Unlocking Innovation: Two Must Reads for School Leaders

Unlocking Innovation: Two Must Reads for School Leaders

Great School Leaders are Avid 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 a couple of books that we benefit from each month. 

Our aim is to link great books to our theme for the month. This month we are focused on school leaders who know that innovation is a key ingredient to successful schools. Innovation in school thrives in a culture that supports diverse and different thinking. Innovation isn’t a thing, it’s not a professional development session; we contend that it’s a value that needs nurturing and support.

For this reason, we chose two books that are must-reads for school leaders who want to build environments, for teachers and other staff members, that are innovative. These may not be the first books that you think of when you reach for a book about innovation, but they’ll support your team’s endeavors to actually be innovative versus just talking about what that means for schools. 

Joe’s Pick: Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise from Janitor to Top Executive

Featured Author: Richard Montanez

 

When we think of innovation in schools, we often think of technology. Whether blended lessons, cool assessment platforms, or flipping a classroom, we love the tech innovations that are reconstructing the instructional prowess of many teachers. However, innovation doesn’t begin or end with tech. Rather, it’s a mindset that should permeate every decision we make. This is why we appreciate Richard’s story and the lessons taught throughout this book. 

 

Listen to our description about how teachers and leaders can embrace an “owner’s mentality” to break from conventional thinking and unveil new ideas and new developments. 

 

T.J.’s Pick: Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy and Responsibility Using Restorative Justice

Featured Authors: Nathan Maynard & Brad Weinstein

We love the old adage, “doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” There are a lot of things that we do in schools where this applies, especially with school discipline. So often our efforts to correct student misbehavior simply fall short. Don’t get us wrong, this doesn’t mean that people aren’t working hard to help students succeed. But, very often discipline practices are out-of-date and fail to address some of the deeper needs that students have. This is where restorative practices can be very effective, but they require an innovative mindset. 

Listen to our explanation about how this book provides an innovative approach to discipline that works toward correcting student conduct, which is likely obstructing their own and others’ learning. We love that this book addresses equity, empathy, diversity, and inclusiveness–all elements of a truly innovative mindset in schools. 

Technical Tip for Leaders Who Read

We close every Read This Series with a technical tip. This month’s tip is how to read two books a month. Most people believe that you need to be a fast reader to consistently devour books. Not true. It’s not speed, but consistency. Consider an average reading pace of 200 words per minute. This is a very reasonable pace. If you read 20 minutes a day, that’s 4,000 words per sitting. The average book is about 64,000 words. This means that f you read 4,000 words a day, you will read a book every 16 days. That’s about 2 a month. 

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.

Today’s content was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout.

Embracing Your Inner Tony Stark: How School Leaders Can Unleash Innovation in Their Schools

Embracing Your Inner Tony Stark: How School Leaders Can Unleash Innovation in Their Schools

Sometimes you gotta run before you can walk. ~ Iron Man

As many readers will know, Tony Stark is a Marvel character and a founding member of the Avengers. He’s also a brilliant inventor and CEO of Stark Industries. Stark invents Iron Man to help fight villains. And, if you have leadership on the brain no matter what you’re doing–like watching a science-fiction movie–like we do, you take note of the ways in which Tony Stark is innovative. 

First, the number of suits that Stark creates demonstrates the diversity in his thinking, the multiple angles in which he views a problem, and the pursuit of never-ending improvement. Second, Stark explores an abundance of ideas with both speed and precision. And, third, maybe most importantly, he takes risks. He challenges himself to get better, be better, and grow stronger because his purpose is resolute. Granted, Stark definitely has character flaws. He is brash and arrogant, but his innovative ways undoubtedly make him a unique contributor to the team. 

You might not love Tony Stark or even the Avengers. But, school leaders must support innovation. We can’t expect new and different results by continuing to do what we’ve always done. The problem is that a culture of innovation often feels like “one more thing” to staff, and comments about “the new shiny project” or “this too shall pass” can quickly take the wind out of your innovation sails. 

The difference between school leaders who successfully weave innovation into the culture and those who don’t can be found in their approach to the three concepts that we draw from Stark. Let’s explore the model and dive deeper into all three. 

