Take Twelve for Leaders

Part I

From People Matters magazine, then again in Critical Thinking, January 2016, there is a look at the competencies of leadership for the future. Almost every article published from the Neuroscience or from business leader publications focus on skills needed by our leaders. We love to have conversations about these ideas in all our seminars. Let’s look and celebrate the insights from this latest list.

The rate of change has become greater than our ability to respond. The world is described as Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Due to the major tectonic shifts, a new mindset of leadership is demanded. Traditional hierarchical structures are fading away to give way to purposeful networks and communities of people working together to achieve a shared purpose. It is reported that to succeed and thrive in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world these 12 competencies are required.

  1. Develop an Adaptive Mindset: Be comfortable with unclear situations and unexplored paths. Giving and receiving early and frequent feedback will enable constant realignment.
  2. Have a Vision: Vision is a perpetual force, a critical anchor that drives decisions, actions and judgments. Having a compelling vision is a key driver of engaging and retaining high performing team members.
  3. Embrace Abundance Mindset: Abundance mindset sees possibilities where a constraint mindset sees challenges.
  4. Weave an Ecosystem for Human Engagement: An ecosystem of human engagement is created when leaders understand the basic driver of human engagement – the need for trust, the need to have hope, the need to feel a sense of work and the need to feel competent. Leaders who coach will clarify the meaning of the work people do and build a positive influence.
  5. Anticipate and Create Change: As leaders ride the wave of change, they will want to involve people in the process to prioritize and execute. Leaders nurture change by balancing the needs of the context, needs of others and their own needs.
  6. Self-Awareness: It is only when leaders are aware of their preferences, ways of working and blind spots that they bring their true authentic selves and thus, a significant difference to the team and the organization. (Emotional Intelligence)
  7. Be an Agile Learner: Leaders have to be constantly curious and carry a “beginners mind” which is also willing to give up familiar approaches. Leaders need meta-cognition and awareness of the bigger picture.
  8. Network and Collaborate: Leaders must collaborate relentlessly within and outside the organization; a social mindset of communication.
  9. Relentlessly Focus on the Customer: Customer centricity is and will remain at the heart of effective leadership. Customer centric leaders truly “listen” to their customer voices and build long term relationships.
  10. Develop People: Leadership in the new world is beyond tags and titles. Leaders must model the behaviors they seek, support people in building their skill set and attitude, create learning forums, design work to tap into potential and most importantly – lead thru influence not authority.
  11. Design for the Future: Leaders are designers of the future. They do so by building an emotional infrastructure, organizational structures, methods and processes. Leaders must have a compelling purpose shared by all.
  12. Constantly Clarify and Communicate: Communicating effectively is like a location pointer on a GPS – constantly clarifying the current situation with respect to the changing external demands. Leaders will reiterate and reinforce vision, values, and strategies and the meaning of the work.

The hallmark of this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world is that there are no silver bullets. The future is here and now. Communication and clarity are the currencies of effective leadership. Leadership today is about shifting our mindset, values and organizations to a better place.

It is rewarding and exciting to hear the leaders in our seminars eager to have and develop these competencies.

Join me in our nugget for some thoughts about TIME.

We Did It! – Measuring Impact

Congratulations! This month’s three-part focus has been on celebrating the impact of coaching from one district’s perspective. Now, we will celebrate one school’s success in a year’s time.

Jackson Middle School is a technology magnet school in Garland ISD. In 2014, the school was struggling with Index 2 on the state accountability system. This index is the Student Growth index and Jackson was at 29; one point from the minimum of 28. While other accountability indexes were okay, the team knew that Index 2 was a predictor for future problems in the other indexes if no action was taken.

