Read This: School Leaders, Build Your School Brand with these Two Powerful Books

Read This: School Leaders, Build Your School Brand with these Two Powerful Books

School leaders who want to build a strong school brand recognize the importance of learning specific skills to do so effectively. This month Joe and T.J. offer two books that reinforce the 5 ways that school leaders can think like a marketer and tell your school’s story.

  • Culture is King–Marketing is about who you are, not what you are 

  • Great Brands Make a Difference–Marketing is about innovation and leadership 

  • First Follows Matter–Marketing is about knowing “the others”

  • Stand Out Amongst the Crowd–Marketing is about being unique 

  • Show Up Regularly–Marketing is about being consistent

Joe’s Pick: The Power of Small: Why Little Things Make All the Difference

Featured Authors: Linda Kaplan Thaler & Robin Koval

Joe is a huge fan of Thaler and Koval’s work. The Power of Small is born from the genius that has birthed some of the greatest marketing advertising campaigns that we are familiar with. The simple mention of Aflac and our mind immediately goes to the duck. Enough said, they’ve done their jobs. 

What’s special about this book, though, is that it IS NOT a how-to book, but rather a book filled with stories that showcase the right mindset in order to be successful. We can’t ignore the details, the small things, and the discreet chances of success. 

T.J.’s Pick: This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See

Featured Authors: Seth Godin

T.J. may be Seth Godin’s biggest fan, and This is Marketing is definitely one of his favorite books. The power in Godin’s work is how he frames marketing. He explains that it’s not just about selling “soap.” Instead, marketing is really about solving a problem. Godin talks about how a leader is someone who is willing to do something that might not work and how that changes the culture forever. 

Most importantly, Godin breaks down marketing into five crystal clear steps that you won’t want to miss. He skillfully acknowledges the traps that we all fall into without being offensive or condescending to his readers. He doesn’t just highlight our mistakes but encourages us and provides a great path forward. “Ship the work!” “Ship it!”

Technical Tip for Leaders Who Read

Each month, Joe and T.J. leave listeners with a tip. Both of these books should be read patiently and studied all the while. Joe mentions the art of Sacred Reading and how monks studied the bible to truly understand what they were experiencing. Although these aren’t holy texts, the idea is to fully embrace what you are reading so that you are a different person when you are done. 

Enjoy both of these books to lead better and grow faster as school leaders. We always appreciate a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. 

Let us know what you’re reading by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing on the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

Great School Leaders Think About Their School as a Brand: 5 Ways to Tell Your School’s Story

Great School Leaders Think About Their School as a Brand: 5 Ways to Tell Your School’s Story

Great School Leaders Know How (and Why) to Tell Their School’s Story

We think that everyone can agree that there simply is not enough good news being spread among the masses, all around the world. That’s why we loved John Krasinski and his show, Some Good News, during the pandemic. It was a great reminder to all of us that great things were happening despite the rest of what we heard and saw on TV. Spreading the good news about our schools is no different. 

The most important reason to tell your school’s story is that if you don’t control or contribute to the narrative, someone else will. And, the media is quite negative; as the old saying goes, “if it bleeds, it leads.” Why? The reality is that our brains are attracted to it and controversy sells. A Pew Research Center’s study revealed that most people believe the media negatively contributes to our view of the world, yet, we still tune in.

64% of Americans say social media has a mostly negative effect on the way things are going in the U.S. today.

~ Pew Research Center

That’s why we need to highlight as much of the positive news about our schools as possible. Great leaders embrace this responsibility, and they learn to brand well. This post is designed to help you to tell your school’s story better or, at the very least, to validate the ways in which you already spread your school’s good news. 

The second most important reason to tell your school’s story is that your school deserves to have a brand that attracts top talent. With staff shortages and shallow application pools, school leaders are missing opportunities to showcase their school if they don’t have channels for doing so. The fact is, when it comes to attracting, hiring, and retaining teachers, there are–and will continue to be–winners and losers. Some schools and districts will fill their positions to a greater degree than others, and it will come right down to one thing–the reputation that your school culture has within the community. 

