Everyone of us is a leader. We are leaders on our teams, in our families, in our classrooms. We each own 20 square feet of this school district and we are all leaders within that 20 square feet. But leadership is not just a title. It is not a power bestowed upon us. Within our 20 square feet we control our behavior and our culture. As a leader, we must understand ourselves so that we can continue to work to be the best version of ourselves.
I had the pleasure of spending some time with Tim Kight on Monday after our assembly. He reminded me of a training that he conducted with the HCSD admin team two years ago. The training helped up learn more about our leadership style. During our conversation I was reminded of how much I learned about myself by analyzing my style.
Over the weekend, I challenge you to take some time to look at the following documents. Be honest with yourself about yourself and determine your style. Read about the strengths and weaknesses that come along with your leadership style. Then think about your behavior.
Reflect on how your style can help you and how it can negatively impact your culture and behavior.
Here is your staff update for November 17th.
We have been building our R Factor behaviors in Hilliard City Schools for several years. My staff and I have been extremely intentional about teaching these behaviors to our students. This year is our second year of R Factor student training. As a building principal, it is fascinating to see how this training has impacted the culture of our school.
On Wednesday, two second grade boys were sent inside from recess because they were pushing each other and acting all around Below the Line. I began speaking to the boys and had to take a moment so that I could press pause and get my mind right. In my very brief moment of pause, I was able to think clearly about the outcome that I wanted the for this situation. It wasn't that I wanted the boys to be in trouble or lose recess. What I really wanted was for them to act Above the Line at recess so they could have a fun time with their friends. Even though I had taken time to get my mind right, I was still surprised by what came out of my mouth next. I looked at both boys and in my best "disappointed principal voice" I said, "Well, this is on you, you own your 20 square feet so I'm going to ask you a question. Do you want a consequence for your behavior or would you like to accept a challenge?" Very quickly each boy said, "A challenge!"
So, I talked to them about their impulsive Below the Line behavior. We discussed what it means to be on auto-pilot. They agreed that their behavior fit the descriptions. Then we talked about what it means to be intentional and on-purpose. They easily rattled of many on-purpose behaviors that they could have participated in at recess. So, then, I gave them their challenge. I challenged the boys to go to recess the next day and make on-purpose, intentional decisions to be Above the Line. They eagerly accepted this challenge and happily headed out the door.
The next day rolled along as usual and to be honest, I'd forgotten about this challenge until I say two red-faced, sweaty seven year olds appear in my office at 12:45 to give me their recess report with big grins on their faces. I brought the boys into my office and called their teacher in to join me. The boys could barely contain their excitement as they shared all of their Above the Line behaviors. I'm sure you could imagine what they said. But the rest of the story is even better. Their teacher and I asked them how they felt after having such a positive recess. These two out of breath little boys explained how happy they were and that because they were Above the Line, they noticed their friends were being Above the Line, too! Next, we talked about R6-Build Skill. The boys quickly realized that the skill they were building was being positive leaders. They decided that they wanted to try this again and continue to report the impact of their Above the Line behavior.
My challenge to my staff and to myself is to continue to think about the OUTCOMES that we hope for when we are presented with EVENTS. Then, press pause and get our minds right so we can choose the most Above the Line R for the situation.
What if we give more children recess challenges? How would that change the culture of our playground?
This experiment proved that when children are INTENTIONAL about their actions they can and they will make the Above the Line choice.
I have written about the power of words many times. I truly believe in and value the impact that words have on others. This summer, I attended a conference in which Michelle Gielan, author of Broadcasting Happiness gave the keynote. During her inspiring talk, Michelle said three words that I will never forget. When I heard these words it was as if everything happening around me stopped and the weight of their meaning poured into my soul. I didn’t even have to write them down because in that very moment, what she said forever changed who I was.
“Words change people.” –Michelle Gielan
Take minute and really let this simple phrase sink in. “Words change people.”
When I say these words I can actually feel them inside of me. We often say, “be careful what you say”, or “words have an impact”. But, never had I considered that “words change people”.
