Recently while attending the National Charter School Conference in Washington DC I was able to take a jog through the monuments. These leaders were the catalyst and change agents for ultimate reform in our country. My jog took me past the Washington Monument, down to Lincoln Memorial through the park. Lincoln Memorial has always been my favorite. However, this beautiful morning I ended up along the river to see the two monuments that are larger than life. Dr. Martin Luther King and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Mark Twain noted, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you discover why.”

As I read their quotes and reflected it was so clear that these leaders knew their WHY. They understood WHY each day they woke up, what their purpose on earth. They stood, at times completely alone, in the face of unpopularity and sacrifice. Dr. King paying the ultimate sacrifice, his life.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

At the charter school conference I had the privilege of learning from Tom Torkelson, founder and CEO of IDEA Charters. He stated that when reflecting upon his calendar he spent almost 60% of his day, on average, teaching adults how to lead other adults. He noted that the formula for  turnaround and changing an organization is Talent+Talent+Talent+Professional Capital.

As the pain from the two by four that Tom smacked me subsided my brain was able to think about my past decade in school leadership. I had invested lots of “professional capital” in myself. Two graduate degrees, tons of conferences attended and presented at, and my investment to become an Executive Director and cerified coach on the John Maxwell Team. However, I hadn’t invested too much in my team. Time wise I have spent countless hours reading, listening, reflecting and now writing. But I have yet to do an intentional book study with my team, scheduled professional development time with my team members. Yes, I have recruited them into the John Maxwell Team to learn from the top leaders that I am…but it’s not the same.

Leaders who are multipliers increase intelligence in people and in organizations. The people on the team actually get smarter and capable around them.The main role as a leader is to leverage the talent and gifts from each member of the team. A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is group of people who trust and care for each other.

This is probably the number one reason I feel overwhelmed, in constant struggle with not just being able to lead myself, but to lead a team. Anyone else feel this way?

I see this in the charter schools we work with. Especially the schools that are under performing.There is a lack of “teams” that are designed with strategy and intentionality. The tams are based on titles and seniority. They lack talent, capacity, experience, direction and execution.

As a result, the principal spends very little time focusing on the two most critical elements to school success:

  1. Instructional Leadership
  2. Building Team Leaders

However, effective principals build leadership teams by: 

1. Communicate the direction to create energy for their team:

Without happy, well equipped employees, organizational growth will be an energy consuming exercise in futility. The workforce will not be behind increasing productivity or student achievement as much as they will be behind crushing the vision and culture. That is achievable in their mindset.

2. Recruit the right people:

The right recruiting strategy brings in people who over time strengthen and build the culture. Bring in the wrong employee, because you had to, results in more damage and eventually creates more work for you.

3. Set and communicates clear goals:

Organizations that understand the goals will have a clearer path to achievement. With clarity, the organization’s HOW (instructional practices, philosophy, strategies and education plan) will be the focus of all. Those who are off track are visible to all and culture will navigate their actions back to where they need to be.

4. Invest in Professional Capital:

A school leader’s key to success is focusing on professional capital. How much of your school budget is allocated and aligned to the goal of developing the adults in your building (Board, leadership, teacher and staff)?

5. Build a Team that Completes:

Effective leaders focus on team over self. They know what they can and cannot do. So they hire the best people for the team with those skill sets, commit to ongoing development of high performance leadership team by intentionally developing the leaders around them. They build team environment, seek critical feedback empower staff to make decisions and get results.

6. Prioritize, Analyze, Plan and Execute:

Effective leaders know how to keep the main thing the main thing. Their meetings focus on priorities and results. They build a common a plan for success through collaboration, the write out the plan for consistency and accountability, they ensure buy in through communication, commitment and accountability. They monitor the plan regularly, adjusting the action through input from their team. Finally, they over communicate the team’s work with clarity.

7. Lead by Walking Around (LBWA):

Effective leaders do not lead from behind a desk or from their office. Each day you will find them in classrooms, engaged with their teams, building relationships and getting a pulse for the school’s energy. In addition, they are inspecting what they expect, and seeking to understand by asking questions, gaining information and hearing from their people.  

Today, take a look at your calendar for the week. How much time have you devoted to embedding any of these seven qualities that will certainly raise student achievement.  

If you’re asking yourself, where do I start? Utilize this opportunity to strengthen all aspects of your organization. Great organizations begin with the people first. Do you have the right people around you? If not, where can you find them? Everything begins with a thought. So, schedule thinking time (no phone, no internet, no distractions). To gain clarity, journal for ten straight days and answer the question, What is the day in the life of a student at your school?  Each day begin with a new page. Create clarity in your mind so you can communicate clarity to your team. If you need inspiration, take your team to a high performing school in the area.

Remember, nothing great was accomplished alone. So,do not operate as Lone Ranger leader and start building your team today.  


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