5 Mental shifts that highly effective school leaders make

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Stop complaining about time. It doesn’t help.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”

–Maya Angelou

Here is something you need to understand immediately:





So the fact that you are pressed for time doesn’t make you special, unique, or some kind of school leadership unicorn.

Instead of complaining about time, try the opposite. Be responsible for the time you have the privilege to have.

What if you chose to stop complaining about time today?

What if you decided that you had more than enough time to do everything you needed to do today?

If you adopted that kind of mindset right now, what changes?

Embrace your critics. They are a gift.

“The obstacle is the way.”

–Ryan Holiday

Most principals see critics as a problem. Their gut tells them to help the person find a new setting for employment.

Not Chris.

He sees his critics differently because he knows they are a gift. This is his superpower.

This ‘gift’ view is awesome. Here’s why …

When you CHOOSE to see your critics as a gift something inside you changes.

You no longer are in an US vs THEM mindset. You are now curious.

And when you are curious, amazing things happen …

Critics are a gift for three reasons:

  • Non-critics politely lie to your face while sharing the ‘truth’ and what they don’t like about you, your ideas, and so on, behind your back. Critics tell you exactly where you stand with them.
  • The critic’s concerns shows you the way forward. To address a critic’s concerns, you need to make your plan better and possibly provide more training, professional development, and other forms of education.
  • If you can address a critic’s concerns, you now have turned a critic into an evangelist. This is a powerful thing for a culture to experience.

“Doc” Jones learned this a long time ago and that is why his culture soars.

Embrace your critics. It will be great for your culture.

Teacher first principals do better than student first principals.

“[Y]ou don’t become a leader and then decide you need to support and recognize others more than yourself. It is the moment you realize it is about supporting and recognizing others that you become a leader.”

–Chris “Doc” Jones

I always found the idea that kids are first to be silly in school leadership.

I agree that kids are the reason we do our work in education and ultimately the experience we create for them is the foundation.

But if you always put kids first that means someone must come second.

That means your staff comes second.

That’s a terrible way to lead.

School leaders need to scale their impact. You can only do that by building a world-class culture where people feel seen, heard, and valued.

When the adults in your building feel important, they do their best work. They win. Kids win. It’s really that simple.

The inverse is also true. If adults are not a priority they start to play small. They hold grudges. They cut corners and resist going the extra mile.

And the kids lose. All because some principals choose to put kids before their staff.

Be accessible, but only some of the time.

“To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction. Put another way, the type of work that optimizes your performance is deep work.”

–Cal Newport

Here is one of the MOST misunderstood ideas taught in educational leadership: people before paperwork.

Possibly no idea has caused more damage in school leadership.

Because of this idea far too many school leaders have adopted a 24–7 “open door” policy.

I understand the heart behind the policy. School hours are generally from 8am-3:30pm. Outside of those hours there is little need to be in the halls and be visible. Outside of those hours you can’t observe classes.

But the problem with a 24–7 open door policy is that it limits your effectiveness.

If you save your paperwork and other admin duties too outside of school hours, when do you do it? At home.

And who pays the price? You and your family.

If you choose to save paperwork after school you won’t have time to work out, engage in hobbies, and connect with friends and family.

How sad!

And then you might get increasingly frustrated. Or you fight with your partners or children. Those negative emotions are then brought to school and infect your work. All because of an open door policy.

You don’t have to lead this way!

The one trait that poorly effective principals have in common.

“Isolation is the number one enemy of excellence.”

–Greg Salciccioli

The WORST leaders I know all share a common trait.

They work in isolation.

I don’t know why, but it seems to be the standard way of operating as a school leader. It’s also incredibly ineffective.

On the contrary, the BEST school leaders I know share another trait. They are connected. Their networks are vast.

Effective leaders regularly connect with other leaders to share best practices, discuss innovative strategies, and ask for their decision making to be sharpened.

You cannot do this on your own. It’s impossible.

Ready to Level Up?

I’ve created a 5-day challenge, “The Back to School Boot Camp,” that helps school leaders start the year off powerfully, intentionally, and together.

Over 5-days I will send you an inspiring video along with an actionable challenge to help you kick off the year.

I’ll encourage you to share your work in a private FB community to receive and give feedback, learn from others, and ultimately improve your back to school plan.

The challenge will help you grow relationships, improve communication, create a remarkable culture, learn the secrets of high level execution, and embrace the elegant idea, “less is more.”

Join the challenge today!



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