PMP:103 Standing Back Up When You Feel Knocked Down

Last Sunday my family and I were watching the Winter Olympics when the men’s 30km Skiathlon began.

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As the race started, Norway’s Simen Krueger fell. Snow was flying all around him as two other skiers and he crumbled into one another. As the other racers left them behind, Simen scrambled back on his feet. His pole was broken, and he was in last place.

But Krueger was not finished. He replaced his pole and began a cadence that helped him advance toward the other racers. Over the next hour, he passed 63 other skiers to push his way to the front of the race. 1 hour, 16 minutes, and 20 seconds later, he crossed the finish line, raising his hands in the air and beaming with joy and relief. He had won the gold.

When interviewed Krueger later, he was asked what was going through his mind after his fall. He said: “I thought it was going to be the worst day of my life with the start I had, when I was lying on the ground with a broken pole and a ski through my bib number.” He continued, “I was completely last in the group so I had to start the race again and switch focus to catch up with the guys.” Continue reading

PMP:102 Four Essentials for Advancing in Your Leadership

Last week I was speaking to a group of Assistant Principals near Montgomery, Alabama, when I noticed a familiar face at a table near the back of the room.

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I saw a man whom I had met the day before on my ride from the airport to the conference center. Mr. Willie Lewis, a retired pastor, had told me his wife asked him to find something to keep him busy. So, he began driving for Uber. Now he had arrived early to drive me back to the airport.

As we made our way through the streets of Montgomery, we chatted about our work and families. He had been an author and also served as interim pastor to many congregations during his retirement. As we passed an exit sign for Selma, Alabama. I asked him if he had seen the movie, Selma, about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Continue reading

PMP:101 Strategies for Messaging with Teachers

This summer my wife and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

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For some reason, I’ve never thought of myself as older, but I realize now that I’m preparing for this anniversary, my children may categorize me that way. My wife, however, will forever be my young bride.

This reminds me of a story: An older married couple is celebrating their wedding anniversary, when the wife turns to the husband and says, “Darling, do you still love me?” And he replies, “Why, yes, I told you that I did 25 years ago.”

As school leaders, we may believe our teachers understand us just because we’ve delivered the message. But understanding is much deeper than simply hearing a message. And messaging with others in your school community requires more than simply relaying information.

Gary Smalley, author of The Five Love Languages, says that relationships are like a bank. To have a healthy “love bank” you must make more deposits than withdrawals. Continue reading

PMP:100 Celebrating One Hundred Episodes of Storytelling

When I was ten years old, I had an old tape cassette player.

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It was the kind that had a built-in speaker and looked like a radio the size of small book. You know, the kind with four square buttons on top: Rewind, Forward, Play, and Record.

Sometimes I’d lay on the carpet and tape myself making random comments. One day, I pushed the record-button and said, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. And welcome to WSM-Radio. This is your host, William Parker.” And for the next 20-minutes or so, I narrated my own news, weather, commercial breaks and updates—all in different voices.

Sometimes I played inside a cardboard box with a cut-out rectangle opening in the front. With a pencil, I had drawn-on some dials for changing channels. I’d entertain any of my siblings willing to watch me in my pretend-television. Once I set up chairs in a row in the living room and gathered my four siblings to sit there. We sang hymns, and then they listened to me preach. Afterwards, I served crackers and Kool-Aid for communion. Continue reading

PMP:099 Collaborating for Results – Interview with Dr. Judi Barber

This Christmas break, I took the family to see the newest Star Wars movie.

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If you haven’t seen it, please note the forthcoming spoiler alert. In the opening scene, Jedi-in-training, Rey, has journeyed to the planet where the retired Luke Skywalker, has hidden himself away from the universe and its troubles. She climbs the heights to his hidden village and finds him meditating on a cliff overlooking the sea.

