6 Tips to Get You Through Mile 20 Like a Champ

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A marathon is 26.2 miles. No matter how quickly or slowly you run it, it’s still 26.2 miles. As grueling as those miles are on your body, the true struggle happens in your mind.

When does this happen? When do most marathoners hit “the wall?” Mile 10? Mile 13? No. Most marathoners quit at mile 20. Whether you’re a runner or not, if you’re in education, you will experience this same phenomena during the school year. Mile 20, or “the wall” happens when the energy of the start of the school year seems infinitely distant but the end of year is far enough to be well out of sight.

CONNECT

Chasing greatness throughout the school year takes mental toughness. How can you overcome these times when it seems easier to let off the gas pedal and let mediocrity take over? Here are six tips to get you through your Mile 20.

Remember your WHY. As Jon Gordon says, “We don’t get burned out because of what we do. We get burned out because we forget why we do it. Purpose keeps you fresh!” Purpose is also an incredible alarm clock. Knowing and remembering your why reenergizes you and keeps your commitment strong.

purpose copy

Remember you are not alone. Reach out and get connected. Your tribe is there for you and chances are, they’re feeling the same way. Find those who will lock arms with you and keep you moving forward. Admitting you need support and encouragement is not a sign of weakness, it’s what great leaders do. No one accomplishes anything great alone. go together (2)

Practice gratitude. Speaking of not going it alone, one of our leaders, Natasha Greis, a 4th grade teacher, stopped by my office one day after school last week to share an idea she had. She asked if she could create a 30-Day Happy Teacher Challenge for our team. I immediately and enthusiastically replied, “YES!” She showed up the next morning at our M@M (what we call our morning huddle: Want to Inspire and Connect Your Team? Huddle Up) and presented it to our team with enthusiastic feedback. While there are a variety of activities she included, it’s not hard to pick up on the common there here – gratitude. When you spread kindness out into the world, it comes back to you exponentially.Screenshot 2019-03-27 08.03.45

Envision the finish line while remembering the starting line. Visualization is a powerful strategy employed by the elite. Winners keep their vision alive and crystal clear while others are distracted by doubts and negativity. Tap into the energy you had when you started the school year. For us, it was our team retreat day this summer that ended in a tear-jerking gratitude circle. This was a special time for each of us and it’s a great reminder of how much we’ve accomplished thus far. Then, create a clear visual of how amazing it is going to feel crossing the finish line, knowing you’ve laid it all out there, having given every single day, every single child, your very best.

Watch your self talk. When we’re in the heat of the struggle, nothing matters more than the story we are telling ourselves. This is no voice more powerful than our own and we all have to battle those inside voices of doubt. The good news? This is something that is 100% within our control. Start the practice of positive self talk. It will make a difference. (For more, see my post How Morning Affirmations Help You Take on the Impossible.)speak belief

Embrace the challenge. When you look at challenges as opportunities to grow stronger, you open up your life to incredible possibility. Not only does growth happen outside of your comfort zone, but when you’re on a journey with others, the times when you’re encountering obstacles together are the times that bond you tighter than any high point ever will. Look forward to challenges, knowing great things will come from them.

AMPLIFY

Are you at your Mile 20? What tips do you have to share? Together we are brilliant, so I’d love to connect! Tweet and tag me (@me1odystacy) to share. Or feel free to start a conversation by commenting below.

 

What’s Your Brand?

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brand /brand/ noun
a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name.
“a new brand of detergent”

I don’t know about you, but making detergent isn’t on my list of things I typically do during the day. So as educators, what does having a brand mean for us? And why is it important for us to be intentional with it?

Amber Harper, in a recent episode of the School Leadership Series podcast by Danny Bauer, suggests that your brand, as an educator, is what those you serve say about you when you’re not around. Specifically, she suggests that it would be made up of the 10 adjectives they would use to describe you. She ends this powerful, quick listen with a challenge:

Make a list of the 10 words you would hope your staff would use to describe you and then send out an anonymous survey asking these 3 questions:

  • What 10 adjectives would you use to describe me?
  • What do you feel I’m doing well?
  • What do you feel I could be doing better?

The power of telling our stories is enormous (one of my favorite self-proclaimed titles is Storyteller-in-Chief) and I realize that my principal brand plays a huge part. So I found myself a bit scared but nonetheless inspired to take on this challenge.

