Friday, October 13, 2017

The Most Powerful Question Leaders are Afraid to Ask

Questions are a every leader's best friend. How are things going? How can I help? What do you need?   Questions like these can take leaders to places they have never been and they can solve problems that have yet to be identified.  When followers are asked questions of support from the leader, it lets them know that the leader is interested, that he cares, or that she wants to support you. 

But there's one question many leaders are afraid to ask. 

It isn't a question about helping out. It's not a question of interest to learn from the follower. It's not even a question about the follower. It's this question.

Where am I stifling your ability and performance?

This is one of the most vulnerable questions a leader could ever ask. It's so hard for leaders to ask this question because the leader must invite the follower to critique the leader. The leader must ask this question; however, because failure to find the answer will continue to hold the follower back. It will keep one more straw on the camel's back, and it continue to add one more thing to that person's plate. 

If we leaders want to save those we have been entrusted to lead, we must elicit their feedback on our performance. We must ask questions that help us identify where our leadership is hurting the performance of others.  We will discover where we are overwhelming followers, how we are failing to support them, and where we are neglecting those who feel unsupported. This question will not only open the lines for future communication. It will create a culture of empowerment and reciprocity where the follower is the leader, and the leader is the follower. 

Even the leader must be led, right? 

This week, challenge yourself to ask questions that will lead you to a more powerful impact on those you have been called to lead.  It may be just the question that will empower you to lead all of your followers to discover their excellence. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

What's the Lead Limit???

Every time I'm in the car with my wife, she regularly reminds me of the speed limit. Yes I have a bit of a lead foot, and thankfully for her I haven't been pulled over in a long time (knock on wood). Speed limits are frustrating to me personally but on the flip side, I appreciate just how essential they are to have an orderly and safe society. 

Speed limits are annoying (especially in the city) when you're in a hurry that is faster than the speed you're allowed to go. There is an element of patience than you must adopt, for if you don't respect the speed limit, you'll get a ticket or worse cause an accident that could cause you even greater problems.  

So What's your Lead Limit???
Think about it. As a leader, there isn't a "Lead Limit sign" posted; therefore, we can lead as fast as we want to...  Or can we?  How many times have we been so excited about a new initiative that we led it as fast as we could only to find that we caused mayhem and destruction like that of a race car video game. 

Have you ever got off to a slow start and felt like you're going way too slow for the work that needs to be done? Have others been annoyed because they are waiting on you for next steps to get started?  Leading too slow causes aggravation, decreased ownership, and lower respect and appreciation for the leader. 

What determines your Lead Limit?
Here are a few issues that leaders should consider when determining their Lead Limit they should follow to successfully lead a particular initiative.

1. The number of people you lead. 
2. The speed at which people can adapt to change. 
3. The amount of stress currently in the organization. 
4. The current collective knowledge base in place prior to making the specific change. 
5. The cohesiveness of the people in the organization. 
6. The number of leaders in the leadership team. 
7. The number of people uncertain of the change or actively leading against change. 
8. The amount and frequency of the communication provided by the leader to facilitate dialogue among members of the organization. 
9. How much celebration is used to recognize people who are making growth or going above and beyond. 
10. The amount of reflection the leader does personally and leads with members of the organization. 

What should your Lead Limit Be?
The answer to this question is not based on what you need or your leadership style or even proficiency.  The Lead Limit is determined by the needs of your followers, and its enforced by their ability and confidence to make change.  Follow your Lead Limit and you'll find yourself successfully leading your organization to excellence.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The 2nd 20 Days of Excellence

The 1st 20 days of school are critical to starting your journey to excellence, and now they are coming to an end for many students.  So what does that mean and what is the next step?  That means that what kids have done everyday since the first day of school is now a habit, and the next step is to break bad habits and solidify habits of excellence.  

So What Habits have your Kids Formed?

Do your students have productive habits?  Have the built habits that will lead to excellence, or have they created habits of avoidance?  Do they instinctively jump into a new task with a groan once it is announced, or do their eyes light up because they are conditioned to embrace uncertainty?   The answers to these questions culminate into one question.  