In a data analysis session, the team realized that honor students were not growing; thus finding themselves at a critical disadvantage when compared with students in other schools. By the next testing year (2015), Jackson’s Index 2 went from 29 to 38 which was one of the highest in the district among middle schools. Jackson staff and students had reversed the trend and were showing the greatest growth among the district Middle Schools. In Math alone, students went from 44% to 82% meeting or exceeding expectations. In addition, Index 1 went from 79 to 82, Index 3 from 42 to 50, and Index 4 from 51 to 59.

According to David Dunphy, Jackson Principal, “There were a lot of factors that resulted in our improvement. We did intensive interventions and ensured all of our students had a 30 minute intervention/growth period, instituted the “Jackson Essential 6” – strategies and practices that all teachers were expected to implement, and initiated the coaching model with our core teaching staff.” For 2014, Jackson’s Essential 6 were Framing the Lesson, Frequent Small Group Purposeful Talk, Recognition and Reinforcement, Critical Writing, Philosophical Chairs, Socratic Seminar.

There was also an effort to separate coaching from evaluation; a concept from Bambrick-Santoyo’s Leverage Leadership. All core teachers were coached by the three administrators and the two counselors on our campus. Mr. Dunphy received the Results Coaching training in the summer of 2014 after which he requested his Assistant Principals and counselors attend the training as the school year started.

These five members of the leadership team then divided up the core tested subject area teachers and established coaching relationships with them. This included all math teachers, all reading teachers, 7th grade English, 8th grade science, and 8th grade social studies teachers. Each leader had about 5 teachers they coached each week. The coaching model was implemented with observations and coaching conversations held each week as much as possible. The administrators were careful to coach only those teachers they did not appraise with the official evaluation system (PDAS). This ensured trust was built so teachers could be vulnerable and really work on their craft without worry that it would be reflected in their appraisal.

There was emphasis on and statistics kept on the Jackson essential 6 strategies with the teachers, especially when they were at a loss for what to be coached on. For the most part, teachers were able to articulate their area for coaching each week. Some stayed with the same topic as they were improving and others went from one area to another as they saw growth and accomplishment. Videotaping of the observations and coaching sessions were also used to help the coaches improve their own coaching.

The Administrative team including the Area Director held standing meetings every Thursday where they followed a protocol for holding themselves accountable for progress. Each week’s Agenda included:

  • Reporting on the previous week’s commitments
  • Updating the Scoreboard to ensure sustained progress toward the established goals
  • Creating the next step in the plan – to clear the path for new commitments
  • Practicing coaching in a coaching lab format to review and offer feedback on a coaching video. Responsibility for the video rotated each week and was available to the team for preparation on Tuesday before meeting on Thursday.

So, that brings us back to the question posed at the beginning of this month’s series. “Does coaching make a difference?” Well, as you know from our seminars, that is a “yes/no” question that does not presume positive intent. Instead, we ask, “In what ways is coaching making a difference where you work?”

How are you measuring your impact with coaching? Stop, reflect, and celebrate your success. And, as a footnote, share your successes with us!  (*_*)

“Thanks, My Instructional Targets are Crystal Clear” – Clearly Articulated Standards and Expectations

Earlier this month we shared how a change in mindset from “gotcha” to growth, along with reflective feedback that’s focused on what’s working, can change the results one gets. This conversation is about how adding clear standards and expectations can magnify the impact of coaching. This continues one district’s story . . .

In Garland ISD in Texas, Area 3 set out to define a set of instructional targets so that it was clear what was expected in the teaching and learning cycle. Teacher focus groups were formed to create a framework or rubric of what observers would “see” when looking for the key strategies in instructional rounds – what teachers would be saying and doing AND what students would be saying and doing. Descriptors were developed along a continuum from beginning to developing to ideal with a spotlight on any “missed opportunities”.

I know the BIG question in your mind is, “What were the 5-6 key strategies of focus?” And you know, the magic comes less from naming the strategies to the process used to determine the answer to this question, “What key strategies, if we did them with fidelity and rigor, would give our students the success they deserve?” For Area 3, sample strategies included Fundamental Five, Critical Writing, Power Zone, Recognize and Reinforce, Framing the Lesson, and Frequent Small Group Purposeful Talk. Schools could customize their focus based on student needs so additional strategies may or may not have been included.