Not long after Michelle’s keynote I stood in the main office of my school greeting families and welcoming them on Meet the Teacher Night. I was helping answer questions about bus stops and teacher assignments and I didn’t pay much attention when the mom of an Arabic speaking student walked in along side of the mom of an English speaking student. I did notice that their children were laughing and playing side by side. But then I realized that the English speaking mother was carrying the other mother’s toddler for her. I soon discovered that these two moms had become friends over the summer because the live in the same neighborhood. And, to top is off the English speaking mother was using a translation app on her phone to talk to the Arabic speaking mom so she could help her navigate all of the beginning of the year forms that come with starting school.
This story is heartwarming to say the least, but there is more to it. Just four months prior to this encounter on Meet the Teacher Night, I had another encounter with the same English speaking mom. Only this time she was expressing how uncomfortable and downright annoyed she was with all of the people in her neighborhood who couldn’t speak English. We had a heated and honest conversation. By the end of it I had convinced her that she should change her perspective about her neighbors and maybe try to meet some of them, bake them some cookies and welcome them to America. Yes, I actually said those words to her. She hugged me and said she appreciated me taking the time to talk to her without judgment. Needless to say, I chalked that up as a great day and would have been happy for the story to end there. Little did I know that in just a few short months, I would find this same mom taking another mom, one who didn’t speak English, under her wing.
As I watched this mom and her new friend work together in the office on that Meet the Teacher Night, I was once again reminded that words change people. And, as this amazing mom turned to leave the office she hesitated for a moment, looked me directly in the eye and said, “Remember our conversation last school year? What you said changed my life.”
I’ve written this post for one reason and one reason only, to remind myself and everyone who reads it that words really do change people. Our words are more than just heard and forgotten. Our words stay long after we’re finished saying them.
Our words change people. How do you choose to use your words?
Throughout this school year, we’ve been on a journey to ELITE. We strive to be ELITE everyday. Sometimes we don’t win the moment, but we shake it off and try to win the next and then the next. In his book, Make Your Mark, Coyte Cooper writes about the power of not letting the day of the week dictate your pace. Cooper explains that “high performers who are passionate about their vision never allow the day of the week dictate what they are able to accomplish”. (pg. 267)
As I reflect on Cooper’s words it makes me think about the importance of these last days of the school year. If we’re truly on a journey to ELITE, we won’t let the time of the year or the day of the week dictate our pace. We will make the most of each moment we have together. We will ensure that our purpose and intention remains high for each moment we are with our students.
At this time of the year it’s easy to hold back, slack off a little and let our guard down. But, where does that get us? Is this really who we are and who we want to be?
There are five days left.
Five more days to impact students.
Five more days to positively interact with staff members, parents and children.
Five more days to grow and step out of your comfort zone.
How are you going to spend these days? Will you spend them counting down the days until summer or will you continue your journey to ELITE? Will you let the time of the year or the day of the week dictate your pace? You’ve been given the gift of each day, so why waste it?
Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I shall be remembered. –Dr. Seuss
What do you do when things don’t go your way?
Do you blame others? Do you complain? Do you defend your actions?
This time of year in education is always a time of change. The addition and subtraction of sections at certain grade levels; teachers retiring or moving to new positions; and course offerings changing usually create feelings of discomfort. Sometimes the changes that we are faced with are not ones we wanted or planned for. And, let’s be honest, teachers love a good plan. Often, when that plan doesn’t go our way, we don’t like it.
I’m guilty of not liking certain changes. No matter how much I push myself to think differently, embrace the journey and dream big; sometimes when change doesn’t go my way, I get upset. But, just like you, I have a choice. Will I stomp my foot and throw a little fit…sometimes I will. (I’m not proud of it.) But, will I allow myself to hold on to those feelings and continue to blame, complain and defend? Absolutely not.
This week it may be true that I didn’t get my way. And, maybe, just maybe, I let myself fall below the line while I spent a few minutes (okay longer than that) on autopilot as I complained. But, I had to press pause and snap myself out of it. So, after I got my complaining out of my system, I decided to look at my new situation as a learning experience, an opportunity, a new challenge that would help me learn and grow. It’s not easy to keep this positive mindset. But, I know that I control the story I tell myself. I’m not going to live with a victim mentality. I’m going to embrace my challenges. I’m going to pick myself up and continue on the journey to ELITE.
What will you do when you are challenged? What will you do when things don’t go your way?
