Sunday, June 24, 2018

Does your Brand Sell your School's Mission?

Brands are everywhere, and they are designed to tell everyone what the organization is truly all about.  Nike's brand sells millions of shoes by saying “Just Do It”.  McDonald’s brand convinces us to eat their food with “I’m loving it”, and Chick-Fil-A wants us to "Eat More Chicken".  Absent of a brand, people have no choice but to be convinced that your brand is a random collection of beliefs or actions. If you think about it, your brand represents your daily mission. It’s a lofty belief that you use to align with all of your actions.

So what is your mission?  
Every kid, every educator, high levels of learning, 21st century preparation, etc, etc. Missions at schools are virtually the same, but does your brand match that?  What I mean is does this. Does your mission translate into a “Just Do It” excitement that draws parents, students and educators to your school?  Does your brand make people run to your school or away from it?

Here’s the deal. Your brand is not just a bunch of words. It’s an aura, a personality, a mindset, and a call to powerful action.  Furthermore, it invites all people to be a part of your movement because it doesn’t exclude them. Your brand empowers ownership, ignites passion, and inspires commitment. 

Do your Brand do That?
Every school has a brand. It’s just that some don’t energize people to believe in what’s happening. This week,  challenge yourself to evaluate your brand. You have one, whether you like it or not, and if you don’t like your current brand, remember that you are the catalyst to create a culture that can transform that brand into one that says “I’m loving it”!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Is your Leadership Aligned?

When it comes to leadership, what do teachers hate?  If you don’t know, that might be a problem for you. Better yet, it may be a problem for your leadership, and by leadership, I mean everyone who is leading with you.

Here’s the deal. Followers hate not knowing where they’re supposed to go, what they’re supposed to do, and what they should have already done. Even more they hate getting two different answers from two leaders who are supposed to be on the same page.   Bottom line, teachers hate it when their leaders are unorganized.

We leaders owe it to our teachers and followers to work together to communicate with one voice. We let teachers and followers down when we fail to calibrate our leadership skills, and we create dysfunction when we don't plan for excellence as one leadership team with one leadership vision.  

Leaders must work tirelessly to align their message, their action steps, their communication strategies, and their responses to those who need additional time and support.  We can do the work, but it requires us to drop the ego, define our true mission (helping all teachers and students), and refine our leadership practices around that mission.  When we get on the same page, we stand a much greater chance of helping everyone else, and that fosters confidence in leaders and the school's mission of guaranteeing excellence in every student through every employee every day.

Is your leadership aligned with the other leaders on your team?  Perhaps a better question is this.  Does your leadership team function as a ship or a bunch of canoes rowing in different directions?  The answer to that question could tell you where your leadership needs to grow next.

Friday, June 1, 2018

How Can We Soften Schools?

Special Note - This is not a post about guns, safety, or security.  Furthermore, my thoughts and prayers continue to be with every parent and educator of every school shooting.

Today my heart is heavy.  Another tragedy has happened at a neighboring school.  Since Parkland and Santa Fe I have struggled with this question.  "What can we do to prevent this from happening at our school?"  I am certain that this is a common question among every educator, parent, law enforcement officer, and civic leader all over America.  And it should be.  This could happen in every school in America.

But I'd like to point out a problem that I have with my question.  I feel like the approach we are taking with prevention is predominantly from the standpoint of not allowing it to happen.  Now I agree that I and those I work with must do everything in our collective power to prevent a gunman from coming into the school, and believe me.  I am constantly thinking of what more we can do to be more prepared.

So What Are We Missing???
Yes, we can and should harden our schools more.  We can take more measures to ensure that gun violence never happens in our schools, and we better be doing more right now.  But I have to ask what we as leaders, parents, and communities are doing to soften the hearts of our children.  Honestly we can’t harden our schools unless we are making intentional efforts to soften the hearts of those inside the school. In this ever-connected world, compassion appears to be waning.  We seem to have kids more and more disconnected from significant adults and meaningful relationships with other kids.

As parents, we used to work together to raise our kids.  Now could we be afraid to work with one another when one of them is starting to fall through the cracks out of fear of confrontation or condemnation?  Authentic student to student relationships have been replaced with superficial likes, follows, and streaks, and all the while depression, promiscuity, downright meanness, and apathy are glorified every time they look into the palms of their hands.

Now let's get real.  This isn't a new problem.  Kids have always struggled to find their significance, but now with every passing year, we are starting to see their hopelessness transform into audacious acts of abhorrent behavior.  There are warning signs, and we have to start asking ourselves every day what we are doing to save the students who are silently crying out in painful desperation.

How Can We Soften our Schools???
The answer to our problems starts and ends with the hearts and minds of our kids.  We have to start talking about it with them.  That means we can't ignore how kids feel.  How they feel is ultimately how they will act out.  Being nice to one another is something that we must teach, model and expect both at home and at school.  How we resolve conflict must start with the heart and end with understanding and respecting all sides.   It means a little less selfishness and lot more selflessness.

Let’s get to work. Compassion needs a comeback, and that can't happen without connecting with kids in more powerful ways.   Reaching out to kids who are neglected or disconnected must become a core action of everyone within our schools and throughout our communities.  We can do this if we remember that our primary job is to educate the heart and mind of every student.

Finally, my heart is with everyone who has been devastated by these senseless acts both directly and indirectly.  My hope is that my thoughts today challenge us all to remember that we can harden schools but we can be more effective when we also work to soften the hearts and minds of the souls who are in those schools.