November 8, 2019
Leadership Lessons Continued

Last week I wrote about 5 of the 15 Leadership Lessons from the article “ 15 Leadership Lessons Coaches Wish They Knew When They Started Their Careers ,” by the Forbes Coaches Council. This week I will put my spin on the next 5 lessons.

6.   Admitting a Weakness Conveys Confidence . This is an interesting leadership lesson. Most of the time, we would think that leaders should not admit their weaknesses, but this lesson states we should admit the weakness. In my career, I often have admitted a lack of knowledge or skill in doing my work. It is not a sign of weakness to admit the trait; rather, it is weak to not try to learn and improve on the weakness. I often ask educators what book they are reading and if in reading that book they learn something they can apply to their leadership role. I usually find great wisdom in these books I can apply to my own work.

Another aspect of this lesson is admitting when you make a mistake and taking action to correct the mistake. Too often I see leaders cover up a mistake, blame others or just ignore the mistake. Everyone makes mistakes:  own it, correct it and move on.

7.   Context and Timing Often Matter More Than Content . I have worked with school leaders in the past who attempt to improve the organization by throwing multiple solutions at the middle level leaders. People quickly become overwhelmed and nothing seems to work. I think it is much better to agree on a strategic approach and master one strategic goal at a time. Leaders need to conduct an environment where the subordinates feel free to say, “No, we can’t do this new thing without dropping one of these old things.” Set one goal a time, achieve the goal and then go to the next goal.

I love the strategies taught in the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution . The first D is Focus on the Wildly Important. Chris McChesney writes “There will always be more good ideas than there is capacity to execute.” A wildly important goal starts with narrowing the focus— clearly identifying what must be done, or nothing else you achieve really matters much. 

8.   Empathy and Listening Go a Long Way . I wish I knew this lesson earlier in my career. Truly listening to what people have to say is so important. I love the Covey Indian Stick metaphor; the listener cannot talk until the listener tells the talker, to the talker’s satisfaction, what the talker is saying. When the listener does this the listener then gets the Stick and keeps the Stick until the new listener follows the same process. Too often we are thinking about what we are going to say next and not really listening to what the talker is saying.

9.   Lead from Behind . Unless you are a leader in a very small organization, leaders need to develop others to lead. School leaders need to make sure the right people are on the bus in the right seats. Then the leader needs to turn the work over the right person and let them lead. Leaders need to cultivate leadership in others. Most of you who are reading this blog are new superintendents. Were you given the reins in your previous positions to learn how to become an excellent superintendent? Did the person you followed cultivate leadership in their subordinates? What will your successor say about you?

10. Leadership Means Becoming Your Best Self . I could not agree with the author more on this lesson. You need to be your natural “best self.” You cannot be what somebody else thinks you should be or what the latest leadership book says you should be. My “best self” leadership style is direct. After being criticized by some I started to change my style to be gentler in my approach with people. This was not me. When I returned to my “best self,” I did my best work.
Physical Education – Re-engineered!

I read an article in the Chicago Tribune about how HS District 230 in south suburban Cook County is changing their physical education programming. High school students in this district participate in PE like many adults participate in expensive health club activities. The article states, “Clara Bailey pedals her stationary bike along winding roads and over virtual mountains without ever leaving the basement of Carl Sandburg High School, thanks to newly installed cycling technology. Upstairs, girls enrolled in dance class leap across the room while monitoring their heart rates on a projected screen.”

In other classes students flip tires, push sleds and shake battle ropes. I want my grandchildren to attend these classes. No, I want to attend these classes!

Why don’t all Illinois high school students have PE classes such as these? I believe the reason many students, parents and others want to reduce the student time spent in physical education classes is that they don’t see the purpose in most PE programs.

Several years ago, I was working with school administrators as they were learning how to evaluate teachers and were concentrating on the Danielson Domain Component 3c “Engaging Students in Learning.” In this middle school I observed a physical education class in which students were spinning, watching a Go Pro camera recording the instructor had filmed while riding Lake Shore Drive the previous summer, and high energy music was playing. Each student had on a heart monitor and a program was recording the efforts of all the students. All of the students in this class were actively participating and enjoying the workout. All of the students were working at their own targeted heart rate set by the teacher and, when I talked to the students, they could explain the health benefits of exercise and proper nutrition.

In the District 230 program mentioned in the Tribune article, the curriculum has changed, and students no longer take a separate health class and physical education class. These classes are combined and provide instruction in both fitness and nutrition. What great long term benefits these students will gain by this type of instruction. Why aren’t all schools teaching health and physical education this way?

The Value of Taking Time for Self

I am asked regularly to present at IASA Region meetings, and region members are very interested in the political landscape in Springfield as it relates to education. I confer with IASA Director of Governmental Relations Diane Hendren, and she gives me the current political news to pass on. I put my own spin on this material and hopefully members learn a little something they can use in their role as a school leader.

This year I prepared a special presentation titled “Sprint to the Finish.” This is my final year working with Illinois administrators, and I have decided to share the lessons I have learned from all of you in my 13 years in this position. I would love to share this presentation in one of your regular region meetings. Please talk to your region officers and see if you can get me booked on your region guest speaker schedule.

This Works!

For the past few years I have been working with a variety of school districts around IASA’s administrators’ academy titled “ Coaching Teacher Evaluators to Effectively Rate Teachers” (AAC #1787) .

This is the actual application of the teacher evaluation material gained in the administrators’ academy. I collect evidence along with the evaluator and then the evaluator and I reflect on this information immediately following the activity. Often I also shadow the evaluator while they are conducting the actual reflection conference with the teacher. In almost every case when I do this, the teacher evaluator wants more shadowing. They reflect with me and tell me this was the most powerful learning experience they have had as a school administrator. Contact me at [email protected] or 217-741-0466 if you want additional information on this topic or you would like to schedule this professional development for your teacher evaluators.

Tip of the Week

Take a look at the physical education curriculum in your schools. Does it look like the two examples I described above? Could it?

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Richard Voltz
Associate Director
Professional Development/Induction-Mentoring
2648 Beechler Court
Springfield, IL 62703
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