Friday, July 9, 2021

Good Intentions vs. Being Intentional

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The most effective and the least effective people in any profession have many of the same intentions. Most everyone has good intentions. They want to be successful in their work. They want to make contributions. They want to perform to the best of their ability.

And the same is true for educators as well. Educators want to make a difference for kids. Most every educator wants to make a greater impact, unless they've lost their way somehow.

But what ultimately makes the difference is not our intentions. It's our actions. It's having an indomitable will. It's preparing for success and then putting into practice our plan of action. It's developing the skills and habits needed to be great.

This time of year I'm always thinking ahead to the new school year and what I want to accomplish and where I need to improve. How can I drive better results and outcomes? How can I be a better leader?

My intentions are similar each year. I want stronger relationships. I want increased engagement. I want learning to be at the highest level possible. I want to inspire others to expand their capacity and be their best. I want to be the most supportive and encouraging principal possible.

But in spite of my good intentions, very little will change unless I am very intentional. 

To be intentional means to have specific actions to carry out your intentions. 

To be intentional means you have goals, plans, and steps forward.

To be intentional means you develop your habits to get the most out of your time and energy.

To be intentional means that you don't just hope to create change, but you impose your will to create change.

To be intentional means you implement design thinking to solve problems and develop solutions. You think strategically.

I want to caution here that I'm not suggesting that anyone needs to work harder this coming school year. I'm assuming you work extremely hard already and take great pride in how hard you work. This last year educators were pressed in on all sides. You can't work any harder!

However, I've noticed that even though I work hard every day, my results are not the same every day. Some days I seem to get more done. I'm more productive. I touch more lives positively. And I believe those are the days I'm most intentional. I keep first things first. I own my time instead of letting my time own me.

On those best days, I bring my "A-game." I want to bring my "A-game" every day! I want to be more intentional every day.

As you think about the upcoming school year, don't plan to work harder, plan to work smarter.

Move beyond having good intentions to BEING more intentional.

What are some ways you want to be more intentional this upcoming school year? How will you make sure that happens? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Behavior Is Communication: But How Should We Respond?

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All behavior is communication. It can provide us important clues about a child and let us know that something is wrong or that something is missing.

Most behavior is driven by legitimate needs. It's just that kids (and many of us adults too) don't always have the skills and maturity to meet our legitimate needs in legitimate ways. But everyone wants to have their needs met.

A compassionate and caring educator looks beyond the behavior to see the need. So instead of getting frustrated, angry, or impatient, they are curious and understanding. They try to see things from a different perspective.

A student's behavior usually says more about what they're going through than what they're trying to put you through. How many times has a student acted out or shown up poorly because of environmental factors? Something happened at home, at the bus stop, or during lunch? 

Or maybe an inner battle is happening because of past trauma or hurt.

So how can we respond to better understand what is behind the behavior?

Try these ideas depending on the age of the student and the situation. Be curious in how you respond to the child.

1. "Talk to me about the meaning behind what just happened."

2. "Talk to me about what you wanted when that happened."

3. "Share what you were experiencing (or what you were feeling) when that happened."

Notice these responses are not delivered as questions, and they could be just as easily. I heard Mike Rutherford present earlier this week, and he made a great point about how questions can feel like they should have a right answer. They have more power to make us defensive than a statement.

Also, these prompts are completely open ended. Avoid asking questions that make assumptions or feel accusatory. So don't ask...

Are you having a bad day?

What happened to you?

Why did you do that?

All of these questions are unlikely to be helpful. They will probably make the situation worse or the student will be less likely to open up and be reflective. 

If we can help students better understand their own needs and behaviors, then we are helping them to develop important skills to self-regulate. Punishing behavior may ensure compliance to rules, but it doesn't teach kids how to manage their own behaviors.    

What do you think about this quick behavior tip? What else would you add to this advice? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Three Ways Curiosity Makes You a Better Leader

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Curious leaders listen and make you feel supported, valued, and appreciated.

One of the best leaders I've known was also one of the most curious leaders I've known. He peppered me with questions from the first day I met him. He wanted to know my background, my story, my ideas on different topics. 

He was quick to ask, "What do you think?" about whatever we were discussing, and he was genuinely interested.

I always felt like I had a voice and my ideas mattered.

He made me feel much smarter than I actually am. It was motivating. It gave me energy to do more, to be more, and to ask more questions of the people in my circle. Curiosity is a game changer. It creates new ideas. It creates positive momentum.

Ask these questions to practice being a curious leader...

1. Who has been a big influence on you? Who inspires you?

2. What's something you're working on that you're excited about?

3. What would you do differently if you were principal? 

4. What's the toughest part of your job? 

5. What resources do you need to reach your goals?

6. How do you want your students to feel when they're around you?

7. How can I know if someone I'm speaking with would be a good connection for you?

8. Why did you choose to be a teacher/principal/etc.?

9. What's a book or movie that's inspiring to you?

No matter how the other person answers any of these question, be sure to take an approving, supportive stance. I guess you could ask these questions looking for a "correct" answer but that wouldn't be curiosity. That would be judgement. 

Be a learner, not an expert.

Curious leaders view difficulties and challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.

Poor leaders get frustrated by problems. Great leaders are fascinated by problems. They view challenges with a sense of wonder and awe and possibility. 

They focus on what they can learn from the problem. They don't get stuck as easily because they don't let what they can't do get in the way of what they can do. 

They invite others to work with them to solve the problem. They're open to creative solutions.

Curious leaders know the problem is not really the problem. They know the problem is really how we think about the problem. We can always control how we respond to the problem. 

Curious leaders believe every problem can be beneficial if we use it to learn and grow. Our struggles make us stronger.

Be fascinated, not frustrated. Shoutout to Dr. Rob Gilbert for sharing this idea on the Success Hotline.

Curious leaders have more empathy and embrace different perspectives.

Some leaders get offended when people behave badly or in ways they don't understand. They are quick to judge.

But curious leaders try to see things from the other person's perspective. They don't take things personally. They are not easily offended.

They try to understand poor behavior. They look past the behavior to try to identify a legitimate need the other person is trying to meet.

They don't assume they know another person's intentions. Instead, they invite the person into dialogue. They're curious about how the other person is experiencing the situation.

They don't judge. They try to understand.

Be curious, not furious.

Thanks to Dr. Bryan Goodwin for his work and inspiration around the importance of curiosity.

What are some other benefits of curiosity for effective leadership? What's a way curiosity has helped you? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.