The 7 Ways that School Leaders Can Build Trust — #SH302

The 7 Ways that School Leaders Can Build Trust — #SH302

Trust is the glue of life…the foundational principle that holds all relationships.

~ Stephen Covey 

Trust is a multi-faceted, complex phenomenon that has the ability to strengthen schools when it is high and cripple them when it is low. To dive into this topic, let us begin with a clear definition of trust: “a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intention or behavior of another.” 

Essentially, trust is a belief–it’s a social and organizational contract, built on a faith in positive regard for self and others. Trust gives us confidence that the people in our lives will do the right thing, especially in the absence of oversight or direction. And even though one of the best ways to build trust is to extend trust, most people don’t offer trust until they feel that it has been earned. That’s the biggest problem with trust. It’s paradoxical. On one hand, it must be gained over time in the creation of a bond; on the other hand, it needs to be demonstrated at the onset of a relationship. 

The absence of trust in a school or on a team is detrimental. In the business world, it equates to the loss of revenue. In education, it means that relationships are torn and both achievement and wellbeing suffer for students. But in an altruistic environment like education, why do we suffer from diminished trust when we all came into this profession to help people, when all of us started with the same why. The answer lives within our leadership capacity to confront a culture of distrust and the 7 ways that leaders can build and restore trust in their schools. 

The bottom line about the following 7 aspects of trust in schools is that each of them takes courage, candor, and compassion to execute well. To get good at being candid takes practice, and you can’t hesitate in an effort to begin if you want to transform your school into a place where people love to work and kids love to learn. That’s why we wrote Candid and Compassionate Feedback, because we know that leaders need a guide for being candid regarding teacher performance, shared decisions, and teacher leadership. For the following 7 trust scenarios to be at their best, you need candor and compassion. 

  1. With Self: The first, and most important, layer of trust is the trust that we place in ourselves to be effective in any given scenario. It’s the power of self-efficacy, and the strength to push yourself to meet your own and even higher expectations. When people say, “that took guts,” what they’re really saying is, “that took a ton of self-trust.” An extreme form of physical and mental self-trust is depicted in the picture below. That took guts! 
  1. With Others: The second place where leaders must learn to build trust is with others. This is the trust that a leader is able to garner with each individual person on the team. We earn trust with people by exhibiting an outward integrity–we mean what we say and we say what we mean. Our words and actions must be aligned for others to see us as honest and consistent. We must keep commitments–even the promises that others perceive us to make. The biggest fault of a leader who struggles to establish a trusting relationship with others is that they say one thing and then do something that doesn’t entirely match their words. 

  1. Restored With Others: This is where trust is paramount. Leaders are put in a position that often requires a decision to be made that others disagree with or might not have anticipated. Trust restoration is the layer of trust-building that effective leaders do well in order to move an organization past status quo. Whenever we have a relationship with someone, especially if that relationship is typically predictable or transactional, and we want to make a change within the organization, we put a strain on what the other person perceives as honesty. All aspects of trust require vulnerability, and, in this case, it takes a great deal of humility to restore trust once it has been strained or lost. This happens when a leader pushes a person past their level of comfort or makes an unwelcome decision that, at first, harms the relationship they have with that person, but then the leader repairs that relationship through a stronger sense of purpose, an explanation of the motives, and an understanding about the decision. Sometimes this is intentional from the outset, other times it’s brought on by a mistake. In any case, the leader restores the social contract, which strengthens the trust beyond its original form. With that said, leaders who know how to restore trust can build even greater bonds with the people they serve, even more so than leaders who create solid relationships but never put them to a test. 
  1. Between Others: Great leaders don’t just know how to develop a strong rapport with other people; they know how to create connections between other people. You can probably think of a leader who has a great relationship with almost everyone in the organization, but those people don’t necessarily have great relationships with one another. It’s for this reason that we built the Passionate Culture Dichotomy model in our Passionate Leadership book. It shows the distinction between high functioning schools with a dynamic work culture (high trust) from those that suffer from isolation (low trust).
A Passionate Leadership Culture

This layer of trust-building creates true team spirit. When leaders don’t have this skill, they often don’t understand why the team isn’t functioning well despite their positive rapport with each individual. The most effective way to build relationships between others is to use active affirmations. We can create collective efficacy by communicating the mastery experiences that we observe the members of our team having and verbally recognizing them in front of others (especially when they’re not around to hear our praise). 

