, and it doesn't waste resources, people or their time either.  If we want optimum organizational performance, leaders should shift their focus from maximum output to optimized performance.  The organization will thank you for it.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Secret about "Good Data"

Everyone wants "good data", but so often it's rarely found.  The minute you receive low scores, you have "bad data", right?  If you receive high scores, skepticism creeps in, and you doubt if they really knew it at high levels.  Does your data leave you with doubt?

Here's the reality.  Good Data is Fool's Gold.  There's no such thing as "good data".

What we need is VALID DATA

The secret to getting valid data is to create valid assessments.  Think about it.  If you fail to spend time creating assessments that you believe in, you will discount the data it yields and therefore blame the assessment for giving you "bad data" or invalid data.  If you have little involvement creating the assessment and the data is "good", then you will wonder if the assessment truly met the depth and complexity of the standards you wished to assess.  In short the quality of the assessment leads to the validity of the data.  There's no other way around it.

The Secret to Valid Data
Bottom line is there are a few things to consider if you want to move from getting good data to generating valid and actionable data.

  1. Know your standards.
  2. Create assessment items that assess those standards at the basic, intermediate and advanced level.
  3. Provide students a variety of assessment items that require students to transfer their learning in predictable as well as unpredictable situations.
  4. Analyze the student data by student by standard by level of proficiency.

At the end of the day, you will never get data that will drive your work with laser-like precision until you create assessments that are intentional, meaningful, and most importantly reliable in driving your response to student learning.  Good data tells you how you did.  Valid data drives you to know what to do next.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Let's Create a Human-force Hurricane of Help

As I sat this weekend and into the week watching Hurricane Harvey, I was paralyzed by what I saw.  It was devastation like I have never seen before. I thought Katrina and Rita were bad in 2004, but this was unbelievable.  As I watched TV 4 hours from the eye of the storm, I thought to my self, what can I do to help literally millions of people who in many cases lost much if not everything.

As the magnitude of everything sank in, I got a message from Todd Nesloney asking me and others in
his PLN to send a welcome back message to his Webb Elementary staff.  Then I watched Eric Sheninger's Facebook posts directly from his house which was inches from flooding, and then I had numerous conversations with my friend and fellow superintendent, Brian Morris, about the devastation his district is experiencing.  So I decided to join what people around the world are doing, jumping in and getting involved to help our friends and neighbors in southeast Texas.

The only way to respond to the worst hurricane in history is with a human-force hurricane of even greater power.  Let's get give everything we can to help our fellow Americans and Texas brothers and sisters.  Here are just a few ways that together we can create human-force hurricane of help.

1. Jeff Mann - @mann4edu (Adopt a School)

2. Kasey Bell - @shakeuplearning

Texas Needs Your Help, Y’all! – Harvey Relief

3. TREA - Texas Rural Educators Association

4. Eric Sheninger - @E_Sheninger  - Will You Step Up

5. My District - @blueridgeisd

How BRISD will Help with Hurricane Harvey
Harvey If you have been watching the news, you are probably hurting for the people in southeast Texas.  The impact is beyond belief, and we know many people who have lost everything.  In talking with several people in our district, we all want to do something to help, so we have elected to teach our kids how to give a random act of kindness to someone even though we can't possibly help everyone.  

You are invited to join BRISD in supporting residents in Columbus ISD.  We elected to build a personal relationship and help one district in hopes that we encourage other districts to adopt other districts so that all districts get specific support.  We hope that this act will be one more example that inspires everyone to give what they can to help our Texas brothers and sisters.

6. Traditional ways that you can donate:

 Will you step up?  
Will you join the relief effort?  Millions of Texans need us, and we must do everything we can to help them.  Texas is waiting for Hurricane Help.  Will you be part of it? I will.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Economy of Excellence

Do you know someone that amazes you by how much they accomplish?  Is there someone who inspires to you do more because they do so much?  Who is the person that accomplishes excellence no matter where they are or no matter what circumstances they encounter?  Why do they exceed and how do they succeed?

The Economy of Excellence
Time is the constant. How we leverage it is the variable. The best get more done for one simple reason. They waste less time than the rest of us. They are more efficient in their use of time and more effective in optimizing their time in various tasks. 

So How Can We Improve the Economy? 

Not Right Now - Excellent people say yes to critical tasks and not right now to less than critical tasks. 

Automaticity - Excellent people work to increase their automaticity into their work. Their work fluency is how they accelerate their work and ultimately get more things done than others. 

Leadership Capacity - Excellent leaders improve their economy by building leadership capacity and by empowering decision making in followers so that they preserve their time and reserve their effort for decisions that can only be answered by them. 

Reflection - Excellent people reflect regularly and use reflection to improve their economy. They identify where they are wasting time, being over-involved, or under-involved in improving outcomes. 

How's your Economy?

Where are you wasting time?  Where do you need to increase in your automaticity?  Where do you need to let go and empower others.  The answers to these questions are the key to improve your economy, and the ability or inability to act. The only question we have to answer is will we have courage to change.  

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Create your Very Own Pineapple Club! (FREE RESOURCE)

The pineapple is the universal symbol of welcoming people into your home, and many teachers are seizing this symbol as an opportunity to open their classroom to other teachers.  And this makes sense.  Teachers learn more when they are open to having people visit their classrooms to help them get better.

Do you want to create your very own Pineapple Club?
Below I have created a Canva that you can print and post outside your door.  On this canva, teachers can post the excellence they would like to share with others.  Additionally, teachers can also use this tool to seek feedback and advice on areas that they would like to grow.

