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.

The Person Leading is the Present Leader: Appointing an “Initiative Lead” — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

The Person Leading is the Present Leader: Appointing an “Initiative Lead” — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

The definition of leadership is influence. The challenge of leadership is conflict. The result of leadership is change. Actually, nothing about the pure essence of leadership requires a position of authority or power. We once heard Vicki Clark say it best: “anyone who influences anyone else is a leader.” 

We call this “presently leading” for two reasons: 1. The definition demonstrates that the individual who is influencing others, addressing challenges, and creating positive change is a leader regardless of title. And, 2. Effective leaders are available for those they lead and work with. They show up each day (even if it’s on Zoom). 

With that said, there is a leadership pitfall that we have to be cautious about, which is the default to micromanaging. Being present doesn’t mean that you’re always at the forefront of the decision, hanging around to get asked the next question. This is actually one way that leaders put a lid on the growth of an organization and paralyze progress. Instead, one key to being a present leader is sharing the responsibility of the situation and allowing others to take charge. The following 3-minute challenge is designed for you to appoint an Initiative Lead to spread your ability to be present in the best way that you can. 

Being a present leader means that you have people on the team who can take the lead so that you can have more flexibility in your day and so that others can take the reins. If you’re always in the midst of the decision-making protocols, not only will you be bogged down, unable to truly show up, but you’ll be stuck in management mode versus leading groups of passionate people. Take the following challenge and you’ll ironically step out of the way to be more present. 

  1. Reflect: Think about a recent task or initiative that consumes too much of your time. These tasks are keeping you from other important work, and you might not even be the most informed person about how they should function. 
  2. Identify: Identify a subject matter expert (SME) who you know has the skills and information to lead the task or initiative. This is typically already your go-to person for this work. 
  3. Do: Put that person in charge as the Initiative Lead. Even without a title change, they can become the center of control regarding the decisions and workload. Communicate to the rest of the team that you trust and support this person to lead the changes. 

Pro Tip: We mentioned “subject matter expert” or SME above, which is primarily a business term, used infrequently in education. But the concept is viable. What it means is that you need to build your SMEs–making sure that people are the experts on any given topic. Use the example of advanced placement coursework. Your AP SME Initiative Lead will be the person who you send to any and all (virtual or otherwise) conferences to be the most informed in that area. If you serve them as the expert, they can serve the team with their knowledge and newly found presence. 

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.

The Person Leading is the Present Leader: Appointing an “Initiative Lead” — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Staying Tuned in as a Leader: The Habit of Noticing — #TheThree MinuteChallenge

Having a keen sense about the world around you is critical for leaders who want to show up and be responsive for their team. In its simplest form, understanding your surroundings requires us to “notice,” and when we have the habit of noticing, we stay tuned in to the needs of our people. The problem is that noticing, and a consistent ability to be situationally aware, takes an extreme amount of energy and focus. Because of this, the human brain likes to relax when we feel things are normal or that we understand something that we haven’t totally digested yet. We tend to do our best “noticing” when we encounter something new…or something that we think is new. Even then, we typically allow the new experience to drain our senses versus fueling them. But that doesn’t have to be the case. 

The facts are clear. Noticing more can be energizing versus depleting; noticing more can help us to stay positive; and, noticing more helps with speed and productivity (Langer, 2016). The following 3-minute challenge is meant to help you get better at noticing so that you can be a present leader in your organization. 

Being a present leader, one who notices the details of each interaction closely, requires practice. It’s not that some leaders are better at being present and others just aren’t. It’s that present leaders practice the skill. That’s what leading better and growing faster is all about. You can take the following challenge to improve your skills. 

  1. Reflect: What is one thing that you are scheduled to do this week that you feel is pretty normal for you? This is something that you don’t need a lot of planning to be able to execute. It could even be something that you feel is mundane. 
  2. Identify: During the activity you selected above, identify one, two, or three new things about it. Especially in a time when “everything” seems new, these new experiences shouldn’t be too hard to enumerate. 
  3. Do: Look at each of the items you identified in Step 2 and decide how to react to the new insight. It might just be using a mindset of forgiveness if it’s something that someone else did or said that upset you, or it might be that you need to reach out to someone to do a quick check-in because of their body language or facial expression. 

Pro Tip: When addressing something that you “noticed,” start the conversation with “I noticed that…” That gives you an opening to ask questions about perspective. Present leaders notice more but they also seek perspective before casting judgement. 

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.

Avoid Blurred Vision by Harnessing the Power of Focus for Mental Strength — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Avoid Blurred Vision by Harnessing the Power of Focus for Mental Strength — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

One word comes to mind when we think about mental strength: resilience. The immediate question, though, is how do we develop this incredible quality? The ability to bounce back, get up when you’re down, or pivot to something new during the most challenging times is a critical skill for leaders.

Quite frankly it’s not just a skill, it’s a mindset. The belief that our purpose is greater than our issues, and that the only way to persevere is to stay focused, is what allows us to make a truly meaningful impact. This doesn’t mean that we ignore reality, but rather embrace the words and wisdom of J.K. Rowling: “rock bottom became the solid foundation in which I rebuilt my life.”

Developing our mental strength requires focus. This means that we must always focus on our current situation, focus on our future, and focus specifically on how to become stronger mentally between now and then–for the sake of now and then.

  1. Single out one thing in your personal or professional life that will ground you to move forward regardless of the circumstance. This can be a loved one, your faith, or your belief in humanity. This is the basis for your need for mental strength.
  2. Identify something that typically detracts you from staying focused, derailing your attention despite your best efforts. This might be social media or something else that keeps you from remaining diligent. This is the thing that keeps you from being stronger.
  3. Pick something that you should do every day to build your resilience and focus on what matters. For example, exercise matters. Whether it is for physical or mental fitness, there are things we must do routinely to develop our mental strength. This is the strategy you’ll use to be more focused and mentally strong.

Pro Tip: Find the learning opportunity in every situation. Everything we encounter in life presents us with an opportunity to learn. We’ve often heard the need to “find the good in every situation,” but if we are being real, we have to admit that there are situations where “good” just isn’t available, but learning always is. This quote by Canadien Poet, Shane Koyczan, sums it up: “if your heart is broken, make art with the pieces.” When we focus on learning, we grow stronger for ourselves and others.

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.