While the effort to create clarity was critical to the change process, it was not enough! The real impact appeared when it came time for administrator conversations with teachers, conversations among teachers, and conversations in PLCs about student performance. Without any language of judgment, “missed opportunities” became genuine conversations about how a teacher was working to become better. Using the framework, teachers were clear about where they were and how they wanted to advance to the next level.

Sherri Skelton, our district contact, sees this as direct transfer of the skillset from the training when she says, “It is critical that our leadership is skilled in developing relationships built on trust and respect so that the skills and strategies of coaching become an integral part of each conversation. We continue to hear examples of meaningful coaching conversations that have impacted both teachers and students.”

For this story, evidence that coaching is making a difference includes:

  • A focus on what is expected – explicitly and articulated.
  • A belief that growth will be magnified when teachers are partners in the process of improvement.
  • An understanding that judgment undermines the growth process and that trust and respect support it.
  • A belief that coaching conversations are the way to see deep and lasting change.

What difference are you seeing in your conversations as a result of clearly articulating the standards and expectations?

From “I Don’t Want Your Feedback” to “Please Give Me Feedback” – A Shift in Mindset

Let’s begin with a recent conversation with Jasper ISD Superintendent, Gerald Hudson. It’s late on a Friday afternoon, long after the work day is over and the phone rings. Gerald, who has been in his position less than 6 months, says, “My folks want coaching!” Having known Gerald for many years, I respond with surprise, “Really. You haven’t been in your district that long. What specifically did you do to convince them that they want coaching?”  He says, “Nothing!” I’m surprised again. Then he says, I took them to my “people” in Garland ISD (Gerald’s former district where he served as an Area Director.) AND they sold them on the idea.

So . . . what did they say?

One thing they said was, “In a year’s time, teachers went from being reluctant to receiving feedback to asking their administrators to come into their classrooms to give them feedback.” Well, that’s a switch. To what did they attribute this significant shift in mindset? Several things were noted as contributing to this change – training in the language of coaching, a new appraisal process that focused on a growth mindset, and clear standards and expectations for teaching. Supporting these changes was considerable professional learning for teachers that included them as partners in the improvement process. Springing from the expectations for teaching, teachers set their own improvement goal which was a new element. As a result, this focused the observation and thus the feedback on what the teacher wanted rather than what was missing or absent in the lesson. The language changed from what was wrong to what was “seen” as well as any “missed opportunities” which created curiosity and motivation for possibilities for growth.

This sounds exactly like the feedback we teach – value/value potential statements and reflective questions for possibilities – both generated from the strength of what a teacher is doing well and what he/she wants to do next.

This is just one of the things the Garland people shared with Gerald’s team. In the blog, we’ll hear about what they said about the importance of creating clarity around the standards and expectations for the work.

In summary, here is the evidence-based data that coaching is making a difference.

  • A shift in mindset from compliance to growth.
  • A goal-driven process leading to focused observation and feedback.
  • The intentional language of coaching that looks for strength and what’s working.
  • Presumption that the teacher is a professional who wants to improve and grow. (Status and autonomy of SCARF)

What is the mindset about feedback where you work? How is coaching supporting the change in mindset that you want?

Five Ways For Principals to Keep More Irreplaceable Teachers

Here are five tips from The New Teacher Project on ways for principals to keep more irreplaceable teachers. It’s all about sitting with teachers and having clear and authentic coaching conversations and providing reflective feedback to them. How do these tips match your current practices and what new ideas are coming to mind as you reflect on the information below?

