Defining Your Focus and Using Models in Practice  — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Defining Your Focus and Using Models in Practice — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.

~ Tony Robbins

Organizational change management is something that great leaders must master to be successful. The infographic below, 12 Common Types of Organizational Change, is a powerful visual that clearly demonstrates the complexities of change and how well-versed leaders understand, navigate, implement, manage, and lead change.

Regardless of the type of change we seek, it is always a process. The six step process that we created for leaders subscribes to the idea that change should be transformational, even disruptive, as our guest, 2017 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year, Jethro Jones, described. The challenge is actually leading the change so that it makes the desired difference. School cultures and norms are very powerful and can unintentionally absorb the initiative and reduce it to what the community can handle, limiting its impact. Too often change initiatives are so incremental that they don’t make a dent in the current culture of “what we’ve always done.” 

This is why the 5th step in our process is so vital, which is the development of a Defined Focus. Once we know the proven research-based methods that best support our effort, we need to narrow them down to only a few or we’ll end up overwhelming our people and overburdening the system, which does the opposite of creating change by putting stressed out people in a position to defend the status quo. This refined approach in having a defined focus increases the likelihood of the change being embraced and,ultimately, having success in creating new outcomes. 

Consider our current reality in education with many schools starting the 2020-2021 school year in a remote learning environment. Teaching remotely is a difficult skill to master and requires not only a keen understanding of the tenets of effective virtual teaching and learning, but also understanding how to use technology well and the associated platforms. 

Let’s imagine a school that willingly embarked on instructional transformation last year by deciding to use highly effective strategies, like jigsaw, on a routine basis to improve student achievement. This same school is now faced with learning how to teach in a remote learning environment with very little experience. Early change efforts can easily be dismantled, but leading the change process effectively combines new efforts with the old. The focus now shifts to how to do jigsaw activities virtually. The teachers don’t have to determine what new strategies to use because of the virtual environment, but rather how to implement best practices, in this case the jigsaw, in an online scenario. This takes the idea of the Defined Focus to what people need to be able to actuate that focus on in practice: Solid Models. 

Well vetted models accelerate learning. Continuing with our jigsaw example, there are a ton of resources to support its use, but in this instance we look no further than the work of Catlin Tucker.

Not only does she describe how to use the jigsaw effectively in an online environment, she also provides a jigsaw activity template. This becomes the model for both students and teachers to implement with success. Take the following challenge to ensure that your change initiative has the defined focus that it needs, including the models that support the focus in practice. 

  1. Reflect: Take time to reflect on a recent change initiative. Is there a defined focus filtered down to a few key practices that best support the work? If so, fantastic. Move to #2. If not, spend time narrowing down to a few focus strategies so that your efforts truly make an impact.
  2. Identify: Identify models that support the focus strategies and share them with the expectation that they will reinforce the specific elements of the desired change. Do not reinvent the wheel but do give proper attribution.
  3. Do: Don’t just communicate the models and share them widely. Of course, that’s important. It’s critical that leaders model the models. Use them in meetings and other online environments to demonstrate their usage. Show, don’t just tell.  

Take a look at the questions in the grid below to ensure that your change initiative is following the six-step process on your way to a new future that’s aligned to the vision you have as a leader. Reach out if you need support: contact@theschoolhouse302.com. We love to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

PS — If you have a topic you want us to cover or need recommendations on books to read in a particular area of leadership, just send us a tweet or email. 

This Challenge 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. 

Send Your Leadership Change Efforts to the ER — Enumerated Goals & Research-based Methods — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Send Your Leadership Change Efforts to the ER — Enumerated Goals & Research-based Methods — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal. 

~ Earl Nightingale

This month, we posted the six critical steps necessary to implement the change you seek to make. This week, we are uncovering the power in steps 3 and 4, which are literally the heart of the process. As humans, our heart is a magnificent organ, pumping blood throughout our cardiovascular system and providing us with life. Our hearts beat 100,000 times a day, delivering oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood so that we can be healthy and strong.

Change also requires a heart, a muscle that works to sustain and provide life in any organization. Well-developed and clearly enumerated goals along with the research-based methods on how to make progress toward the goals are the heart of any company or school. The goals serve as waypoints that provide clear markers of success, similar to how mile markers support the eager traveler along the way. But these goals must work together with solid practices that everyone embraces on the path forward. 

The point is that clear goals simply cannot stand alone as the basis for change. In fact, well-intentioned change initiatives always fail without the support of research-based methods. Whether it is an unsuccessful business venture or schools that do not make necessary academic gains, by themselves goals are not enough. Yes, they may be invigorating, producing a burst of motivation for the people, but the goals need support mechanisms that are proven to be effective as the practices that garner the results that the goals seek to attain.

