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Clarity and a Kind Voice

by Aubrey Patterson

 

Of course, the scenario you're about to read is all too familiar, but are you fortunate enough to know someone who leads like Carla?

Like a Duck

The day is just beginning and the telephones are lighting up.

Line 1: A teacher is calling in sick.

Line 2: An angry parent.

A whimper and crying eyes staring up: A little one is seeking an ice pack.

A tap on the shoulder: The new teacher asking where to find a student’s file.

This would be an awfully eventful two minutes for most.

Carla politely puts the teacher on hold and pages the assistant principal; she then offers a kind greeting and exquisite manners to a slightly confused and well-meaning mom; gives a hug and an ice pack to poor little Michael (while offering a silent thank you to her principal for the phone headset); and gives wide-eyes and a smile while mouthing, “just a sec” to the teacher waiting for that file.

With every action and word, Carla communicates compassion,...

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A More Thoughtful Yes or No

by Aubrey Patterson

 

Have you noticed how it's become very popular in social media to encourage us to say "no" to anything new?

Build and fortify boundaries. Guard them fiercely with a no.

We all get this. None of us are tone deaf to the emotions that accompany the uncertainty and fears in recent times.

And truth be told, we proudly subscribe to the hell yeah or no! framework of Derek Sivers. We also coach leaders using the cliché if you never say "no", what's the value of your yes?"

No rarely does harm.

No offers a measure of control to a day that seems increasingly out of control.

However, this emphasis on the power of no makes it more likely that our skepticism or fatigue will cloud new opportunities.

It's becoming far too easy to stop listening to that inner voice that might otherwise be attuned to a propitious idea.

When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare. (John Wooden)

Every opportunity comes with challenges. And those challenges are...

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A How to Match Our Why

by Aubrey Patterson

 

Jerry walked into the new principal's office and nonchalantly offered a leadership gem that would reframe every future conversation in the school about mission, vision, and values.

He shared a huge smile and opened with a simple, "I'm Jerry."

The new principal returned the smile, introduced himself, and asked awkwardly, “I’m sorry, Jerry, but what do you do?”

Jerry's face brightened even more. “I help the kids learn by keeping things clean around here and making sure everyone can safely get around."

A how to match our why.

How many adults in our schools could finish this stem?

I help kids learn by ____.

Perhaps we want to include part of our current mission statement and let each adult complete a sentence that ties them to the why of the school or district?

I help kids learn and become an exceptional citizen in a vibrant school by _____.

Shouldn’t everyone working in education be able to easily complete these statements?

...
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It’s complicated … or is it?

by Melody Stacy

 

Are you ready for a pop quiz?

No?

Good. It wouldn’t be a pop quiz if you were.

Ready or not, here we go ...

  1. As school leaders, should we love our staff or have high expectations for them?
  2. Should we be the confident leaders in our school or should we have empowered teachers?
  3. As a team, should we celebrate our accomplishments or succumb to a sense of urgency to improve?
  4. Should we approach our work tightly aligned to our vision and goals or give loose autonomy for people be themselves?

Did you have a hard time choosing?

Good. That's the point.

As leaders, we are faced with countless decisions bringing infinite implications every day. Many of those decisions seem very complex and often seem to force a choice between contradictory options.

The most important aspects of our work don't fit into nice, neat checkboxes.

What if embracing the paradox could bring about freedom and clarity while helping us pursue greatness?

When we are comfortable mired in...

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Meeting Déjà Vu: We Talked About This Last Year, Right?

by Aubrey Patterson

 

The Faculty Meeting: Meritocracy vs Efficiency

Here’s a scenario that many will recognize ... 

It's 4:23 PM. Seven minutes before the faculty meeting is scheduled to end.

The agenda item is very familiar to the veterans in the faculty meeting who had lived it many times before: End of Year BBQ.

Everyone is confident it will take only a few minutes to sign up for tasks and get out with a few minutes to spare.

Mike

But Mike is new. He innocently and cautiously puts the efficiency of this well-worn item in peril, wondering aloud about the Start of the Year BBQ that would follow in a couple months.

Just a question and I know I am new here, but given we do the same kind of event to start and end the year--which I’m totally good with, it’s so cool--um, could we prepare the set-up of the non-food materials once for both events? We could even purchase the food in the spring for both June and August. It might save us a lot of work in...

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Meetingitis

communication meetings Sep 29, 2021

by Aubrey Patterson

 

Have you ever sat in a meeting and wondered, "couldn't this have just been an email?"

Of course.

We all have.

And we've all led or contributed items in a meeting with information that could have been better delivered without a captive audience who are all facing their own time-crunches.

Of course, there are times a leader needs to deliver information or a tough message with clarity, but common sense tells us that if we're going to bring people together, in most cases, it should be for shared expertise and contribution.

Uncommon sense maybe?

Other than delivering information ahead of time in an email, there are other tools we can use to win a battle with meetingitis.

Some teachers flip their lessons. Where it makes sense, they use tools like Screencastify or Loom so their students can watch the lesson and spend time in the classroom asking questions.

And this works really well for faculty meetings or when a small team is going to work on...

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If people have to follow you, how do you know you’re a good leader?

by Aubrey Patterson

 

A few months ago, our team dove into deep thinking mode on a tough question:

If people have to follow you, how do you know you’re a good leader?

Like so many times before, we found our answer in the classroom.

Most impactful observations in a classroom aren't focused on the teacher, but the learners. The depth of learning obviously reflects upon the quality of the instruction.

And herein lies the answer to our question.

Leaders teach. They empower their people and surface individual genius until these followers grow as leaders.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. (John Quincy Adams)

When we build the leadership capacity and confidence of our people, we inevitably are given back the time to do our most impactful and joyous work.

A self-evaluation needn't begin with a long look in the mirror:

  • Are people leading more than they did before I arrived on the scene?

  • Is our staff...

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Say the Why, Lead the Way

by Aubrey Patterson

 

Imagine giving your family a 1000 piece puzzle this Thanksgiving.

You show a beautiful picture that adorns the box, then empty the pieces onto a large table, and say how much fun this will be. 

Everyone is excited to get started.

Perfect!

So, feeling a sense of accomplishment, you leave and take the box with you. 

Say the why, lead the way

It’s certainly valuable to identify our why

We encourage this for individuals and teams. 

But with a caveat ...

Our why is a point of demarkation and a reference guide, but not a finish line. 

Too many leaders stop with why and walk away with the vision, losing their team once the work begins.  

He who thinks he leads but has no followers is only taking a walk. (John Maxwell)

Leadership is more than mountaintop moments and trendy declarations. It requires us to be...

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Carefronting

by Melody Stacy

 

When your school culture is all about positivity and that magical mixture of love and high expectations, there needs to be a certain amount of healthy conflict to combat artificial harmony and ensure the forces of mediocrity aren’t winning. 

 Carefronting

In the last several years, our school has developed compelling and connected core values, vision, mission, and goals, but we've also found ourselves, at times, a bit love-heavy and unknowingly, and with good intentions, playing too nice.

As our teacher voice team was reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, we completed the team assessment activity and found the results confirmed what we suspected. We were really, really strong on the first three layers of the team pyramid (trust, conflict, and commitment) and our weakest area was in accountability. Our need to avoid interpersonal discomfort was preventing team members from holding each other accountable for...

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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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