The Undercurrents of Decision-Making: A School Leader’s Guide

The Undercurrents of Decision-Making: A School Leader’s Guide

Brian has been a school principal for three years, and he finally feels that he’s finding his stride. While talking with Brian about his goals for the school year and the successes he has had to date, we found ourselves continually circling back to the various reactions that people have to certain decisions. Brian noted that his estimation of peoples’ responses was wrong at times, too often in fact. What he thought would create a major kickback recently, didn’t cause a stir, yet another decision he made, which was seemingly harmless, caused staff to panic. Perhaps, as a school leader, you can relate.

Every decision you make, big or small, creates undercurrents that ripple throughout the school community. These undercurrents can potentially have a profound impact on the staff, students, the greater school community, and, ultimately, the direction of the school.

Schools are notorious for implementing countless initiatives, all with good intentions in the name of a “need” or an “improvement.” We’ve implemented many of these initiatives ourselves–with varying degrees of success, mind you. School leaders embark on these new journeys to improve their schools, yet we find a spectrum of results, reactions, and responses to what we propose.

It’s probably not surprising, but we’ve yet to meet a school or district leader who willingly disrupts a school simply to wreak havoc on it. Yet, albeit comforting, we’ve also yet to find a school leader who didn’t have experience with the implementation of something that would help students, only to be met with despair by the staff. Despite what some would like to believe, school leaders want to improve student performance while supporting teachers, typically with the least amount of disruption possible. It just doesn’t work out that way.

Unfortunately, what is often underestimated is the scope of the initiative and the numerous decisions that will create countless undercurrents. Let’s take a look at some of the top initiatives implemented over the last couple of years. We’re sure that you could add to this list below.

• Technology Integration: Many school leaders have aggressively sought to integrate technology into the classroom with the goal of enhancing the student learning experience and improving their digital literacy skills.
• Personalized Learning: Many classrooms are very diverse and in multiple ways. Tailoring education is not just nice to do; we know that meeting individual students’ needs benefits all students.
• STEM Education: Schools are very aware of the need to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education programs to prepare students, especially students of color and female students, who are traditionally underrepresented for careers in these high-demand fields. STEM is the future of the economy.
• Social and Emotional Learning (SEL): It cannot be said enough, especially after COVID, schools know the importance of emotional intelligence and the interpersonal skills necessary for student development, alongside academic achievement.
• Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Schools have also focused heavily on creating inclusive and equitable learning environments that recognize, address, and support the diverse needs of students from various backgrounds. It’s important to note that it is the role of a school leader to confront and alter inequities, yet even these initiatives can be met with resistance.

These five areas are massive efforts and require a tremendous amount of time and expertise to get right and implement effectively. These aren’t programs or short, quick fixes, but rather holistic efforts to effectively meet the needs of our students and the demands of our communities.

Consider SEL as an example. SEL is not new, but the intentionality and focus within the curriculum and other school-wide efforts is a new approach to it. To illustrate the depth of the initiative, we’ve built TheSchoolHouse302 Initiative Chart to demonstrate how detailed and involved a particular initiative can be.



We share this chart not as a “How To” on implementing initiatives, although that’s important; instead, our focus is on the details that this provides, which reveals just how each aspect of the initiative is very involved and requires a large degree of work. If it looks a little overwhelming, it’s okay to acknowledge that an SEL initiative is a large undertaking. Underestimating the scope of an initiative is one of the most common mistakes that a new (and seasoned) leader makes.


Each of the 7 areas can be broken down into several smaller segments to detail the intricate work that needs to take place for successful implementation. Going through this exercise is powerful because it not only shapes the scope of work but, more importantly, provides a view into what the work entails and how it involves and impacts the school community. Remember, your decision to embark on any new journey is either going to have a ripple effect toward success or trigger negative ways of dissent.

Rippling Toward Success or Triggering Negative Waves of Dissent

It can’t be said enough that the decisions you make as a school leader have the power to create positive or negative undercurrents that can shape the entire school community. By being mindful of the impact of your decisions and by making choices that are in the best interests of the school, you can create a more positive and productive learning environment for everyone, even when you’re making significant changes and improvements. To do so, perception and mindfulness are two skills that school leaders must master. 