  1. Restored Between Others: Disagreement, strife, and discord will inevitably occur between two or more people on your team. If it’s not addressed quickly and directly, a minor dissension can easily grow into a deep animosity and the inability to work well together. The key to rebuilding trust is by having what we call Empathy-Centered Conversations (ECCs). ECCs are facilitated by the leader when two people aren’t getting along. The basis of the argument is likely a lack of perspective so the conversation is meant for the leader to reveal to each party the other person’s outlook about the situation that occurred. Leaders are reluctant to engage in this way for fear that they’ll make the situation worse. They either hope that the situation will resolve itself or they believe it to be a function of human resources. But that’s not helpful. ECCs are designed to get at the heart of a problem for everyone involved to see and hear a point-of-view other than their own. Leaders who are skilled at ECCs and employ the tenets of C.A.L.M. are good listeners and use effective techniques to restore relationships. 

  1. On A Team: Team dynamics can be intense, especially among A-players. School leadership teams are typically composed of the best and most senior teachers. These folks are both highly effective in their classrooms and socially powerful in the school. It can be tricky to congeal a team of diverse tough-minded people, but that’s exactly what you want surrounding you when things get tough or when you’re trying to change a culture. We like Blanchard’s model for the ABCDs of trust on a team (depicted below). It’s a good test for if the right people are on your leadership team or if you need to replace one or two people like we learned from Katherine in Lencioni’s fable about teamwork. If any of your people are consistently unable to serve with competence, lacking in believability or integrity, seeming to not care about people, or unreliable in their role, you need to switch out that team member. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary, and we see it all the time where school leaders hang on to steering committee members who fail at one of these four pivotal characteristics of trust. 
  1. Restored On A Team: Because your leadership team members are all dominant in one way or another outside of the team meeting, they can be unintentionally off-putting to one another when the team gathers. For teams, trust is almost never static. It’s either strengthening or weakening, flowing in one direction or another at all times. Scientists have demonstrated that trust is biological. Having it or not stems from a chemical reaction in the brain that prompts or diminishes trust. If your team’s trust is low, it’s likely because there’s either too much testosterone pumping in the veins of your teammates during a meeting or not enough oxytocin. Sparing you the actual science, theory of mind is one activity that supports team empathy when trust is fragile. It’s simple but effective. One team member poses a problem that they’re having with their department (or the leader exposes one), and you go around the table whereby each person starts with this sentence stem: “If I were going to tackle that, I would do it this way…” Not only does this harmonize our intentions as a group, it also coordinates our behaviors over time. The impact is that we all start to react similarly to problems. It’s far better to work on group-think than group distrust.  

In his typical way, Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers unravels the inherent human problems that we have with trust and with judging others by their actions. He points to truth-default theory as the presumption we make that others are telling the truth (when we don’t really have evidence of the real truth or not). At the end of the book (spoiler alert), he says that we have guilt about it, and we shouldn’t. We drive against our own default, because of that guilt, and we suspect the worst in others as a defense against assuming the best. This seems to be exacerbated in schools these days. Instead of trusting one another to have the best intentions for each other and our students, we fight our human default, which produces skepticism and even paranoia. The reason that leaders are constantly restoring trust rather than building upon it is because we default to something other than the truth. 

But we’re not strangers. We’re educators. We’re colleagues. We’re friends. And friends can default to truth, to trust, especially in a world where Gladwell is asking us to do that with people we don’t even know. The problem with trust is not that we don’t have it within us as a natural predisposition. It’s that we rage against that disposition. And when we do so for long periods of time, we build a habit of distrust that only a skilled leader can break. It’s the job of a leader to confront and alter a culture that lacks trust, a culture that needs restoration. Because collective efficacy and teacher credibility are two of the highest effect sizes for any single strategy that impacts learning, trust in schools is a moral imperative. It’s more important now than ever before, and we know that our readers are poised to make the first, next, best move to lead better and grow faster. 