If you have a crappy internal culture, that’s the place school leaders must start and change fast. The best way to do so is through a pressure and support model that’s designed to set clear values and high expectations that are attached to strong staff support.  

But, if your school is already a decent place to work–treating teachers and other staff with dignity and respect–you should be telling your story as loudly and as far and wide as you can. The first step is that all school leaders must learn to think like marketers. 

School Leaders Should Think Like a Marketing Agency

Thinking like a marketer is not something you likely learned in your principal preparation program. That’s because the people who build those programs are former school leaders, and they didn’t likely think like marketers either. TheSchoolHouse302 is to the rescue; we always try to demonstrate the nuances of leadership, including the counterintuitive nature of leading well and the aspects of school leadership that you can’t find from most other leadership development firms. With that said, we’re here to tell you that if you don’t have a marketing hat as one of your many school leadership thinking caps, you need to get one…fast. 

To get you started with your new marketing mindset, we developed five marketing considerations for school leaders that come from research and evidence in the field of marketing. Again, most school leaders don’t study this closely, but you do–or at least you do now–which gives you a competitive advantage when it comes to building your winning team.

5 Ways for School Leaders to Think Like a Marketer 

#1. Culture is King–Marketing is about who you are, not what you are 

The first principle of marketing is that it’s not just advertising; it’s all of the lived experiences that your customers and employees have on a daily basis. You can advertise anything you want, but that doesn’t mean it’s real. Marketing starts with the culture of the school. It’s everything you do. For a long time, schools could operate without a customer service mentality because going to school is compulsory–everyone needs education and everyone sends their children to school. School choice changes that reality. Parents have options and teachers have options, more options than ever before. If we don’t build a positive culture on the inside of our organizations, nothing we say to advertise our schools will matter

Pro Tip: Great school leaders don’t just know that culture is king, they measure it. Check out our Reputable, Effective, Perception Survey for Schools (REPSS) for an example of an instrument that can measure the success and needs of any school culture.  

#2. Great Brands Make a Difference–Marketing is about innovation and leadership 

School leaders who care about marketing can learn from great brands like Patagonia, which has “cause no unnecessary harm” as one of its four core values. For schools to follow the “we make a difference” principle of marketing, the school should clearly be innovative, making a substantial change to what it means to be an effective school. The new crop of teachers who are entering into education wants to work at schools that are not only having an impact but are doing things differently, breaking the traditions and testing new waters. School leaders who want to reap the benefits of an innovative environment need to build a brand that speaks to taking risks and pushing boundaries. 

Pro Tip: Revisit your vision statement and core values. Do the words speak to innovation, leadership, change, and risk-taking? If not, consider a revision. The information that you have posted online are your marketing materials. 

#3. First Follows Matter–Marketing is about knowing “the others”

One thing that great marketers do is to find their people. Seth Godin calls this tactic the “people like us do things like this” phenomena. People want to be part of something that makes them feel included with a sense of belonging that fills a very natural human desire. Knowing this helps leaders to make decisions about who to give certain tasks to and how to spread news quickly when the need arises. School leaders know who the big fans are of the school and those are the people who need to know first when something special is happening or when something new is on the horizon. They are the marketing team, whether they know it or not. 

Aside from Godin, you can check out this concept in more detail from Li Jin who wrote about 100 True Fans, Kevin Kelly who talks about 1000 True Fans, and Derek Sivers’ famous video called, Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy. The point is that when you want to market something, you need to spread the word through the voices of the people who are likely going to tell the story by finding “the others.” 

Pro Tip:  School leaders who want to build a reputation outside of the school walls should create a marketing team to discuss what to market and how to market the school’s story. The first step in this direction is to simply add a “marketing” agenda item to the leadership team meeting. 

#4. Stand Out Amongst the Crowd–Marketing is about being unique 

Unfortunately, schools in America are all very much the same in terms of the student and staff generic experience. It’s still very common to see English 9, English 10, English 11, and English 12 as the high school English curriculum versus naming these courses and teaching them thematically through the use of unique content and experiences that are relevant to our diverse student populations–whether that be their background or interests. The good news is that becoming unique and marketing something special about your school isn’t difficult. If you want to attract people who want to belong to a special experience then you need to market the uniqueness of your school or district. 

