Season 5, Episode 8 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Meghan Lawson

Season 5, Episode 8 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Meghan Lawson

Teaching for a Lasting Impact with Meghan Lawson

This is Season 5, Episode 8 of FocusED, and it features our guest, Meghan Lawson. It was originally recorded in front of a live audience in Delaware and provided as a professional development experience in collaboration with the Delaware Department of Education, Wilmington University, and The School House 302. Don’t miss what Meghan Lawson says about teaching for a lasting impact, creating a legacy of learning…and much more.

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Meghan Lawson Brings a Tons of Experience to FocusED Listeners

Meghan Lawson is a thought leader who studies and implements the conditions and systems needed for transformational change. A lover of learning who believes in the goodness of people, Meghan works to cultivate spaces that honor the humanity of all people. 

She promotes storytelling, the exchange of ideas, and risk-taking. She is passionate about disrupting the status quo and creating kinder, forward-thinking communities of action. 

Meghan is also intensely curious about how to enhance the customer experience in schools. Meghan began her career in the English Language Arts classroom. So, inevitably, her mantra is “Words matter.” She has worked in all levels of K -12 education as a teacher, school administrator, district administrator, and educational consultant. She’s the author of Legacy of Learning: Teaching for Lasting Impact, and you can follow her on X: @meghan_lawson.

FocusED Show Notes with Meghan Lawson

Meghan wrote her book because she’s finding educators all over the place who say things like, “I wish the work was fun again.” 

Meghan says that the stories in the book are authentic, real, and feel like “coffee conversations.” 

Joe asks what it means to “have fun at work.” Meghan talks about positive psychology research. 

Don’t miss what she says about what it means to talk to ourselves. 

When we can create environments where dopamine is high, we can be at our best. 

Meghan calls for teachers to do an inventory of what they can and cannot control and then focus on the controllable aspects of the work. 

She talks about the typical teacher’s perfectionistic personality and what to do about it. 

Small moves done consistently over time can leave a big impact. ~ Meghan Lawson 

If everyone contributes to growing by 1% each day, imagine what can happen. ~ Meghan Lawson 

Joe brings up the Pareto principle and the focus we need on the 20% of our work that leads to 80% of the results. 

Meghan says that one way to use the triangle in her book is to reflect on it in the aftermath of a mistake. 

She says that all students deserve hope and that hope is a stronger predictor of success than any other measure. Hope, belonging, and engagement work together; when one goes up, the other two do as well. 

Meghan calls out the fact that kids can go through the whole day at school (maybe weak) without anyone saying their name. 

She says that she wants to do work she enjoys with people she likes to be around. 

Meghan hopes that all of the unwritten books will get written. People need the confidence to write their stories. 

Life is too short to read books that you’re not getting much out of. ~ Meghan Lawson 

Don’t miss some of the strategies that she uses for reading. 

Meghan ends by genuinely thanking educators for what they do. 

Books that Meghan Lawson Mentions on FocusED

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor 

Finish by John Acuff

Better Days by Neil Allen

 

Related School Leadership Content Based on This Show

A Three-Pronged Approach to Building an Environment that Attracts and Retains Talented Teachers

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Thanks for listening to FocusED, an educational leadership podcast brought to you by TheSchoolHouse302 @ theschoolhouse302.com, where we publish free leadership content. Go to the site, subscribe, and you’ll get all of our content sent directly to your email. 

FocusED is your educational leadership podcast where our mission is to dissect a particular focus for teachers and school leaders so that you can learn to lead better and grow faster in your school or district. Let us know who you would like to hear from next. 

Season 5, Episode 7 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Luke Roberts

Season 5, Episode 7 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Luke Roberts

Systems Thinking for School Leadership and Educational Reform with Luke Roberts

This is Season 5, Episode 7 of FocusED, and it features our guest, Luke Roberts. It was originally recorded in front of a live audience in Delaware and provided as a professional development experience in collaboration with the Delaware Department of Education, Wilmington University, and The School House 302. Don’t miss what Luke Roberts says about systems thinking in schools and how the next phase of our leadership approach to change should not be linear in nature…and much more.

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Luke Roberts Brings a Tons of Experience to FocusED Listeners

Dr. Luke Roberts has worked in education in the UK for over 20 years to address issues of conflict, bullying, and educational opportunities. He worked on the national evaluation of restorative justice in schools before becoming a practitioner and trainer. 