CHALLENGE

There I stood, by the mailbox at our morning huddle. (Want to Inspire and Connect Your Team? Huddle Up) In a stronger-than-I-was-feeling voice, I explained to our crew about the podcast challenge and asked for their help and accountability. I knew if I voiced this to them, I would follow through and so, later that day, I sent the following email and survey:

Screenshot 2019-03-17 08.20.12

After a few days and reflecting on my list of words I would hope our team would use to describe me, I got the courage up to look at the results.

Screenshot 2019-03-17 09.24.34

The good news? These two lists have lots in common. I feel affirmed that the principal brand I’m trying to live out, at least on some level, I am. This, along with what they feel I’m doing well, give me motivation to continue leading in a way that aligns with my hopes and core beliefs. Examples? Leading with intention, creating a vision and keeping them focused on the goal, reigniting them when things get blah. Creating a place where people want to work because they feel supported, have a purpose and a voice.

The still good but harder to hear feedback? While I’m the first to admit that I’m far from perfect and have so many things to improve, it’s never fun hearing about those things from other people, especially the people I seek to serve daily. The good news, though, is that they feel comfortable enough to tell me. I’ve got some work to do on a few items. Example? Even though I feel like I’m a leader who is open to others’ ideas and works to come up with win-win solutions, someone on my team feels that I need to improve on this. I also need to make sure that I tell my peeps, each of them, how individually awesome they are. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how I perceive myself. It matters how they feel.

AMPLIFY

Are you ready to clarify and amplify your brand? Anyone can do it! Write your list and then go make it happen. As Amber suggests, taking one small action each day to live out your brand will help you stay motivated while being the best leader you can be.

What’s on your list? What steps are you taking this week to live out your brand? I’d love to hear and connect! Tweet and tag me (@me1odystacy) to share. Or feel free to start a conversation by commenting below.

Speak Into Possibility

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A co-worker approaches you after a long day and starts complaining about ________ (you can fill in the blank). You heartily agree and begin adding to the story with your own rendition of said complaint. In the blink of an eye, not only are the two of you venturing down a rabbit hole of ugliness, you’ve sent the storyline way into the future, painting a bleak, hopeless picture.

How many times have you experienced some version of the scene above? If you’re honest, you, along with the rest of us, have participated in this type of fearful, limiting dialogue and if you take your honesty one step further, you are never better because of it.

In The Art of Possibility, Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander discuss the following as a key practice in opening up and living in a world of possibility. We must distinguish between downward spiral talk and conversations for possibility. The question they challenge us to ask is:

downward spiral

Think carefully. Your answer matters.

RADIATE

So how do you stop the ever-so-tempting downward spiral and contribute to possibility? It takes a concerted, intentional effort, but when you start noticing and practicing these changes, you will experience a positive and up-lifting difference not only in yourself but in those you impact.

  • What you take note of, you get more of. Ever heard of the “Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon” or “frequency illusion?” It is the experience when you learn a new piece of information (a new word or name, a car you’re thinking of buying, etc.) and all of a sudden you notice the same subject again and again. When you turn your attention to something, that is exactly what you are going to notice in abundance. Try to intentionally take note of the positive, rather than negative, events that happen during the day, and all of sudden, more positive things start happening. Attention is like sunshine, so choose carefully what you shine your attention on because you will see that very thing grow and multiply.
  • Step back. Sometimes you get so caught up in the trees that you lose sight of the forest. When you feel yourself or someone else getting caught in downward spiral talk, take a step back, think long-term, and verbalize your vision. When we think big picture, so many of those little things that the downward spiral exaggerates become as insignificant as they truly are. Is it going to matter in 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, or 5 weeks? No? Good. Now move on.
  • Use “we” language rather than “me” language. When you speak from a place that opens up avenues and pathways to possibility, you are asking others to take theScreenshot 2019-03-10 20.18.26 journey with you. Invite others to think about things in a different way, make them feel safe to venture with you, and then value the contributions and gifts they offer. Then, watch all of what could be open up before you.
  • Reframe your perspective. The Zander’s offer up this parable in the first few pages of their book.Shoe Salesman (1)When you realize the true power you hold in creating your own perspective, the possibilities are endless. Try looking at situations that the world has trained us to believe as an obstacle, instead as an opportunity for growth.

AMPLIFY

The downward spiral is so easy, yet oh so dangerous. If you are willing to chase greatness, think about how you speak and approach situations. Are you willing to radiate and amplify possibility? Tweet and tag me (@me1odystacy) to share how. I’d love to connect with your possibility because together we are brilliant! Or feel free to start a conversation by commenting below.