Stay tuned for more nuggets of wisdom, podcasts, books to read, reflection sessions, and the best resources for leading better and growing faster in schools. Follow us at theschoolhouse302.com to join thousands of leaders who get our content each month. Send this to a friend. 

As always, let us know what you think of this with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

This blog post is sponsored by Principals’ Seminar. Many schools struggle as a new principal works through the learning curve, and our hearts break for new principals who are overwhelmed with information and noise, frustrated by not having the time to build relationships with staff and walking around in a constant state of fear that they are missing something. The Three in Three Principals’ Seminar is designed for new and aspiring principals and assistant principals who would like to gain 3 years of experience in 3 weeks, without the pain, risks, and time it would take otherwise. Follow the content at your own pace as you learn with others who are just like you. Click here for details. Register today to save. 

Bridging the Gap Between Where You Are and Where You Want To Be — #SH302

Bridging the Gap Between Where You Are and Where You Want To Be — #SH302

Ask me to play, I’ll play, ask me to shoot, I’ll shoot. Ask me to pass, I’ll pass, Ask me to steal, block out, sacrifice, lead, dominate, anything. But it’s not just what you ask of me. It’s what I ask of myself.

~ LeBron James

Success, achievement, and fulfillment, whether in your personal or professional life, demand an honest and thorough evaluation of where you are and where you want to go. The standards we set for ourselves impact everything that we do from our relationship with our family to our level of fitness. We often begin this journey of self-development with goal-setting, and although goals are important, we want to introduce an introspective process that should precede goal-setting, called the H-Gap Activity

Turning goals into reality requires a level of commitment and dedication that include specific phases, which must be established and planned. Our four-part model below is proven effective as a critical aspect for getting from where you are now to where you want to be in the future. But it’s only the first step to success. Follow the model and then use the H-Gap Activity as well. 

Phase 1: Set One Big Important Goal. Identify one goal that you are deeply passionate about. This can be personal or professional or one for both. 

Phase 2: Bring It to Life. Write it down and visualize it. 

Phase 3: Create a Master Plan. Identify the specific details and deadlines that will guide you to achievement.

Phase 4: Be Accountable. Find a friend, an accountability partner, to help you along the way. 

This goal-setting model demonstrates the need for continuous self-improvement, accounting for specificity and accountability. But, prior to goal-setting, we need a different process that crystallizes not only where you are heading but what you need to do to get there. On a psychological level, we have to understand that we are really only ever driven by our why. Without this understanding, we end up chasing goals that leave us empty and unfulfilled. The process for uncovering our why requires time and introspection–a quiet space and place to clarify our thoughts and intentions. Headspace is one of our favorite apps that help us to achieve this state-of-mind. 

Within organizations, the process is not much different. The team’s why must define everyone’s attitude, actions, and efforts towards a common goal that is aligned to the vision. This leads to an initial step of self- and organizational-discovery. This is where our Hinderance-Gap Model comes into play. Because life and work can seem complicated, with all of the “things” that either prevent or promote what we are trying to achieve, we need strategies to get past the hindrances. We can’t let bad habits, poorly written rules, and bureaucratic red tape stifle great ideas and a better future for all of us.

The H-Gap Activity requires you to identify where you are and where you want to be. This establishes the pillars of the H. After the pillars are clear, the next critical step is to determine what needs to be done to get from one pillar to the next, which serves as the bridge between the two. The bridge is the action steps, activities, and program of work that support your attempt to make a change. During that process, it’s also important to identify what you need to stop doing. These are the things that are getting in your way from making it from one pillar to the next. They surround the bridge, making the trek from one side to the next see daunting. The visual below illustrates the concept.   

To gain a better understanding of how the H-Gap works, let us introduce you to Dr. Jennings, who is in her fifth year at Keystone Academy High School.

Her school has committed resources and energy to PSEL Standard #5: Community of Care and Support for Students. This effort was prompted by the demographics of the school rapidly changing over the last few years and the school determining that it needed to be more culturally responsive in order to best educate the students. Within Standard #5 is Principle F, which reads “Infuse the school’s learning environment with the cultures and languages of the school’s community,” which can be accomplished in a variety of ways. 