He became increasingly concerned that the whole school approach was not working and did an MBA and M.Ed. before completing his Ph.D. exploring schools as complex adaptive systems. This reframing of schools is central to his book and seeks to address the challenge of why innovation does not last in educational settings. 

He has also worked in communities and prison settings to promote conflict resolution. He joined Highfive in the USA as Chief Innovation Officer to promote sustainable solutions to educational challenges. 

He also advises government departments on system approaches and is a visiting lecturer at Cambridge University and the Royal College of Arts. His recent book is called Leading Schools and Sustaining Innovation. You can follow Dr. Luke Roberts on X: @LukeshRoberts.

FocusED Show Notes with Luke Roberts

Following his PhD, Luke wrote this book to make sure leaders can understand complexity without being too challenged by academic literature. 

Luke wants leaders to have a usable framework for sustaining innovation. 

Luke says schools are much more like beehives than machines. In machines, you can take parts out, but beehives are much more interconnected. 

He talked about the hub and spoke model of school leadership whereby all of the spokes are centered on the leader. Then, when the leader leaves, the innovations die. Dr. Roberts tells a real story about this happening. 

One problem that we discuss is that humans like power and actually like the fact that the system revolves around them. 

Listen to what he says about being in a production mind versus being a gardener. This requires an identity shift for the school leader. 

The conversation about the network effect in schools is fascinating, especially since it deviates from the traditional hub and spoke model.

Joe asked about the next steps that leaders can take to work toward the networked model. 

No one perspective is going to solve the problem. 

Don’t miss what he says about zooming out and validating history before moving forward. 

Systems thinking is much different than change theory, which Luke says is part of the problem. Change theory is often linear and “beehives” are not linear organizations.    

Luke calls for a greater focus on young people’s futures and schools that spend time on students’ sense of identity and how they will interact with society in the future. 

Joe underscores the fact school is often something that is done to students rather than for them. 

Dr. Roberts talks about injecting creativity into the system so that more educators are working in a safe space where they can be creative in the way they think about changing their schools. 

We need the ability to play with boundaries, including time and the way the day unfolds. The structures of the day can limit people’s ability to think creatively and change the future of the environment. 

Luke says that once you start to see systems, it’s so hard to unsee them. He references Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a systems thinker. 

Luke asks the audience to ponder how we think about change, not reduce but increase what we should do. 

Books that Luke Roberts Mentions on FocusED

The Grasshopper by Bernard Suits 

 

Related School Leadership Content Based on This Show

Season 4, Episode 14 with Nathan Maynard and Luke Roberts

Leading Better and Growing Faster with Guest Nathan Maynard

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Thanks for listening to FocusED, an educational leadership podcast brought to you by TheSchoolHouse302 @ theschoolhouse302.com, where we publish free leadership content. Go to the site, subscribe, and you’ll get all of our content sent directly to your email. 

FocusED is your educational leadership podcast where our mission is to dissect a particular focus for teachers and school leaders so that you can learn to lead better and grow faster in your school or district. Let us know who you would like to hear from next. 

Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe & TJ: Guest Curtiss Murphy Talks about What Makes Great Managers Great

Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe & TJ: Guest Curtiss Murphy Talks about What Makes Great Managers Great

About Curtiss Murphy

Curtiss Murphy has spent 32 years as a software engineer (20 of those years in games and gaming and twelve years building educational games. He spent 3 summers hosting the NSF’s Edugaming workshop and six years as a professor of game design at Laguna College of Art and Design (for their Game Design MFA program). 

He has a few dozen minor publications/chapters. He’s an award-winning speaker, author, and game designer. He’s been on 21 episodes of the podcast Game Design Zen. He’s currently the VP of Engineering at a Mobile Game Studio.

He is the recent author of What Makes Great Managers Great: How to Raise Engagement, Give Feedback, and Answer the Questions No One’s Asking.

What You’ll Find in this Episode with Curtiss Murphy

Curtiss starts by flipping the show back to Joe and T.J. with a question about why they would want to have an “outsider” from education on the show. Listen to hear about comfort zones, learn from new people, and seek alternative perspectives. That’s what Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and TJ is all about. 

Curtiss simply says it, many managers are doing it wrong. His story will resonate with you as he admits that he once was one as well. Don’t miss what he says about how it all changed for him.

You want to hear what he says about medical errors and deaths based on miscommunication. 

He talks about going from 5 people to 40 and what management practices have done to increase performance on his team. 

The number one premise to start with as a leader is that there’s confusion everywhere. ~ Curtiss Murphy 

Tune in to hear why we must always be clarifying expectations. 