5 Days, 5 Stories + 5 Tips

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My official title: Melody Stacy, Principal

My preferred titles: Melody Stacy, Believer-in-Chief, Lead Learner, Head Culture Creator, Chief Energy Officer, Chief Storyteller

Chief Storyteller? Yes! I believe in the power of stories and realize the responsibility we have as educators and leaders to tell our stories to help change the narrative and create a different, better future. It was no surprise, then, when Joe Sanfelippo put out his #5Days5Stories challenge, I was instantly inspired to say, “Let’s do this!”

As Chief Storyteller of an amazing school, there are hundreds of incredible stories that I am blessed to be a part of every single day. These stories are just waiting for someone to stop, listen and say, “Wow! Other people need to hear this story!” No planning necessary, just a willingness to be open to noticing and then letting the story unfold and be told.

SHARE

Monday, Day 1: Positive referrals are a great way to celebrate our students. Staff members fill out a Positive Referral Form, me and our Assistant Principal get an email notification, and we bring them down to the office where we call home to share the good news. Talk about a Win-Win-Win-Win. Smiles on students, teachers, families & principal faces!

TIP: Check out the app PicPlayPost for an easy way to create cool videos.

Tuesday, Day 2: Our students, or geniuses as we say (because we know everyone has genius), tell me daily why they love our school and are proud to be a part of our community. While I was out and about, I decided to capture some on video.

TIP: Don’t forget (like I did) that when videoing from your phone, you need to turn it sideways.🤓

Wednesday, Day 3: Sometimes you just need to have fun as a school community! We’d recently participated in a Glow Run to help raise money for our library transformation and had a lofty goal that we surpassed. What did the kids want for their reward? To tape me to the gym wall!😳 We decided to give every single student a piece of tape and a turn (not just the top money-raisers as had been suggested.) Plus, our community had come together to support this, so they needed to be able to share in this story. Remember, we are all in this together!

TIP: Use the time-lapse video option while filming a long event. We condensed over an hour-long video into 27 seconds of fun!

Thursday, Day 4: Building meaningful relationships with students means being with them in all different settings – classrooms, cafeteria, arrival and dismissal and yes, even the bus. Occasionally, I ride the bus home with our students and wanted to share some highlights of this journey.

TIP: Think of those things you do as a leader that help build your culture that others outside of your school probably don’t know. These are stories waiting to be told!

Friday, Day 5: My first four stories were student-focused. Rightfully so, since students are our end game. But a huge part of my WHY is seeking out and inspiring the greatness in our leaders. At our morning huddle (Want to Inspire and Connect Your Team? Huddle Up), I posed the question, “What makes you proud to be a Taylor Mill Leader?” and asked our leaders to be vulnerable and let me video their answer. They have genius to share and their stories are worth telling.

TIP: Use the iMovie app to merge pictures, videos and music for a quick way to create an engaging end product. (Notice I remembered to turn my phone around this time.😜)

CONNECT

5 days ✅ 5 stories ✅

Story telling is about connecting to other people and helping people to see what you see.” Michael Margolis

I am witness to greatness each day and storytelling is about connecting and sharing that greatness. What stories can you tell this week? Tweet and tag me (@me1odystacy) to share. I’d love to connect through your story! Or feel free to start a conversation by commenting below.

 

What Is School For?

INSPIRE

In my last post, What Is Your Why?, I reflected on the first of two questions from Seth Godin‘s manifesto (also featured in his TEDtalk, Stop Stealing Dreams). Danny Bauer kicks off his book, The Better Leaders Better Schools Roadmap, by asking and challenging others to answer these questions.

  1. Why do we do what we do?
  2. What is school for?

Is this is a trick question? We’ve all grown up in school, after all, and thinking about the purpose of school can, on the surface, seem obvious. It is something we take for granted too easily with loosely held thoughts and assumptions. Our work is too important for this and our answer to the question, What is school for?, deserves a deeper look.

REFLECT

What IS school for? The more I reflect on this question, the more I seem to uncover within my own beliefs. So I decided to go out on the proverbial limb, be vulnerable and open this question up to my team.

I posed the question to our staff and here are some of their thoughts…

Screenshot 2019-02-24 15.23.27

What about our school community speaks to this question? vision2What our teachers shared with me tie closely into what we call our shared WHY. Our school’s vision statement clarifies our collective belief about why we do what we do and, like the above responses, calls us to be more than traditional deliverers of knowledge. We are there to nurture learners who have the ability to persevere through challenges and to ignite a passion for continuous growth that will extend far beyond our students’ time with us.