In this instance, Dr. Jennings and her team decided that the steering committee should take a thorough look at the school’s curriculum, specifically within the English coursework that they offer. 

The H-Gap process allows for an individual or group to work collaboratively together to determine the best method to move forward.

Where Are We Now?Where Do We Want to Be?What Do We Have To Start Doing?What Do We Have to Stop Doing?
A responsive curriculum that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards but that has not undergone a thorough review to determine if it is culturally and racially responsive.A curriculum that is aligned to the standards but that is also culturally and racially representative of the students who are learning from it.  
Form teams to review the current curriculum and learning activities using a prescribed checklistAssume that the staff knows how to be culturally and racially responsive and that they know how to supplement the curriculum as needed. 

Once Dr. Jennings employs the H-Gap Activity with her team, they can get to work on their path toward what they set as a goal. Notice that even if her team set clear goals using the model that we previously described, they still might encounter problems in making their change if they didn’t have the H-Gap Activity at the core of their process. 

Leading change is always a challenge. Going from goal-setting to goal-getting isn’t easy. That’s why it’s imperative that we use models to guide our process. We hope that you’ll find our H-Gap Activity useful so that your team finds success with the goals that you set this month and beyond. 

Stay tuned for challenges, nuggets of wisdom, reflection questions, technical tips, and the best resources for leading better and growing faster. Follow us at theschoolhouse302.com to join thousands of leaders who get our alerts, blogs, podcasts, and more.

Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

This blog post is sponsored by Principals’ Seminar. Many schools struggle as a new principal works through the learning curve, and our hearts break for new principals who are overwhelmed with information and noise, frustrated by not having the time to build relationships with staff and walking around in a constant state of fear that they are missing something. The Three in Three Principals’ Seminar is designed for new, existing, and aspiring principals and assistant principals who would like to gain 3 years of experience in 3 weeks, without the pain, risks, and time it would take otherwise. Follow the content at your own pace as you learn with others who are just like you. Click here for details. Register today to save. 

Leading Change — #SH302

Leading Change — #SH302

When we think of the most effective leaders of all time, we typically remember the people who had the greatest impact on culture. These are the people who have created or endured the most intense changes to life as we know it, whether that be in our organizations, school systems, country, or world. The definition of leadership is influence; the challenge of leadership is conflict; the result of leadership is change. Great leaders influence change by overcoming conflict. 

But overcoming conflict is not just a price we must pay if we want to make change. It’s actually far more strategic than that. You can barrel through the resistance, but that rarely works in the long run. When we don’t follow a strict process for making change, we typically only see very incremental modifications to what we’re already doing rather than a full-scale innovation. We offer a 6-step model for leading change that works in any scenario where you plan to translate your idea from new to normal. 

6-Step Leading Change Model

Clear Vision — This is a statement about what the future should look and feel like if our goals are met. Of course, every great organization has a vision statement; this is the same thing but it’s the vision for the change initiative, programmatic shift, or new cultural norm that we want to see in place. Vision statements should always answer three questions: what do we desire to accomplish; who do we want the work to benefit; and why does it matter? 

Sample: We want all teachers to use collaborative structures so that our students learn to cooperate and communicate effectively as a college and career skill that they will need for their future success. 

Core Values — These are our 3-5 guiding principles that ground the work. They should be inspirational, recitable, and action-oriented. Core values represent the behaviors associated with bringing the vision into reality. 

Sample: 

We value active participation in the classroom. 

We value speaking & listening as a skill. 

We value student voice as an agent of empowerment.

Enumerated Goals — These are the points of measurement, used to assess whether or not we are making gains toward the goal. Three important concepts should be noted: 1. They should not be endpoints but rather waypoints, 2. They should act as milemarks with the ability to measure progress not perfection, and 3. Even though SMART goals are touted as comprehensive, your goals only need to address what by when

Sample: 

  1. All teachers will use collaborative structures at least once per daily lesson. 
  2. Our scheduled professional development time at faculty meetings will always include a demonstration of a new collaborative structure or a twist on one that we’re seeing in action (both in-person and remote). 
  3. A sampling of lessons will demonstrate that 40-60% of the time is allocated for student-talk-time. 