Joe asks about “safety and making people feel safe at work.” 

Reminder for school leaders: Whatever we do impacts our employees. Don’t miss what Curtiss says about “not enough” in this category. 

Curtiss looks for inspiration from his wife (and he tells us that we can’t have her). 

He talks about being a nerd by trade and using the rules of improv (we wrote about this in 7 Mindshifts for School Leaders). Three rules: (1) accept everything, (2) use yes, and (3) make your co-workers and partners look good. 

Curtiss wants to learn to be calm, be in the moment, and slow down his sense of urgency. 

He focuses on praising people for supporting the behaviors that he wants them to repeat. 

Curtiss used to think that his job was just to empower people; he learned to empower the skill, not the person. 

His final thought: leadership = influencing others through trusting relationships.  

 

The Leading Better & Growing Faster with Joe & T.J. Show

Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing to the site.

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J. 

Season 5, Episode 6 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Lee Roland

Season 5, Episode 6 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Lee Roland

Failure is Not an Option with Lee Roland

This is Season 5, Episode 6 of FocusED, and it features our guest, Lee Roland. It was originally recorded in front of a live audience in Delaware and provided as a professional development experience in collaboration with the Delaware Department of Education, Wilmington University, and The School House 302. Don’t miss what Lee Roland says about his journey as a school leader and radical change in schools.

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Lee Roland Brings a Tons of Experience to FocusED Listeners

 

Lee Roland has been a leader in education and the community for more than 35 years. He has served as a teacher, administrator, Board member, principal, Executive Director, and pastor. 

Lee is a passionate speaker, practical trainer, and dedicated advocate for a better future for all. His book, Fantastic Voyage, chronicles his journey of leadership and radical change at Tulakes Elementary. 

Voyage Consulting was born out of a desire to inspire, equip, and empower others to believe, pursue, and achieve equity and success for all individuals, especially children, in our community.

FocusED Show Notes with Lee Roland

Lee starts by talking about his own confidence with writing a book and the encouragement he got from others when they visited his school and wanted him to document what he was doing so that others could replicate it. 

Lee wants readers to take his content and make it their own. “Take what he says, personalize it, put your name on it,” he says. We have to borrow from one another. 

Joe asks a direct question about imposter syndrome and Lee’s thoughts about writing and publishing a book. 

Lee jumps into the need for a growth mindset. “We can build anything.” 

Lee talked about his early years, and that failure was never an option. People always have looked to him for inspiration, and he has embraced the charge. 

He talks about how the staff and community are looking to school leaders for hope. 

Lee isn’t shy to point out that there’s often an elephant in the room…race and poverty are two that we have to face. 

Wearing uniforms made a difference in a school where many of the students didn’t have regular outfits. This created a team feel.

Lee addressed the thoughts and motivation that come from fear…the fear of change. He encourages school leaders to work with “designated leaders” as well as “undesignated leaders.” 

Don’t miss what he says about building relationships. “We’ve heard it said, but we have to make deposits with people.” ~ Lee Roland 

One sentiment that we take away from his message is that we have to lead with our hearts. People can feel it, and it’s contagious. 

Joe underscores that fear presents itself, but it’s often not real. 

Lee encourages the concept of “collaborative leadership.” What he says reminds of the “shirtless dancing guy video.” 

You’ll want to hear what he says about the fact that educators often return to schools to work in a scene of a “non-crime” but the community is often returning to school as a “scene of a crime” that they remember when they were in school.    

Listen to what Lee says about being intentional with every single event that the school hosts. 

Lee says that we make things too complicated. Just think about a student who doesn’t come to school regularly and what can happen if we get them to come to school 5 more days this year than last. 

Students at Lee’s school received an effort grade every day. This was born out of a desperate love for them and making sure that everyone worked toward excellence. 

Teach them well from bell-to-bell. ~ Lee Roland 

Lee wants to see a whole-child approach to learning (some call it social and emotional learning), but Lee says that we need to address trauma. Plus, he wants the energy in a school to be about the students. Every Student: “I am the agenda.” 

He points to Ron Edmonds’ work.  

As a final point, he tells listeners to “lead with love.” No one can follow if you don’t lead first. 

Related School Leadership Content Based on This Show

Black Students. Middle Class Teachers by Jawanza Kunjufu 

Balancing Care and High Expectations with Guest Joy Kelly 

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Thanks for listening to FocusED, an educational leadership podcast brought to you by TheSchoolHouse302 @ theschoolhouse302.com, where we publish free leadership content. Go to the site, subscribe, and you’ll get all of our content sent directly to your email. 

