What Is Your Why?


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.


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!”


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


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.


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.


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


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.



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!


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


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.


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.


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.

How Morning Affirmations Help You Take on the Impossible


Recently, I was watching the news story of Colin O’Brady, an American endurance athlete and adventurer, who had just accomplished an amazing feat. He walked across Antarctica solo and without aid, traversing over 900 miles across the South Pole. (Watch the news story here: Doing the Impossible) Of course, one of the first, and very natural, questions people ask is, “How did you do it?” Colin pointed to several things, including a year’s worth of planning and logistics. But two things in particular caught my attention. Colin spoke of his purpose, wanting to do something bigger than himself and inspiring others to take on the impossible in their lives along with what he called his mental mantra, several things he told himself daily.

you can do this


Knowing your why and being positive are two of the ways I reflect on in one my past posts, Let’s be UNrealistic Together. Both are necessities if you want to trade in small thinking for impactful, make it happen, move mountains and bring others along while doing it kind of visions, but being and staying positive ranks up there as one of the top priorities. We are all going to face challenges in our lives and those hurdles loom larger the bigger we dream. Then add in the fact that our brains are wired for survival mode, meaning we are biologically made to think worst-case, negative scenario, and we clearly need to develop strategies that keep our thinking positive and fuel our beliefs.

One specific example that Colin exemplifies is how to remain positive and speak belief to the liar that is our own fears. His daily mantra that he woke up telling himself kept his mental challenges at bay and helped him realize the best, most capable version of himself. He was able to accomplish a seemingly impossible goal and dream of his despite innumerable obstacles.

I am not dreaming of crossing Antarctica anytime soon, but I do dream of impacting those in my school and beyond in ways that help them achieve things that seem impossible. The challenges any public educator faces are large and even on the best of days it seems we have been given a mountain to move. One of the routines I’ve developed is using a set of personal statements with which I begin each day. My morning affirmations (click here to see them), as introduced to me by Danny Bauer, are a set of assertions that are specific in nature, support and clarify my why, and help empower my inner thoughts to fuel my belief and tear down my fears. Sometimes I tweak them, but for the most part they are a constant set of deep-down beliefs that I know I need reminding of daily. And as corny as it sounds, I say them out loud. Every day. I figure my dreams of what I want to accomplish in this life are impossible enough that they deserve all the positive energy I can throw their way.


We all tell ourselves a story. This story is made up of internal dialogue that, if we’re not careful and intentional, can speak a lie so scary that we’ll be sure not to ever accomplish anything worth doing. When you start telling yourself things like “You can do this,” you start realizing all you actually can do. And you are certainly capable of achieving greatness you never thought possible.

What story are you telling yourself? What affirmations could you develop that would empower you to take on the impossible?

Giving Yourself an A


How many ways to do we create a world of constrained measurement rather than infinite possibility? In The Art of Possibility, authors Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander share twelve practices they have learned throughout their lives that will transform how you approach situations big and small in order to produce ripples of possibility that spread from within.


Within the practice of “Giving an A” , the Zanders describe how the tradition of giving grades has bled over from classrooms trying to measure accomplishments against standards to one that has a limiting hold over our consciousness. This tradition of comparison supports a world full of constraints and conformity, one where we impose our judgment on others’ ability and value. By contrast, when you decide to give the A, as you can to anyone in your life (the cashier at the grocery, your spouse, your coworker, your boss), you are able to line up efforts through a common purpose and vision of belief.

giving an A (1)

One of the most powerful thoughts within this practice is how transformative it can be to give yourself an A. After reading Ben Zander’s story about having his graduate students write him letters describing how they had received their A, I decided to do a version of this activity with our team.

During a beginning-of-the-year faculty meeting, I shared,

“YOU can give an A to yourself. This practice will transform your thinking by allowing you to take risks, chase greatness and fight off the forces of mediocrity that come along with fear and limitations.

Your task is to write yourself a letter dated May 29, 2019. This letter should begin with, ‘Dear (Your name here), I got my A because….’

In this letter, you will describe, using as many details as you can, the story of what will have happened to you by May 29, 2019. Tell the story about how you’ve earned this extraordinary grade.

Place yourself in the future, looking back, while reporting all of the insights you’ve acquired, milestones attained, obstacles you’ve overcome. This letter, this visualization of your success, should not include any past tense. No ‘I hope’, ‘I plan to’, or ‘I will’s allowed. Write this letter as if those accomplishments have already happened.