    The best teachers want clarity. Use meeting or orientation time at the start of the year to rally teachers around a clear and specific definition of excellent teaching and a set of goals for making the school a better place for learning. Then, with the teacher, set individual goals aligned to that vision. Tell teachers that you will observe them frequently and that you will be honest when they are falling short. Be clear that ineffective teaching is not an option.
    Don’t let success be a secret. Set aside 5 to 10 minutes in regular meetings to publicly celebrate teachers who have done exceptional work in the classroom or achieved a notable milestone with their students. Congratulate them and tie what they’re doing to the school’s goals and vision of great teaching. Don’t praise everyone every time; nothing demoralizes Irreplaceables more than false praise for mediocre or poor performance.
  4. Make it hard to leave your school. List the teachers who are most critical to your school’s academic success and spend time with them. Observe them at work and offer regular feedback. Get to know their interests and development needs, help them access resources, and give them opportunities to grow their careers and increase their impact. Invest them in the school by involving them in decision-making, and make sure other school leaders treat them well, too.

    Many teachers use the winter holidays to think about what’s next. Set aside time after Thanksgiving to talk with your Irreplaceable and rising-star teachers about continuing to teach at the school next year. Tell them that they are irreplaceable and how much you want them to return. Ask them about their own interests and concerns, and if they are considering other options, ask what you can do to convince them to stay.
    Schools that refuse to tolerate poor teaching keep more of their top teachers. Inevitably, some teachers will struggle, despite good intentions and hard work. Be honest with them about their weaknesses, give them regular feedback and support, and set reasonable limits on how long they have to show significant improvement (months, not years). Make sure they don’t get mixed messages from other school administrators or coaches. However difficult it may be, do not allow unsuccessful teachers to linger.

Ways to Retain High Performing Teachers

male teacher holding booksWant to know what high-performing teachers say they desire to have in order to stay working at their current schools? The New Teacher Project report of 2012 says that three of four high-performing teachers with plans to leave their schools would stay if their top reasons for leaving improved. Here is what high performing teachers say they want. Notice how these desires align with schools where leaders demonstrate coach-like behaviors as they interact with staff, including having conversations where reflective feedback is a natural course of action by the leader.

How does this list align with your own actions to intentionally provide a culture where highflying teachers are eager to work and support the overall goals of the school and the school district? What else would you add to this list?

  1. Provide me with regular, positive feedback.
  2. Help me identify areas of development.
  3. Give me critical feedback about my performance informally.
  1. Recognize my accomplishments publically.
  2. Inform me that I am high performing.
  1. Identify opportunities or paths for teacher leader roles.
  2. Put me in charge of something important.
  1. Provide me with access to additional resources for my classroom.

What Will It Take?

What does it mean to be irreplaceable in the work world? Some might say it’s a reference to people who do their work at an exceptional or outstanding level. They are known as highflyers, super stars, indispensables and considered critical to the success of the organization. If we lost even one of these people, it would be a great loss to the organization and a real challenge to replace him or her; thus the term Irreplaceable. Irreplaceable teachers are those that have great success with advancing student learning and developing productive relationships with their students, parents of students and with other staff members. They are committed to the advancement of all students and the entire staff. Clearly, we don’t want to lose even one of these key staff members.

Yet, a current research study shows how some principals have lost teachers considered irreplaceable simply by not letting them know how much value they bring to the school. In July of 2012, The New Teacher Project (TNTP) released a report on a study they conducted related to ways to retain the top 20% of teachers, known as the irreplaceables, in large urban school districts. Here is a link to the entire report. Their findings give us all, whether in urban, suburban, large or small school districts, information to reflect on and consider as we close out one school year and prepare for another.