A Culture of Innovation Requires Diversity 

The Google search rate for the definition of innovation exceeds 74,000 searches per month. People clearly want to know what it means to be innovative. Science, technology, and innovation can be at the center of economic development, which is one reason why STEM is so popular in schools. But innovation doesn’t always mean science and technology. In fact, innovating in schools is often about doing something different versus just doing what we’ve always done and expecting different results. 

A first step, for any team that wants to drive innovation for change within the school culture, is to establish a definition of innovation. This makes it so that everyone is crystal clear what we mean when we talk about innovating. 

TheSchoolHouse302 Definition of Innovation 

Any new idea, program, project, or initiative that enhances or alters what we used to do, creating something new and different.  

One thing is for certain, leaders who want to drive innovative decision-making through a culture that embraces change, have to diversify the staff and the teams who are making the decision. Research finds that when teams are diverse, not only do they analyze and process facts more carefully–staying objective with the problem as opposed to subjectively inserting an opinion–they innovate at a greater speed. Homogenous groups, on the other hand, may be more comfortable for leaders to establish, but their conformity discourages innovative thinking.

School Leadership Tip #1: 

Reflect on the diversity of your staff. Consider their culture, race, age, gender, or expertise. Don’t settle for the makeup of the team as it stands. Just because the team formed itself, or was already in place, doesn’t mean that we can’t add people to it to make it more diverse. Not only should you be hiring for diversity on your staff–recruiting as best you can–you should be using the diversity that you already have on staff to create more innovative teams

A Culture of Innovation Requires Open Dialogue 

For innovation to be a norm within your school culture, people need to be free to express new ideas in their peer groups and to their supervisors. This is unfortunately not the case in every school; new ideas are often stifled by staff who perceive their peers as creating more work for them with new ideas, and leaders can often thwart new idea generation by communicating that if new ideas don’t come from them then they aren’t as important. 

In a culture of innovation, every new idea is welcomed and celebrated. This is not to say that every new idea is implemented, but it is given the chance to be heard, tested, and reviewed for its merit. In these cultures, we find that leaders have a specific method–meeting structures, timelines, communication platforms, etc–for people to express new ideas. And, research, data, and evidence are almost always presented in a way that supports a change. This type of environment is collegial, and staff feel free to challenge each other and their supervisors in a productive way

School Leadership Tip #2: 

Actively create a culture of open dialogue. This will not occur on its own. Start by creating what Jennie Magiera calls a Critical Friends group. A first step to creating a culture where new ideas are free-flowing is to develop spaces and times for it to happen. These can be established and supported much like an Edcamp. These spaces and times will widen and expand as you continue to push people to challenge the status quo until one day you’ll be surprised by how accepting people are of new ideas, and innovation will become a norm within the culture. 

A Culture of Innovation Requires Risk-Taking

Innovation in a school cannot rise above the leader’s willingness to support it. Leaders who actively support and build a culture of innovation are also the ones who encourage staff to take calculated risks and fail faster as they implement. They do their best to create situations and scenarios where teachers can simulate and role-play as learners who are trying new strategies, but they also promote mistake-making and progress over perfection. 

School leaders cannot underestimate how stressful risk-taking is in schools. The status-quo is safe and known; innovation is the exact opposite. Leaders who create a culture of innovation are able to help staff recognize the power of innovation and how it improves their professional practice, which decreases stress as anxiety. It’s a mindshift for staff that risk-taking is worth it, that it is exciting, and that it is one of the most important ways in which we make improvements. In this type of innovative culture, people view mistakes as valuable and don’t worry about whether or not something is going to work well the first time. 

School Leadership Tip #3: 

Praise effort rather than always looking for quality execution. Leaders can learn to praise teachers for their effort and willingness to take a risk that rewards the implementation of a new idea even if it is not perfect the first time. Of course, we want new strategies to be effective, but the only way for that to happen is through the evolution of practice. You can grab our model for praise and use it right away for those who are willing to take a risk

From a Culture of WHY to a Culture of TRY 

A very recent movement in organizational design is for leaders to consistently communicate the WHY of the organization or even that of a project so that staff can embrace the rationale behind it. We embrace this type of vision setting strategy for school leaders, but we also know that it cannot stop there. Schools are dynamic and complex, and everyone is not going to share the same WHY, even when it’s described in detail and is backed by research and evidence; as Doug Reeves says on our One Thing Series podcast, buy-in a myth. For this reason, school leaders should push past a culture of WHY and move to a culture of TRY.