I am very excited that teachers in our district are creating their very own Pineapple Club because they are modeling a deep desire to learn, grow and excel.  The Pineapple Club is a fantastic way to help more kids grow in their learning because teachers are modeling their desire to learn, vulnerability, and confidence in who they are as excellence in progress.

Wouldn't it be awesome if as a profession we could create this initiative in every school?   We would learn a tremendous amount because we would knock down the walls of isolation and come together as a professional learning community with one explicit purpose, building shared knowledge around best practices that help all kids grow in their learning.

Isn't that what school is all about, helping all kids grow by seeking professional growth first?

Pineapple Club by Johnwink90

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Answer Questions ONCE and for ALL with C4B4Me

Questions are essential to an organization's success, and for good reason. They drive new learning and continuous growth.  The plain and simple truth is that good leaders and teachers embrace followers and students who ask questions because they know that their questions mean they're in it to win it. 


There is one caveat to this thought. The same question asked over and over stifles leaders from making progress. Think about it. Do you ever get tired of answering the same question over and over?  
Of course we do.  Does the same question over and over stop you from moving forward?  Why yes it does.

So whose fault is it that you are asked the same questions repeatedly?

Great leaders understand that the same question asked over and over stifles leadership impact and solidifies learned helplessness. In other words, the want to answer questions one time to the person asking the question and a second time for every person after that.


1. TELL - when a question is posed if you, assume others can benefit from your response. Recognize

and thank the person for asking the question in a group setting or even an email and list your response. That solidifies both that you embrace questions, but that you want others to learn from their questions.

2.  SHOW - many questions I receive are technical in nature and can best be answered not by telling, but by showing.  Show the person personally and then show the others through face to face or even better video or screencasts and procedural text with screenshots of your response.

3.  CURATE - Some questions are asked about tasks that are once a month, a quarter or even a year. Great leaders leverage wikis, GoogleSheets and webpages to create one central location to house every answer to every question. See example below. 

Answer Questions ONCE and for ALL!!!

I often am asked, "Isn't this more work on you?"  Actually this strategy is LESS work on me. If I can answer a question one time face to face, and one more time through a virtual format forever, I rarely have to worry about that question again.

My goal is to have a C4B4Me procedure in my leadership. 

  1. Check yourself, your personal resources and notes first. 
  2. Go to the organizational virtual resources next. 
  3. Go to your peers third. 
  4. Use your technology to find an answer. 
  5. If you can't find the answer, I will be glad to help you. 

If leaders would implement a C4B4Me strategy, they would bank hours back into their week.  They would also empower teachers to solve their own problems and collaborate with their peers. Sure leaders will still have to answer a lot of questions, but they would be the questions that can only be answered by the leader.

I challenge you to answer questions ONCE and for ALL. 

It may just be the thing that takes your classroom, your school, or your organization to the next level. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

#TxEd - You Have 2 Choices: March or March

The other day, I ran into a teacher friend of mine, and she said,

"John, you haven't said anything about the Texas special legislative session".

She's right. I have been under the radar so to speak this summer.

So today, I'm going to surprise you.  I'm NOT going to talk about vouchers, school finance or even A-F.  I'm NOT going to lament the decisions that the Texas Senate is making on public education, and I'm not even going to advocate for a bill, today.

I'm going to talk about YOU
and this is what I have to say.

March - Educators across Texas are inspiring me by going down to the courthouse and even the Capital to state their position on education.  The great thing about this kind of march is that it tells legislators what you are for and what you are against.  Marching is a very powerful action as it sends the message loud and clear that you don't like what's going on.

March -  This March makes all the difference in the world.  Here, you show up to the voting box at the March primaries and vote for candidates, who will legislate on behalf of the 5.3 million students in Texas.  This kind of March is  the only way to make substantial change because voters are selecting the people who can make the changes that education needs.

The Choice is Yours
So will you march or not?   I truly believe that educators can't say they care about education if they don't march.  If you want to move the needle for education, you can physically march, but if you don't show up to vote and (even more important) encourage others to vote in March, you will have wasted all of your energy.  March is the only choice we have to improve education.  Now the only question left becomes this.

Will the education profession show up and March?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Is Commitment Really Enough???

I've been reading H3 Leadership by Brad Lomenick, and in one of his chapters he talks about the need for conviction. For him conviction is the only thing that can conquer temptation. As I started pondering his thoughts, this question kept surfacing. 

Is Commitment Enough???

I realize that commitment and conviction are synonymous, but as I ponder the 2 words, it seems that commitments can be broken, but conviction can't be shaken. Just like a convicted criminal can't evade his sentence, those who are convicted can't evade their super-commitment to the mission that is tethered to them. 

When I think of commitment, I think of a promise held by your word. But when I think of conviction, I see a ball and chain that is with you wherever you go.  See where I'm headed???

So are You are Committed or Convicted?

 If you're committed, you own your passion.  But if you're convicted, you not only own your passion, you also carry the burden of the impact your passion has on those you lead. Commitment owns the result. Conviction owns the result and the consequences associated with the efforts to gain the result. 

I think it's high time we deem the word, commitment, as a cliche. 

Has the word, commitment, has lost its value in our world? Think about it. Everybody wants commitment.  Everyone expects it, but there's always a loophole to absolve yourself from it. You can always get out of a commitment, if the conditions aren't right for you. 

I'll choose conviction. It's commitment times 10. It's painful, and it's pleasurable. You can't shake it, and you certainly can't fake it.  Actually it's the difference between leadership and transformational leadership.  

Got conviction???