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

PMP:093 Why are You Leading? 4 Questions for Refocusing on Your Destination

When I was in college I climbed my first mountain which was an active volcano near Guatemala City.

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We loaded a bus the night before and arrived hours before sunrise to begin our hike in the dark. As we made it up the mountain, the pale colors of morning began to greet us. With the altitude change came the hard work. Each one of us was catching our breath while plodding toward our destination.

The team leader for this climb had pulled all of us together before it began. He explained the route, described the climbing conditions, and gave each of us the opportunity to back out if the climb sounded too strenuous.

As we reached the last stretch toward the peak, the ground turned to rocky ash. Each step we would take forward would require the use of hands and knees. Soon we stopped talking as each person focused on the next step. Continue reading

PMP:092 Making ‘First Days’ Every Day, Using Key Responsibility Areas, and Helping Students Flourish

One of my favorite illustrations of the brain is not from a science magazine.

It is from a Mercedes Benz advertisement. In it you see a painting of the brain with the left side showing scaffolds, numbers, and graphs–a sample of analytical thinking. The right side of the brain is painted with vivid colors, swirls, and faces–an explosion of creativity.

I like to think of that brain illustration when I talk about school leadership because I believe strong leaders must consistently use both sides of their brains. You must have strong processes, procedures, and guidelines in place (left side of brain) while you also encouraging relationships, creativity, and innovation (right side of the brain).

This week’s podcast is a recording of a recent webinar I hosted concerning three topics that focus on creating the processes necessary for students to thrive. Continue reading

PMP:091 Reflecting on Lessons in Leadership

One of my favorite ways to enjoy a long drive is by listening to podcasts or audio-books.

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And I especially find biographies a helpful way to learn lessons about life and leadership.
Two audiobooks that I’ve enjoyed in my drives may sound like they have nothing in common: Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Lauren Hillenbrand and The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris.

As vastly different as the stories of a horse and former President can be, I find that both of them are full of similarities in the kinds of challenges, risk, courage, and strategies necessary to achieve goals and dreams. As you think about your own school leadership, how can you take lessons from those around you (both in person and in history) to reflect on ways to keep growing and learning? Continue reading

PMP:090 Why You Should Brand Your School with Marlena Gross-Taylor

When I was in junior high school, everyone on my basketball team wore Converse high-tops.

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I’ll never forget mine: they were the color of golden-rod, and I was so proud of them that I never wore them outside the gym because I didn’t want to scuff them up. For a thirteen year-old boy at the time, Converse was the only brand to wear. But a few years later, when Michael Jordan came on the scene during my high school years, Nike soon became the new must-have shoe.

Sometimes I think about the brands I like to buy, but it’s easy to forget that schools are also brands. Because schools are learning communities, they are much more than products; at the same time, students don’t just attend our schools, they experience them. When is the last time you thought about the feelings people have when they experience your school brand? Continue reading

PMP:089 Marching off the Map with Andrew McPeak

Recently, on a trip to Philadelphia, I was sitting in airport gate seating area, which gave me a view of the ground crews prepping planes for departure.

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Workers were driving baggage trains, pulling fuel trucks in and out, and loading bags on runways into planes.

While I watched them, I thought about how many people it takes for you to arrive at any destination. Whether you’re on the road or in the air, someone has to build the vehicles, hire the workers, schedule the routes, write code for mapping programs, or drill the ground for the necessary fossil fuels. But no matter how varied the people or methods for reaching your destinations, you can’t reach the road ahead unless those people or methods are reliable. Continue reading