Pro Tip: Reflect with your team: what makes our school different for students and staff that would help us to stand out in the crowded space of teaching and learning? What can we do that would make us unique and special for our students and staff? 

#5. Show Up Regularly–Marketing is about being consistent

Anyone can send a tweet once in a while to demonstrate the things that are happening in their school. That’s not enough. Great marketers all have one thing in common–which is also common among great leaders–they’re persistent and resilient. They consistently show up with great messaging, new material, and interesting stories. Their news is on multiple channels with tons of likes, positive comments, and shares. The great story that you have to tell is only as good as your reach and the response that you get from your audience. The key is to be loud and proud. 

Pro Tip: We hate to say it, but get on Twitter. Three posts a day is the magic formula. If you’re on Twitter, get on more often. Twitter has become an educator’s workspace for sharing ideas, posting photos, and building a school, district, and personal brand. We’ll see you there: @tjvari & @Supt_Jones

Your School is a Brand 

As we wrap up this post, we encourage you to think about the things that great brands have that schools also tend to create: vision statements, core values, logos, merchandise, etc. As a school leader, your access to taking photos, posting news, and promoting a daily message is far greater than what many other professions offer in terms of an image. It’s just about taking advantage of what you’re already doing by telling your story to the world. 

And, we owe it to ourselves and the profession. When you see schools in the news, it’s rarely a depiction of the good things that we’re doing. Let’s change that narrative together

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.

Read This: School Leaders, Build Your School Brand with these Two Powerful Books

Read This: Two Books that School Leaders Must Read to Better Support New Teachers

If You’re Going to Lead then You Must Read

Learning and growing as a school leader through reflection, training, and experience is a professional choice. One powerful way to improve is through reading great books, which is why we feature two books on a particular topic each month. These are books that we have curated from 100s of titles to help school leaders to lead better and grow faster.

This month we are completely focused on the 5 ways that school leaders can support new teachers. These are five research-based strategies to support and retain your most vulnerable teaching population. This is critical because we are definitely facing a crisis in education. School districts are moving to four-day weeks simply due to lack of staff. In a recent Ed Week article by Madeline Will, she wrote the following,

“…the researchers estimate that there are more than 36,500 teacher vacancies in the nation. They also estimate that there are more than 163,500 positions filled by teachers who aren’t fully certified or are not certified in the subject area they’re teaching.”  Will, M. Ed Week (2022)

The data are staggering. If you want to dig into the government database and find out specifics in your state, click here

The Definitive 5 Ways to Support New Teachers

#1. Maintain high standards while providing support for growth

#2. Increase productivity by being present and using praise

#3. Balance risk and autonomy to unlock innovation 

#4. Communicate the expectations of the position 

#5. Provide meaningful mentorship

These are proven ways that demonstrate support, while maintaining a culture of excellence and high standards. To support these efforts, we feature two great books to help you as a leader. 

Joe’s Pick: The Power of Unstoppable Momentum: Key Drivers to Revolutionize Your District

Featured Authors: Michael Fullan & Mark A. Edwards

 

The Power of Unstoppable Momentum is an incredible book with very specific examples about how to achieve dramatic results in your school. 

There are a few features that really stand out for Joe in this book:

  • Technology is not the answer. Time and time again research shows that technology is a tool that highly effective teachers master. The tool itself is not the answer.
  • Fullan and Edwards provide very specific ways for schools to excel, specifically through coherence, which is the “…the degree to which people at the school and district levels have a common sense of the district’s core priorities and how to achieve them” (Fullan & Edwards, 2017).
  • Lastly, they provide clear models and examples on where incredible work is being done. We love when books have these features, which is why we offer examples of success in our books too. 

T.J.’s Pick: Retention for A Change: Motivate Inspire, and Energize Your School Culture

Featured Authors: Joseph Jones, Salome Thomas-El, & T.J. Vari

We rarely promote our own work, but this book is written on the topic of teacher retention, and we dedicate two chapters to new teachers. This is the second book in a two-part series designed to attract and retain incredible teachers. Both books, Building a Winning Team and Retention for A Change are built on the effective reading strategy, BDA. 