Next time you focus on the WHY of your new innovative idea, be sure to include a “bias for action” and develop a culture of TRY. The key is to establish a small coalition of people who are willing to put something into practice before it’s totally understood. These folks are typically the ones who know that the current system is broken. They may not be Gung Ho! about the new idea, but they are passionate about change. They’ll go first, and they’re movement will be what others see. This public display of “trying something new” is sure to spread, which is what changes the culture from wanting to know the WHY to a willingness to give something new a TRY. Use the following three action steps to put this school leadership model for innovation into practice in your school. 

The Innovative School Leadership Model in Action:

  1. Reflect on the diversity of your team.
  2. Actively create a culture of open dialogue.
  3. Praise efforts for trying something new.


Reputable, Effective, Perception Survey for Schools

Support (REPSS)

Innovation Questions

 

    1. The staff at our school is made up of a diverse group of people. 
    2. My colleagues challenge my thinking in productive ways.
    3. I am encouraged to take instructional risks in the classroom. 
    4. I use data to alter my methods of teaching to improve student achievement. 
    5. I used what I learned in professional development this year. 
    6. I was recognized for being innovative with our practices. 
    7. Overall, innovation is a norm at our school. 
    8. I feel comfortable expressing new ideas to my colleagues.
    9. I feel comfortable expressing new ideas to my administration.
    10. Our school has a method for me to express new or different ideas. 

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, & SoundCloud. 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 was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout. 

Unlocking Innovation: Two Must Reads for School Leaders

Two Great Books that Every School Leader Must Read to Build a Culture of Growth in Their School

Great School Leaders are Avid 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 a couple of great books each month. 

Our aim is to link great books to our theme for the month. This month we are focused on school leaders who want to build a culture of growth in their schools. Growth in any given area requires intentionality with time specifically dedicated to supporting personal development.  

For this reason, we chose two books that are must reads for school leaders who want to build environments, for teachers and other staff members, that nurture growth. 

Joe’s Pick: The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business

Featured Author: Pat Lencioni

In this podcast, Joe quickly identifies why The Advantage is a powerful read for growth-driven leaders. Unlike Lencioni’s other books, this is not fable but rather a guide to develop an organization’s health. 

Listen to why an organization’s health is bigger than culture. 

Joe also identifies quick ways to determine how well an organization is functioning. As Lencioni points out in the book, there should be minimal politics and confusion, high morale and productivity, and low staff turnover, which is the purpose of Retention for a Change as well. 

The book is centered on a model, which Joe points out in the episode; see below for a great graphic from Reading Graphics. Please note that the last three aspects of the model focus on clarity. 

13 Hight Trust Behaviors

T.J.’s Pick: Time, Talent, and Energy

Featured Authors: Michael Mankins and Eric Garton

13 Hight Trust Behaviors

T.J. lands on Time, Talent, Energy this month, knowing that if you desire to grow people, then you need to fully understand the impact of time, talent, and energy on what the author’s call “organizational drag.” Not using the three wisely can lead to disastrous results. 

Listen to T.J. describe how these are the scarcest resources that need to be protected in schools. 

He also reveals how the right culture unearths the unique talents within a school and district. Additionally, companies often focus on the strategic goals, financial capital, but fully understanding how to manage your team’s time, talent, and energy is just as, if not more important. 

Technical Tip for Leaders Who Read

We close every Read This Series with a technical tip. This month’s tip is to journal specifically on what you are reading about. Leaders gain results from reading when they take 5 to 10 minutes for free-writing on what the book content means to you and your leadership.

As educators we tout the critical importance of having students synthesize information, and this is one way that we do it that will yield great results. Don’t let the knowledge you gain go to waste. Ideas are fleeting; write them down and grow your own leadership ability exponentially. 

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.

Today’s content was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout.

Every School Leader Wants a Professional Learning Culture that Inspires Teachers to Grow–Here are Three Areas You Cannot Overlook

Every School Leader Wants a Professional Learning Culture that Inspires Teachers to Grow–Here are Three Areas You Cannot Overlook

Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.  ~ Chinese Proverb

It’s safe to say that most educators epitomize lifelong learning. They desire to learn more about their subject, their students, new techniques, and effective practices. The real question isn’t if teachers want to learn and grow, but rather do they want to learn and grow from what you are offering? Candidly, as educational leaders, practitioners ourselves, we know that is a tough question to ask ourselves and our staff. The answer may be difficult to hear, but this blog is about real talk for real leaders, where we willingly face some uncomfortable truths for the betterment of our schools and students. And, what we know is that schools that act as centers of adult learning thrive in ways that other schools don’t. It’s that simple, and that’s the hard part. The harder part is knowing how to build a culture where everyone wants to learn and grow together.