The Power of Perception

One of the most important things to remember as a school leader is that your decisions are not just about the content of the decisions themselves, but also about how they are perceived. As American political consultant and strategist Lee Atwater said, “Perception is reality.” Every decision you make sends a message to the school community about your values, priorities, and commitments to creating a positive learning environment.

For example, if you make a decision that is seen as unfair or unjust, it can create an undercurrent of skepticism and resentment among staff and students. This can make it difficult to implement other initiatives and can even lead to a decline in morale and productivity.

On the other hand, if you make decisions that are seen as thoughtful, transparent, and in the best interests of the school community, it can create an undercurrent of support and positivity, rippling out toward success. This can make it easier to implement new initiatives in the future and can foster a more collaborative and productive school environment. We can’t overstate how critical transparency and approachability are for school leaders. 

The Importance of Mindfulness

The second critical skill is mindfulness. We believe the mindful leader to be a present leader. As a school leader, it is important to be mindful of the potential impact of your decisions. This means being fully present and mindful when making decisions. Take the time to consider the different perspectives of the school community and weigh the potential consequences of your actions. It also means being open to feedback and making adjustments as needed. 

Here are some tips for being more mindful as you’re making decisions:

  • Be present: With social media, email, and other buzzing, flashing devices, school leaders can often be swept away from a conversation right at the moment. Avoid this by committing to be present when you’re gathering input or communicating a decision. There’s nothing worse than a school leader whose attention is divided. 

  • Consult with others: Get input from a variety of stakeholders, including staff, students, parents, and community members. Great leaders surround themselves with individuals who are willing to say what needs to be said and who have the perspective of the community at heart. 

  • Consider the long-term impact: Don’t just think about the immediate consequences of your decisions. We believe this is why so many educators are frustrated. For too long, leaders have made decisions for short-term wins without taking into account the long-term consequences. Considering how decisions might affect the school community in the years to come is the hallmark of a future-driven leader. Don’t miss what Donya Ball says about it

  • Be open to feedback: We know this is hard, but as Maxwell explains in his Law of Solid Ground, trust is the foundation for success; it requires a culture that expects courageous conversations and candid feedback. Be willing to listen to feedback from others and make adjustments to your plans as needed. Don’t forget, too, that one step in the implementation phase is making sure that implementers are getting feedback and taking action on it. 

As we always say, leadership is complex, but it does not have to be complicated. One powerful way to uncomplicate leadership is through effective decision-making. This involves understanding the undercurrents created by decisions–the ripple effects that extend beyond the immediate outcome toward clearer waters or waves of dissent. The use of our Initiative Implementation Chart contributes to creating positive undercurrents that foster trust and, ultimately, advance student learning and overall school success.

As always, we want to hear from you. Please hit us with a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. It helps us and it helps other readers, like you, to find our work so that more school leaders can lead better and grow faster. 


We can’t wait to hear from you. 


Joe & T.J.

A Captain’s Guide to Success in School Leadership: Two Must Reads for School Leaders Who Want to Navigate the Leadership Waters

A Captain’s Guide to Success in School Leadership: Two Must Reads for School Leaders Who Want to Navigate the Leadership Waters

Joe and T.J. Recommend that School Leaders Read The Following Two Books



Unlocking Excellence: Read to Lead Better, Learn to Grow Faster

These are two powerhouse books that capture the journey of leadership. These two books are distinctly different, but both reflect our focus on school leaders’ need to Navigate the Seas of School Leadership

Joe recommends Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations, which is an autobiographical book by Admiral William H. McRaven, a retired Navy SEAL and former commander of the United States Special Operations Command. The book is a firsthand account of Admiral McRaven’s remarkable military career, spanning from his childhood, the early days in training, to his experiences leading special operations missions.

The narrative is filled with anecdotes and insights into the world of special operations, offering readers a glimpse into the challenges, triumphs, and lessons learned in high-stakes environments. 

It’s an amazing exploration of leadership, resilience, and the values that underpin success in the most demanding situations. The book not only shares the author’s personal journey but also imparts valuable leadership lessons that can be applied in various contexts, making it a great recommendation for school leaders who are navigating their own challenges.

T.J. recommends, Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon, a book written by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr, former executives at Amazon. The book provides a unique insider’s perspective on Amazon’s culture, leadership principles, and business strategies.

