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Posted by on in Education Leadership

My son's 7th grade basketball season finished last week.  I had a great season cheering him on along with the other parents.  There's an excitement being part of the crowd recognizing our players for amazing shots or passes.  In our enthusiasm and having watched enough basketball games in our tenure, we parents also become sideline coaches and referees to make the game even more engaging!

During a game, it's not unusual for us to shout out plays or point out to the referee mistakes he called.  In addition to providing encouragement to our players, we also feel the need to provide direction to them on who's open for a pass, the positive affirmation to shoot the ball, or reminding the players to rebound the ball.  One call that brings laughter to the crowd is when two players on the same team come down from the hoop fighting for the ball.  At that moment, we are screaming to the players, "Same Team! Same Team!".  It's frustrating when two players on the same team are fighting for the same ball.  Not only is a lot of time and energy wasted, but there's also potential for an unnecessary foul or injury to take place.   


In a school, there's a similar sense of danger when two leaders on the same team, going for the same goal, end up fighting with each other.  As educational leaders, it's important for us to recognize and call out ourselves when we are doing this.  And, it's also important to know how to effectively work together for success.  For high performing teams, it's not a question whether "if" it's going to happen, but "when".  Similar to two basketball players getting caught fighting for the same ball, here are Three Ways Leaders Can Succeed on the "Same Team":

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Posted by on in Education Leadership


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There's nothing better than breakfast meetings in the summer! I get excited at the chance in meeting with colleagues over a cup of coffee and dialogue to brainstorm ways to better support our students and staff in the upcoming school year.

As part of our summer work, I have been been holding "check-in" meetings with our principals to reflect on our academic continuous improvement plans.  As the new principal at Worthington Kilbourne High School, Mr. Aric Thomas has been working to deeply understand the great work that has been done in the past and how to best continue leading the work in the future.  Talking with him during breakfast gave us both a chance to brainstorm plans for the upcoming year as well as get to know each other more.  As we got up to leave, we realized we weren't alone!

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with a colleague from a previous school district who I hadn’t seen for years.  While drinking coffee and catching up about our families and life, I asked him about his recent change in positions at a new school district last year.  Suddenly, his head lowered and his eyes scanned the inside of his empty coffee cup.  Barely opening his mouth, he quietly murmured, “My goal next year will be to stay under the radar”.

Although I could have asked him to disclose details on why he would have said that, I knew that wouldn’t have accomplished anything to help him.  Instead, I asked him what he thought that would accomplish.  This question allowed for a better, richer dialogue to see how I could help coach him up.

His eyes looked up, and placed his coffee cup on the table.  With a small smile peeking through his mouth, he admitted that he wasn’t truly sure.  He guessed that it would be better if he kept his head down low and stayed quiet around his peers due to some missteps from the year before and some negative feedback he received on his performance.  As he restated his initial plan to just “fly under the radar”, he began to doubt the merits to this idea.

“Flying under the radar” doesn’t work in leadership. 

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

I found myself mixed with humility and joy listening to my sixteen-year old son, Keegan, as well as just observing his passionate explanation of how I don't know how to use my own camera to take pictures.  Having mastered the art of lecturing to me complete with eyes rolls and exhausted breath, he walked me through all the various settings, buttons, and dials on the camera. When did my son learn all of this?  

While I tried to act interested in all of his tips, tricks, and strategies, I waited patiently for him to finish, so I could school him a very important fact that would keep me at the top of the food chain of knowledge in the family; the fact that I bought an expensive camera with something called "Auto-Focus".  When he finished, I paused for dramatic effect before announcing my profound statement.  Getting ready to drop the mic, he quickly brought me down to Earth with his response: "Then, why would the company still keep all these features?  Sometimes, it is necessary to focus manually."

Even a year later, that experience and his response had me reflecting on its truth in settings outside of the photography world.  We tend to think about the word “Focus”, and think it should be automatic in what we do with it.  We tell ourselves we need to focus more as a New Year's Resolution, and say it when we are asked what changes we intend to make in improvement settings.  It has become such a much-needed area of work that it often gets nods of approval and the occasional "Amen" when we say it aloud.  We treat the ability to focus as something automatic, when it is something that is meant to be set manually.

In an effort to ensure you are focused, here are "Four Strategies To Manually Set Your Focus": 

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Posted by on in Education Leadership
I couldn’t wait for Dad to get home that evening.  You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  I peered around the bushes to scan for his car while delicately holding the yellow envelope careful not to bend it.  
I got all A’s for the first grading period of my middle school career, and I couldn’t wait to see the reaction on his face!  It felt like days before his car finally appeared from the corner and pulled in the driveway.  He beeped the horn twice to acknowledge seeing me as I jumped frantically up and down.  Knowing I had something to say, he parked the car immediately and pulled down his window.  With my chest puffed out, I handed him my report card through his car window.  He matched his smile with mine and scanned the report.  After a few seconds, he proudly said, “Great job, Neil.  Now, I think it’s time you get a tutor.”
A tutor?  But, I got all A’s.  I didn’t need any help.  I had an instant imagine of me sitting in the corner of the classroom with a dunce cap while my classmates pointed at me laughing.  My shoulders lowered, my chest deflated, and my head dropped.  What did I do wrong?
Dad could see my reaction, and asked what was wrong.  Trying to hide the tears and hurt in my voice, I asked him what I did wrong that would cause me getting a tutor.
Puzzled, he responded in a matter-of-fact tone, “People don’t get tutors because they are dumb; they get tutors to get better.”
Dad went on to explain the difference in psychology between my thought and his in how we perceive tutors.  Driving home his point, he even reminded me that even Michael Jordan needed a coach!  After that, I was hooked.  I didn’t just want tutors in my schoolwork, but I listened to anyone I could find to help coach me up in tennis.
After securing my first teaching job, I took every chance to be mentored from veteran teachers.  I didn’t see it as a weakness or something that needed to be forced to do.  I realized that to be a better leader in the future, a Future Leader, I needed to learn from others today!
While there is no mandate for me to be mentored today, I still look to learn from others constantly.  Although someone may have more experience than me or a fancy title, it matters that I surround myself with others who possess the following “6 Attributes of Effective Mentors”:
  1. Provide Insights From Experience.  The leader needs to be reflective and able to humbly articulate how they were successful as well as mistakes made in their journey.
  2. Help You to Connect. The leader should be able to connect me with resources to address needs as well as introduce me to other people and ways to grow.
  3. Tell You What You May Not Want to Hear. The leader needs to be honest and straight-forward as well as be direct with areas to avoid or stop doing.
  4. Push You Beyond What You Think Is Enough. The leader should elevate my awareness to the magic of possibilities as well as drive me beyond the limitations I may put on myself.
  5. Encourage You Along the Way.  The leader needs to keep me moving forward as well as be the cheerleader through inspiration and positivity.
  6. Celebrate Your Successes! The leader should present along the journey as well as at the major milestones to celebrate accomplishments to reveal our true friendship and partnership.

While there's no perfect mentor, it's important to go in to a mentoring relationship with the same expectations.  Be up-front and clear on your needs, so you can find future success.

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