When I was a little girl I was often referred to as “bossy”. I wanted things my way. I was assertive. I enjoyed having a plan and insisted that everyone followed it. I wanted to give orders using my microphone.
As I grew up, I started to feel really bad about being called “bossy”. And, in elementary school I became very quiet, shy and unsure of myself. (Those of you who know me now are most certainly surprised to hear of this shy phase.) Looking back now, I know that being referred to as “bossy” made me feel unsure of myself. I didn’t want to be a “boss”. And, I certainly didn’t want to be called “bossy,” but deep within me was a desire to be a leader.
It wasn’t until high school that the leader in me began to be cultivated. It happened naturally as I played sports and was part of various organizations and teams. But, even as I began to embrace my desire to lead, I still felt like a “boss” and I really didn’t like that. As I continued through college and then on to my teaching career I began to study the leaders around me. I learned lesson from them. Surprisingly, some of the most important lessons I learned came from the least effective leaders. I learned what leadership wasn’t. Only then, could I really begin to hone my own leadership skills. A few years into my teaching career, I was blessed to work with many inspirational leaders in Hilliard City School. These leaders helped me reflect on my skills, gave me constructive feedback and most importantly believed that I could be an inspirational leader.
A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to lead an entire school! I didn’t think I was ready and it turns out we’re never really ready. I’m so glad that I accepted the challenge. It turns out that the best way to learn about leadership is to be one.
While, my journey to ELITE continues and my journey through leadership continues; I feel like I’m ready to share what leadership has taught me in hopes that all of the leaders who read this will share their leadership lessons with me:
What would you add to the list? I’d love to hear your leadership lessons.
Have you ever bought something and then been told by the cashier that you’ve been selected to complete a survey about your customer service experience? I get these surveys on the bottoms of my receipts all the time. Though I rarely, if ever, complete them.
Two weeks ago I purchased a new car. After spending what seemed like a lifetime at the car dealership negotiating a price that I hoped was reasonable, I was finally ready to sign mountains of paperwork. My salesman, Rick, shook my hand and said “It was great working with you today, in a few days you’ll get a survey and we ask that you answer each question by saying you’re completely satisfied.” I smiled and said, “Oh, okay.” Rick walked away to tell the finance department that I was ready to sign more paperwork. As I waited I couldn’t help by replay his words in my mind. “Answer each question saying you’re completely satisfied?” I was shocked, why would anyone ever tell someone what to mark on a survey?
Soon I walked into the next office to sign more papers. There, I was offered all kinds of extra insurance and warranty plans that I didn’t really need. I kindly listened to all of the sales pitches and signed papers again. When it was finally time to leave, the nice lady in this second office said, “I want to remind you that you’ll be getting a survey in a few days. Please be sure to click the box all the way to the left to indicate that you’re completely satisfied with your experience.” At this point, I had been at the car dealership for 5 hours, I wanted to ask her why she felt she needed to tell me how to rate my experience. But, instead, I said, “Okay, thank you so much for all of your help.” A few days later when I played a voice message on my phone. It was from the dealership. This time a person was calling to check to see how I was enjoying my car. At the end of the message he said, “And remember to check completely satisfied when you get the survey about your service.”
What does feedback mean to you? Sure, it’s great to receive positive feedback. But, whether the feedback we receive is positive or negative isn’t what matters. What really matters is what we do with the feedback. Do we just pretend like everyone is “completely satisfied” all the time? Or, do we accept honest feedback with an open mind and growth mindset? Do we want to grow or do we want to maintain the status quo?
Accepting feedback, especially critical feedback, isn’t always easy. When we are open to feedback we have to be prepared to make changes, do more work and accept that our ideas are not perfect. But, think about what things would be like if we simply asked everyone to tell us they were “completely satisfied”. Where would we be personally and professionally? What opportunities would we have missed?
On our journey to ELITE, feedback is crucial. We don’t ever really want to be satisfied or even “completely satisfied”. Instead we want to constantly be moving forward. As Tim Kight says, "We must strive to be better today than we were yesterday and we must be better tomorrow than we were today." The feedback we receive along the way is what will continue to propel us forward.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” -Jim Rohn
I heard this quote for the first time a few years ago. After hearing it, I began to think about the people with whom I spend time. I reflected on how those people make me feel. I quickly recognized the people who make me a better person, teach me new things, push me to reflect, inspire me to be better and help me grow. I created a list in my head of people who help me bring up my average and also started to recognize those people who bring down my average. Most importantly, however, I reflected on myself. I started to think about whether or not my words and my actions were adding value to others? I definitely don’t want to be a person who would bring down the average of someone else!