In “Working Backwards,” the authors share anecdotes and insights based on their experiences working with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The book covers Amazon’s customer-centric approach, decision-making processes, and the principles that have contributed to the company’s success. It also offers valuable lessons for leaders and businesses seeking to adopt Amazon’s innovative practices.


What You’ll Learn in this Episode with Joe & T.J.

 Joe reveals that his mentor and friend, Dr. Steven Godowsky, originally shared this book with him, knowing his interest in leadership perspectives from the military. 

Listen to Joe describe how Admiral McRaven structures the book to capture the intention of the reader.

Joe also emphasizes how Sea Stories covers McRaven’s career. Too often, leadership books don’t chronicle the journey of a leader and the many different leadership positions that an individual may hold. This book does!

Who doesn’t want a look inside Amazon? Listen to T.J. describe why he likes this book and why he recommends it to school leaders.

T.J. describes how these gentlemen detail their work within Amazon and the lessons that can be learned for leaders. You don’t want to miss how the authors describe working for Jeff Bezos.

Let us know what you’re reading by contacting us at And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing to the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

Undercurrents, Riptides, and Swells: Navigating the Seas of School Leadership

Undercurrents, Riptides, and Swells: Navigating the Seas of School Leadership

“Do you have a minute?”

School leaders make countless decisions every day, and every decision impacts something or someone. Great leaders are very aware and sensitive to this truth because they understand that even the most benign decision may have undesirable and unintended consequences. For this reason, effective school leaders develop the ability to zoom out from a situation so that they can see the bigger picture before making a decision, answering a question, or working to solve a problem. 

The skill to step back, be patient, and not respond too quickly is definitely one that every school leader needs as they walk the halls of their school on any given day. As former principals ourselves, we can vividly remember the number of times that members of our school community would approach us with this simple question: “Do you have a minute?” We’re fairly certain that this question ranks as the most commonly asked question to school leaders. 

Every time those words are uttered, a request, an idea, a complaint, or an issue usually follows. That’s the nature of schools and the demands that get placed on school principals. In many ways, though, that’s also the joy of the position; within every question, every minute, lies an opportunity. As school leaders, we can do so many wonderful things through the decisions we make. We can open doors that were once shut, we can provide opportunities that may not have existed, and we even create possibilities that help people dream big.   

As school leaders, it’s essential to recognize the dynamic nature of leadership and the challenges that come with it. Just like the vast ocean, school leadership can be compared to various elements such as undercurrents, riptides, and swells. Each one offers valuable insights into our journey as educational leaders. From the decision you must make in a moment’s notice to the challenges that distract your efforts to the unforeseen ups-and-down of the ride, we must always set sail for the best possible outcomes for our students. Let’s dive even deeper into uncharted waters.

The Undercurrents of Decision-Making

Two of Joe’s sons are ocean lifeguards in the beautiful town of Fenwick, Delaware. As lifeguards, they’re trained to see issues before they develop into real problems. The ocean is as powerful and deadly as it is beautiful. And much like the unseen undercurrents that shape the movement of the ocean, every decision a school leader makes creates ripples that impact the staff, the students, and, ultimately, the direction of the school. 

Whether it’s deciding who will serve on the instructional leadership team or implementing a new bathroom policy, each action sends waves through the school’s ecosystem. It’s crucial for school leaders to be mindful of how their decisions create undercurrents. Each undercurrent we generate changes our school community in ways that we may not even recognize at first

School leaders must never underestimate the profound influence that they wield and the weight of their decisions, even quick one-minute discussions in the hall or office. Every choice, every word, sends ripples throughout the school community. These ripples shape the culture, morale, and even the brand of the school as a place to work and learn. 

Like ocean lifeguards, who must be vigilant in identifying potential dangers, school leaders must be mindful of the far-reaching consequences of their actions, as they have the power to either enhance or hinder the growth and well-being of staff and students.

3 Questions that School Leaders Should Be Asking about the Undercurrents of Their Decisions:

As we navigate these undercurrents, we must prioritize transparency, collaboration, and thoughtful consideration of minute-to-minute decisions to ensure that our actions propel our schools in the right direction and don’t alter the vision that we’ve established for success. We suggest asking these three questions whenever a “quick” decision comes your way

    1. Who else should be included in this conversation before I make a decision about this item? Is this my decision to make, or are others more involved in this work?