Similar to how the heart’s electrical system works perfectly to pump the heart, the work behind any goal must operate in harmony to provide the support needed for any level of achievement. Worse yet, goals that aren’t supported by proven strategies can end up being a waste of time, increasing frustration at every level and leading to cardiac arrest in the area that you lead. Take the challenge below to get to the heart of change in your organization. 

The 6 step process of change is also an alignment tool. As you work through the change initiative and breathe life into it, all aspects need to function in ways that support the other component. At the heart of the model, we find enumerated goals with research-based methods. 

  1. Reflect: Does your school or district have enumerated goals to support the change initiative that is designed to enable the organization to reach its vision? Are the goals supported with proven research-based methods? If your answer is no, do the work to create goals along with the research to support how to achieve them. If your answer is yes, move to #2. 
  2. Identify: What are some current strengths and weaknesses with your methods? What research do you use to support the practices? Has that research been communicated as the why behind what we’re asking people to do differently? 
  3. Do: Communication is critical. Take the time to ensure that not only is the research-base clear to the people but that they are getting frequent updates about the why and the how in terms of making the change.  

Pro Tip: Frequent communication can be tricky. More emails mean that fewer are getting read. Anymore, people practically expect a media format–video, podcast, social platform update. Take the time to evaluate your communication methods and update them to a format that works best for the people you serve. If you’re not sending weekly videos about your goals, start there. You’ll see an increase in clarity right away. 

Let us know that you took the challenge by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

PS — If you have a topic you want us to cover or need recommendations on books to read in a particular area of leadership, just send us a tweet or email. 

This Challenge 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. 

Crystalize Your Efforts with V2– Vision and Values — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Crystalize Your Efforts with V2– Vision and Values — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

We are limited not by our abilities but by our vision.

Change is inevitable. In fact, it’s probably one of the only constant aspects of our lives. Despite this truth, we face two predominant challenges with change. One, we don’t like it. As much as we tout that we embrace change, recognize its importance, and work to accept it within our lives, we instinctively fight against it. Human beings, for the most part, enjoy predictability, assuredness, and comfort. 

Although there isn’t anything inherently wrong with those desires, they can unintentionally limit our growth and, therefore, that of our school and district. This brings us to our second challenge with change–it’s often out of our control, #COVID19. Change comes in so many different untidy and unwelcomed ways, which are often outside of our grasp. Granted, effective leaders initiate change; albeit true, the negative impacts of change can hit the best of us without warning. 

Our human psychology warrants mantras–personal statements that remind us how to think and be. Imagine a change-mantra such as this one: “I am ready and capable for the change and challenges that I will face today.” It may seem simple or silly, but when we hope for an easy day or for everything to go smoothly in any given circumstance, we are really unconsciously telling ourselves that we’re not ready or that we’re not equipped for the uncertainty that we know is a reality in life and work.  

When we embrace mantras such as the one above, it’s likely because we have a clear vision and core values for ourselves and those who we lead. This marriage between our vision and values is central to success. Their symbiotic relationship helps to eclipse everything that is going on all around us, drawing our attention away from the efforts that we would otherwise extend to achieve our goals. 

Our vision and values allow us to fight the cognitive dissonance that is often associated with change, especially change that is unwantedly thrust upon us. Yes, things may be in absolute disarray, but our predefined vision and values provide clarity. The best way to reconcile change within ourselves or our organization is to ensure that the vision is bigger than any challenge we may face and that our core values indicate the behaviors that will supersede any outside forces.  

Clear Vision — This is a statement about what the future should look and feel like if our goals are met.

Core Values — These are our 3-5 guiding principles that ground the work. They should be inspirational, recitable, and action oriented.

One quick google search about “vision” will reveal countless ways to develop a vision statement. They’ve become incredibly common throughout organizations and are typically found on walls, screensavers, and, if done really well, even on magnets and other cool work-bling. 

  1. Reflect: Does your school or district have a compelling, yet simple, vision statement that clearly paints a picture of where the organization is heading? Are the organization’s core values aligned to the vision? Do people in the organization know the vision and the values? If the answer is no, focus your attention here. If your answer is yes, move to #2. 
  2. Identify: What are some current change initiatives that your school or district is enacting? These may be geared toward equipping teachers to effectively teach remotely or the purchase and implementation of an online reading series. Make a list.
  3. Do: Once you identify the change initiatives at hand, write a special vision statement and core values for each. Be sure that they align to the school and district vision and core values. These statements are what will propel the work forward, faster than you imagined would be the case. 

Pro Tip: Vision statements are only effective if they are compelling. We have to be mindful to move consciously past our cerebral understanding of what we want to achieve, digging deeper into the visceral side of our work. Doing so provides the needed balance between the head and the heart. The 5 Why Technique is a compelling and proven way to go beyond the surface, delving into the core of an issue before moving forward. You can find additional information here.