Research-based Methods — These are the critical practices that have demonstrated effectiveness through evidence and research in the field. As an instructional example, John Hattie, Robert Marzano, and others have published lists of effective instructional practices, including their corresponding effect size on learning outcomes. For any change initiative, the methods should be listed as success practices to be used in place of old norms and conditions. 

Sample: 

In the case of collaborative structures, we’re going to use Kagan as the basis for the practices that should be put in place. 

Defined Focus — Once you develop a list of methods you want put in place, that list has to be narrowed to a defined focus. If you have a list of 10-15 practices, you might select anywhere between one and three to focus on for anywhere between one month and a year. As you monitor the focus, you’ll know when it has been mastered by everyone and a new focus can be put in its place. As you shift culture, the one-at-a-time approach works far better than expecting everything and everyone to just make the change. 

Sample: RallyRobin and RallyCoach in September and October

Solid Models — This can be a visual representation of the focus items in a graphic format or even a list of checkpoints or steps for putting the focus into practice. We’re huge fans of visual models, like the one at the top of this post. That said, checklists and documented steps help people to see the process and take action versus the ambiguity in naming a practice that not everyone understands through practical application. 

Sample: 

Steps to implement a successful RallyRobin. 

Changing culture is difficult. We always say that the number one thing that people don’t like is change. But, the number two thing that people don’t like is the way things are. Leading a change, whether it’s thrust upon you or initiated by you, is never easy but it doesn’t have to be complicated. When you couple the above change leadership model with a communication plan, you’ll find that change can happen faster and stick better than without it. 

Stay tuned for challenges, nuggets of wisdom, reflection questions, technical tips, and the best resources for leading better and growing faster. Follow us at theschoolhouse302.com to join thousands of leaders who get our alerts, blogs, podcasts, and more.

Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

This blog post is sponsored by Principals’ Seminar. Many schools struggle as a new principal works through the learning curve, and our hearts break for new principals who are overwhelmed with information and noise, frustrated by not having the time to build relationships with staff and walking around in a constant state of fear that they are missing something. The Three in Three Principals’ Seminar is designed for new, existing, and aspiring principals and assistant principals who would like to gain 3 years of experience in 3 weeks, without the pain, risks, and time it would take otherwise. Follow the content at your own pace as you learn with others who are just like you. Click here for details. Register today to save. 

Building Your Winning Team — #SH302

Building Your Winning Team — #SH302

Creating and sustaining a winning team of talented people is maybe the single most important task of a leader. But a winning team is not just about putting together a group of high performers. In fact, the problem is twofold: 1. Assembling a team of driven players doesn’t automatically create the chemistry that it takes to “win.” And, 2. Building a team is more about the current culture of your school or business than it is about pulling new people onto your staff. 

Consider the first problem. Having all the best players on one squad doesn’t mean that output will go through the roof. In fact, capacity is always more important than competence. You need people who can pivot–agility, adaptability, and the art of learning a new skill far exceed a narrow expertise. Dennis Rodman is considered one of the best rebounders that basketball has ever seen. But he was a leading scorer in college. On a team with shooters like Pippen and Jordan, Rodman found his niche. 

Let’s also consider the second problem. If your brand, your culture, and your casting net are weak, your team is not set up to win. To drive the point clearly, we bring forward the Google-culture that attracts talent from around the world. It’s their branding and the fact that their internal working benefits are as well known to the public as they are to their employees. 

That leads us to the three most important ways that you can build your winning team–the boosting and branding of your culture, the recruitment techniques that you use, and your selection process when you’re hiring. Let’s dive a bit deeper into each. 

Branding

The branding equation is simple: Story + Priorities = Attraction. In The Power of Branding, Sinanis and Sanfelippo address the importance for schools, or any organization, to tell their story. Too often, even the local community, and sometimes parents, don’t know all the great things that happen within a school. Even worse, when something unfortunate happens, that does get advertised. Schools with the best reputation earn that stature by systematically telling the story of every great moment, program, initiative, and circumstance. It’s why “priorities” is the second component of the equation. Telling a story about how priorities came to fruition builds the belief that the team is winning. In fact, it provides proof of the “scoreboard.” That is precisely what attracts outsiders to a brand so that the team gets stronger from the inside-out as well as from the outside-in. 