    2. How fast does this decision need to be made? Is speed important or is thoughtfulness the key?

    3. What else should we consider? Are there alternatives to our current program, process, or policy?


    Caught in the Riptides

    Riptides, notorious for their powerful currents, can swiftly pull swimmers away from shore. They are a constant threat and commonly can be found on the East, West, and Gulf Coasts. Rips, as they’re often referred to, can be likened to the challenges and distractions that divert school leaders from their educational vision, mission, and core values. As educational leaders, we can find ourselves caught in a metaphorical riptide–situations that threaten to pull us away from our core values and previously set objectives. 

    One of the most recent rips that we can think of and cannot hide from is the politicization of education. Here’s what that means for school leaders: To politicize something is to focus on how to play it for an advantage in the pursuit of power and prestige. Although education is highly political, it doesn’t mean that it has to be politicized; however, this is what has occurred in many school communities in America. 

    In a highly politicized local school community, school leaders may find themselves pulled in different directions and distracted from their core educational values due to external pressures to conform to certain political ideologies or agendas. This can lead to decisions and policies that place political considerations first over the best interests of students and the quality of the education that we provide them. 

    We could easily play the game, Name that Riptide, to identify what is threatening our success this year. These could include budget constraints, external community pressures, policy changes, staff shortages, and more. It’s vital to recognize these distractors as riptides so that we can develop strategies to navigate them effectively. Otherwise, they pull us out to sea rather than allowing us to stay the course. By anchoring ourselves to our educational compass–our vision, mission, and core values–we demonstrate resilience in the face of conflicting priorities.

    3 Questions that School Leaders Should Be Asking about the Riptides that Can Take Us Off Course:

    As we identify and recognize the riptides within our schools and systems, we must prioritize and solidify our vision, mission, and core values. These three areas provide the solid foundation necessary for leaders to chart their true north

    1. What are some common “riptides” affecting your school community that can divert you and your team from their core values? How can you and your team best identify these challenges?

    2. Which recent riptide distracted you from your goals, and what can you do differently in the future when a riptide seems to take hold?

    3. How can you communicate your vision, mission, and core values in a way that deters people from even attempting to alter your direction?


    Riding the Swells of Adversity

    The third oceanic element that we want to dive into is the swells. Just as experienced sailors navigate the swells and waves of a rough sea, educational leaders must handle challenges and adversity with skill and precision. Swells represent the highs and lows that inevitably come with the educational territory. Every year, school leaders will face a variety of issues. We’ve mentioned a few already–budget cuts, managing a variety of different conflicts, adapting to new educational initiatives, special education policy changes, etc.–all can be compared to rolling on a stormy sea. 

    Let’s consider technology integration into the classroom, as an example. This can be an ongoing challenge, especially with the rapid evolution of the available tools to support teaching and learning. One recent swell is the advancement of artificial intelligence. As AI becomes more accessible and easier to use, it poses a number of threats to how students can gather and present information, including inaccurate information and the opportunity to cheat. 

    Albeit scary for teachers and school leaders, we must navigate the use of ChatGPT, and similar AI tools, rather than pretending that we can avoid them. We appreciate Wharton Professor Ethan Mollick who pivoted to requiring his students to use ChatGPT in his class rather than penalizing them for its use. As Professor Mollick says, using AI effectively is an “emerging skill.” This is a great example of “riding” the swell rather than being pummeled by it. 

    With the right mindset, effective school leaders view these swells as opportunities for increased collaboration, professional growth, and even innovation–ultimately, steering the school community toward calmer waters. By understanding that change is inevitable, school leaders can guide their schools through even the most tumultuous ups and downs.


    3 Questions that School Leaders Should Be Asking about the Swells of Adversity:

    As we identify and recognize swells, it’s vital that the school leader navigate them well by focusing on the broader context and not just the particular issue at hand. The swell can beat against the boat or we can use it to create momentum in our already established direction. 

    1. What are some examples of “swells” in your school that you are currently facing?

    2. What does it look like to embrace one or more of the swells you’ve identified, rather than trying to avoid them?

    3. Who on the team can become an expert in the swell so that we understand what it means and what the future will look like when it hits?


    The High Seas of Leadership

    In the realm of school leadership, drawing parallels with some of the toughest oceanic elements provides us with valuable perspectives. As a seasoned captain navigates the seas with skill and intuition, educational leaders must also chart a course that recognizes the power of their decisions and the undercurrents they create, the potential of being caught riptides, and the ability to ride the swells of adversity. 