Feel free to mention goals you have for yourself, whether professional or personal. More interesting, however, is the attitude you have on May 29th, the sense of awesome pride you carry now that you’ve fought off the force of mediocrity and WON! Describe this person you’ve become. And then fall passionately in love with that person.”

It has now been a couple of months since I’ve filed away the stack of Giving Yourself an A letters. This positive, belief-filled bundle of visualizations of success will wait in my office drawer until next May. Has this activity helped us individually? As a team? Do we now have the courage to take more risks while seeing the statue of ourselves within the roughness of the uncut stone? It sure seems like we are able to be more vulnerable with each other. And there have been a fair share of opportunities for us to remind one another, “Be brave and believe in yourself. Remember, you have your A.”


I am excited to not only open up my own letter this May, but I can only imagine the emotions that will come along with our entire team realizing all we will have accomplished and all we will have become by then. After all, we are all on this journey of possibility together and a journey is nothing if not a set of experiences that change us and move us forward on our path to greatness.

How freeing would it be for yourself and others if you could begin the practice of giving an A? What possibility would you radiate if you could scrape away the comparisons and judgment to reveal value and belief?

4 Things That Happen When You Have a Shared WHY


What can you expect when you lead your team towards a shared vision? A whole lot of awesomeness, for sure.

In his Ted Talk, Simon Sinek talks about the importance of organizations starting with the WHY and in my last post, I discuss the significance for us as educators. While it is imperative for us individually to be anchored in and clarify our purpose, having a collective, shared WHY creates exponential, and sometimes even unexpected, benefits.


People Come & Go

As your team develops and clarifies a shared vision, some people will begin to realize that they don’t feel the same passion and purpose that is represented by this shared why. It may not happen initially, when the team is starting their collective journey, but if this shared purpose is authentic and nurtured, it becomes a strong force that makes it easy for those who don’t share that deep-to-the-core purpose to realize that their path may be different. This can mean a completely different career and life goal or different can be another team or organization to join. And not only is that okay, it is a good thing when people become clear about their personal journey.

While some people are realizing their path is veering another way, there will be others who see that their path merging. These people start knocking down the doors to join and they communicate their shared passion and purpose from the moment they step through the door. These new team members, because their path merges and aligns, accelerate the entire team along their path in a way that is motivating and rejuvenating for all.

Others Take Note

As a shared WHY is nurtured and clarified, people outside of your organization will notice. It is hard to ignore a group of people who have endless passion and energy and are communicating the same inspiring message. When the journey is powered by a real and deep belief, that story is positive, loud and that story gets heard.

Challenges Become Easier

As obstacles presents themselves, bumps and hurdles along the journey collectively become easier to handle. Have a touch decision that has to be made? A common filter for decisions both big and small is powerful for both for the decision-maker and those affected by the decision. Is energy low or are your people lacking passion? Having team members who are moving along the same path and believe in the journey means an entire community of support that provides endless fuel. Not only do challenges become easier, they truly become opportunities that aid in the journey.

You Become Way Less Important

With a culture built around a shared WHY, everyone is clear on not only the larger, more long-term vision, but they also become empowered to determine and create next steps. It may be an unexpected emergency drill that happens when you aren’t in the building and, surprisingly, things go off without a hitch. Or maybe it’s when you’re interviewing new teaching candidates and the entire interview committee is collectively making the same determination while giving aligned and specific feedback. Or maybe a team member sees an opportunity, shares their plan, gets others involved, and all of a sudden an organic, teacher-led event that will impact hundreds of students is happening without you so much as sending a calendar invite. Fewer and fewer stamps of approval are needed and all of sudden, not only are small, procedural things occurring without you, the leader, but powerful progress is being fueled by others.


Having a shared WHY, a community built around a clear and powerful purpose is what I call our school’s path to greatness. It is never going to be a destination, we never “get there,” but we move towards it and along our path. What are some benefits, however unexpected, you’ve seen when a vision is owned and amplified by everyone? What would you add to this list?

Let’s Be UNrealistic Together


I recently had the opportunity to keynote at the Central KY #KYGoDigital Regional event. Over 500 remarkable educators gathered to learn how to CREATE. CONNECT. SHARE. innovative ways to use digital tools in their roles. I had a blast with my tribe mates there and the message I shared (along with this slideshow) was one about how we, as educators, can and need to be UNrealistic together.