Recruiting 

Too often, recruitment strategies are passive. A vacancy pops open, the job is posted, and we wait to see what the application pool presents. But with tools as easy to use as Twitter or LinkedIn, it’s almost irresponsible to be less than actively recruiting for top talent, even targeting individuals with a proven track record. Especially if your brand is clear through the stories you tell about the priorities you’ve set and goals you’ve met, it should be fun to glamorize an opening on your team to attract the leading players in your field. 

Selecting 

Finally, organizations can’t leave the selection process to an interview alone. Interviews aren’t good measures of anything more than interviewing skills. That said, the key to a quality selection process, even an interview, is through the creation of what we call the archetype of the position. When you have a vacancy, you don’t just need a qualified person to join the team. You need specific traits, skills, experiences, and mindsets to fill your gap. Creating the archetype of the position means intentionally listing (and posting) what it is you’re looking to gain. Yes, you may need a certified social studies teacher, but what other gaps in experience and culture might this person fill? Don’t just consider the primary functions of the role, examine the other aspects of the team that the person is joining to ensure diversity and fit. 

Want to Know More? Check out Building a Winning Team. We dive deeper into branding, recruiting, selecting, and a ton of other content to help you create and sustain an awesome team of people. If you want the most successful team possible, you’ll enjoy the technical tips, strategies, and practitioner spotlights that are included in the book. Let us know what you think. We love to hear from you. 

Stay tuned for challenges, nuggets of wisdom, reflection questions, technical tips, and the best resources for leading better and growing faster. Follow us at theschoolhouse302.com to join thousands of leaders who get our alerts, blogs, podcasts, and more.

Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.
This blog post is sponsored by Principals’ Seminar. Many schools struggle as a new principal works through the learning curve, and our hearts break for new principals who are overwhelmed with information and noise, frustrated by not having the time to build relationships with staff and walking around in a constant state of fear that they are missing something. The Three in Three Principals’ Seminar is designed for new, existing, and aspiring principals and assistant principals who would like to gain 3 years of experience in 3 weeks, without the pain, risks, and time it would take otherwise. Follow the content at your own pace as you learn with others who are just like you. Click here for details. Register today to save.

Leading with H.O.P.E. — #SH302

Leading with H.O.P.E. — #SH302

Months ago we were faced with the fear and uncertainty of COVID-19, and we saw an opportunity to connect people in education who we know are doing powerful things for their students and staff. Amy Fast tweeted an inspiring quote about how leaders must provide hope in tough times, she told us that not only is hope a strategy, it’s the strategy. Amy couldn’t be more right about that. In fact, a Gallup survey confirms that the four most universal needs that people require from their leaders are trust, compassion, stability, and…hope.

Unfortunately today, we are not a society that has a ton of trust or stability. Many people are now feeling hopeless…not hopeful. The senseless and tragic murder of George Floyd and countless others has erupted our nation to once again cry out against racism and social injustice in America. We pray that compassion can guide our thoughts and our actions–that love is at the center of our hope so that we truly can build communities that accept what Dr. King said years ago: “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” 

When we lack hope and we feel dissatisfied with our current state, it’s the leaders of the world who step up to provide a hopefulness for a better time to come. Although hope is a leadership quality, encompassing everything from renewing faith to instilling family values, you can’t simply hope for hope. Hope is not a passive act of wishful thinking. There are tips, tools, and tactics that leaders use when people need hope. Let’s be clear, humans always need hope. Encouragement that the future is bright is essential for staying healthy and strong, especially in terms of mental toughness. But, in uncertain times, tragic events, and moments of massive changes, people need hope more than ever. 

Following the model below will help you to lead better with hope at the forefront. If the people who rely on you for stability are feeling hurt and angry by recent events or anxious about what school might look like in the fall (or both), your job is to help with hope. Let us demonstrate what it means, why it’s critical for everyone on the team, and how you can make it a reality now. 

Humor

Humor is medicinal. Laughing actually “reverses hormonal changes brought on by cortisol and other stress-related chemicals.” Your body can boost your mental state through increased endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine simply by listening to a fun story or telling a joke. 