    Our journey as school leaders is filled with intricate dynamics. Every decision, every challenge, and every triumph shapes the future of our students and our communities. 

    It’s our job to evaluate our decision-making process, avoid the distractions that take us off our path, and embrace challenges as opportunities to enhance our efforts. Great school leaders take advantage of the conflicts associated with school improvement rather than allowing the storms that arise to capsize the ship. 

    As always, we want to hear from you. Please hit us with a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. It helps us and it helps other readers, like you, to find our work so that more school leaders can lead better and grow faster. 

    We can’t wait to hear from you. 

    Joe & T.J.


    A Captain’s Guide to Success in School Leadership: Two Must Reads for School Leaders Who Want to Navigate the Leadership Waters

    Two Must Reads for School Leaders Who Want to Build a School Culture Where Teachers Want to Work


    Joe and T.J. Recommend that School Leaders Read The Song of Significance and Retention for A Change



    Unlocking Excellence: Read to Lead, Learn to Grow Faster

    It’s no mystery that we are big fans of Seth Godin, especially T.J., but there is a good reason for that in terms of learning to lead better and grow faster. In many ways, Godin challenges conventional wisdom but remains practical in his advice. His insights are unique, and school leaders can benefit from his work. Here’s what you’ll learn from this podcast about Seth’s new book.


    • Find your unique voice as a school leader to help develop a school environment that empowers teachers and students. There is no greater superpower than authenticity. The goal is to create a space where people live out their feelings of significance. 
    • Schools are not only a part of the community; in many respects, they are a community within themselves. Godin writes about tribes and groups that join together to unlock potential. Schools are a natural place for this work. It requires a skilled leader to create the right conditions, though.
    • Lastly, Godin talks about generosity. Tune in to find more.


    We always feel a little odd showcasing our own work. However, Retention for A Change (RFAC) is packed with great strategies, from practitioners for practitioners.

    • Learn how to Motivate, Inspire, and Energize your team.
    • Uncover key ways to onboard and support your new hires. The real work starts when the hiring is done. 
    • Lastly, schools are in a constant state of transition. We would love for things to slow down and for the waters settle, but we don’t see that happening any time soon. RFAC recognizes that reality in education and provides school leaders with real tools to navigate the daily grind. 



    Let us know what you’re reading by contacting us at And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing to the site. 


    We can’t wait to hear from you. 


    Joe & T.J.

    Retaining Teachers: 3 Important Strategies for School Leaders

    Retaining Teachers: 3 Important Strategies for School Leaders

    Teacher Retention: A School Leader’s Top Priority

    Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together. ~ Scott Hayden


    Retaining teachers is at the top of the priorities for every school leader. This has always been true; effective school leaders have always worked to retain their top talent. But, these days, school leaders are counting their blessings if they’re fully staffed. The teacher shortage is real, and although it has impacted some regions of the country more than others, having a quality teacher in front of every student is a must. “More teachers are choosing to leave the profession, with the teacher supply shortage expected to reach 200,000+ by 2025.” 


    One problem with teacher retention is that school leaders don’t always have the tricks, tips, and tools associated with technical human resource training. The fact is that school leaders haven’t traditionally thought about their schools within the marketplace of hiring and retention. We’ve argued that school leaders ought to think about things like branding, marketing, storytelling, and recruiting–all important aspects of being a great place to work and filling vacancies quickly when they arise. The truth is that retention starts long before you have positions to fill. That said, we have to work hard to keep the people we have by making our schools the best places possible to work and learn. 


    Remember, though, there are things that are out of your control as a school leader. You probably can’t alter the compensation and benefit package that your school or district offers, sweetening the pot to keep people from leaving (see picture below regarding teacher pay). You also probably can’t change work hours, increase flexibility, or give people more days off. The rigidity of the profession is contributing to the diminishing number of people entering it. But, this shouldn’t stop us from pushing back on these boundaries or putting forth the effort to create an awesome environment for teachers. 


    Source: NEA, Educator Pay Data

    Let’s talk about what we do have within our sphere of influence as school leaders. We want to bring three critical areas of educator retention to the forefront of your mind. The first may seem simple and obvious, but the data tell us that managers around the world, including school leaders, get it wrong and don’t do it enough. The second may seem out of reach given the constraints we listed above, but that’s not the whole story. And, the third is a missed opportunity in schools to build collective efficacy while putting your teachers’ voices on center stage. Let’s dig deeper. 