Admission – I am a nerd. This manifests itself in many situations, but one way is that I geek out over quotes. Quotes have a way of inspiring and resonating in a poetic kind of way and I just love them. I’ll share several quotes in this post, but one in particular, the quote that hangs on my office door, encompasses much of what educators should be about.


As educators, we have to be dealers of hope, igniters of dreams, fuelers of inspiration. We have to be the fountains of BELIEF. If those who we serve, students, colleagues, teachers, can’t come to us and know that we have visions for them that others find impossible, then we’ve failed before we’ve even begun.

Let me put it to you a different way. Have you ever been excited about an idea and, after sharing it with someone, they respond with “Let’s be real…” and continue to give you all of the reasons what you’ve shared won’t work? I have. And it is deflating and the opposite of what I feel like I need to create something amazing.

Maybe you are still thinking that using words like “unrealistic” and “impossible” are taking it just a bit too far. That these are idealistic words we can throw out in philosophical discussions but don’t have any true meat behind them. I have over 20 years of experiences with students ranging from preschool to seniors in high school telling me otherwise. These interactions and journeys with thousands of kids have shown me that kids have a sixth sense. They know, almost immediately, if we adults have those impossible dreams for them, if we are the ones ready to be UNrealistic for them.

And let me ask you this. What is the other option? If we can’t be all in on being UNrealistic, are we hinging all of our energy and efforts on being REALISTIC?


Because being realistic leads to mediocrity. And mediocrity doesn’t motivate. Anyone.


How do you believe in the impossible? How can you create your future to make it happen? Here are 4 ways we can be UNrealistic together.

Know your WHY.

The vast majority of companies, schools, and people get it wrong from the start. If you focus on the WHAT (the results) and the HOW (the processes) rather than your WHY (the cause or purpose in the work), the work and people doing the work lose sight of the core value and aligning belief. Simon Sinek talks about The Golden Circle in this TED talk.Know Your Why (1)

You need to reflect on your personal WHY and then, as a team, clarify your shared WHY. After all, purpose is an incredible alarm clock and our jobs, which can seem like a mountain to be moved on the best of days, need an endless reserve of motivation. Knowing and reinforcing your WHY provides this. People don’t get burned out because of the WHAT and the HOW, they get burned out because they either don’t know of have forgotten the WHY. 

Build your TRIBE.

To be UNrealistic, you can’t go it alone. Start building your community, finding those that share your WHY. Seek out the greatness in others, and realize that, while alone we have lots to offer, together we are brilliant.

Say no to silos! Get connected through tools like Twitter and Voxer, step out of your classroom or office. Start sharing and collaborating through Google apps. Finding and building your tribe will have incredible impact on you and your purpose.Tell your story through blogging, learn from others, create content and put it out there. The power behind a tribe includes support and exponential impact.



We can’t expect to create the impossible without a positive mindset. This is not a Pollyanna positive where everything is rainbows and unicorns. This is the kind of positive leadership that rolls its sleeves up, gets messy, puts real issues on the table, has difficult conversations, is solutions-focused. The kind of positive that says “YES, we CAN do this and we WILL do this. Because this is our WHY.”

Too often, especially when we have impossible dreams and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, we listen to our inner critic. This negative voice inside our head tells us that we are frauds to even think we can achieve such greatness. To be UNrealistic, we need to stop listening and start talking. Fear is a liar and we need to start telling ourselves in affirmative, specific ways, that we CAN do this. I challenge you to form positive affirmations, statements that shine a light on your strengths and your purpose, that you tell yourself daily.


You, as a positive leader, own the energy you bring into this space. And make no mistake, your thoughts have energy and that energy is contagious. Start talking belief in yourself and your purpose and you will be amazed at how you have more strength to be different and think big, starve out fear, and beat average.

Get comfortable being UNCOMFORTABLE.

Take risks, fail forward, and be vulnerable by putting yourself out there. If you aren’t working towards something right now that makes you nervous, you need to think bigger. If there isn’t something on your calendar in the very near future that gives you some butterflies, you are being realistic.