The problem is that during a crisis or low point it doesn’t seem like the appropriate time to have a laugh, but there are opportunities to take-heart and bring joy and laughter into your life no matter what. We’re not talking about making fun of the situation or trying to bring levity–that would be totally insensitive. We’re talking about ensuring that people have an outlet to lighten the burden they feel. When we inject humor in the right moment, we actually improve relationships and provide hope for a better tomorrow. 

Start with Yourself: Laughing at yourself, telling a funny story about something stupid you did recently, and allowing others to see the light side of you, brings humor into the equation without having to be a comedian. And, you don’t need to be funny all the time. The point is that the more serious things get, the more likely people need a dose of dopamine to calm them down. Leaders provide humor as hope. 

Optimism 

Optimism is a way of thinking. It doesn’t mean that you see everything through rose-colored glasses. It just means that you believe that taking action to make improvements is better than self-pity. An optimistic outlook actually helps with sleep, resilience, and even life expectancy. All things that people need in times of trouble. 

If you’re generally skeptical, assuming the worst in situations and people, you’ll need to work harder than a natural optimist. Remember, though, that optimism is a choice. Great leaders know that the key to a better future rests with what we do today. If you listen closely to a skeptic, they’re typically consumed by what they perceive is happening to them versus the things that they can control. 

Take a Step Back: Whenever you fall into the trap of skepticism, try looking at the big picture. And whenever one of the people you serve seems to be skeptical, help them to take a step back and examine the situation using a wider lens. Leaders create optimism as hope. 

Positivity 

Needless to say, a positive mindset is a trait that great leaders possess. But imagine the immense benefits that come with this type of outlook–lower rates of depression, coping skills during hardships, cardiovascular health, and better psychological well-being. Wow. 

In the peak intensity of a terrible scenario, being positive is almost impossible. But great leaders are able to find a sliver of positivity in every situation. The power in filtering out the negativity is so great that effective leaders know that there’s no more important space for positive thinking than when things seem bleak. 

Kind Self-Talk: Your ability to remain positive starts with how you talk to yourself. If you don’t treat yourself with kindness, you’ll struggle to love and respect the people you serve. Whenever a negative thought creeps into your mind, counter it with something that makes you feel good about your work, your life, and the people around you. And listen closely to how the people you serve seem to be talking to themselves. Leaders create hope by helping people to think with positivity in mind and spirit. 

Energy 

Sometimes the worst part of a stressful situation is that it zaps all of our energy. The time in which you need to be at your best, you find yourself overly fatigued, unable to rest, and incredibly anxious. Worse yet, in order to be an effective leader who is able to find proper ways to instill a bit of humor, to remain genuinely positive, and to offer optimism for those you lead, you need to be in a resourceful state-of-mind, which requires an immense amount of energy. 

To have energy requires effort. The decision to ensure that we have a sound mind, body, and spirit makes the difference between energy and exhaustion. We must have the courage to confront ourselves and our own behaviors in order to be fully prepared to handle and manage difficult situations. What we eat and drink impacts our mood and physical well-being; how we think dictates our outlook on life; and our belief in our purpose fuels our passion. 

Start Your Day Right: As tempting as it is, the last thing you should do when you roll out of bed is to grab your phone. FOMO is real and can truly start altering your behavior, guiding your decisions, and hijacking your day. Checking Twitter for the latest news or scanning email as soon as your feet hit the bedroom floor can derail any attempt to start your day off right. Mornings should be viewed as the opportunity to get yourself ready, in every meaningful way, to tackle the day ahead. A glass of water, a few minutes in a peaceful state with a devotional or meditation, and a nutritious breakfast are just three simple ways to maximize the potential to have the energy you need for the rest of the day. 

Humor, optimism, positivity, and energy are four aspects of hope that we all need these days. As leaders, especially in schools, we can serve people using a dose of each, remembering that it starts with remaining hopeful ourselves. We hope that you’ll see hope as important as we do. 

Stay tuned for challenges, nuggets of wisdom, reflection questions, technical tips, and the best resources for leading better and growing faster. Follow us at theschoolhouse302.com to join thousands of leaders who get our alerts, blogs, podcasts, and more.

Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

The Present Leader: Showing Up When It Matters Most — #SH302

The Present Leader: Showing Up When It Matters Most — #SH302

  • Photo Above: Cave Art, Bisons, Altamira, Spain. >40,000 yrs BCE

Approximately 95,000 years ago, humans developed the distinct ability to think abstractly about our world. Our systems for communication evolved into the language, reasoning, mathematics, science, and other forms of meaning-making that we capitalize on today. Our social connections became stronger and our tribes grew. In general, we have learned to think more about our purpose and reflect internally about our thoughts and actions, including how we fit into the larger context of our community. 

But this type of abstract and philosophical thinking doesn’t come without its challenges. When we find ourselves searching or lost in an internal dialogue, we also tend to manifest stress and worry about the present and future dangers that we (might) face. The problem is that if we’re left to our natural instincts, we can do more harm than good. Our concerns create anxiety, our anxiety develops into apprehension, and our apprehension begets paralysis. Then, when our inaction is at its worst, we lose the ability to be present with others. Instead of projecting a faithful present and a positive future, we’re stuck on a carousel of unwanted, inaccurate, and misleading assumptions about our self and others. 

The good news is that this state-of-mind doesn’t have to be our reality. Great leaders learn to be present in both mind and matter. They harness the mental strength to stay focused in the moment. This is not an innate ability to connect with people and live in the moment. The belief that any soft skill, like being present as a leader, is native for some and foreign to others is simply not true. Great leaders actually plan to be present. They hone the skill of presence with strategy and practice. This essential skill is only done with strength and ease when we become deliberate about it. 

As our world leaders look to increase social distancing to preserve our safety, there has never been a more important time to be present as a leader. The further apart we need to be physically, the more intense the need for connection becomes. The following pillars are the necessary aspects for being a present leader. 

Are You Tuned In?

The simple definition of being tuned in is “noticing.” This is what some leadership experts have deemed as mindfulness, not to be confused with meditation practices, although meditation goes a long way in helping with our tuning abilities. “This process of noticing comes naturally when we’re exposed to something we think is new, and it’s energy-begetting, not energy-consuming” (Langer, 2016). 

Effective leaders treat every situation uniquely, even the ones that are similar to what we’ve encountered in the past. People who tune in are less judgmental and more authentic by not making assumptions or jumping to conclusions based on past interactions or previous circumstances. Mindfully tuned in leaders are present by extending trust and enjoying authentic relationships with friends and coworkers. 

Who is Presently Leading

Presently leading has a dual connotation. First, it means that you’re present, in the moment, rather than stuck in the past or the future. Present leaders don’t allow themselves to be trapped by dwelling on their past failures or projecting their future fallouts. Second, it means that whomever is “presently leading” is a leader. Titles don’t make leaders. Leaders are the people who show up to do the work, to make a difference, and to bring about the best in others. 

“The industrial era, struggling for the last decade or two, is now officially being replaced by one based on connection and leadership and the opportunity to show up and make a difference” (Seth’s Blog). Presently leading just means that someone has taken the reigns, ready and willing to do what it takes to move forward. 

What are You Forecasting for the Future

Effective leaders who identify what the future will look like are typically making that prediction based on the future that they intend to create. “In an unstable world, the best option is creating the future now” (Rockwell, 2018). Great leaders can’t see into the future better than the rest of us, but they are tuned in and leading in the present to create opportunities that bring about what they want for tomorrow. 

Forecasting the future requires us to be steadfast with our beliefs and behaviors regarding the here-and-now. With an unwavering focus on our vision, we become clearer on what needs to be done in the present. The actions of today are the fruits of tomorrow. 

Leaders know that when we’re tuned into the world around us, when we stay present for our current scenario, and when we work to make the best future for ourselves and others, we reap the benefits of a positive and productive relationship with our community. When we shed the futile consumptions of our abstract thoughts–the negative feelings of doubt and disaster–we push forward into the world that we want and that, ultimately, we’ve designed. That’s what it means to be a present leader–the one who shows up when it matters most. 

Stay tuned for challenges, nuggets of wisdom, reflection questions, technical tips, and the best resources for leading better and growing faster. Follow us at theschoolhouse302.com to join thousands of leaders who get our alerts, blogs, podcasts, and more.

Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.