Friday, May 31, 2019

How to Know If You’re a Leader or a Boss

Are you a leader or a boss?  Immediately the quest to find the answer begins with your own opinion and often never leaves that location.  Do you justify your actions, interactions, and behaviors that convince you that you are not a boss, but a leader.

We all want to believe we are leaders and not bosses. But the reality is this. The answer to this important question can only be found in the people you wish to lead.

Are You a Boss or a Leader?

  • Employees avoid the boss but come to the leader. 
  • Employees are afraid of the boss but unafraid of the leader. 
  • Employees tell the boss only good things about themselves, but they reveal their shortcomings and difficulties to their leader. 
  • Employees cover their butts with the boss but reveal their mistakes to their leader. 
  • Employees flatter the boss but are authentic with the leader 
  • Employees will openly argue with the leader but will never confront the boss. 
  • Employees discuss the cold hard truth with the leader, and avoid it at all costs with their boss. 

As much as you want to be a leader, it will never be completely up to you. The reality is that perceptions of others determine whether not you are a boss or a leader. To some you are their leader, but to others you are their boss.

The main difference between being a boss and a leader is whether or not employees trust you and have confidence in you to protect them and support them. Now let’s be honest. Some people will never see you as anything other than their boss, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

What we must remember is that we must always exhibit strength, high expectations, accountability,  openness, transparency, and willingness to learn from our employees, and in time more employees will change their opinion of you from being their boss into inspiring them as their leader.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Leadership Lessons from a Graduation Ceremony

Graduation time is here. Caps, gowns, pomp, circumstance, and lots of celebration. The purpose for graduation is commencement, not completion. For graduates the journey is just beginning, not coming to an end.

As I listened to our salutatorian speech as our school’s commencement exercises, I reflected on how leaders can perceive the end of the year. After all, the completion of a school year is more or less a graduation ceremony in and of iteself. Celebration, appreciation, sending everyone off with a smile, and we’re done. 

The fact of the matter is that average leaders view the end of the year through the lens of completion rather than commencement. They look back and think about what to bring forward or better yet resurrect next year. Conversely, the best leaders lead through the lens of commencement. They improve their work for next year by producing data that identifies areas in need of change, actions steps for improvement, training needs to be sought, and decisions to be made to commence the work of making the entire organization leaner and ultimately more effective. But they also identify what worked well to bring back again. 

The best organizational improvement knows no end. It only knows the next beginning and the next steps that must be taken to inspire all to aspire for even better success. Sadly, many graduates reach the pinnacle of their life on graduation day, and as such many leaders will settle for this year’s work as being good enough for next year as well. The best leaders, however, never graduate. They simply move on by moving up and taking others with them. 

Have you graduated or are you commencing?  They answer to that question will not be answered today, but I can promise you that it will be revealed through the results of your organization’s work next year!  

Congratulations to all the graduates out there, and best of luck as you commence into the next chapter of your life. Be sure to make it a good one. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

The MOST IMPORTANT JOB of a LEADER at the End of the School Year

End of year assemblies, games, dodgeball tournaments, field days, parties, graduations, awards.  These are the fun jobs of a leader at the end of the school year.

Exit interviews, inventory, transition sheets, data rosters, grade submissions, records updated, summative evaluations, last minute meetings, endless to do lists.  These are important jobs that sometimes can be more overwhelming than fun.

No matter what the task is, THAT IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB!!!

At the end of the year, leaders have one job that is so important but it is often overlooked.  It is forgotten, or at least attended to IF the leader has time at the end of the year.

No matter if an employee has been in your school for 1 year or 31 years, they all are anxious about what the future holds.

  • What will be different?  
  • What will make the work more challenging?  
  • Will the work be easier next year?  
These are just a few things that employees are wondering, and your response or lack thereof could be the deciding factor if the employee wants to come back next year, or be excited when they do return next year.

The reality is that the end of the year is a challenge for every leader.  It is stressful and at times downright overwhelming.  There are not enough hours in the day to get it all done.