FocusED is your educational leadership podcast where our mission is to dissect a particular focus for teachers and school leaders so that you can learn to lead better and grow faster in your school or district. Let us know who you would like to hear from next. 

Season 5, Episode 5 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Don Parker

Season 5, Episode 5 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Don Parker

Be The Driving Force in Your School with Don Parker

This is Season 5, Episode 5 of FocusED, and it features our guest, Don Parker. It was originally recorded in front of a live audience in Delaware and provided as a professional development experience in collaboration with the Delaware Department of Education, Wilmington University, and The School House 302. Don’t miss what Don Parker says about being the driving force in your school, and so much more.

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Don Parker Brings a Tons of Experience to FocusED Listeners

 

Dr. Don Parker is a transformational keynote speaker and professional development provider. He specializes in SEL, supporting teachers to build trusting relationships with students, restorative practices, trauma-informed practices, and improving the culture and climate of schools to enhance students’ and teachers’ feelings of belonging.

Dr. Parker is a former principal and served at Posen School in Posen, IL, where he improved the school climate, staff collaboration, parent engagement, and student achievement. 

Before that, he was the principal of Lincoln Avenue School, a K-8 school in Dolton, IL, where he improved the culture, implemented a resilience program, managed the implementation of restorative justice, and increased attendance and student achievement. 

Dr. Parker has a strong belief in creating a school climate in which the entire staff strives for excellence to meet the academic and social emotional needs of each student. He has presented throughout the United States at distinguished educational conferences, including ASCD, the Every Student Succeeds Act Conference, the National Principals Conference, the Illinois Principals Conference, the Oklahoma Secondary and Elementary Conference, the Raising Student Achievement Conference, the Transforming School Culture Conference, the Innovative Schools Summit, just to name a few.

Dr. Parker is the author of the book Building Bridges: Engaging Students At-Risk Through the Power of Relationships and Be the Driving Force: Leading Your School on the Road to Equity. Follow Dr. Don Parker on Twitter: @DrDonParker1.

FocusED Show Notes with Don Parker

Don starts with the fact that equity issues aren’t new. The achievement gap has been static for too long. Don says that leaders are driving this work or pumping the brakes. 

Don says that equity work starts at the top. 

Don talks about the fact that people will follow a person before they follow a cause.  

Don’t miss what he says about sharing data to create a sense of urgency. We need to take an honest look at our practices and start the conversation with empathy. 

Don talked about the fact that 72% of students feel that they need social and emotional support but don’t get it. 

We need to take an inventory of our academic support to ensure that we’re reaching all students. 

Don says that we often make assumptions about the community and what they need, but the better strategy is to ask them. Are our family engagement and education strategies targeting what the community needs? 

Dr. Parker says that we need to use surveys more often to gather information about what our families want from the school, maybe there’s something they think we should be providing that we’re (even though we can). 

His story about a family who had a food deficit is inspirational. 

If Don could improve every school, he would make sure every student felt valued in the school environment. His water bottle analogy is incredible. 

Don talks about strategies to create belonging and says that it’s not rocket science. 

“99% of education is encouragement.” ~ Don Parker

Don tells our audience to listen to podcasts, go to conferences, and read books. He names Anthony Muhammad’s book, Transforming School Culture.  

Joe asked if anyone outside of education inspired Don, and he pointed to a touching story about his uncle. 

Don mentions the leadership of Barack Obama and overcoming seemingly impossible challenges. Find out what Don believes are the skills that Obama used to be successful. 

He wants to see more on the topic of educator empathy…how to be more empathetic for the sake of our students. We came up with this title for a future book, The Empathetic Educator

As final words, Don talked about the professional development that he’s doing around the country and how he helps educators to work better with students who have trauma in their lives.

Related School Leadership Content Based on This Show

Two books that we recommend on the topic of social and emotional learning.

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Thanks for listening to FocusED, an educational leadership podcast brought to you by TheSchoolHouse302 @ theschoolhouse302.com, where we publish free leadership content. Go to the site, subscribe, and you’ll get all of our content sent directly to your email. 

FocusED is your educational leadership podcast where our mission is to dissect a particular focus for teachers and school leaders so that you can learn to lead better and grow faster in your school or district. Let us know who you would like to hear from next. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

Rippling Toward Success or Triggering Negative Waves of Dissent

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

The Power of Perception

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

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

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

The Importance of Mindfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

 

Joe & T.J.