Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Why Are You So Serious? How Being Too Serious Reduces Influence.

What if I told you that taking yourself too seriously could be a serious impediment to your success as a leader? This idea came from a recent conversation with a leader. In that conversation, my buddy and fellow leader advised me to, “Take the job serious, but not yourself.” As I took that in, I didn’t really know how to apply it. You see, I love my job, and I want to be the absolute best at it; however, I have been operating under a flawed system. My young leader-flawed system looks something like this, in order to be effective at my job I must prove myself and never mess up. You see, my focus was in the wrong area. I was focused on myself. I would constantly reflect after a discussion, “Did I say the right thing?” Or as I entered meetings I would think, “I hope I don’t say/do something wrong.” My flawed approach was simple, stop taking myself so serious.
So what does that look like? How do leaders stop taking themselves serious and remain effective? First, let’s describe how it looks. Leaders that take their job very serious but are also able to have fun have a specific natural or organic look and feel to them. These leaders are relational, charismatic, and bold. They are not afraid to share their idea or vision and they are constantly strive to build and create relationships. They are not never overly anxious or stressed. In fact, they seem to have fun with their job. And does this have a positive influence on the individuals following these leaders? You bet it does. Followers are more likely to go the extra mile out of relational liken for the leader. And, followers are much more likely to approach these non-stress leaders knowing he/she will gladly listen to their questions.
This would never work for the serious leader. Serious leaders are constantly tripped on the fact that their next phrase may be wrong, sound wrong, sound silly, or lead their group down the wrong path. The serious leader is more likely to stress and be anxious before and during meetings. So, if this no-brainer is true then how can a serious leader lose his/her edge, but still be effective? The following are four easy steps to begin the process:
1. Be more relational
2. Stop guarding your words
3. Be bold, when an idea comes to your mind share it with conviction
4. Transition your thinking from self to others. It’s not about you, your speech does not have to be perfect.

So is it possible to take yourself a little less serious in order to improve your leadership? In sum, yes. Leaders that prescribe to this less serious model show a level of comfortability in their own skin. They’re not afraid to be themselves and are less guarded. So if you’re always growing like me, my advice is to guard your words less and be yourself more. Grow constantly but don’t forget to have fun.

Friday, June 24, 2016

How Maintaining High Expectations for Everyone Creates Culture of Excellence

Do you have expectations for your students, staff, or athletes? Do you adjust the bottom line easily, or do maintain a level of excellence for everyone? As you’re probably guessing I believe in the importance of “SETTING THE BAR” high and not moving it. My favorite restaurant/eatery in the ENTIRE world is Moe’s. No matter where I go, Mobile Alabama or Orlando Florida, I know I will have an awesome experience. From the second I walk through the door and hear “Welcome to Moe’s," to the four step burrito making process, I know exactly what to expect at Moe’s. Moe’s secret… They have a level of expectations for all their employees. They do not have standards for special education, ELL, or low level learner burrito makers; no EVERY burrito is made with the same quality. Can you image only receiving 2 of the 4 steps of the burrito process and saying, “that’s okay, the ELL burrito maker made that one.” Absolutely not, that's not how the world works. No matter where you go, Moe’s delivers the same consistent product. So why does education not reflect this model? Why do we give in so fast? I believe we have to set the bar and not fluctuate. I believe that we have to relentlessly pursue EVERY student.

To further illustrate this point I want to provide you with a back story. When I became a teacher, I had no idea how difficult my first year would be. I went from being determined to drive excellence out of all students, to entering survival mode in a matter of weeks. Finally, one day my principal entered my classroom for a visit. Eighteen students were working on the worksheet, the task I assigned, and the other six were out of their seat or not on task. As for me, I was at my desk searching for the “next” worksheet to maintain my new KEEP’EM BUSY SURVIVAL MANTRA. Later that day the principal calls me in to inform me that my performance was inadequate. In return he assigns me an eight part Harry Wong video series and says write a report on each video. I was crushed. Basically all I heard in that moment was you’re the WORST teacher ever and you have failed these students. So, determine to fight for my job I wrote a 15 page paper detailing every suggesting Harry articulated. From that moment on I was determined to prove that principal wrong and be the absolute best teacher in the school. I immediately implemented all Harry’s suggestions, and 3 years later I became the district “Teacher of Year." Who do I contribute to this success? Believe it or not, that same principal that made me feel like the worst teacher in the world. That day he challenged me. And I’m convinced that without this expectations I would have remained a status quo teacher.