The report shares a story of an elementary teacher named Sarah, who had over three decades of successful results in large urban school districts. She intentionally came to a low performing school district in the south in response to her personal mission to serve students in great need and to share her expertise with others. Almost all of the twenty-four students assigned to her fourth-grade class spoke Spanish at home with limited English skills. However, by the time the spring testing for reading and math took place, all but one of her students passed the math test and all but four passed the reading test. These results were much higher than other classes at her school and throughout the district. Not only did Sarah’s students perform well on the academic exams, they also grew to enjoy school and developed a deep sense of care and concern for each other and for their teacher. Sarah loved working with the students, was committed to them and proud of their accomplishments. She had no intentions of leaving the school. Yet, as the school year came to a close, Sarah felt devalued, having received little recognition from school leaders for her efforts and accomplishments. She had not been asked to share her instructional expertise with others, and received no positive statements or support from leaders for the team-building approaches that helped boost her students’ performance.

In an environment of indifference and isolation, Sarah made the decision to leave the school at the end of the school year. She felt that even though her students had made extraordinary results in one year, their growth would not be sustained or expanded on if they were assigned to a poor teacher the following year.

When Sarah resigned, her principal did not say a word to her, he just signed her paperwork. The saddest part of this whole story is what Sarah had to say about the principal’s reaction. “If he would have said, ‘What’s it going to take for me to get you to stay?’ that’s all he had to do,” she said.

We know that this story is not playing out in the schools where you work and lead. You know the importance of providing your teachers with specific language that represents value for their work, contributions and accomplishments. You would never let an outstanding teacher walk away without finding out what it would take for him or her to stay. You know that your high performing teachers desire to hear you recognize their hard work and accomplishments as you also provide expanded leadership opportunities for them and challenge them to continue to stretch in their work. You know what it takes to keep your outstanding teachers feeling respected and appreciated. For that we thank you!

YET—The Magic Word

As we continue to explore our positivity mindset and genuine, authentic, heartfelt positivity, adding the concepts of possibility and potential and the word “yet”, broadens and builds on our own self-talk and the words we offer to others. People often tell us that they have the most difficulty believing in others and offering value statements and questions that presume positive intent when their history with that person leads them to expect less than standards met or exceptional behavior. When we truly believe that people can and will grow and want to contribute, the word “yet” helps us form a positive approach.

  • Self-defeating self-talk: “It’s just impossible to find time in my busy schedule to exercise on a regular basis.”
  • More empowering: “I haven’t found the best way to make regular exercise part of my weekly habit…YET! I will continue searching for something that works for me.”
  • Mental talk regarding others: “She just needs to get her act together. I am tired of the same old unwillingness to make the changes required to meet our goals.”
  • More empowering: “She hasn’t YET realized the importance of making the changes. Or maybe she really doesn’t understand how important her actions are in making them happen. Perhaps I can coach her toward deeper understanding and positive movement if I truly believe she is capable and willing and just hasn’t found a way to begin…YET.”

The word “yet” holds potential for future change as well as movement toward the desired result. It is deeply connected to the positive emotion of hope, which is sparked within the moments when despair is most likely. It contains the belief that things can and will change. It sustains us when circumstances are dire. Hope energizes us to do as much as we can to make life good for ourselves and for others.

As is often quoted, “Hope is not a strategy.” Hope IS the emotion that pulls us out of the mire into a place of developing strategies and designing actions to move us forward. Hope lifts us out of our past, our negative presuppositions and toward resourcefulness. Hope energizes us to continue forward movement.

  • How will you reframe your own negative self-talk by adding the magic word, YET?
  • How will you reframe your lack of belief in someone based on past behavior by adding the magic word, YET?
  • What is one thing you will commit to take action on that you haven’t done YET?

The Positivity Project: Making a Difference in the Lives of Students

In one of our recent seminars, one of our participants, Andy Camarda, principal of Lemon Road Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, spoke about his school’s association with the Positivity Project. The Positivity Project is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to empowering America’s youth to build strong relationships and to understand, appreciate, and exemplify the character strengths in us all. Students emerge with genuine self-confidence, greater appreciation for others, and stronger relationships by learning about the 24 positive character traits in all humans, regardless of culture, economics, or age. Inherit and deeply embedded in this work, is the idea that “other people matter” and students learn to think beyond themselves realizing the impact of their actions and words, supporting others when they struggle, believing that together we can achieve more, and cheering the successes of those around us. Therefore, the focus switches from solely academic achievement to relationships and purpose.

