Last month I enjoyed some time away with family in West Tennessee.
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.
The pros and cons of being so far out in the country also include the loss of internet service. For days, we had no access to email or social media unless we drove seven miles to the nearest town. One afternoon my wife and I drove there looking for a place to drink coffee and check email. The one coffee shop in the downtown area was closed, so we drove to two other restaurants before finally ending up at the local Walmart where we found an internet connection that worked.
Being unplugged, however, isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it is a good reminder that life goes whether or not you’re connected to the rest of the world. It is also a good time to reconnect with other joys like family, playing music, or hiking.
I don’t know about you, but most of the time when I check my email or social media feeds, I am not just looking for information. If I’m honest, I’m also looking for human connection. In some ways, it is ironic that our technology-connections are social outlets. We are rarely seeing others face-to-face in online settings; however, we derive some satisfaction from these digital tools that keep us connected.
Ultimately, relationships are what really influence so many of the choices we make, including how well we connect with our students, teachers, and communities.
This semester I am sharing a webinar series on my new book, Messaging Matters: How to Inspire Teachers, Motivate Students, and Reach Communities. Each week I will share takeaways on why messaging is an important part of your school leadership. In it, I take a deep-dive into what research says about engagement and leading others to reach shared goals. We explore how every part of the work you do in leading a school is somehow connected to your ability to communicate and build relationships.
Here is an outline of the points covered in the first webinar episode on Messaging Matters. You can learn more details by reading the book, listening to the podcast, or checking out the free video and slides:
- Entanglement and how it is affecting your connections
- A Messaging crisis and how you should respond
- What are the outcomes of positive messaging?
- Understanding the other side of the moon for yourself and others
- Takeaways from Jim Collins’Good to Great
- Applications from Gallop PollState of American WorkplaceResearch
- Foundational precepts for positive communication
Explore how human connections (seen and unseen) radically affect the choices you make. Are you influencing or being influenced by your school culture?
Why do most Americans grade public schools with D’s or F’s but give their local schools A’s or B’s? What responsibility do you have to change the general narrative about our schools?
Positive messaging provides ways for you to set vision, identify goals, predict challenges, respond to negatives, and reframe perspectives.
Not only do we have the responsibility to help others see the bigger picture, but also we must learn how to see the stories behind the stories.
Strong companies and strong schools have the same foundational practices.
Engagement requires winning the hearts and minds of others.
Building trust and producing outcomes is the bedrock for messaging.
Let’s Wrap This Up
As my son and I were hiking together, we crossed through a stretch of woods and into a series of fields where I hauled hay as a boy. In some ways those fields and forests looked the same as they did thirty years ago, but in other ways, the landscape had changed with taller trees in places or patches of woods that had been damaged by storms.
Just like our physical world changes, the ways we communicate are also constantly changing. But it should be no surprise that people are always looking for ways of communicating: whether historically like with the printing press and telephone, or today with text-messages or Voxer apps. At the end of the day, whether we are finding connections through technology or face-to-face, people find value in relationships.
As school leaders, keep in mind that people want to feel a sense of purpose and connection in their schools. Whether you’re communicating with team members, students, or community members, your messaging plays a powerful role in how engaged, entangled, and committed others feel to the mission and outcomes of your school.
Now It’s Your Turn
What goals are you moving toward this semester for building positive momentum? How can you build messaging around these goals? What steps are you taking to build positive engagement with students, teachers and community members? How are you sharing and celebrating classroom lessons that demonstrate the main goals of your school?
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Principal Matters–The Book!
School leaders are very busy, so each of the twenty-four chapters is designed as a quick-read and followed with take-action questions for follow-up or reflection. If you want practical ideas on understanding your purpose, managing school teams, dealing with challenges, and leading with courage, action, motivation, and teamwork, go HERE to pick up a copy for you or your team.
Harness the power of messaging to create a culture of acknowledgment, respect, and celebration. Written specially for leaders, this title is divided into three parts, helping readers to maximize their role as chief communicators with students, teachers, and parents and community. Each chapter includes suggestions for using digital tools to enhance messaging and ends with reflection questions and practical next steps.