As educational leaders, we know that we don’t always have the liberty, time, capacity, or need for à la carte items that will satisfy every learning palate. Additionally, with increased mandates and required training, there is less flexibility on what can be offered to our staff. Yet, the truth is that there still is a way to cultivate and develop a culture that recognizes, appreciates, and understands the learning needs and growth experiences of every single person.

21st Century effective school leaders embrace their responsibility to prioritize professional learning and growth for every staff member. A robust adult learning culture is the only way to develop specific skills and build capacity in-and-out of the classroom. This effort requires a sophisticated but practical approach so that teachers and support personnel receive multiple layers of learning–as individual contributors, in teams at the school and district level, and through opportunities to learn about leadership. 

There are multiple positive effects of this effort and culture-building. One is an improved and highly skilled teaching core; two is increased student performance within the classroom; and three is developing leaders among the staff. 

In a series of studies, the Wallace Foundation uncovered that there are five critical practices that are essential to school leadership. For this post, we want to highlight two that we believe have the greatest impact on student achievement and a school-wide culture that is focused on learning. The two practices that effective leaders must excel at are:

  1. Cultivating leadership in others so that teachers and other adults assume their part in realizing the school vision. 
  2. Improving instruction to enable teachers to teach at their best and students to learn at 

their utmost.

This post is also timely, considering the clock on the 2022 school year is winding down. School leaders need to act fast to gain the necessary footing for well-developed professional development to take place next school year. Although the month of May is a hectic and exhilarating time, it is a time to reflect on this past year’s professional learning opportunities and set aside deliberate time to plan professional learning for the upcoming school year. 

To achieve this end, we developed a three part model that takes inventory of where people are on their personal professional learning journey, the overall school professional learning plan, and the leadership opportunities that are offered throughout the school year. The power in following this model is in the alignment of the three areas, how they coordinate and support one another, and how they reinforce the two practices that The Wallace Foundation described above.

Individual Learning and Growth 

For schools and districts to develop valuable, worthwhile, and results-oriented professional learning, the overall “health” of the organization must be good. According to Lencioni, “at its core, organizational health is about integrity, but not in the ethical or moral way that integrity is defined so often today. An organization has integrity–is healthy–when it is whole, consistent, and complete, that is, when its management, operations, strategy, and culture fit together and make sense.” Great schools build great teachers within healthy systems. 

This means that school leaders work to build an environment where the individual strengths and weaknesses of a teacher are known and supported–where teacher goals reflect not only their student data but their own growth and development. This is an environment that embraces risk-taking where teachers willingly try new strategies, implement new ideas, and toy with new resources. It’s a mindshift for some schools, but this mentality about learning and growth fall within a school leader’s control. 

We’ve often heard that people don’t quit jobs; rather, they quit bosses. But, that’s not the full story. The truth, found within one study at Facebook, is that the decision to exit can be because of the work. “They left when their job wasn’t enjoyable, their strengths weren’t being used, and they weren’t growing in their careers.” This is why tuning into the individual teacher is critical. A teacher can literally spend their entire career in the same classroom. Yet, they can have a unique and exciting experience every day as long as the context of their growth is central to how they interact with their work, their students, and their peers. The opposite is also true; isolated teachers don’t grow and can become disenfranchised by their work. 

Great leaders apply pressure and support. They support and encourage individual growth with an expectation that everyone is a learner. Doing so at the individual level demonstrates a leader’s capacity to improve instruction by enabling teachers to teach at their very highest levels. 

Technical Tip: Inventory your staff’s unique skill sets. Every school should know who excels at what and how they can lend their expertise. Some may excel at blended learning, while others are incredible at developing higher order thinking questions. Can you answer these two questions:

  • I know my staff’s unique skills?
  • I actively build a culture that allows teachers to build on their strengths?