T.J. dives right into explaining how school leaders must embrace their responsibility to build a culture that Motivates, Inspires, and Energizes the staff. 

He emphasizes that the book is filled with practical stories that any school leader can implement for great school success. 

Lastly, this book is filled with models to guide leaders. Whether it is the BDA, which can be applied in a number of strategic ways, or striving for Habitual Happiness Highpoints, the models guide school leaders. 

Technical Tip for Leaders Who Read

Each month, Joe and T.J. leave listeners with a tip. Both of these books should be read with your team. They are not to be read as simple words on a page. Both books are written in a way that allows the school leader, department leader, or team leader to reflect on their own team and practices. 

Enjoy both of these books to lead better and grow faster as school leaders. We always appreciate a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. 

Let us know what you’re reading by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing on the site. 

 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

 

Joe & T.J.

 

The Definitive 5 Ways that School Leaders Can Support New Teachers

The Definitive 5 Ways that School Leaders Can Support New Teachers

The expert in anything was once a beginner. ~ Helen Hayes

We’re going to put it right out there, the education profession is in trouble. Fewer-and-fewer teachers are entering into the profession, with over a 30% drop in teacher prep program enrollment. Couple this with an unprecedented number of teachers who want to leave the profession, and we are well within a serious crisis. 

Teaching is an incredible and noble profession. The complexity of the job requires not only technical and content expertise, but also a profound love for kids. The degree of patience, understanding, and generosity needed to connect and motivate students is not common within other professions outside of education. Believing in the incredible and positive mark that we can have on a child seems to have somehow lost its allure. Regardless of the multitude of reasons why this is the case–ranging from pay to feeling unsupported–many potentially great teachers are not choosing this profession. We need to do something about it. 

Source: Madeline Will, EdWeek

However, there are still great people who are entering the field, choosing to be classroom teachers. For those teachers, we applaud you. With that said, applause and a well-stocked teachers’ lounge aren’t enough. School leaders have an important role in supporting new teachers to substantially increase their chances of remaining in the profession. New teachers leave within their first five years at a much greater rate than those who leave after year five. Much of this is within an administrator’s control, which is why we put together the following strategies for school leaders who want to hire and retain the best staff. 

Before, During, and After Hiring (BDA)

A well-known reading strategy that good readers inherently understand is called “before, during, and after,” (BDA) which refers to what good readers do before reading, during reading, and after reading a selected text. Simply described, good readers prepare themselves for the text of their choice by thinking about and connecting to prior knowledge; they ponder the text while reading by summarizing and pausing to improve comprehension; and then after reading, they reflect on the content of what they read. In doing so, they have stronger comprehension than readers who don’t use BDA successfully. 

The same is true for employee motivation, support, and retention. Once a new teacher is identified and hired, the “after” part becomes critical in how we support them. For many new teachers, the next few months and years are pivotal. 

Teachers with 1 to 5 years: The Vulnerable Valley

The first few years for a teacher are when they are most vulnerable. Doubt, fear, uncertainty–all emotions that work their way into a new teacher’s mind. Make no mistake, there is nothing like suddenly being in charge of a group of students who you have to educate. Words can’t describe the level of responsibility and inadequacy that many new teachers experience early in their careers. Despite this being normal and really okay for that matter, many new teachers struggle. Too many of them leave. The following five strategies create a meaningful support system for new teachers, and we hope that it helps with our ability to have them choose to stay instead

The Definitive Five Ways to Support New Teachers

#1. Maintain high standards while providing support for growth

A culture of growth has a balance of pressure and support. High expectations grounded in support and encouragement yield results. School leaders who are supportive but don’t set high expectations not only support mediocrity but fail to tap into the human desire to get better. 

Even worse is the leader who applies pressure through unsupported expectations. Without a structure of support–including resources and time–teachers experience burnout. The result of a high-pressure, highly supportive work environment is extreme growth. New teachers (and veterans) desire growth and progress and that feeling leads to greater rates of retention. 