Rey introduces herself: “I’m from the Resistance,” she says, “Leia sent me. We need your help.” To her surprise the elder Luke refuses to help and walks away. And thus, begins the most important conflict of “The Last Jedi” as Rey must find a way to convince Luke to train her and help her save the Rebellion. Thankfully, Luke finally begins training her and then takes the steps necessary to save the universe.

You can see the movie for yourself, but I had that opening scene in mind last week I traveled two hours from Tulsa to the backroads in Grove, Oklahoma. I was on my way to see a Jedi-master-in-education.

I wound my way up a long driveway to beautiful home nestled on a bay above Grand Lake. Standing on the front porch was Dr. Judi Barber and her husband Dennis. After a cup of coffee and some catching up, I asked Judi if I could interview her. This was her 50th year as an education leader, and I had sat under her teaching and coaching in my early years of school admin. She had agreed days before to letting me capture an audio recording of our conversation. Continue reading

PMP098: Messaging with Teachers – The Foundations, Models, and Framework for Strong Instructional Leadership

When I was in high school and college, I spent a lot of time diving for shells in the lakes near my home in West Tennessee.

It wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds. Lake diving is work that requires you to spend a lot of time in depths too dark to see while crawling mud or sand searching for shells with your hands. It is also a job that requires relatively good navigation and communication, especially on windy or stormy days. Continue reading

PMP:097 Building a Community of Messaging with Entanglement, Engagement, and Mission

Last month I enjoyed some time away with family in West Tennessee.

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When I was there, my son Jack and I hiked the backwoods behind my parents’ farm. There is a winding creek that runs behind the house. It’s filled with lily pads in the summer, and on the back end of the creek is a beaver dam that floods an area that is great for duck hunting. Although Jack and I didn’t do any duck hunting, we did enjoy tramping around the woods, walking fields, and just enjoying the time away. Continue reading

PMP:096 Wrapping up Another Year of Principal Matters + Bonus Takeaways

Happy New Year! As I look at the past year I am grateful for the connections, relationships and opportunities to grow personally and professionally.

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I wanted to say a special thank you to those of you who check out posts, listen to podcast episodes, or have read my books Principal Matters or Messaging Matters and shared the content with others. Most of all, thank you for applying the lessons we learn together as you continue your service to your teams, your schools, and your own personal development.

Five years ago, I launched my website, and a lot has happened since then. I like to look back each year to gauge growth and set goals for the coming year. Plus, I’d like to share some bonus takeaways with you on helping schools manage grief, essential roles for school leaders, and interview tips. Continue reading

PMP:095 Encouraging Childlike Wonder in Learning

A few years ago, I sat in a gymnasium with bleachers filled with middle schoolers while I watched high school student Jesse Haynes, one of my own Skiatook seniors at the time, share about his new novel he published that year.

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“This is one of my teammates and me after winning our first tournament of the year,” he said, as he scrolled through a Powerpoint presentation of himself playing basketball. Then he showed a photo of himself with his dog, and another one of himself sitting in his favorite chair at home where he wrote his first book.

Jesse was one of those students who didn’t need much encouragement to pursue his dreams or creative ideas. And he enjoyed sharing them with others. In fact, he possessed a rare gift. He believed that he could accomplish whatever he was willing to take action toward achieving. And that was his message for that gym full of middle school students. Continue reading

PMP:094 Ten Takeaways on Communication & Lessons in Teamwork

Just a few days ago I was presenting to principals in Wichita, Kansas.

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I was a little nervous because I had been having trouble with my voice from some bronchitis in my lungs. The doctor had given me some meds to combat the congestion, and my voice was returning. At the same time, I was reminded what a gift it can be to communicate with words.

Have you ever thought about how much communication affects your work as a school leader? I once heard someone say that communication is 100% of a principal’s job. At first I wasn’t sure if I agreed. But when I began to think about how much a school leader is involved in planning, conversation, counseling or sharing, I had to agree that every part of his or her job includes some form of communication. Continue reading