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?