The theory of being the average of the five people you spend the most time with directly connects to the values we embrace in our school district. In Hilliard City Schools, we are immersed in R Factor training. One of the principles of R Factor is the concept of no BCD. BCD stands for Blame, Complain and Defend. In a recent blog post, Tim Kight explains that BCD “afflicts millions of people every day, and is often triggered by work stress.” This time of year brings about a lot of stressors-testing, end of year assessing, data team meetings, IEP meetings, moving grade levels, new initiatives, and more. So now more than ever, we need to reflect on our own mindsets, words and actions. We can all fall into the habit of BCD. BCD makes things worse. When we BCD we bring down the average of those around us. I challenge us all to think before we BCD. We control our self-talk and we control the story we tell ourselves.
As we continue on our journey to ELITE we must surround ourselves with people who raise our average. Take a moment to think about the five people who you spend the most time with at school, at home, at the gym, etc. What do these people do to your average? Are these people habitual BCDers?
Now think about yourself. Do you inspire others? What do you do when you’re stressed? Are you raising or lowering averages?
To read Tim Kight’s blog that was referenced in this post, click here.
I always think of Spring Break as the equivalent of coming down the home stretch of the school year. Before I completely destroyed my ankles from years and years of running and never adequately healing from injuries I ran many, many races. For me, there is nothing like the feeling of coming to the last mile in a race and then the last half-mile and then finally seeing the finish line in my field of view. No matter how tired or sore I was; it seemed that when I came down the home stretch I was able to dig deep and keep running. If I dug really deep I could even feel myself speeding up and I would start passing people. I never raced because I wanted to win, in fact I knew I would never win a race; I ran because I wanted to push myself to run faster than I did during my previous races. I ran because I loved the feeling of accomplishing something that was hard. Just like the races I ran, the end of the school year is hard. It’s easy to want to slow down because we’re tired, but now is the time to dig deep, keep the end in sight and not give up.
Throughout the past week, I have had to keep myself focused, push myself forward and remind myself that I have not yet crossed the finish line. Positive self-talk always helped keep me moving forward as a runner and it has the same effect in my professional life. On many occasions this week, I found myself thinking about the answers to five questions. These questions have helped me as I have dug deep to push myself down the home stretch:
It would be easy to slow down and say, “It can wait until next year.” It’s also easy to get lost in the minutia of the school year and forget about the importance of taking time to truly connect with the students, parents and staff who are so important to me. I will continue to reflect on these questions as we move into testing season and then the final part of the home stretch, which is the month of May. I hope that we can all continue to dig deep and if we do, this just might be our best finish ever.
“If you permit it, you promote it.” Focus3 posted this quote and picture on their Facebook page earlier in the week. After I read the quote, I found myself reflecting on the words and the things that I permit.
There are many things that I permit that I’m happy to also promote. I permit risk taking, failing, dreaming big, and not asking permission to try new things. I permit teachers to step up as leaders, as well as collaboration and innovative thinking among other things. It is my pleasure to promote these things. It would be easy to simply pat myself on the back for permitting such a culture, but instead I have forced myself to reflect on the things that I permit that I may not be so proud to promote. Often times as leaders, colleagues and friends we let certain things go because we don’t want to ruffle feathers, rock boats or make others feel uncomfortable. But, deep down we all know that there are things we’re permitting that we shouldn’t be promoting.
I encourage you to join me in the process of truly and honestly reflecting on the things you permit. I ask you to think about the things that occur in your classroom or school that bother you.
What do you do when you’re faced with things that make you feel uncomfortable? Do you do nothing and permit it to occur therefore promoting it? Or, do you step up and address it?
On our journey to be ELITE we must remember that when we see things in our culture that are out of alignment we must not permit it. We must step up and do something about it. If we permit it, we promote it.
I hope my blog posts inspire risk taking and new ways of thinking. I hope to connect with other educators on our journey to always do what's best for children.