Each week, Lemon Road students learn about a particular character trait during their Morning Meeting. Some of the 24 universal traits include: gratitude, integrity, humility, kindness, zest, and optimism. Students discuss the traits with their classmates, identify ways to recognize them in others, and grow in their understanding of why exemplifying these traits is important. They appreciate the traits within themselves as well as their classmates. As a result, student relationships deepen with each other and with their teachers. They begin to say “Hey, John is demonstrating the trait of kindness just now” or “Annika is full of humor and zest!” In a recent curriculum night for families, parents and students were able to take the Values in Action character survey to identify their top character traits. They then set goals as families to develop a particular trait together. Again, switching the focus from accomplishments to relationships… from getting things done to being the person we want to be!

Positivity: Don’t Just Put a Happy Face On It

The concept of positivity has nothing to do with putting a happy face on something! This seems a bit counterintuitive, as we hear messages through songs, poetry, literature and other popular culture venues that encourage such behavior. Simply putting a happy face on something is a way of temporarily dealing with sadness or disappointment or even masking a deeper emotion or truth.

If positivity isn’t putting a happy face on something, then what is it?

Positivity has to do with a mindset that is pervasive. Positivity has long-lasting benefits that permeate day-to-day thinking and behaviors. It is a way of broadening one’s mindset. “Because open mindsets produce exploration and experiential learning, they also produce more accurate mental maps of the world.” (Fredrickson, 2009) Now there’s a concept to consider! Fredrickson claims that negativity and neutrality hold us back, constraining our knowledge and therefore our experience of the world. Heartfelt positivity has the power to contribute to moving one to higher levels of mental complexity—the self-transforming mind–open, flexible and curious.

Fredrickson describes 10 positive emotions that are present most frequently in people’s day-to-day lives. These are:

Joy: Things are going your way or even better than expected. Little effort on your part is required.

Gratitude: Gratitude comes when we appreciate something that has come our way as a gift to be treasured. It opens your heart and carries the urge to give back.

Serenity: Like joy, it requires little effort on your part. It is more low-key than joy. It is a mindful state. Fredrickson calls it the afterglow emotion.

Interest: You are pulled to explore something new or different that draws your attention. You are filled with a sense of possibility. Interest requires effort and attention on your part.

Hope: Hope is sparked within the moments when despair is most likely. It contains the belief that things can and will change. It sustains you when circumstances are dire. Hope energizes us to do as much as we can to make life good for ourselves and for others.

Pride: Pride is a self-conscious emotion. If gone to far it can become negative. Pride is positive when tempered with humility. Pride fosters the motivation to achieve.

Amusement: True amusement spurs the urge to share laughter with others, signaling that you find your current situation a safe place to share lightheartedness and build connections with others. It is a social emotion.

Inspiration: Inspiration creates the desire to be at your highest and best. Along with gratitude and awe, inspiration is one of the self-transcendent emotions, pulling us out of ourselves into a broader world.

Awe: Awe is closely related to inspiration. We are compelled to see ourselves as a part of something larger than ourselves. When in awe, we feel literally overwhelmed by greatness.

Love: Love encompasses all the positive emotions listed above. It is the most common positive emotion that people feel and has many facets. Feeling recurrent surges of love actually changes the inner chemistry of our bodies, creating biological responses linked with lifelong bonds, trust, and intimacy.

Authenticity is the bedrock of heartfelt positivity. Expressions or words that are positive without authenticity as a base do more harm than good. Such expressions are perceived as empty at best and manipulative at worst. True belief in others is the mindset that underpins the positive statements we offer in coaching and feedback. So, don’t just put a happy face on something! Reach for a genuine feeling of a positive emotion. Buoy yourself and others up in an authentic way with heartfelt positivity.