We are about creating a community that celebrates diversity and honors that we each have genius. Even our school hashtag, #TMGenius, speaks loudly from a place of belief and creating a culture that seeks out and shines a light on each other’s greatness.

We value commitment and responsibility rather than compliance. School is about helping our students realize, not just all that is possible in the world, but all they can go out and create in the world. We develop this commitment to being positive leaders who live boldly rather than being an obedient consumer. At our core is the purpose of helping each other become the very best versions of ourselves and to achieve more than we ever thought possible.

Welcome to where you belong

This tall order requires us to honor and speak to the heart of each individual. Our school needs to be a place where not only are all welcome, but all know they belong. A sense of belonging is crucial to community members feeling connected and supported through the challenges that are necessary for radiating the possibilities of a better future.

Education is the key to unlocking our human potential. To make the world a better place, we must invest in quality education for ALL children, not just those who are privileged enough to be born into families who value and can afford it. If we truly believe that all children have greatness to nurture and share with our world, then we must have the courage to start these conversations and then put into place practices that are daring enough to chase this vision. 

RADIATE

What do you think school is for? Tweet and tag me (@me1odystacy) to let me know your thoughts. Or feel free to comment below.

Let’s connect and start this dialogue. After all, we are on this journey together.

What Is Your Why?

INSPIRE

In a recent post, How Morning Affirmations Help You Take on the Impossible, I referenced the story of Colin O’Brady who, to many’s amazement, accomplished the incredible feat of walking solo across Antarctica. As Colin shared his story, he spoke of his purpose, wanting to do something bigger than himself and inspiring others to take on the impossible in their lives. In the news coverage I’ve seen of this event, his statement of why this was a goal of his was glossed over and barely acknowledged. Yet, when you take in the scope of great successes by Colin or anyone else who has accomplished something great, you are sure to find a strong purpose, a WHY, at the core.

REFLECT

Danny Bauer kicks off his book, The Better Leaders Better Schools Roadmap, by delving into “The Soul of a School Leader.” He references Seth Godin‘s manifesto which answers the two questions,

  1. Why do we do what we do?
  2. What is school for?

and then ends the chapter with a challenge to answer these questions for yourself. They are, in fact, not just theoretical questions meant to reflect on within the intellectual ether. These two questions are at the heart of any educator’s work and the resulting impact.

Knowing, clarifying, communicating & committing to your WHY is a necessary component to both having an effective team (4 Things That Happen When You Have a Shared WHY) as well as tackling anything worth doing (Let’s Be UNrealistic Together.) My personal WHY grounds me in a way that acts as a filter for how I focus my energy as well as fuel for inspiration when I need it the most.

Screenshot 2019-02-03 09.53.36

Ultimately my why along with my core values are much more evident in my actions than the words above, but I’ve found it useful and important to clarify this in writing. As I’ve reflected on and written down my why, I’ve grown stronger in my commitment to what truly drives my work and my WHAT and HOW have become much clearer. I’ve also been able to reference it for myself during those times when things are tough and communicate it to others in way that builds connections and momentum. As Jon Gordon says, “We don’t get burned out because of what we do. We get burned out because we forget why we do it. Purpose keeps you fresh!”

CONNECT

What is your why? I’d challenge you to reflect and get it in writing. Then, I’d love for you to share your purpose with me either in a reply to this post or tag me on twitter.

Stay tuned for post 2/2 for my answer to the second question, “What is school for?”

7 Powerful Questions to Ask Yourself Each Day

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As leaders, we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we need to have all of the answers. In reality, true leadership is in asking the right questions. This great leadership practice starts with the questions we are asking ourselves. Intentional daily questions have the ability to help anchor yourself in meaningful, impactful work while giving you motivation to move forward on your path to greatness.

QUESTION

What am I grateful for? Building in a daily routine that supports a mindset of gratitude is a necessity. Start out your morning by listing at least three things you are grateful for or end your day by logging those in a gratitude journal. However you do it, spend some time each day by intentionally focusing on what you appreciate in your life.