So, what are your expectations for your teachers, students, or whoever? Does your bar fluctuate?Or do you set a bar and expect everyone to reach it? My challenge for everyone is to have expectations for everyone and to continuously evaluate how to get them to that bar. Be a leader and don’t compromise your bar for a subgroup of students, a teacher based upon their ability or knowledge, or an athlete. Our job is to bring out the best, and I am convince that people will ALWAYS do what you expect.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Live in the Margins - A Young Leader's Guide to Growth

Do you live in the margins? This profound question was revealed in a recent podcast from Entre-Leadership series podcast, involving Craig Groeschel. Though it sounds simple, I want you to think about its power. Then apply this to leadership. Before moving forward, perform this thought experiment, think about some of the best leaders you know. Now think about how they use their time. If you’re like me then you start realizing they almost never seem constrained by time, always seemingly having time to perform the ordinary task extremely well. Or as Dave Ramsey says, they display excellence in the ordinary. So how do they do it? If the best things in life happen in the margins, how do effective leaders develop large growth margins?
One of the defining characteristics of these leaders is their ability to delegate. Now, I know what you’re thinking, delegation is a positional power in which leader’s pawn off task. It may surprise you to know that the effective delegation looks nothing like that. In fact, while the definition of delegation in a dictionary may look uninspiring, the synonyms for it can be quite powerful. Words like trust or authority surface. After all if you think back to the thought experiment from before, those leaders most likely did more than just pawn off task, they gave authority. They probably didn't micromanage, instead, they entrusted you with a project giving you complete autonomy to improve it however you saw fit. As Craig Groeschel said it, leaders can have control or they can have growth, but they cannot have both.
Live in the moment. This powerful statement was proclaimed by Dave Ramsey. When he described this, he was speaking to his team about excellence in the ordinary. Further, he says you have to be able to separate areas of your life. When you’re at work, be at work; when you’re at home, be at home. In other words, minds clouded with “the next project” or “what you forgot to get done” quickly become minds without innovation and creativity. We have to live in the moment, and if you think back to those great leaders you will quickly begin to see vision for what this looks like.
The tale of two leaders. In my first year in administration, I witnessed a leader who seem to never get task done. She showed up to work before 6 am and left… well I’m not sure when she left, maybe never. She seemed to never get caught up, and with reference to this article “she had no MARGIN.” Then fast-forward to this year. I witnessed a different type of leader. During the school day he was never seen in his office, never looked stress, and is always visiting and developing relationships with his staff and students. So what was the major difference? The ladder leader knows how to delegate, live in the moment, and most importantly has managed to develop a large growth margin.
So, with that being said what does your margin look like? Are you more like the first leader I discussed, always sprinting from task to task never getting ahead, or have you advanced in delegation and other skills to look more like the second? I want you to think about one more critical thought. Did you know that Google originated genius hour? As a matter of fact I once read, the majority of Google's innovations have come in these allotted hours of time in which employees are allowed to work on any project they want. In this case genius hour is just another name for living in the margins. And if growth always occurs in the margins, then what should leaders do to protect it? How can we become more like the leaders of your thought experiment? My goal.. become more reflective. Start reflecting on my daily schedule and how I utilize the people around me. Start delegating authority not task. And live in the moment.

And remember two things:
If you're always succeeding then you're not thinking big enough. &
Have a great day, every day, seriously it is your choice!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Implementing Data-driven Decision

The below post is in unison with a graduate class textbook assignment (that explains the sections of formal writing as opposed to more engaging  and less included narrative style of writing).