Pro Tip: Set meaningful and realistic goals early. Granted, there may be state-required metrics as well, but don’t let them be the only metrics used to establish meaningful benchmarks that demonstrate growth.

Example: Create meaningful formative assessments so that teachers can see their student’s progress, which leads to a greater sense of self-efficacy as a teacher. 

#2. Increase productivity by being present and using praise

Relationships are everything. Leaders have to build connections with the people who they lead for increased motivation and retention. That means spending more time in their spaces and not in our offices or conference rooms. When you’re present as a leader, it’s easy to find quick moments to praise the work that people are doing. Use the One Minute Praise that Blanchard and Johnson teach. You can’t go wrong! This model of being present and giving genuine praise in the moment leads to productivity at a new level, and productive happy teachers are more apt to stay at their schools. To harness the power of praise, check out our four part praise model that we wrote in Retention for a Change.  

Pro Tip: Praise needs to specifically identify what is being recognized. TheSchoolHouse302 Praise Model is research-based and designed to reinforce desired behaviors. 

Example: “Jill, excellent job using the Muddiest Point check for understanding formative assessment. It’s a quick and easy way to identify an aspect of the lesson that students are struggling with or just need some additional clarification. Taking time and going back to see what needs more clarity is critical. Great work!”

#3. Balance risk and autonomy to unlock innovation 

Any sector of business depends and thrives on fresh, original thinking, taking chances, and exploring new ideas.” Teaching is no different. Leaders who support new ideas, encourage risk-taking, and praise out-of-the-box thinking drive innovation. Teaching is an art and a science that needs to be supported, encouraged and honored. An environment that supports creativity creates highly motivated and loyal individuals who are apt to try new strategies, create new lessons, and find unique ways to reach every student. New teachers want to know that they can challenge the status quo and pave a path for the future of education. 

Pro Tip: Encourage teachers to use specific strategies, skills, or technology that are learned during professional development experiences and invite yourself to see them fail in action. Walkthroughs don’t have to be a “gotcha.” In fact, they should be a tool to observe and coach, especially when teachers are learning a new skill. Support them when they fall and treat that as normal.  

Example: Instructional technology is fairly common in schools, but it is reported that 30% of software licenses that get used, only 2.4% are used intensively. That’s a lot of waste! Consider your RTI or MTSS initiative and the technology and diagnostic assessments used to support them. Are they being used? And, if so, to what extent? Maybe the expectation isn’t clear that they should be trying these new tools despite the fact that they might not work at first. 

#4. Communicate the expectations of the position 

Another aspect of teacher motivation, support, and retention comes through quality feedback. Whether this is through a formal evaluation system or walkthroughs, if you want your new teachers to grow, feedback is king. Your feedback should be aligned to the goals of the school and district, should be frequent, and should be easy to implement. The appraisal system must continue to communicate to the teacher about their role long after they are hired into it, and it should support their sense of belonging through a refocus on their purpose each time you meet one-on-one. We call for frequent walkthroughs, quality feedback, and more face-to-face meetings about performance. Let the teacher know you care about them by investing in them. Performance feedback is a lot less daunting when someone knows that you believe in them, which is especially true for new people.

Pro Tip: Feedback should be built around TheSchoolHouse302 Meaningful Feedback Model–A.F.A. This model is designed to ensure growth and forward progress. 

Example: “Joe, very nice job with today’s turn-and-talk. Not only was the strategy used effectively, it demonstrates your ability to use what we learned in our faculty meeting this month. Student voice matters and so does your ability to make adjustments based on professional learning in our school. Fantastic!”

#5. Provide meaningful mentorship

In Leading an Inspired Life, Jim Rohn writes, “Don’t take the casual approach to life.” Casualness leads to casualties. Seek out the mentors who you need and will lead you to greatness in your field.” Although Rohn is not writing to the leader, we like to look at it through that lens. Administrators who take supporting, coaching, and growing novice teachers casually, will only end up with casualties. Provide mentors who are skilled at planning, at managing time, at navigating difficult situations, and who are inspirational. Also, don’t consider years of experience to be a determining factor for a great mentor; sometimes, the best mentors are the ones who were just mentees a year or two ago. 