Stay tuned for more challenges, reflection questions, leadership models, podcasts, and more by following theschoolhouse302.com. It’s our job to curate, synthesize, and communicate so that you can lead better and grow faster. In a world plagued by nothing but noise, we help you by getting to simple.

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. 

Tell Your School’s Story — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Tell Your School’s Story — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships. ~ Michael Jordan

A fun pastime among sports enthusiasts is to debate the best sports teams of all time, regardless of the sport itself. Undoubtedly, this is a challenging, arguably futile, exercise with fierce loyalties and subjective opinions, which inevitably cloud good judgment. Regardless, there are some heavy hitters that always make the list and that can’t be ignored. As Phillies fans, it is hard to admit, but the ‘98 Yankees definitely stand out. From the batter’s box to the pitching mound, they dominated the playing field. We’ve already mentioned the Chicago Bulls in last week’s post, so we’ll give a shout out to our friends from the north and recognize the incredible run that the Edmonton Oilers had in the 80s. 

The question that looms when these arguments arise is about the essence of what it means to achieve unmistakable greatness. Granted, great teams win, but putting together a winning team is far more complex than just assembling talent. Players need to not only be the very best in their particular position, but also must complement the team as a whole. 

Schools aren’t vying for NBA championships, and certainly won’t get the same accolades, but building a “Hall of Fame” team in your school is not much different from any other sport or big brand. Every teacher and staff member must excel in their roles and be able to contribute to the school as a whole to guarantee that it functions at its highest level. The first step in building a winning team is in your dedication to branding and actively telling the school’s story. This generates attraction and attention, which leads to the second critical step, recruiting. People want to be a part of something great, and if your school is doing incredible things for students, others will want to join you. Lastly, selecting the right candidate is paramount. Vacancies go far beyond the job opening and extend into the culture, the fit, and all of the other aspects of being a strong team player.

Excellent schools capitalize on all three areas–branding, recruiting, and selecting–to build their winning team. Take the first step in branding by telling your story. Use the ThreeMinuteChallenge below, and let us know how it goes. 

  1. Reflect: Think about how well you are engaging the greater school community and informing them about all of the things that are going on in your school.
  2. Identify: There are multiple avenues for telling your story and continually building your brand. Identify one or two key social media platforms that you will use to communicate your school’s priorities and achievements. We like Twitter best for this. 
  3. Do: Commit to a 10 day challenge of telling your story. It only takes three minutes a day to Tweet, share a pic, or create a quick video. For 10 straight days, commit to communicating something special about your school. Whether it’s preparing for the upcoming school year or celebrating recent graduates, find ways each day to promote the great things that define your success. 

Pro Tip: Audit your website to see how well your brand is communicated. In BrandED, Authors Sheninger and Rubin tell readers to assess their website by conducting a website “walkthrough” to determine if the message is clear and consistent as well as to determine if it effectively communicates the school’s story. 

Stay tuned for more challenges, reflection questions, leadership models, podcasts, and more by following theschoolhouse302.com. It’s our job to curate, synthesize, and communicate so that you can lead better and grow faster. In a world plagued by nothing but noise, we help you by getting to simple.

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

Positivity and Energy: The Final Two Ingredients for the H.O.P.E. Formula — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Positivity and Energy: The Final Two Ingredients for the H.O.P.E. Formula — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Our final two ingredients for leading with H.O.P.E. are positivity and energy. You’ll often find that these two magical components are linked together as positive energy, but we keep them separate to emphasize a clear distinction between them so that you can harness the power of both through an understanding of your relationship with each.  

Needless to say, a positive mindset is a characteristic that we must possess if we want to be effective as leaders. But, don’t mistake positivity for an unrealistic outlook on the world. Worse yet, don’t paint reality to be more dismal than it truly is. Falling into either is too easy. The latter created by fear–our minds revert to the worst case scenario. And in an odd way, these misjudgements make us feel safe, providing an odd sense that impossibility equals less responsibility. 

However, that’s the exact opposite of leading with positivity. Circumstances and situations are to be managed so that we can still reach our ultimate goal no matter what happens. We need to “trim our sail” to prevent the ship from capsizing in the storm. Gaining clarity about the situation and identifying clear next steps to move forward in a productive way are how we harness positivity within ourselves and others. 

The connection that positivity has to energy lives within our self-talk. At its simplest form, a positive mindset begins with the way we address ourselves, which either produces an abundance of energy or takes it away in an instant. 

The worst part of a stressful situation is that it zaps our energy. Stress creates a blockage in the brain. Our primal fight or flight response to a problem produces a surge in our cortisol levels that can put us in an unhealthy and unproductive state-of-mind. As difficult as it may be, this is the exact moment to look for an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s during these unwanted times that we need to be at our best, not fatigued, unable to rest, or anxious. When discomfort meets paralysis, we need to push past the negative thoughts that distract us from the sources of energy that we need to lead well. 