How well did you do at establishing your vision for excellence in the 1st 20 days?

If your vision of excellence is not where you want it to be, that's ok.  In fact, that's great because acknowledging you're not where you want to be means that you want to make meaningful change to get back on the path to excellence.    

The next step to making the 2nd 20 days of school great for all kids is to see what kind of habits have formed with individual students especially those who struggle.   

  • Resources - Determine how competent kids are with your resources for learning.  If they don't like the resources or don't know how to use them, that reinforces habits of avoidance.
  • Routines - Assess your routines and procedures and determine where students need higher expectations or even accountability from you. 
  • Relationships - Identify which students have negative relationships with you, your content or with students in the room.  Relationships are critical to success in learning.
  • Engagement - Evaluate where your lesson planning fails to meet struggling students head-on.  The failure to engage specific students guarantees that habits of poor performance that become petrified and therefore unbreakable.
  • Rigor - Which content is too challenging for kids?  How can you make it more accessible and ultimately attainable to learn?
  • Differentiation - How many minutes of learning are students empowered to chase their learning through intervention and extension?  The answer to this question will lead you to create need learning experiences to reinforce positive learning habits.
  • Celebration - What are you celebrating?  Better yet, what are the kids celebrating?  If it's the end of class, it's time to build celebration into your instruction.

The 2nd 20 Days = 1st 20 Days + 1 Focus on Excellence
The 1st 20 Days of school establish the pathway to excellence, but the 2nd 20 days can either accelerate or stall your growth towards excellence.   If we want the next 20 days of school to accelerate growth, we must reflect.  We must brave enough, vulnerable enough and critical of ourselves and our work so that we can find our areas or opportunities for growth (aka weaknesses).  Then and only then will we discover how to make the 2nd 20 Days of School even better than the 1st 20.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Moving from Maximized to Optimized Leadership

Leaders always want to get more done, but does getting more done lead to optimum performance or even ultimate impact.  Seth Godin made a great point in his post "Optimum or Maximized".  Maximum speed is not the same as optimum speed.  So if you apply this idea to leadership, what is the difference between optimized leadership and maximized leadership?
  • Maximizedshort-term output level of high stress, where parts degrade but short-term performance is high.
  • Optimizedthe best or most effective use of a situation, opportunity, or resource.
  • Leadership - service, influence, the function of a leader, the action of leading a group of people.
Leadership is essentially a vehicle for systemic improvement.  Even the word has a vehicle in it (ship). You can go as fast as you like, but if you're chasing maximum output, your vehicle will overheat and eventually burn up.  Maximized leadership will go faster than optimum leadership, but it will eventually burn the leader out and destroy the organization.

Optimized leadership, on the other hand, can never burn out because this form of leadership optimizes every situation.  It gets the best out of all people.  It makes the most of all time available, and it doesn't waste resources, people or their time either.  If we want optimum organizational performance, leaders should shift their focus from maximum output to optimized performance.  The organization will thank you for it.





Friday, September 8, 2017

The Secret about "Good Data"

Everyone wants "good data", but so often it's rarely found.  The minute you receive low scores, you have "bad data", right?  If you receive high scores, skepticism creeps in, and you doubt if they really knew it at high levels.  Does your data leave you with doubt?

Here's the reality.  Good Data is Fool's Gold.  There's no such thing as "good data".


What we need is VALID DATA

The secret to getting valid data is to create valid assessments.  Think about it.  If you fail to spend time creating assessments that you believe in, you will discount the data it yields and therefore blame the assessment for giving you "bad data" or invalid data.  If you have little involvement creating the assessment and the data is "good", then you will wonder if the assessment truly met the depth and complexity of the standards you wished to assess.  In short the quality of the assessment leads to the validity of the data.  There's no other way around it.


The Secret to Valid Data
Bottom line is there are a few things to consider if you want to move from getting good data to generating valid and actionable data.