Pro Tip: Mentors should have training, be paid, have clear guidelines, and a well-developed checklist to use on a monthly basis. Below is just a quick sample of a checklist that can be used on Day One. Notice all of the items are basic. However, don’t let that fool you. It is the simple things that we don’t want to gloss over that can cause the greatest frustrations. 

Example:

TheSchoolHouse302 Mentor/Mentee Checklist

Day One

Logistics: 

  • Has been given a key fob to access the building. 
  • Has toured the building and knows where key offices are.
  • Has received the phone list and knows how to contact key individuals.
  • Has received their employee ID card. 
  • Has received a parking pass and knows where to park.

Technology:

  • Has received their email account.
  • Has logged in and accessed the learning management site (LMS).
  • Has successfully navigated their courses and student roster in the LMS.
  • Has tested out the instructional technology in their classroom.

Conclusion 

When school leaders use these five strategies with new people, they’re far more likely to stay in their schools and in the profession. All educators have to play a role in keeping our best and brightest new people in the spirits needed to make it past year five. Principals and assistant principals have a serious responsibility in this work, and we want to help you to make the difference that you set out to make when you became an educational leader. 

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.

Read This: School Leaders, Build Your School Brand with these Two Powerful Books

Read This: Two Books that School Leaders Must Read to Be More Courageous and Future Forward

Leaders are Readers

Learning and growing as a school leader through reflection, training, and experience is a professional choice. One powerful way to improve is through reading great books, which is why we feature two books on a particular topic each month. These are books that we believe can help school leaders to lead better and grow faster.

This month we are completely focused on two mental shifts that school leaders must make for greater success. The first is shifting from a place of fear to operating in a space of courage. The second is shifting from short-term thinking to long-term thinking. As easy as it is to grasp both of these concepts as necessary, shifting the mind from fear to courage and from short-term reaction to long-term planning is incredibly difficult. That’s why we’ve chosen these two books that are designed to shepherd you through making the change necessary to lead better and grow faster.   

Joe’s Pick: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

Featured Author: Dale Carnegie

First, let’s acknowledge that Dale Carnegie is a beast. His work, How to Win Friends and Influence People is legendary and a must read for anyone who is serious about leading effectively. However, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living is also a phenomenal book, filled with incredible advice that applies to school leadership. There are few things that really stand out for Joe in this book:

  • Carnegie fills the book with relatable stories from practical people. The stories are real and you’ll find yourself in the people he features. 
  • He offers advice that you can implement right away. Suggestions like “living in day-tight compartments” make a ton of sense. 
  • Carnegie also writes about the importance of mental attitudes and how to cultivate the right mindset–to make a mental decision to be happy and live a full life, as an example. He reminds readers of the eight most important words we can ever hear, “our life is what our thoughts make it.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

This book is a must read so you too can live and lead from a seat of courage with tools to help you as the worry and fear creep into your life.

T.J.’s Pick: The Power of One More: The Ultimate Guide to Happiness and Success

Featured Author: Ed Mylett

If you don’t know Ed Mylett, stop reading this post right now and Google his name: Ed Mylett. Ed is an impressive leader who has taken social media by storm over the last few years. He built his fortune in the financial services industry, as what he describes a team-made millionaire. That’s one reason we love his work. It’s not about Ed. Granted, his endeavors have worked out very well for him, but his service and dedication to people are very evident in his shows and books. Here are a few reasons why T.J. chose The Power of One More as his pick this month:  

  • Mylett humbly describes what “the power of one more” is really about and how he learned to be resilient. His description of his alcoholic, turned sober, father is compelling. Ed attributes much of his success to his father but not always through the good times.
  • The book is filled with sage advice, but one great takeaway is how Ed organizes his day and time. The advice is radical although it makes sense. Dividing up your day is very effective and can lead to astronomical productivity.
  • Mylett decrees why this work is important to him. His WHY will inspire you to ensure that yours is clear too. 

We hope you enjoy this new release as much as we did. 

Both of these books are more like manuals. They are not to be read as simple words on a page. They act as a call-to-action for leaders. If you want to change your life and lead for the better, then you must embrace the responsibility of doing what is written in these books and others that we recommend on our ReadThisSeries.