A Reflection of Leadership’s Implementation of Data-driven Decisions

Have you ever experienced structure without culture or accountability without fidelity? If so, then you have probably experienced a leadership problem. Incorporating data-driven decision making into a school is not a new form or committee, it is a movement, a way of doing things, and becomes the very essences to which everyone operates. In order for data to become the culture, leaders must avoid five pitfalls: lack of vision, structure before culture, resting on compliance not commitment, failure to distribute leadership, and lack of support or resources.
Leadership starts with a vision. One of the best leadership traits any leader can have is the ability to communicate, or as one leader once told me, “a leader with a strong message will involuntarily spew their message to anyone who will listen.” This becomes unequivocally true when it comes to implementing and sustaining data-driven decision to direct and adjust instruction and delivery. What leaders must do at the onset of this movement, and continuous thereafter, is communicate, communicate, and communicate the vision so that it leaves no room for error or question.
As Ken Williams profoundly stated in his book, Starting a Movement, “culture eats structure for lunch.” It is absolutely imperative that leaders engage staff members in culture creating modeling, conversation, and accountability measures in order to set and sustain a strong culture. Culture in this essence becomes “the way things are done.” Spring boarded by vision, culture becomes the leverage point between compliance and commitment.
The enemy of commitment is compliance. Sure, every beginning must start somewhere, however, leaders must be able to assess the pulse of the staff’s readiness to shift from accountability to using data to inform practices with fidelity. As Mandinach and Jackson (2012) clarified it, school district must continuously work to improve data literacy. I firmly believe that the biggest impediment for staff commitment to data-driven decisions is due lack of continuous and ongoing training and improvement.
In order to sink the roots of data-driven decision making deep within the staff’s culture, leaders must distribute leadership throughout the school.  Effective principal’s should know their strengths while simultaneously assessing and leverage the strengths of others around them to interact and lead with data; or as Mandinach and Jackson (2012) simplistically explain it, shared leadership is shared responsibility.
Lastly, effective leadership must always ensure sufficient support and resources. One of the main culture building components in an organization is having strong structures and resources in place to facilitate an effective data-driven culture. Effective leaders should set aside protected time for collaboration, present to staff members effective ways to collect and analyze data, and always work to build the human capacity to interact with the data (Mandinach & Jackson, 2012).
Williams, K. C. (2015). Starting a movement. Bloomington, IN. Solution Tree.

Mandinach, E. B., Jackson, S. S. (2012). Transforming teaching and learning through data-driven decision making. Thousand Oak, CA. SAGE Publications.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Personal Philosophy of Ed Leadership

Recently for a college application I was required to articulate my educational leadership philosophy and goals. Personally, I think it is a comprehensive description of my many convictions and beliefs that drives me professionally. Also, and maybe more important, I thought it could be a really good first blog post EVER!

Personal Philosophy of Educational Leadership and Goals
Imagine an educational leader as the captain of a boat. It takes a leader to aim the boat in the right direction, unite the deck hands over a common purpose, and ensure that the boat is traveling in the intended direction along the way. This broad-based, simplistic illustration describes how a forward thinking educational leader must always build toward a united shared vision. School leaders must possess or acquire a skill set to accomplish that vision; and maintain an unyielding persevering attitude of optimism and excellence to get there.
Educational leaders must possess an internal drive, think with initiative, and be bold in their beliefs and direction. Leaders must be selfless with a servant’s heart and understand that their hard work and effectiveness will become the fruit of another’s tree. As an educational leader I am committed to moral leadership, academic excellence, personal and professional growth, and treating all with respect and dignity. I believe that through this strong foundation leaders should strive to inspire daily by modeling work ethics, developing relationships with staff and students, openly and honestly communicating with all stakeholders, and having a restless mindset in their pursuit to always acquire more knowledge. I believe that the most effective mode of leadership utilizes stakeholders to share in the decision-making process. It is through this mode of leadership, that leaders are able to cultivate stronger ownership while simultaneously fostering a collaborative and engaging climate.
As an educational leader I will relentlessly pursue perfection by promoting 21st century skills. My staff will relentlessly pursue every student with the use of data-driven decisions. We will create a safe and nurturing environment where anything below excellence is unacceptable. We will establish a student-centered learning environment with a focus on learning not teaching. We will teach the whole student. We will celebrate diversity while fostering relationships with all students and staff. We will establish relationships with the community. We will interject technology ubiquitously. We will reward and celebrate success.
Finally, I believe that education is the vehicle for people to explore their passions and purpose, develop critical skills, and become a productive informed citizen. It is my job to ensure all learners will explore, experience, and learn through a myriad of opportunities delivered in an educational setting. As the leader I understand that a student is more than a number, he or she is person whom I have an opportunity to help grow. Leadership in that sense may start at the top, but it can be felt through each individual student. As an educational leader I am not trying to match the status quo. No, I want to transform the lives of all I come in contact with and be a visionary for educational progress.