Professional Learning

Every school has a dynamic staff with a unique set of talents and skills. Knowing what those skills are is vital to a staff’s growth, which also means professional learning cannot be a one-size-fits-all model. Educational leaders sometimes underestimate how personal a teacher’s classroom and expertise is and simply offer what they believe is best for everyone at the macro level. Great professional learning, according Linda Darling Hammond, “is most effective when it addresses the concrete, everyday challenges involved in teaching and learning specific academic subject matter.” 

This is why we appreciate the work of Michael Mankins and Eric Garton. In Time, Talent, Energy they claim that “perhaps the most transformational thing a company can do for its workforce is to invest in creating jobs and working environments that unleash intrinsic inspiration. This is the gateway to the discretionary energy that multiplies labor productivity: An inspired employee is more than twice as productive as a satisfied employee and more than three times as productive as a dissatisfied employee.” We wrote a ton about this concept in Retention for a Change if you want to know more about how this works in schools. 

The key is unleashing the intrinsic inspiration by learning the staff’s strengths, understanding what they need to improve their day-to-day performance, and tapping into discretionary energy by ensuring that professional learning is relevant to the individual, timely in terms of need and execution, and quality as an engaging offering. Teachers want their students to succeed, so the greater connection they see between professional learning (relevant) and their classroom, the more invested the teachers will be.  

Technical Tip: Review your professional learning (PL) calendar and determine the level of alignment between the offerings throughout the year and your answers to these two questions:

  • Is PL aligned to what improves instruction?
  • Is PL relevant to staff during the time we’re offering it?

Leadership Opportunities

The first national presentation we ever led was on teacher leadership at the ASCD Conference in 2015. Since that time, we’ve taught and coached on several different topics, but teacher leadership and feedback cycles remain near and dear to our heart and what we’re mostly requested to help with in schools around the country. Why? Because as former principals, we know that any effective school has incredible teacher leaders and that they deserve quality feedback on their leadership skills (not just their ability to teach well). And, developing teacher leaders is an active pursuit. We fully agree with the words from these directors from New Leaders, “our most successful principals unfailingly encourage and cultivate leadership among their teachers so that the burdens and rewards of conceptualizing and carrying out instructional improvement efforts are shared.”

Effective school leaders use teacher leaders to fulfill the vision and mission of the school, which is the other critical practice identified by The Wallace Foundation. This intentional development should build teachers to take on a variety of roles from professional learning responsibilities, non-evaluative and non-threatening peer observations, researcher roles, community outreach, assessment team leader, and a host of other possibilities. The truth is that there are so many responsibilities that leaders work to control, and, if they’re just willing to work with their staff, developing leaders among them, then the school will accomplish so much more and grow in diversification and authenticity. 

Technical Tip: Effective leaders spend time actively developing teacher leaders because they know that they cannot do it all. Make sure your leadership team agenda includes book studies, case studies, and more. Answer these two questions: 

  • Have you asked your staff for help, to specifically lead initiatives or other areas, where support is needed?
  • Do you actively invest in teacher leaders in meaningful ways, such as book studies and other important time spent at meetings with leaders? 

Measuring the Degree of Growth in Schools

One way to know if people are growing and feel that their growth is supported is to ask. Great leaders measure effectiveness and take inventory. We always talk about measuring what matters, but few leaders measure whether or not the culture is one that can be described as growth oriented.  

That’s why REPSS has an entire section dedicated to growth, and all of the questions are about the five principles from above. The support section questions are below, and you can get the whole survey in our Building a Winning Team book. 


Reputable, Effective, Perception Survey for Schools

Support (REPSS)

    Growth Questions

    1. My supervisor encourages my learning and growth. 
    2. An administrator, other than my supervisor, has spoken to me this year about my progress as an educator. 
    3. There are opportunities to serve in leadership positions at my school. 
    4. The building level professional learning I participated in this school year was relevant.
    5. The building level professional learning I participated in this school year was timely.
    6. The building level professional learning I participated in this school year was quality.
    7. The district level professional learning I participated in this school year was relevant. 
    8. The district level professional learning I participated in this school year was timely.
    9. The district level professional learning I participated in the school year was quality. 
    10. I am given the opportunity to provide professional learning to my colleagues.

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, & SoundCloud. 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 was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout. 

