Wednesday, 15 June 2011


The blog is taking a short break......until Monday July 4.

Be sure to rejoin us on Monday July 4 to see what is new. 

Effective July 4, postings will be made on Mondays.  The blog will become the platform for a threaded discussion by educators - teachers, administrators, consultants - who work for one of the most successful school districts  in the world (PISA, 2011). 

Everyone is welcome to join.  Follow the discussion of these skilled and committed educators and feel free to add your thoughts if you wish. 

Mark your calendars..........Monday July 4!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

How Trustworthy are You as a Leader?

As a leader, how might your staff rank YOU in terms of trust?

Facets of Trust

  • caring
  • extending good will
  • having positive interactions
  • supporting teachers
  • expressing appreciation for staff efforts
  • being fair
  • guarding confidential information 

  • having integrity
  • telling the truth
  • keeping promises
  • honoring agreements
  • having authenticity
  • accepting responsibility
  • avoiding manipulation
  • being real
  • being true to oneself

  • engaging in open communication
  • sharing important information
  • delegating
  • sharing decision making
  • sharing power

  • having consistency
  • being dependable
  • demonstrating commitment
  • having dedication
  • being diligent

  • setting an example
  • engaging in problem solving
  • fostering conflict resolution (rather than avoidance)
  • working hard
  • pressing for results
  • setting standards
  • buffering teachers
  • handling difficult situations
  • being flexible

From:  Trust Matters by Megan Tschannen-Moran
Published by: Jossey-Bass

Monday, 13 June 2011

Crucial Conversations......and your thinking...

As a leader, how do you prepare your thinking for crucial conversations? 

Crucial Conversations.......starting points....

  • What do I want for myself?
  • What do I really want for others?
  • What do I really want for the relationship?

Once you've asked yourself what you want, add one more equally telling question:

  • How would I behave if I really wanted these results?

Find your bearings.  There are two good reasons for asking these questions.  First, the answer to what we really want helps us to locate our own North Star.  Despite the fact that we're being tempted to take the wrong path by (1) people who are trying to pick a fight, (2) thousands of years of genetic hardwiring that brings our emotions to a quick boil, and (3) our deeply ingrained habit of trying to win, our North Star returns us to our original purpose.

Take charge of your body.  The second reason for asking what we really want is no less important.  When we ask ourselves what we really want, we affect our entire physiology.  As we introduce complex and abstract questions to our mind, the problem-solving part of our brain recognizes that we are now dealing with intricate social issues and not physical threats.  When we present our brain with a demanding question, our body sends precious blood to the parts of our brain that help us think, and away from the parts of the body that help us take flight or begin a fight.

Asking questions about what we really want serves two important purposes.  First, it reminds us of our goal.  Second, it juices up our brain in a way that helps us keep focused.

From: Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzer
Published by: McGraw-Hill

Friday, 10 June 2011

Data: Use and Mis-use

As a leader, how do you guide appropriate use of data and for what purposes?

School districts have devoted significant resources to the development of data management systems.  There is an enormous amount of information available to us - sometimes so much that we don't know where to begin.  And, when we do take the plunge, we worry that perhaps the data are being used incorrectly, or even that some data should not be used at all.

When considering the potential uses of data, it is important for us as responsible professionals to also consider and be cautious of potential misuses.  There are two significant issues.  The first issue is balancing the individual's right to privacy with the staff's need for access to the data necessary to make decisions that will improve instruction and increase student achievement.  ...

The second potential misuse of data comes from the overwhelming amount of data now available to us.  Data mashups are integrations of data from various sources.  When those mashups make use of data that legitimately belong together, the interpretations made can be helpful and even insightful.  However, when well-intentioned but untrained individuals combine disparate data sets that do not belong together, the results are misleading and any interpretations of the data are invalid.

Issues of data mismanagement are best addressed through attention to school culture and to processes that mitigate concerns.  They cannot be allowed to derail efforts to use data appropriately to improve instruction and increase student achievement.

From:  The Evidence-Based School by Karen Hume
Published by: Pearson

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Finding Solutions to the hardest Problems

As a leader, what skills do you draw on to solve problems?

Your problem-solving process is principled.
  • The participants are the problem-solvers.
  • The goal is a wise outcome reached efficiently and amicably.
You separate the people from the problem.
  • Be soft on the people, hard on the problem.
Focus on interests, not positions.
  • Explore interests.
  • Avoid having a bottom line.
Invent options for mutual gain.
  • Develop multiple options to choose from; decide later.
Insist on using objective criteria.
  • Try to reach a result based on standards independent of will.
  • Reason and be open to reason; yield to principle; not pressure.

From:  Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, & Bruce Patton
Published by: Penguin Books

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

More on Leadership and Moral Imperative

As a leader, what does moral imperative look like in your leadership?

School leadership is serious business.  It takes a combination of clear personal values, persistence against a lot of odds, emotional intelligence, thick skin, and resilience.  It also takes a knack for focusing on the right things and for problem solving.  We will see plenty of named cases of this in action, but let us realize that the best leaders have strong values and are skilled at strategy.  Attila the Hun and Hitler meet this definition.  Leaders with moral purpose, on the other hand, have a different content - deep commitment to raising the bar and closing the gap for all students. 

Leaders need to support, activate, extract, and galvanize the moral commitment that is in the vast majority of teachers.  Most teachers want to make a difference, and they especially like leaders who help them and their colleagues achieve success in terrible circumstances.  Revealingly, once this process is under way, teachers as a group value leaders who help the hardcore resistant teachers leave.  When this happens, the cohesion of the rest of the staff actually increases (Bryk, Bender, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, & Easton, 2010; Linton, 2011).