What am I proud of? If you have lofty, inspiring goals (and you should!) and are an achiever, it is easy to be consumed by all that is lying ahead of you, everything you feel compelled to accomplish and do. To stay motivated, spend time reflecting on what you are currently doing that makes you proud. Maybe you went on a run yesterday rather than plopping down on the couch because you’re training for your first half marathon. Or perhaps you spent time listening to a staff member in order to coach them through a challenge, therefore strengthening a relationship. Make sure you are reflecting on even small steps toward your vision…

What lessons did I learn from the mistakes I made yesterday? …because there will be plenty of things you do that make you feel like you took two steps back. Anyone who has ever accomplished anything great has failed and learned lessons along the way. Celebrate those mistakes by identifying them and documenting your growth as a result. Thanks to your reflections on your mistakes, you will be a better leader.

What are the most important things I need to do today? Many things are going to hit you in the face once the day gets rolling. For most leaders, those seemingly urgent tasks start rolling in long before our shadows grace the doorway of our school. How will you make sure your time and energy is focused on what is going to be impactful? Listing out the actions you need to take to create meaningful ripples will help you ride the crazy waves of a school day in a way that helps increase the likelihood of you surfing the waves rather than them sucking you under.

What can I do today that will make me uncomfortable? Growth only comes from outside of our comfort zone. While comfort feels safe and cozy, it also yields mediocrity and a perpetuation of the status quo. Spend some time intentionally planning your courage (it doesn’t usually happen by chance) and you’ll find yourself fighting off those forces of mediocrity like a ninja (or in my case, like an awkward nerd, but fighting nonetheless.)

How can I use my genius today to live in my purpose? What is your unique ability that you offer like no else can? Reflect on this and not only will you be affirmed in your very own superpower, but you’ll see how it supports your personal why. When you embrace your genius and start with your why, you create a magical place that is worth a daily investment.

How can I be generous today? Spend some time thinking of who you can affirm and empower today through your words or actions and not only will you find yourself happier and more productive, you’ll see an impact that is both motivating and humbling. Be bountiful and selfless with your encouragement and share from a mindset of abundance rather than limits.

AMPLIFY

Einstein famously said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask.” If our self-talk has incredible influence over our abilities (and it does), then the questions we ask ourselves can have an exponential effect on what we are able to accomplish.

What questions do you ask yourself on a regular basis? How can you amplify your impact through self-questioning?

Want to Inspire and Connect Your Team? Huddle Up

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Starting out my first year as principal, my staff let me know loud and clear (Want to Know Your Team & School Better? Ask These 3 Questions) that they needed a leader who prioritized communication. And let’s be honest, what team doesn’t? I heard this message from them so loudly and clearly, in fact, I made my growth word that first year “Communication.” (What’s Your Word?)

Over halfway into my third year, communication remains a priority. (See some of the formal ways we communicate as a team: 18.19 TM Leader Communication Plan.) Strong communication comes in many forms and the best ways not only keep everyone on the same page but also connect us a community. One of my favorite ways we stay connected as a team is through our morning huddles, what we call our M@M’s, short for Meetings at the Mailbox.

CONNECT

mailbox

Three days a week, about ten minutes before our teacher’s day officially begins, Taylor Mill leaders, staff members, from all over the building start making their way to the middle of school. Specifically, we come to huddle around this old-school mailbox.

We spend these precious, quiet minutes before our geniuses begin making their way to their classrooms, together. A typical Monday M@M includes a casual sharing of fun weekend adventures and a logistical touch-base. “What fun things did you do this weekend?” along with “What questions do you have about this week’s activities, meetings, PLCs, drills, etc.?” We check on each other and ask “What do you need?” or “How can I help you this week?”

Depending on what we need at the time, some of the M@M’s are used for inspiration and challenges. For example, this week I know that, even though we were not more than 2 weeks from New Year’s day, some of us were already struggling with maintaining goals we had set for ourselves. To inspire us to persevere, I shared a passage from Girl Wash Your Face‘s chapter, “I’ll Start Tomorrow,” along with a quick Headspace video, The Hole in the Road. Last month, to remind ourselves of why our purpose is essential to our work and vision, we watched Michael Jr’s video, Know Your Why.

There are M@M’s when we take the opportunity to practice gratitude, one of our core values. We do this in various ways, including using the time to write a positive postcard, tell the person next to us why they’re rockin’ awesome, or text someone a sweet note of thanks. This gives us a chance, with time we’ve already carved out, to prioritize an act that both makes us better and sends ripples of kindness out into our community and beyond.

Some days we just need a laugh and take the chance to have fun together. During our second year, when our staff’s use of Twitter and our school-wide hashtag, #TMGenius, was gaining momentum, we watched the Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake Hashtag video clip. When the last Lotto-mania rolled through the country, we had a lottery of our own, where each leader chose a number between 1 and 100 for a chance to win lunch for their team. Four weeks later, without a previous winner and in full lottery tradition, I chose four random numbers and a leader (finally) won!