Technical Tip for Leaders Who Read

Each month, Joe and T.J. leave listeners with a tip. This month the books they chose span almost 77 years. Don’t abandon the old. Granted there are incredible discoveries every day that are changing our world, but there are men and women from the past that had incredible insight into human behavior and leadership, like Dale Carnegie. Don’t overlook those works and the genius that lies within their pages. Also, don’t discount new books that seem to cover the same content as many other authors. Mylett admits in his book that much of the content has been written in the past, but that his take is slightly different. We couldn’t agree more. It’s the perspective on the topic and new ideas that offer a different angle for leaders, an angle that just might be the one you need. 

Enjoy both of these books to lead better and grow faster as school leaders. We always appreciate a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. 

Let us know what you’re reading by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing on the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

Let us know what you’re reading by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing on the site. 

 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

 

Joe & T.J.

2 Mental Shifts that Every School Leader Must Make for Greater Success

2 Mental Shifts that Every School Leader Must Make for Greater Success

Shifting our thinking in new and different ways requires a lot of personal reflection, self-understanding, and some technical know-how. It’s not easy, but it is possible. Thinking differently, outside of your normal realm, requires a paradigm shift. This shift is usually fueled by passion and fervor, and sustained through well-developed models that help frame our desire. We applaud leaders who have developed the skills to shift their thinking and agree with entrepreneurial giants like Ed Mylett who recognize that it’s actually a sign of strength.

Once we overcome some of the self-imposed worries like, “is changing my mind a sign of weakness?” or “will it look like I am indecisive?” or our favorite, “I don’t want to look like a waffler!” then we can start to make serious gains through our leadership. The following are two areas where leaders must shift their thinking for greater effectiveness and sustained change.

Shift From Fear to Courage

Fear is a natural emotion, and, left unchecked, it can put a stop to our ability to lead. The challenge that we find is that too many school leaders filter every decision through some sort of fear or deficit mindset. Instead of shifting their brains to operate from what is possible, they focus on the obstacles. They fail to harness the power and the responsibility to lead courageously and embrace what Jim Collins called the Stockdale Complex

On the one hand, they stoically accepted the brutal facts of reality. On the other hand, they maintained an unwavering faith in the endgame, and a commitment to prevail as a great company despite the brutal facts. We came to call this duality the Stockdale Paradox. (Collins, 2001)

While fear is natural, courage is not. Courage is actually a choice that leaders must make when they feel that fear is taking over. Fear often occurs when we’re feeling that things are too risky or when conflict aversion arises within us. It happens, for example, when we know that we have to have a feedback conversation that feels like it might not go well. Conflict aversion is mostly prevalent in people who enjoy harmonious relationship-driven work, which happens to be a huge aspect of what many school leaders believe is their job–to build strong personal relationships

The problem with this type of thinking and approach is that it puts the relationship first and makes the work come second, which can derail necessary and meaningful conversations. The relationship and the work have to go together, not one before or after the other. The way we build strong professional relationships at work is often different than in our personal lives. We build relationships at work by doing the work and succeeding together. It creates one of the most powerful social structures that humans can feel, which is called collective efficacy. 

Collective efficacy in schools has been demonstrated to be a game changer for student success. Any school leader who is looking to shift from fear to courage, can rely on the outcomes and relationships associated with a unified goal, collective effort toward that goal, and the relationships that are built when we reach the goal. Risk and conflict aversion begin to subside when we know that our leadership efforts are worthwhile and will make a difference. 

The second shift leaders must make is maintaining focus on the long game. Despite the allure of the short term, greater success is found when we create scenarios that yield results down the road. Great leaders never make long-term decisions with short-term emotions, but it’s hard. Thinking in the short term has long-term implications, which is why we must shift to longer-term planning so that our short-term reactions don’t cloud out what might happen in the future.