    Three Critical Areas of Educator Retention

    #1. Celebration and Praise Your Teachers

    Praise in the workplace is arguably the most misunderstood and underused form of feedback. We train school leaders how to use specific praise in districts all over the country, and it often takes months and years before the power of praise is realized through effective language selection. One reason for this is that our brains are wired to find the negative so your praise may be falling short for the mere fact that your teachers are looking for what you’re pointing out that they did wrong versus what you may be trying to communicate that they did right. 


    We built a praise model in Retention for a Change that’s steeped in research from neuroscience and behavioral psychology. We wrote about it again in Invest in Your Best (to be released in December of 2023). Here’s a sample that you can use for practice in your school. The point is that your praise needs to use language that is very clear to the receiver that you’re impressed, happy, and excited with their work, that you’re specific about what it is you’re praising, and that you provide a reason for the importance of the desired outcome of their work. We praise people for two results: increase their pride and fulfillment with their achievements and reinforce what they’re doing that we want them to repeat or do more often


    Unfortunately, many school leaders and organizational managers use praise sparingly, sometimes on purpose. We get this question all the time: what if I use praise too much and people become less focused on improvement because they think they’re good enough? If you use praise well, that won’t happen. The opposite is true. Praise is motivational, inspirational, and energizing. The good news is that with leaders out there who think like this, your school can be a place that attracts and retains talents because you’ll be using praise well and more often than other school leaders. 

    #2. Find More Time for Teachers 

    Many teachers would actually like more time for their job-related tasks than they would like more money to do them. We’ve seen survey results that demonstrate that teachers rank the need for more time over the need for increased pay. Wow! That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t also pay them more; we’re advocates for better compensation for educators, but, like we said, that’s more likely to be out of your control as a school leader than the time requirements that you put in place for your staff. 


    This is another important strategy for retaining your teachers, and one that we dedicated a chapter to in Invest in Your Best. Especially with your most valuable staff members, the last thing you want them doing is spending their time on tasks that don’t result in the impact that they have the potential to achieve with students. The goal is to analyze and inventory all of what we ask our teachers to do day-to-day. Each day matters. What are the regular daily routines and duties of our teachers? What do we ask of them on professional learning days? And, what types of reports and paperwork are they submitting? We have to think about eliminating anything that isn’t directly associated with teaching and learning. 


    Here’s a quick list of 6 questions to think about with your school leadership team: 


    1. Do our teachers have duties that put pressure on their planning time? Is it essential to have them do these things or can we find another way? 
    2. How much planning time do we have within the work day and can we increase that…even by five minutes? 
    3. Are there reports, lesson plans, PLC minutes, observation forms, etc. that we can eliminate or streamline? 
    4. What do our professional learning days entail? Can we give teachers a period of reflection time on PL days and decrease the “learning time” from 6 to 4 hours (as an example)? 
    5. Are there days in the year–PL days, beginning and end of year days, etc–that we can make more flexible? 
    6. Do we have any days of the year or partial days where teachers can work from home?


    We’re not devaluing professional learning or even the need for teachers to cover lunches and recess, but the exercise of answering these questions on a regular basis should give you some ideas about how to create time and space for your teachers. With these questions in mind, as you approach a professional learning day, for example, you may realize that there are opportunities to create flexibility.  


    One last aspect of time. Everyone has the same 1440 minutes in a day and not all people manage those minutes the same way. How we view time is often driven by our perception of it and our capacity to use it. This means that as a leader you can capitalize on others’ perception of time by helping them manage themselves better so that they can accomplish more. In short, don’t assume that people know how to take a series of tasks within an allotment of time and complete them efficiently. Our job as leaders is to help everyone else maximize their potential and help them learn to navigate their day effectively amid all the demands.

    #3. Create Leadership Opportunities for Teachers 

    When we consult with schools and districts, and we find out that they don’t have a school leadership team–composed of teacher leaders–it’s the first thing that we help them to develop. After that, we help them to build the capacity of their teacher leaders to take control of new initiatives so that they unfold successfully. Here are the two basic concepts: 


    Concept #1: School leaders can’t do everything themselves. They need a supportive and reliable team.