Then there are the M@M’s that we spend sharing stories. As a recent winter storm was approaching, we spent our time together sharing our favorite snow stories, because anyone who has lived through winter storms in Kentucky has at least one interesting one worth sharing! And we always make time for shout-outs and celebrations because we can never have too much encouragement and celebration!

EMPOWER

Vala Afshar says, “We are not a team because we work together. We are a team because we respect, trust, and care for each other.” In order to develop respect, trust, and care for one another, we must connect with one another on a regular basis. Our path to greatness requires our commitment as teammates and our vision calls us to be an inspired community.

How do you connect and inspire your team? What other ideas would you add to a morning huddle?

6 Ways to Build Community with Your Staff

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As school leaders, we have a lot going on. A myriad of decisions and issues coming across our plates on a daily basis keep us in a constant juggling act that takes decision fatigue to an entirely new level. So it’s no wonder that when some leaders think of putting time and energy into how to turn their school staff into a community, it can seem like an abstract and overwhelming task. It may even seem like a low priority. But if we are going to create the kind of school that helps our students and adults be the best version of themselves, the kind of school where we are ALL proud to be a part of, building a community is anything but a low priority. It is not a distraction to the work, it is an essential part of the work.

CONNECT

Start with and commit to a shared WHY. Simon Sinek has it right when he talks about how every great organization starts with the WHY, then moves out to the HOW and WHAT. He calls it “The Golden Circle.” If a school staff is going to be a team that creates something great and worthy of our students, we have to be clear and committed to a shared WHY. Not only does it keep us motivated throughout challenging times, having a shared WHY brings us together as a team working for a common purpose. (Check out a past post, 4 Things That Happen When You Have a Shared WHY.)

Realize that the journey along the path to greatness is made together. The path to greatness is a journey, not a destination and it is not made alone. As we travel through this challenging, bumpy but remarkable journey, we do it as a team. We can go only as quickly as our slowest team member and we experience each of the peaks and valleys as a community. When we realize and embrace this, we each gain accountability to and responsibility for our community. As a team, we get stronger and are able to achieve amazing, even seemingly impossible, things.

Recognize that we each have genius. It is one thing to say that everyone has their strengths. It is quite another to seek out and celebrate the genius that we each bring to the community. As a leader, it is our job to encourage those around us to bring their genius as a gift used to strengthen our community. A huge part of my personal why is to seek out and inspire the greatness in others. To build community among my staff, I hope to help each of our leaders realize their genius and then create opportunities for them to contribute and shine.

Communicate. And then communicate some more. It is no accident that community and communication have the same root word. To build a strong community, strong and clear communication must be maintained. In Turn The Ship Around, David Marquet discusses the importance of two-way communication that is deep and reveals the thinking behind decisions. His motto of “a little rudder far from the rocks is a lot better than a lot of rudder close to the rocks,” reveals the importance of the early and often conversations which build transparency, clarity, and trust, all qualities a community needs to thrive.

Give everyone ownership and voice. There is a loose-tight balance that leaders who build communities must maintain. While the goals and purpose need to remain tight, clear and in the forefront of each next step, the structures and methods used to move forward can remain loose. Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess in Lead Like a Pirate have a quote, “People are less likely to tear down systems they help to build.” Building a community requires every member feeling empowered and knowing that what they create and contribute is essential to the success of the school.

Be playful and have fun together! With all of the important work that we have been called to do, it is essential to create a culture that embraces having fun together. If you’re doubtful, there is even research that confirms that having high expectations for those we serve is evident through playful dialogue. (See Art and Science of Teaching / High Expectations for All.) When we share silly jokes, start community traditions that allow staff to get to know one another outside of school, watch a funny video at a morning huddle, create spontaneous staff challenges, we build a sense of community through our sense of humor that supports the high expectations we have. And that is fun wrapped up with a lot awesome.

AMPLIFY

As a school leader, I own the impact I have on our school and the achievement we realize. But I also know that I am only one person. Even though I am filled with purpose and passion around my work and our school vision, I also bring to the table my weaknesses. However, if I focus on building community among our staff, my limits are no longer what puts a ceiling on what we can accomplish and the impact we can create grows exponentially. After all, as Steven Anderson says, “Alone we are smart but together we are brilliant. We can use the collective wisdom to do great things when we are connected,” or, I would add, when we build community.

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