Take the following challenge to evaluate your self-talk and maximize your ability to create positive thoughts and unprecedented levels of energy as a leader. 

We can never underestimate how our view of the world impacts our daily performance. Our own self-talk regarding ourselves, others, and situations must be closely monitored so that we are in a resourceful and productive space. To lead at your best and grow in your role, you can’t just rely on your regular thinking; you must actually think about your thinking, putting metacognition at the forefront of everyday problem-solving scenarios. 

  1. Reflect: Think about the words you use when you talk to yourself during tough times. Are they negative or positive? Do you see opportunities or do you default to road blocks.
  2. Identify: Words are powerful. Make a list of the defeating words that you use when a problematic situation arises. Be mindful that we rarely recognize how often we engage in negative thinking. The slightest daily issue can cause negative self-talk. 
  3. Do: In a great article by Margaret Wehrenberg, she teaches us to use two powerful words: Until Now. For one day, evaluate your self-talk and when you find yourself engaging in defeating thoughts or negative self-talk, simply add, Until Now at the end of the sentence. I wasn’t able to… _______, until now.

Pro Tip:  Create a Power Talk List to counter the negative things that you might say to yourself. Consider your daily work out as an example. Almost everyone we know has a desire to feel healthy and look good. Yet, often, when we’ve had a long day, especially mentally, we find yourself saying something like, “I’m too tired to exercise, I’ll do it tomorrow.” But, immediately replace that with another phrase to help you maintain the standards that you set for yourself. “I’ve worked hard today and I’m tired. Awesome. I am going to reinvigorate myself with a long run.” Or, “I thought I felt too tired to go for a run, until now!”  Don’t allow yourself to think negatively by identifying something, like exercise, as a chore. The things that cost us the most energy are likely the ones that produce the highest levels of it as a result of doing them. Thinking positively about them produces energy when we need it most. Put exercise at the top of your Power Talk List and write down several other instances where you might need a boost of positive self-talk when you’re feeling low. 

Reach out and share your story with us.

Stay tuned for more challenges, reflection questions, leadership models, podcasts, and more by following theschoolhouse302.com. It’s our job to curate, synthesize, and communicate so that you can lead better and grow faster. In a world plagued by nothing but noise, we help you by getting to simple.

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

Challenge — Thinking in the Future — Asking What If? #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Challenge — Thinking in the Future — Asking What If? #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Challenge — Thinking In the Future — Asking What If? 

“The future depends on what you do today.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

It seems that great leaders can actually predict the future, but that’s not really the case. Rather, they ask the right questions in the present to better understand what the future holds. They exemplify presently leading and tuning in by courageously accepting the realities they must face in order to move forward. By asking meaningful questions and listening, we begin to understand our circumstances from multiple perspectives, and that’s how we can see the future before it unfolds. 

In Louis Gestner’s book, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, he describes the process he used to truly understand the problems IBM was facing when he became CEO. He met with customers and executives, asked probing questions, so the necessary steps needed to save IBM could be executed with precision. The future for IBM was grim, many even predicted it’s failure, but Gestner took a customer’s approach to the problems and worked to solve IBM’s mainframe issues, which “more than 90 percent of the company’s profits came from these large ‘servers’ and the software that ran on them.” 

We don’t want to oversimplify Gestner’s incredible achievement with IBM’s turnaround. The expectations he outlined, the enormous decline in mainframe costs, and the incredible team he formed are what made these accomplishments possible. The critical first step, though, when confronting issues in the present is asking the right questions. When we successfully navigate our current circumstances, we can better predict what will happen in the future. 

Predicting the future requires a thorough understanding of the present. The situation itself should never dictate the vision or where you are heading. Instead, it merely adds clarity and helps create a clearer map for how to get there.

  1. Reflect: Think about a current issue or problem that you are facing. What additional information do you need to fully understand the situation from multiple perspectives?
  2. Identify: Knowing who to talk to and what to ask are vital in gaining an accurate picture. Identify a diverse group of individuals who you should talk to regarding the situation and create a list of key questions to ask them.
  3. Do: Set up meetings with these individuals and work through your questions. Listen intently. Be sure to take notes and define the themes or ideas that emerge, especially those that were different from your own. Once you can see all sides of the equation, you’ll know what to do next and just what the future holds.

Pro Tip: Engaging with key people creates the opportunity for you to investigate and uncover key details regarding the specifics of any current problem. Don’t jeopardize this precious time with them by talking too much or sharing your perspective. Ask questions and don’t interrupt. 

Reach out and share your story with us.

Stay tuned for more challenges, reflection questions, leadership models, podcasts, and more by following theschoolhouse302.com. It’s our job to curate, synthesize, and communicate so that you can lead better and grow faster. In a world plagued by nothing but noise, we help you by getting to simple.

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

Joe & T.J.