    Concept #2: Great teachers don’t automatically make great leaders. Their prowess in the classroom doesn’t change the fact that they need leadership training. Our best teachers have the potential to lead, but only if we support their growth and development. 


    We contend that the all-hands-on-deck approach is the only way that great schools thrive, and that a positive school leadership team is the best avenue to collective teacher efficacy. In a school environment where both are true–everyone working toward the same goal with teachers at the helm–you’re retention efforts don’t land squarely on your shoulders but live within the culture of the school itself. 

    The Final Word on Teacher Retention 

    We were talking to a school principal recently, and he was worried about a position he had vacant and the lack of applicants in the pool. We asked him what he was doing about it. Perplexed, he told us that he was checking the posting several times a day, but nothing beyond that effort. Unfortunately, postings alone fall short. They are a great traditional method of hiring, but there are countless other steps to take. 


    We gave him several strategies for becoming far more aggressive in his outreach, including a search on LinkedIn that we modeled, which revealed several teachers in the area who were #OpenToWork but who certainly didn’t know about his posting. 


    The point of the story is that attracting, recruiting, and retaining talented teachers has to be strategic. Gone are the days of passive culture building or relying on the HR department to fill our positions. School leaders need to learn to play an active role in maintaining a culture that teachers desire. Using praise, finding time, and developing teacher leaders are at the top of our list of ways that we can work to retain teachers, and we hope that you find value in making an effort in these areas in your school or district. 


    As always, we want to hear from you. Please hit us with a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. It helps us and it helps other readers, like you, to find our work so that more school leaders can lead better and grow faster. 


    We can’t wait to hear from you. 


    Joe & T.J.


    A Captain’s Guide to Success in School Leadership: Two Must Reads for School Leaders Who Want to Navigate the Leadership Waters

    Two Must Reads on Navigating the Challenges of Implementing Initiatives for School Leaders

    Walk into any school and you’ll find countless different types of work being done. Yes, teaching and learning are at the heart of what we do, but a great school culture, one where teaching and learning can thrive, is about so much more. Creating this kind of culture places a huge demand on countless people who are doing exciting work. But, at times, with all of the spinning plates, it can also be overwhelming.

    It’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced, whirlwind of initiatives and responsibilities that can tax even the most formidable educator. The goal is to successfully lead initiatives, striving to achieve the goals of the school, yet without burnout looming. This requires the effective use of proven leadership strategies along with a collaborative approach, paving the way for successful implementation.

    That’s why we picked these two books as our recommendations for school leaders who want to implement initiatives well. They provide the tips, tools, and tricks for the necessary learning and insight to do just that.

    Joe and T.J. Recommend that School Leaders Read These Two Books


    These two books are powerful reads that can transform how you operate and manage initiatives in your schools.

    T.J. tells us that one major takeaway that we had from Right From the Startwas to find bright spots. Jim Marshall tells us that school leaders often look for gaps to fill, but the bright spots show us the places that need replication. The bright spots are those areas that are working well and performing optimally. We often want to fix things, but it is within the bright spots where we identify what is working and potentially what can be reproduced elsewhere.

    Don’t miss what we say about the power of preplanning as well!

    In our recommendation that school leaders read Every Teacher a Leader we emphasize the need to build teacher leaders and to invest in the capacity to influence others. School administrators cannot do it all, and they certainly won’t do it well without the help of teachers. Schools are constantly implementing initiatives and that reality should prompt every school leader to embrace this mindset–the need for teacher leaders–and drive change through their development.

    The classroom is the most important space in a school, and at the end of the day, teachers need to be inspired and empowered to teach, learn, and lead.

    Our reading tip for this month is simple: find reading material and books that support the ancillary aspects of what you are trying to achieve. For example, if you are implementing restorative practices in your school, don’t only read books on that topic. Yes, it’s critical to become highly skilled in that space, and there are great books to help you on that journey, however, digging into Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch, which covers the psychology of change, can prove to be invaluable. Pick something up that isn’t in the typical school leader’s library or playlist.

    Enjoy these books to lead better and grow faster as school leaders. We always appreciate a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. And, if you read our newest book, please rate it on Amazon. It helps.

    Let us know what you’re reading by contacting us at And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing to the site.

    We can’t wait to hear from you.

    Joe & T.J.