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A Lesson From Goldilocks

constructive impact tips Aug 21, 2021

by Aubrey Patterson


Why do some, like James Dyson who failed in 5,126 attempts before perfecting his revolutionary vacuum, persist for years at their craft? 

The Goldilocks Principle

Scientists have studied such persistence for years and the findings are consistent. 

While there is still much to learn, one of the most consistent findings is that the way to maintain motivation and achieve peak levels of desire is to work on tasks of just manageable difficulty. (James Clear)

This isn't a foreign concept in education. Just manageable difficulty has been used by teachers in levelled reading, individualized instruction, and other very common teaching strategies for years.

In leadership circles, this axiom is often referred to as the Goldilocks Principle. 

We experience peak motivation when we work on tasks that are not too hard, not too easy, but just right.

So, what if we differentiated our leadership according...

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Finding Home Base

communication impact tips Aug 21, 2021

by Aubrey Patterson


Warm demander leaders are compassionate, constructive, and courageous, but all of these qualities can feel impossibly distant when confusion creeps into our day.

Finding the right home base

Let's operate under an assumption that we all have a home base or mindset to which we return when we begin feeling overwhelmed or don't know where to begin.

Some return to a working home base, many to a worrying space, others land in an angry place. A few muster the courage and become more determined.

The greatest obstacle to building a more positive mindset home base is a lack of clarity. When times are tough, we need to simplify our problems, both perceived or real, and find a clear pathway to move forward.

Clear edges give direction and hope, much like the bumpers sometimes used with beginners that fill the gutters in a bowling alley.

Warm demanding leaders must inspire confidence and, when obstacles present themselves, quickly don...

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Problem or Fact of Life?

constructive impact tips Aug 21, 2021

by Aubrey Patterson


Do you find yourself frustrated by news that blindsides you and feels unfair? 

Of course you do. We all do. 

There is a helpful mindset shift that occurs when we move from dwelling on a problem to accepting a fact of life. 

There isn’t enough budget …

We lost half of our team …

Yuck. But are these actual problems or facts of life? 

Dwelling on problems that are beyond our control is an energy vampire.

The clock doesn’t stop ticking and the kids and staff don’t stop needing us, no matter how many mental calories we burn in frustration. 

Green Eggs and Ham

Dr. Suess wrote The Cat in the Hat using only 256 different words. His editor responded by betting him he couldn’t write a book with only 50 words.

The result?

Green Eggs and Ham. 

Often, the limits we face can spark creativity once we accept them as facts of life. 

By the way, Dr....

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Silence Does the Heavy Lifting

by Aubrey Patterson


Do you have someone on your team that always chooses negativity and loves to bring any room to the lowest common denominator? You know, the kind of person that you always love, but can be really challenging to like?

Silence does the heavy lifting

Trying times certainly lead to even more corrosive behaviors, but of course, we need to rise above the moment and choose compassion for someone who is obviously struggling.

We have a lot of options when such a person isn't in-person, as we can more easily choose to walk away from an email or phone call before responding or even have tools like prewritten scripts to quickly employ.

But when someone is right in front of us and seemingly enjoying the negative spotlight, how do we respond?

Sure, we know that arguing with a fool only makes two, but equally important guiding principles are if you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything and what you tolerate sets the bar...

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Making Practices Practical: Being Mission-Driven

courageous May 24, 2021

by Dr. Danielle Bosanec


Knowing the purpose for the work one does helps move both an individual and an organization towards achieving a vision that is greater than oneself and connects what we do to why we do it.  Fullan & Quinn (2016) describe this purpose as a shared moral imperative.  If this moral imperative is shared and supported by staff, parents, and the community, the mission becomes a tool to define actionable goals for the organization.

Here is what we learned from some of Wisconsin’s top educational leaders about being mission-driven.

Missions serve as decision-making guides

Schools are busy places and there is not always the time, nor is it reasonable, to have every decision vetted by everyone.  The mission should serve as the decision-making guide.  Amy Levek of Whitefish Bay School District explained that the more you speak about the mission, “the more it becomes that march for decision making”.  The mission can,...

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Making Practices Practical: Building and Sustaining a Positive Culture

compassionate May 24, 2021

by Dr. Danielle Bosanec


For many school leaders, the busy nature of their day-to-day schedules can make it difficult to focus on school culture. But over the long term, it is critical to build a culture in which the needs of students and their success comes first, differences are celebrated, and students and staff are challenged to continuously improve. 

Here is what we learned from some of Wisconsin’s top educational leaders. 

School culture is built (and destroyed) in the blink of an eye

Whether or not you think you are building a culture, you are. It happens every moment of every day. 

Staff members look to their leaders to witness the culture of the school. Such things as sincerity, transparency, empathy, mission, and a focus on students can be apparent in even the briefest of interactions. Never lose track of this. 

Students should come first

Perhaps the simplest way to create a positive school culture is to focus on the school’s mission...

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