Shift From Short-Term Thinking to Long-Term Creating 

Let’s acknowledge up-front that playing the long game is difficult. Our own human nature is against us at times, convincing us to buy into a short-term win that isn’t going to be good later on. Why? Quick results are so much more attractive; they provide us and others the appearance that we are making progress. On a professional level, we often feel external pressures from boards, legislators, parents, and the community to deliver results. People want results right away to feel like things are improving. This can present a real challenge for school leaders who recognize the proven benefits of the long game but who also realize that some of the profound and difficult changes we make may not deliver results right away. 

When people say they want results, leaders often translate that as making a change. Rightly so. The truth is that when outside constituents demand a change, they’re often referring to the desire for comfort. But comfort doesn’t always provide the future that we want. This is why we constantly need to be communicating the reasons why the current initiatives are about long-term implications and not what it feels like at the moment. 

To make this mental shift for you and others, you have to fight short termism, an excessive focus on short-term results at the expense of long-term interests. For sustained and lasting change, this is critical for the success of any school. Effective school leaders embrace the idea of being a futurist, which is why we point to folks who can help with this type of thinking, like game designer Jane McGonigal.

Being a futurist means that we are creating and making the future. A futurist means being creative and imagining all the different possible futures and figuring out which future you want and making that a reality. ~ Jane McGonigal

Over the past couple months, we’ve been talking and writing about the “it’s possible” mindshift. Being a futurist embraces this challenge. As Susan Forchheimer writes, 

“…for futures thinking to be valuable it has to be grounded in present-day facts that with synthesis, sensemaking, creativity, and visualization are put into plausible, provocative stories about possible futures that resonate and inspire us to act differently today.”

For school leaders, this means that we must make time for ourselves and others to think about the future and communicate what it will be like so that current emotions don’t put a stop to changes that will put our school and our students in a better position for success. For futurist-type thinking as a team, we often do an activity that allows the mind to visualize possibilities rather than just talk about the goals and their outcomes. The following questions can be used as prompts: 

    • What does engagement in the classroom look and sound like? 
    • How do we want students to treat one another?
    • What does a lively and vibrant school culture look and sound like for teachers and students?
    • How do we create lessons that are rigorous and relevant?
    • What changes do we need to make to current practice for these things to be a reality? 
    • What supports do we need so that we don’t revert back to old practices when the going gets tough? 

The point is that this process sparks creativity and imagination, as well as a future that we can all agree, is possible. Too often we set goals but don’t necessarily realize what it will take to achieve them. Goal setting becomes an activity and not exploration. As Rosie Greer once said, “you have to sees it to seize it.” It’s also why leaders use models to help the team think differently. 

Using Models to Support Thinking Differently

One way to begin the process of embracing courage and fighting short-termism is using models. The truth about thinking differently is that we need models and structures to support our thinking and behavior or we will revert back to old thinking. Using the same type of thinking to solve our  problems will not work. Problems that haven’t been solved so far are not likely to get solved because we haven’t changed our model or approach to thinking about them. 

One model that we love is the S.W.O.T. analysis. A SWOT analysis can be used for an initiative, program, or a person. Just using this model–strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats–brings forth new information that might not have surfaced without the SWOT model for thinking. Thinking and designing the future requires planning and effective models take our thinking from the idea and insight phase to the investigation and implementation phase.

Below is a sample model to use for Professional Learning Communities. We chose PLCs because when they are highly effective and done well, they have a greater impact on collective efficacy. And, we know that collective efficacy is very impactful for student success. We also know that without a model for thinking about them, PLCs can mostly be a waste of time. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes the most impactful strategies are useless unless we’re candid about what we need to make them successful. Models help with that. 

Conclusion 

We cannot leave our future to fate. By embracing courage and willingly taking the time to think and dream big, you are taking the necessary steps toward success. Add using an effective and proven model like S.W.O.T. (and other models for thinking differently about problems), your school’s success will be inevitable. Mindshifting is not easy, but it is fun. It starts the process of creating a whole new world of what’s possible. Our students, our schools, our communities, need educators to embrace these mindshifts. Together we can create an incredible future. 

Follow along with us at TheSchoolHouse302 over the next several months, and we’ll uncover new and different ways that you and your team can approach problems in your school. We’re going to recommend books, interview experts, and keep you informed about who is cracking the code of school leadership and why. 

And, 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.

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