Unlocking Innovation: Two Must Reads for School Leaders

Looking to Improve Performance In A Supportive School Culture? Here Are Two Books that Every School Leader Must Read

Great School Leaders are Avid 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 a couple each month. Our aim is to link great books to our theme for the month. This month we are focused on creating and maintaining a culture of support in schools

We’ve heard from our subscribers that this content is being used as a leadership development curriculum. Kudos to you for investing in yourself as a school leader to grow and improve.  

In supportive schools, everyone has a voice. It doesn’t mean that they have a say. We often confuse the two. Listening doesn’t always require action, but finding time and space to share ideas, even about things that aren’t going well, is what drives a team environment in schools. We need to focus on support, learn more about it, and become as intentional as possible. 

For this reason, we chose two books that are must reads for school leaders who want to build truly supportive environments for teachers and other staff members.

Joe’s Pick: Performance Conversations: How to Use Questions to Coach Employees, Improve Productivity, and Boost Confidence

Featured Author: Christopher D. Lee, Ph.D.

Joe loves Performance Conversations because it is about improving performance. This is a necessary turn in education where administrators develop not only evaluation skills but also coaching skills. Having the ability to coach teachers and staff members to accelerate performance will raise the achievement in any school. 

A Few Key Reasons to Read Performance Conversations 

  • This book dives into the power of inquiry, coaching, and positive mindset, making a case for the value of each one and how they develop an individual. 
  • The author clearly supports the use of questioning and how we must view it as a tool–a tool used to generate incredible conversations that inform the listener. 
  • There is also a really cool Continuum of Support figure, detailing the methods of support discussed in the book–Supervisory, Coaching, Mentoring, and Sponsoring. 
  • In the end, what makes this book a must read, though, is the detail with what the author calls the Magnificent 7.

  1. What is going well?
  2. What is not going well?
  3. What else is going on?
  4. What are the status of your goals, action plans?
  5. What can I do for you?
  6. How are your professional relationships going?
  7. How are you?

With a focus on supporting effective cultures, this book is a must read.

T.J.’s Pick: The Carrot Principle

Featured Authors: Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton

13 Hight Trust Behaviors

T.J. landed on The Carrot Principle being his book of the month because, well, he loves this book. There are some books that truly resonate with the reader and this book is one of T.J.’s all time favorites. Here’s why it’s so good: it’s based on empirical evidence and the contents are easy to apply. Everyone can celebrate, and everyone should get better at it. With 70% of managers still skeptical about the use of praise, maybe it’s not praise but rather their confidence with doing so

A Few Key Reasons to Read The Carrot Principle

  • Let’s begin with a major, must understand, takeaway for any leader: “79% of people who leave their company cite lack of appreciation as a key reason for leaving.” What? This is something we can change tomorrow.
  • The authors describe, and this is a main point from T.J., that many leaders are afraid to use praise. The key is not to hold back and to build a culture of systemic recognition.
  • Another terrific point made throughout the book is that the praise should be done right.
    • A few things not to do: 
      • Don’t be vague
      • Don’t be skeptical
      • Don’t be ambiguous
  • Most importantly, the authors provide their readers with a way to bring recognition and praise front-and-center in four ways:
    • Goal Setting
    • Communication
    • Trust 
    • Accountability

Countless leaders work incredibly hard, but what if all of your efforts fall short because you are getting one thing wrong that is in your grasp to change and control. 

Technical Tip for Leaders Who Read

We close every Read This Series with a technical tip. This month’s tip is to ensure the books you read also equip you to lead with diversity in your organization. Performance Conversations has an entire section dedicated to millennials and provides them with feedback to feed forward. 

 

Enjoy both of these books to lead better and grow faster as school leaders. 

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.

This episode of our ReadThisSeries was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout. 

School Leaders: 5 Ways to Show More Support To Create the School Culture that Teachers and Students Need

School Leaders: 5 Ways to Show More Support To Create the School Culture that Teachers and Students Need

Charles leaned back in his chair after a long week, feeling the weight of his school community’s needs. All things considered, the school has handled the pandemic well. He looks over at this year’s motto hanging on the wall, Stronger Together, and is reminded of how much they have overcome. He also knows that his teachers and staff are tired. The uncertainty in the world and in their community creates an intensity that makes one hour feel like two. 