The cold hard truth is that the very best leaders NEVER fail to get people fired up about next year.  While some . leaders are counting down the days, the best leaders are making the days count!!! (SEE HERE and HERE)

At the end of the year, you have one job to do, and that is to inspire excitement about next year.  You must have conversations about how our organization can be more efficient and more effective next year.  You are listening to frustrations about this year, and using that information to make your EXCELLENCE CHECKLIST and helping your teacher make their EXCELLENCE CHECKLIST even better than last year's list.

This means that in the midst of the craziness, fun, and endless tasks, we must MAKE TIME for conversation.  We must MAKE TIME to elicit feedback, and we must MAKE TIME to ask our followers about their dreams and aspirations for next year.

The most important job of a leader is not merely an ordinary end of year task.  It is an investment in your staff, in your students, and in the future of your school.  It will pay huge dividends that far exceed the very best plan that you could ever create on your own, and the reason for that is simple.

Optimism is a leader's competitive advantage. 
Jon Gordon

Saturday, May 11, 2019

End your School’s Year with Parent Appreciation Week

Staff Appreciation Week is a great opportunity for everyone to show their thanks to teachers for all that they do for our students, and it is well deserved. Teachers, leaders and staff members go above and beyond to ensure that students learn, grow and excel. But if we think about it, students would not excel as much as they do without great parenting.

In a previous post, CLICK HERE, I proposed schools having a Student Appreciation Week that encourages schools to celebrate students during the last week of school, and I think we must continue to have initiatives like that to honor our kids. In this post, I would like to recommend that we utilize the last weeks of school as a Parent Appreciation Week.  This would be the school’s opportunity to thank parents collectively and individually for their partnership in making their children a success at school.

Schools could post appreciation messages on their marquees and social media sites. Leaders could make announcements celebrating parents, and they could encourage teachers to send messages of appreciation to parents who have been instrumental in helping students learn. Students could write letters and make posters to their parents thanking them for their guidance in their education. The school could even encourage the community and radio stations to join in on the fun. The possibilities are limitless. Even if parent relationships have been strained or even fractured, this is the school’s last chance to end the year on a positive note that gives parents hope for success next year. 

When students have parents that are actively involved in their child’s education, student learning soars. Support for teacher expectations accelerates learning, and the culture of learning and high expectations is solidified and even strengthened. Great parents make the difference in our work as educators, and we owe it to our parents to utilize our time at the end of the school year to express our gratitude for the sacrifices they make, the consistency they provide, and the love they give to make certain their most prized possessions are fully prepared to succeed as learners and ultimately as future parents. . 

I hope you’ll use this week to celebrate our awesome parents. It will send parents into summer knowing their hard work is valued, and that their partnership will be more appreciated next year. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

7 Sentence Stems that Strengthen Student Motivation

I had a request the other day to write a post on motivating kids at the end of the year in preparation for end of year testing.  While I felt honored that my thoughts meant so much, I thought to myself, “How would I motivate my kids at the end of the year?”  “What would I say?”  “What would I do?”

As I pondered these questions, the only word that came to mind was sincerity. Sure at the end of year, we can do the group motivation strategies, such as pep rallies and assemblies. We could give out motivational trinkets and gifts. We can also feed them, and that also makes all kids feel really good. But I remind myself what motivates kids more than anything is a meaningful relationship, and what builds relationships more than anything are sincere words of appreciation and praise. 

7 Sentence Stems to Motivate All Kids...
In addition to all of the positive things we do for kids, they need to hear, see and feel our belief in them. To help strengthen student motivation, I have included these 7 Sentence Stems for educators to use when finding the right words to use to praise their students.
  • I really appreciate how much you have (describe behavior or attribute that led to growth)...
  • At the beginning of the year, you (insert deficiency), but now you have (insert strength).
  • I like how much you have grown at...
  • The best thing about your work ethic is...
  • Don’t forget that you are most successful when you (insert attribute or strategy)
  • I have seen your best work when you (insert best work ethic)...
  • I am so proud of you this year because (insert best example of overcoming odds)...
Everyone loves a pep rally or group motivator, but those things lose their effect with each passing day.  Extrinsic motivators work temporarily, but intrinsic motivation works much longer. Kids won’t always remember what you taught them, but they will remember what you said and will always remember how you made them feel. If we want all kids to be intrinsically motivated, we must commit to saying personal words to students that will penetrate their hearts in a positive and ultimately productive manner. 

Best of luck as you finish the year strong.