Thursday, December 21, 2017

What is Your Commitment to 2018?

I recently finished reading Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. It is a dynamic book, perhaps one of the best I have ever read. However, I will warn you now. If you do not want to be challenged or feel uncomfortable, stick to the smutty romance novels.

Since reading the book, I have become a major Jocko fan. Jocko commits to waking up at 0430 hours everyday. He has created a cult following on Twitter, tweeting out a picture of his wrist watch everyday with the time. Without fail, he is up everyday at 0430. He usually follows up the tweet with something he accomplished in the early hours.

I decided to follow suit and match the challenge of getting up everyday at 0430. I was up the other day...and by the time it was ready for me to get ready for the work day, I realized something: I have been committed to getting up everyday at 0430...but I was NOT accomplishing anything.

I knew if I was going to commit to getting up early everyday, I needed to commit to something equally important: getting better everyday. Life is short. And hard. And fierce. Realizing your own full potential demands we commit to maximizing our efforts every day. We are all blessed with 1440 minutes each day in order to make it happen, and get after it.

As we approach the holiday break, I challenge you with this: what is your commitment for 2018? Where will you get better? How will you get better? What is your plan to make your commitment happen? One of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes on planning states that if he had 6 hours to cut down a tree, he would spend the first four hours developing a plan. What is your plan to cut down your tree in 2018?

Commitments School Leaders Can Make to Get Better:
-Develop an exercise plan
-Commit to reading at least one leadership book a month
-Write a blog
-Attend a conference. (And be truly present)
-Research best schools in the world; apply learned principles in your own world
-Commit to quiet time everyday
-Find a mentor
-Mentor someone

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”- Vince Lombardi

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Be a True Leader: Get Your Hands Dirty.

I received a text message from my brother the day before school started for this year.

It read, “Go after greatness this year. And get your hands dirty while pursuing it.”

I took some time to reflect on this. What does getting your ‘hands dirty’ look like in leadership positions? How could I approach this school year with more of a mindset of getting my hands dirty? And, equally important, what was the ‘greatness’ I was going to pursue?

With these thoughts swirling in my mind, I visited our new elementary school for the first day of school.  This past year, we realigned our attendance zones. As well, we consolidated from three elementary schools to two. To put it in perspective, our largest elementary school last school year had about 400  students. Our new elementary has blossomed to over 725 students. 

I stood in the cafeteria watching the controlled chaos. Parent volunteers roamed about everywhere. In fact, it appeared there were equal adults to students.

As I surveyed this scene, my attention was drawn to the food line. There in the midst of the students lining up was the building principal, demonstrating his expectations for how to line up and proceed with the lunch period.  And, not far from where he was, the assistant principal was working with a different group of students on where to sit- and outlining behavioral expectations for the cafeteria.

This is ‘getting your hands dirty’ in action. Often times, as school leaders, we can issue edicts from behind a computer screen. It is easy to ‘tell’ the way. It is not always easy to ‘show’ the way. As these two leaders’ actions showcased, if we are willing to get out in front and allow our words to become actions, we don’t have to share our leadership philosophy. People will see it. And seeing is believing.

My challenge is this: how can you be more proactive with applied leadership (aka ‘getting your hands dirty’)? What tangible steps can you take to allow your leadership philosophy to become more than words on a paper penned in silence?

Getting Your Hands Dirty for School Leaders:
- Teach a class. Demonstrate a new instructional practice.
- Get in the cafeteria.
- Spend less than 60 minutes in your office a day.
- Don’t miss dismissal time.
- Substitute for a Day.
- Serve Food in the Cafeteria
- Learn Your Students’ Names
- Ask Your Staff Questions.

"We must be silent before we can listen. We must listen before we can learn. We must learn before we can prepare. We must prepare before we can serve. We must serve before we can lead."
 ― William Arthur Ward

Other thoughts on tangible ways we as leaders can get our hands dirty?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Car Wash Communication Plan

My dad passed away on July 3, 2015. This year, to honor his memory, I decided to wash the car. Strange you might say...but I have many childhood memories of washing the car with my dad. Although my dad had many laudable traits, patience was not one of them. Washing the car usually resulted in one or more of my brothers and me getting yelled at for some odd reason or another.

I set out to break the cycle. My six year-old was eager to wash the car and be a good helper. As we gathered up the materials and headed out to the driveway, I made a pact with myself that I would not yell. I would not get irritated. I would not get mad.