He also sees it among his students. Their reactions to situations, or should he say, overreaction indicates frustration. A minor situation escalates fast, and students are on edge. Resilience and grit are needed now more than ever. Although the pandemic seems to be in our rearview mirror, the toll it has taken on many is significant. And some students are wrestling with how to move forward, which is evident in how easily they want to give up on things. 

Despite all of this, Charles is confident in his school and the great people with whom he works. He also realizes that as the school year winds down, they must finish strong. The next three months have to be incredible. Understanding Kahneman’s peak-end rule, Charles knows that a strong end to this school year will help start next year even stronger. Although there’s no easy answer, he understands that he has to connect with those he serves, hear from them, and truly listen so that he can build a culture of support. If he wants to lead better and support his community, he has to know what they are thinking and feeling.

Listening for Greater Support

Getting individuals to open up and be candid, requires a level of trust within the school culture. The upheaval and loss that the pandemic brought with it is hard to fathom and impossible to quantify. Effective principal leadership is needed more than ever, and it starts with listening to the individuals we are actually working to serve. 

  • Teachers: Voices from the classroom
    • What are teachers experiencing in the classroom?
    • Probe to uncover insights about their experiences and their students’ needs.
  • Support Personnel: Voices from the staff
    • What are support staff experiencing?
    • Probed to uncover insights about their experiences and their students.
  • Students: Voices from the students
    • What are students experiencing within the school?
    • Probe to uncover insights about their experiences.

Figure: 1 Model for Voices to Hear

The intent to listen is to truly uncover the experiences that people are having. Great principal leaders use an inquiry-based approach to better understand what is occurring so that effective decisions can be made. There are a few ways to achieve this in schools. Although online surveys are efficient and effective, we suggest a couple different methods–from surveys to group discussions to one-on-one conversations. The purpose of each is to gather as much accurate and real data as possible to focus the work at the most granular level. This is what will drive support because school leaders will know what to prioritize based on the data. Without the information from surveys and conversations, we become susceptible to working hard but working on the wrong stuff. 

For example, Charles may decide to leverage group discussions with the support staff, school counselors, nurses, deans, etc. to gain a clear account from what they are experiencing and what they are also seeing in their students. This valuable information can provide insight that can support the social and emotional efforts in the school. Leveraging incredible resources like CASEL is vital, but only if it is aligned to needs within the school. We think of this process–identifying trends and key points of information–similar to what we find in the medical field. General practitioners are invaluable and treat the everyday needs of the community, but if our issues are no longer cured with that approach, we need a specialist–someone who is able to take an acute approach.

We’ve generated 5 key areas that need to be considered in every conversation. The goal is to transform the conversations into useful, actionable next steps for school leaders. 

Every Voice Heard in Every Conversation

One of the initial fundamental aspects of great conversations is informative and open dialogue. Above all else, school leaders need to welcome ideas and suggestions. That’s why it’s our first principle of the five. 

#1. Welcome ideas and suggestions from everyone

Unfortunately, this doesn’t come naturally to all school leaders. To complicate matters, creating dialogue among staff is a skill that many educators haven’t formally developed. This results in many group conversations defaulting to those who are willing to talk or those who somehow feel obligated to represent the group. This is why our conversations require norms. We’re not talking about the typical meeting norms but rather ones that are designed to create conversation, respect, and openness. 

Conversation Norms

  1. Don’t interrupt–Allow individuals to complete their thoughts.
  2. Focus on experiences–Using “I” is encouraged.
  3. Accept non-closure examples–Uncertainty is ok.
  4. Suspend judgment–Avoid value statements.
  5. Honor confidentially–Support and require privacy.

These norms are crucial because not only will they establish ground rules, they will also build a culture of rapport. This is crucial for idea sharing and hearing suggestions. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of putting up barriers and finding a reason to say, “yeah, but.” This is to be avoided so that the group can learn how to rumble

This brings us to our second key principle, which is being comfortable with discussing uncomfortable ideas and topics, even those that may be taboo. School leaders have to welcome the discomfort that comes from hearing something that isn’t ideal. 