If you are still shy about going big, ask yourself, “If I do this and fail, what is the worst thing that will happen?” You will learn a great deal, be more prepared to try again, and you will inspire others to take a risk. Wow! Pretty incredible side effects of failure, right? David Geurin has shared 11 Things to Be Instead of Comfortable if you’d like some additional inspiration to support you own your growth, communicate your commitment and realize you are capable of and made for amazing things.


What do you want your legacy to be? Think hard about this because there is no middle ground here. Either you’re committed or you’re compliant. Either you are remarkable or you are ordinary. Either you CREATE the future or you defend the status quo.

I want my legacy to be one of belief. I desire to be UNrealistic. Together.


What you do today is creating your legacy. What will your legacy be?


Things I Want My Teachers to Know


I use the term “teachers” broadly. Actually, at our school, we are all “leaders.” Teachers, custodians, administrators, counselor, cafeteria staff, we all have the title “Leader” on our name tags. As the principal of all of these amazing leaders, here are some things that I hope they know.


I believe in you and expect you to believe in yourself.

Not only do I have an endless purpose and passion for the work to which we have given our life, but I believe in YOU. I work hard to get to know you on a deep enough level that, while I will support your growth areas, I want to focus way more energy on your strengths. Let’s amplify your genius and create opportunities for you that shine a bright light on your gifts.

You do the most important work and have amazing abilities to transform your students’ success and empower them as leaders and learners. I commit to believing in you and building up that same belief in yourself.

I’m never too busy for you.

Inevitably, whether it is while I’m out in the building or in my office, someone will stop me because they need something. Maybe they have an idea they want to hash out, a problem they are trying to solve, or a celebration to share. Too many times, they start out by saying, “I’m sorry. I know you’re busy, but…” I will often intervene and say, “You know this is my job, right? To listen to you, to support you, to celebrate with you. I’m never too busy for you.”

After two years, I think this starter has become more infrequent. I don’t feel the need to wear my “busy badge” and parade the fact that I have a lot on my plate. My team knows I work hard. And more than anything, I hope they know that I am here to serve them and what they need to be their best.

We are a team and, together, we can do the impossible.

We fail and succeed together. Our students and school community need a team that, when our strengths are working together, there is nothing that can stop us. Because of this, I believe and cultivate a shared leadership culture that is strengths-focused. It is US against our inspiring, ambitious goals and how much we trust and value being a real team is the strongest indicator of what we will be able to accomplish for and with our students.

Go take risks. I have your back.

I have no desire to be ordinary or mediocre and I don’t want that for you, either. Being remarkable requires taking risks and having the courage to do things differently. If we are going to move forward on our path to greatness, we will have to support one another and know that there will be times when we fail forward. We will have to be comfortable being uncomfortable because our vision requires each of us to make sacrifices in order to grow. During that growth, calm your fears by knowing I will be there to support you.

I take my responsibility seriously but not myself.

I own the energy I bring into our school and know that I have an enormous responsibility. The accountability I feel to the success of our entire school community can be overwhelming, however I choose instead to be energized by my impact. I have strengths I bring to my leadership, but when you make a list of people who are not perfect, please include me at the top. My leadership is not about me, I check my ego at the door, and bring my unique gifts humbly to those I am blessed enough to serve.

We need honest and genuine conversations.

To be the best we can be, we will need to trust one another enough to have the difficult conversations. This includes two-way feedback, both constructive and affirmative. It also involves talking honestly around the dilemmas we face in education. What we do is complicated and messy. And that’s ok. Let’s agree to put the good, the bad and the ugly on the table and when we get up from the table, know that we’ll be better off because of the thoughts we’ve shared.

I will never apologize for working to create a culture of excellence.

We will do whatever it takes because our work is too important, our impact too great to do otherwise. I respect you and your work too much to lower my expectations and certainly our students deserve our highest level of belief. I am motivated by our shared WHY and honored that we are creating this culture together.

You are special.

There is one you. I value your uniqueness and all of those special gifts you bring to our school. I also love you. As a human. I care about your family, your interests, all of those quirky things that make you you. I am thankful our paths have crossed because you inspire me to be the best leader I can be.


I hope and am fairly certain that those with whom I work daily already know these things. One thing, however, I’ve learned as a leader is that I can never over communicate something of such importance. Better that I be transparent and build trust than assume and miss an opportunity.

Leaders, does your team know those things you would hope you convey? Would these be on your list? What else would you add?

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