  1. Know your standards.
  2. Create assessment items that assess those standards at the basic, intermediate and advanced level.
  3. Provide students a variety of assessment items that require students to transfer their learning in predictable as well as unpredictable situations.
  4. Analyze the student data by student by standard by level of proficiency.

At the end of the day, you will never get data that will drive your work with laser-like precision until you create assessments that are intentional, meaningful, and most importantly reliable in driving your response to student learning.  Good data tells you how you did.  Valid data drives you to know what to do next.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Let's Create a Human-force Hurricane of Help

As I sat this weekend and into the week watching Hurricane Harvey, I was paralyzed by what I saw.  It was devastation like I have never seen before. I thought Katrina and Rita were bad in 2004, but this was unbelievable.  As I watched TV 4 hours from the eye of the storm, I thought to my self, what can I do to help literally millions of people who in many cases lost much if not everything.

As the magnitude of everything sank in, I got a message from Todd Nesloney asking me and others in
his PLN to send a welcome back message to his Webb Elementary staff.  Then I watched Eric Sheninger's Facebook posts directly from his house which was inches from flooding, and then I had numerous conversations with my friend and fellow superintendent, Brian Morris, about the devastation his district is experiencing.  So I decided to join what people around the world are doing, jumping in and getting involved to help our friends and neighbors in southeast Texas.

HURRICANE HELP
The only way to respond to the worst hurricane in history is with a human-force hurricane of even greater power.  Let's get give everything we can to help our fellow Americans and Texas brothers and sisters.  Here are just a few ways that together we can create human-force hurricane of help.

1. Jeff Mann - @mann4edu (Adopt a School)




2. Kasey Bell - @shakeuplearning

Texas Needs Your Help, Y’all! – Harvey Relief




3. TREA - Texas Rural Educators Association




4. Eric Sheninger - @E_Sheninger  - Will You Step Up



5. My District - @blueridgeisd

How BRISD will Help with Hurricane Harvey
Harvey If you have been watching the news, you are probably hurting for the people in southeast Texas.  The impact is beyond belief, and we know many people who have lost everything.  In talking with several people in our district, we all want to do something to help, so we have elected to teach our kids how to give a random act of kindness to someone even though we can't possibly help everyone.  

You are invited to join BRISD in supporting residents in Columbus ISD.  We elected to build a personal relationship and help one district in hopes that we encourage other districts to adopt other districts so that all districts get specific support.  We hope that this act will be one more example that inspires everyone to give what they can to help our Texas brothers and sisters.




6. Traditional ways that you can donate:

 Will you step up?  
Will you join the relief effort?  Millions of Texans need us, and we must do everything we can to help them.  Texas is waiting for Hurricane Help.  Will you be part of it? I will.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Economy of Excellence

Do you know someone that amazes you by how much they accomplish?  Is there someone who inspires to you do more because they do so much?  Who is the person that accomplishes excellence no matter where they are or no matter what circumstances they encounter?  Why do they exceed and how do they succeed?

The Economy of Excellence
Time is the constant. How we leverage it is the variable. The best get more done for one simple reason. They waste less time than the rest of us. They are more efficient in their use of time and more effective in optimizing their time in various tasks. 

So How Can We Improve the Economy? 

Not Right Now - Excellent people say yes to critical tasks and not right now to less than critical tasks. 

Automaticity - Excellent people work to increase their automaticity into their work. Their work fluency is how they accelerate their work and ultimately get more things done than others. 

Leadership Capacity - Excellent leaders improve their economy by building leadership capacity and by empowering decision making in followers so that they preserve their time and reserve their effort for decisions that can only be answered by them. 

Reflection - Excellent people reflect regularly and use reflection to improve their economy. They identify where they are wasting time, being over-involved, or under-involved in improving outcomes. 

How's your Economy?

Where are you wasting time?  Where do you need to increase in your automaticity?  Where do you need to let go and empower others.  The answers to these questions are the key to improve your economy, and the ability or inability to act. The only question we have to answer is will we have courage to change.