#2. Feeling comfortable sharing difficult issues 

Difficult issues are just that, difficult. Difficult to discuss, explain, and understand. This is only compounded by our natural human hesitancy to deal with conflict. To start creating a level of comfort, we encourage teams to use the 2 Ts:

  • Trust and Truth

Trust and truth are imperative for open dialogue and getting to the core of situations. It’s easy to meet and easy to have conversations, but digging into the core of an issue is challenging. Communicating in a spirit of trust allows people to have confidence in one another, while the truth ensures that people are going to express how they feel and share their thoughts and ideas. Trust and truth come from our ability to be candid with one another. Candor is a skill; honesty is about our character. Everyone can learn to be more candid to support a level of comfort with difficult issues, but it takes practice. 

To build an environment that is supportive of the two Ts school leaders must provide time and space. 

#3. Providing time and space to listen

Have you ever compared the game of baseball to basketball? One is a game of space and the other time. The fast paced, high octane nature of basketball, brought on by the shot clock, could not be any different than a sport with no time frame, just rules that determine the beginning and end. Great meetings with open dialogue do both. The meeting length provides ample time to meet the agenda items while there is no pressure to get through all of them.  

The root of frustration in many meetings is due to the need to meet only to have enough time to go over cursory information or force decisions. Getting through the agenda doesn’t mean that any of the items get resolved. One antidote to this, as Joel Garfinkle writes, is to, “focus on what you’re hearing, not what you’re saying. People who shy away from conflict often spend a huge amount of time mentally rewording their thoughts.”

Schools that have a culture of support almost always report a sense of feeling like everyone is on the same team.

#4. Feeling like we’re on a team

The power of a great team is found in their centralized focus on a clear goal. That goal is supported by core values that guide and remind everyone of #2 and #3 from above. What we also love about teams is that they know how to celebrate. Could you imagine the culture and atmosphere of schools if the high five became as prevalent in schools as it did on the athletic field? What a difference that would make for feeling like we’re playing on a team. 

Without going into too much baseball history, it is believed that the first high five occurred between Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke of the L.A. Dodgers after Baker hit his 30th home run in the final game of the season. This was the first time in baseball history that 4 players ended the season with at least 30 home runs in a single season. We can learn a great deal from sports and the one thing that requires zero training, no degree, and no talent is celebrating others at work. Encourage conversation, thank people for their contribution, recognize when someone is out of their comfort zone, and praise as often as possible.

The fifth component is the linchpin, making sure that people have the resources they need to do their jobs well.

#5. Ensuring people have the resources to do their jobs well

This is the part of the conversation where school leaders simply need to be up front and ask people if they have what they need to do their jobs well. Asking is the easy part, listening and acting on the information presents the challenges. Do teachers have the following?  

  • Classroom resources to support the curriculum 
  • Technology to enhance instruction 
  • Instructional materials that promote student academic success
  • Assessments that are aligned to standards
  • Time in PLCs to discuss student achievement 

These areas represent fundamental needs for staff to thrive in their working environment. In her book, If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students!: Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers, which is filled with stories and valuable insight, Dr. Neila Connors shares practical ways to support teachers and build an incredible school culture. 

Measuring the Feeling of Support in Schools

One way to know if people feel supported in general is to ask. Great leaders go beyond asking and they measure. We always talk about measuring what matters, but few leaders measure whether or not the culture is one that can be described as supportive.  

That’s why REPSS has an entire section dedicated to support, and all of the questions are about the five principles from above. The support section questions are below, and you can get the whole survey in our Building a Winning Team book. 


Reputable, Effective, Perception Survey for Schools

Support (REPSS)

  1. Our school culture welcomes ideas and suggestions.
  2. I feel comfortable going to my administration with issues.
  3. My supervisor respects my suggestions and ideas. 
  4. The principal provides ample opportunity for suggestions and ideas regarding school initiatives. 
  5. I feel like I’m on a team when I come to work. 
  6. I have been recognized recently for my contributions to the school. 
  7. My classroom is designed to do help me do my job well. 
  8. My classroom is equipped with technology to facilitate student learning.
  9. I have the necessary instructional materials to successfully meet the needs of all my students.
  10. I feel supported by the administration. 

 

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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 was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout. 

Claim Your FREE Copy to Our Praise Practice- Practical Praise Giving Tips for Principals

Claim Your FREE Copy to Our Praise Practice- Practical Praise Giving Tips for Principals

Learn how you can give practical praise each day as you lead your school to develop a better and more positive culture through this complimentary eBook we use in our workshops to help principals all over the nation and subscribe for more resources like this one delivered to your inbox. 

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