Take-away: internal reflection works for leaders as well as the organization they lead.
Inspect what you Expect
A few years into my principalship, I realized that in order to reach greater heights and to achieve our school’s goals, adding more “stuff” to “improve” our performance was actually misguided. During a statewide professional development on improving student outcomes, the audience was bombarded with “proven” ideas that ranged from student led conferencing to professional learning communities. All the ideas had merit and were appealing. Oddly though, I walked away that day feeling overwhelmed and confused. I knew what my school needed wasn’t a new idea, but a thorough investigation on what we were currently doing. I realized that adding another initiative prior to auditing what we were doing would actually be detrimental to our progress.We needed to inspect what we expected as outcomes. We couldn’t add anything without inspecting what he had, so we did.
Take-away: think audit before thinking add-it.
The process of refinement started with myself, first through introspection, self-reflection, and a thorough audit of my daily habits and activities. I wanted to ensure alignment between the school’s goals and what we needed to achieve with my daily actions as a leader. Once I realized there was a misalignment, the tough part was eliminating these from my daily practices. One that took some courage, but was necessary, was not attending or holding certain meetings. Too often I found myself in meetings that drained my time and were unproductive, many of which were not school-based and didn’t yield school level results. I needed to “clean house” and get rid of meetings that didn’t matter.
As a school, we enacted the same reflective process. Our instructional leadership team evaluated themselves and their departments. As a school, we reviewed what was working and what we needed to eliminate. One main conclusion was about how we communicated. As a community of educators, we agreed on what I would communicate through weekly memos and emails, which led to the discontinuation of some unneeded meetings, like our general faculty meetings. It was simply too large to be effective for more than anything except disseminating information, and that wasn’t a good use of time. We decided to use smaller more productive committees to drive change.
Take-away: Use meetings to discuss, use memos to inform.
Trimming down and eliminating unnecessary daily activities and “getting to simple” is the refined high impact approach necessary for success. The strategy is possibly best summed up by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, during an interview: “Why do you wear the same gray t-shirt every day?” asked the interviewer. “I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community,” says Zuckerberg. The challenge is getting down to just focusing on the ideas and initiatives that actually have a positive impact.
As believers in goal setting and high leverage best practices, we realize that the first step to “getting to simple” is actually investigating the initiatives that should be stopped. How about “no new ideas until” that happens.
1. As a school leader and/or teacher, which of your daily actions drive success? List two.
2. What are the things that you can stop doing today and it wouldn’t matter for future success? List two.
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Mitchell, W. (2015, January 29). 8 Questions Successful People Ask Themselves—That You Should, Too Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/career/8-questions-successful-people-ask-themselves-you-should-too