Washing the car ensued. David, always wanting to be the good helper, asked if he could give the car a pre-wash. I let him. He didn't see me bending down in the front of the car to scrub off the bugs.
I was soaked. But I had not failed at my mission (yet).

We continued to work together. As we were about halfway done with the car, it all started to make sense to me. If I clearly explained my expectations, and if I showed him how I would like the task to be completed, my irritation completely subsided. Those times that he set off on his own without clear direction, I found myself fighting irritation.

David was promised a popsicle for helping. As he was in the house devouring it, I had some quiet time alone with my thoughts. What a great lesson in leadership. Clearly, methodically, intentionally explain your expectations. As leaders, how many times do we do this, assume our people know our thoughts and expectations? I know for me, I continually operate in a presumptive mindset. I assume those around me know my thoughts and my expectations. And, often, when these expectations are not met, I well up with irritation. Yet, the irritation should and will reside with me.

As leaders, we must continually communicate our expectations. Begin with the end in mind; what needs to be communicated? How are you going to communicate? Where are the blind spots in your communication? How will you assess if you have effectively communicated?

The leadership lesson I took away from the car wash was not earth shattering. In fact, one friend I shared this nugget of wisdom with said, "No duh. That's leadership 101." While I do not argue with this statement, there are leadership lessons all around us. We need to be intentional and reflective in our thinking to grasp them. And, most importantly, to to take these learned lessons and implement them.

As you take time to reflect, what might be some dysfunctional family cycles you need to break? As you pinpoint those irritation moments in your life, is it a result of your failed communication plan? What areas of your leadership communication need to improve? As Shakespeare wrote in HamletTo Thine Own self Be True.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Effective Presentation

I spent the morning attending a conference. One of the sessions I attended dealt with 'delivering an effective presentation'. As I sat through the presentation, I thought to myself, this is one of the worst presentations I have ever sat through. Dull. Drab. Boring.

Don't get me wrong; the content was spot on. The presenter provided some of the science behind delivering a solid presentation. As well, there were ideas shared on alternatives to the tradition powerpoint. All good stuff. However, it lacked a key, main ingredient: enthusiasm.

It was as if the presenter was going through the motions...delivering the slides- with no emotional connection tied to it.

As I reflected on the session, I drew this conclusion: the most dynamic presentations I have sat through have been delivered by people who passionately believed in their message. And, they left an indelible impression on me- along with other attendees.

I inherently believe if you want to deliver a presentation that people will talk about long after you left the room, put your heart into it. If  you cannot muster the strength to put your heart, soul, and passion into what you are presenting on, go find something else to do with your life. Life is too short to be wasted on going through the motions. If you have to present, present like you want people to walk away from your speech truly changed.

Determining the size of font- and how many words you have on a slide are important. And, if not done well, can be a major distractor. However, if you get the nuts and bolts right- yet lack passion, don't be disappointed when people pull out their phones to check Facebook or Twitter.

Delivering the effective presentation? Simply put: Bring your thunder stick.

“Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.” -D. H. Lawrence  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Leadership and the Path to the Super Bowl

As you may be aware, I am a die hard Pittsburgh fan. I am still reeling from that crushing, devastating, embarrassing loss. After the loss on Sunday, I pretty much vowed I would not watch the Super Bowl.

Until I read this article on the Falcons Head Coach (Falcons Believe in all of Dan Quinn's Corny Sayings...).

I am a leadership junkie. I love to read about leadership in action. This article on Coach Quinn truly embodies leadership.

Leadership is about pulling together a team. The team can be on a field, a court, a classroom, a board room, or an office. It is about gelling together a group of people to unite for a unified cause. Anyone who has ever led knows this is no small feat wrought with obstacles, frustrations, and challenges.

Yet, in spite of the difficulties, the truly great leaders are able to take the focus of the individual and place it on the greater good of the team- and the ultimate mission of the team. When a team truly bonds, and comes together, amazing feats are accomplished.

Many coaches, bosses, managers are able to rattle off certain leadership buzz words they may have read or heard about it; leaders can use the same verbiage, coupled with relationship building, and produce vastly different results. This is what separates leaders from managers.

Coach Quinn embodies what is right with leadership. Unifying a group to accomplish a goal. Leadership at its finest.

It pains me to say it, but Go Falcons. I am a bigger fan of leadership than I am of the Steelers.

"We talk about brotherhood every single day."-Dwight Freeney on Coach Quinn.