From:  The Moral Imperative Realized by Michael Fullan
Published by: Corwin Press and OPC (the Ontario Principals' Council)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Evidence-based Decision Making

As a leader, how do you use evidence for decision-making?

It used to be that decisions were based on experience, intuition, and philosophical beliefs.  It used to be that an expert was someone who had done the exact same thing dozens, if not hundreds, of times.  While change is slow and "used to be" is often still current, even in some educational environments, times are changing.

Evidence-based decision making has long been recognized in the corporate world as resulting in increased focus, increased efficiencies of time and money, and (sometimes) increased effectiveness.  So, it is hardly surprising that governing bodies, whether they are the governments that pay for health care or the taxpayers who fund our schools, want to know that important jobs are accomplished with full consideration of all evidence that might help achieve greater success. 

There is a second reason for the increasing emphasis on evidence-based decision making.  We make greater use of data simply because technology has made it more accessible.  The advances in technology have provided us with the opportunity to store huge quantities of information, maintain large databases, and access the databases of others.  (Not all schools and districts currently have the technology to do these things; fortunately, effective data analysis and interpretation do not depend on them.)  Technology even allows us to merge information from a variety of databases to create data "mashups" - integrations of data from various sources.

From:  The Evidence-Based School by Karen Hume
Published by: Pearson

Monday, 6 June 2011

School Leadership and Power

As a leader, what type of power do you exercise: coercive, utility, or legitimate?

Power can be defined as having great influence and control over others.  Leaders gains it through positional authority and/or by earning respect and developing a following.  Regardless of how leaders gain power, they must use it appropriately and morally.  If they fall in love with the idea of power, they may end up taking actions that are in the interest of retaining their power, not in meeting their mission.

Stephen Covey (1990) identified three different types of power used by leaders.  When a leader uses coercive power, follower follow because they are afraid.  They will either be punished in some way or lose something if they fail to do what the leader wants.  For example, too often we see education leaders use accountability for student learning as a threat instead of as an opportunity to work together to solve problems.  When a leader relies on utility power, followers follow because of the benefits they will receive if they comply.  This model sees the leader-follower relationship as transactional - they follower will do something for some reward (for example, paycheck, bonus, or recognition).  This type of power is the most commonly used in organizations.  The third type of power - legitimate power - is focused on building commitment and trust.  Followers follow because they believe in the leaders, trust them, and want to achieve the same purpose.  This is the type of power that is the strongest and most effective.

From:  Leading Every Day by Joyce Kaser, Susan Mundry, Katherine E. Stiles, & Susan Loucks-Horsley
Published by: Corwin Press

Friday, 3 June 2011


As a leader, how do you support the development of relationships among the members of  your staff?

Relationships: The Pathways of Organization

Relationships are the pathways to the intelligence in the system.  Through relationships, information is created and transferred, the organization's identity expands to include more stakeholders, and the enterprise becomes wiser.  The more access people have to one another, the more possibilities there are.  Without connections, nothing happens.  ... In self-organizing systems, people need access to everyone; they need to be free to reach anywhere in the organization to accomplish work. 

To respond with speed and effectiveness, people need access to the intelligence of the whole system.  Who is available, what do they know, and how can they reach each other?  People need opportunities to "bump up" against others in the system, making the unplanned connections that spawn new ventures or better-integrated responses. 

From: Finding Our Way by Margaret Wheatley
Published by: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Sustainable Leadership

As a leader, how are you engaging with the principles of sustainable leadership?

Hargreaves and Fink (2006) lay out a radical agenda for shaping the capacity of school systems to engage in continuous improvement.  Their seven principles of sustainability in concert focus on sustainable leadership as the solution:

  1. Depth (sustainable leadership matters)
  2. Length (sustainable leadership lasts)
  3. Breadth (sustainable leadership spreads)
  4. Justice (sustainable leadership does no harm to and actively improves the surrounding environment)
  5. Diversity (sustainable leadership promotes cohesive diversity)
  6. Resourcefulness (sustainable leadership develops and does not deplete internal and human resources)
  7. Conservation (sustainable leadership honours and learns from the best of the past to create an even better future: pp.19-20)

From:  Turnaround Leadership by Michael Fullan
Published by: Jossey-Bass and OPC

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Six Secrets of Change

As a leader, do you know the six secrets of change and do you know how to use them?

The Six Secrets of Change

1. Love your employees - The key is in enabling employees to learn continuously and to find meaning in their work and in their relationship to coworkers and to the company as a whole.

2. Connect peers with purpose - ...foster continuous and purposeful peer interaction. ... The job of leaders is to provide good direction while pursuing its implementation through purposeful peer interaction and learning in relation to results. 

3. Capacity building prevails - Capacity building entails leaders investing in the development of individual and collaborative efficacy...

4. Learning is the work - ...there is far too much going to workshops, taking short courses, and the like, and far too little learning while doing the work.  Learning external to the job can represent a useful input, but if it is not in balance and in concert with learning in the setting in which you work, the learning will end up being superficial. 

5. Transparency rules - By transparency I mean clear and continuous displays of results, and clear and continuous access to practice (what is being done to get the results).

6. Systems learn - Systems learn on a continuous basis.  The synergistic result of the previous five secrets is tantamount to a system that learns from itself. 

From:  The Six Secrets of Change by Michael Fullan
Published by: Jossey-Bass