Posted by James Brauer
1. Family First, Work Second: I have no shame admitting to any past, current, or future employer that my family is my priority. Jobs and employment may come-and-go, but my family is a permanent fixture in my life. However, without proper maintenance on relationship-fostering and memory-building with your own family, your family becomes unstable and could lead to many negative consequences. Of course, employment and your work performance is vital, but my belief is a happy “family man/woman” is also a “happy worker.” Dave Ramsey, financial guru, once warned people to never have affairs on their spouses, for it will tear the marriage to its core. Over-dedication toward one’s career creates a dominant relationship with an entity other than your spouse. Not healthy at all. So be proud and bold–tell everybody you place family first. Lead by example.
2. Brand Yourself, You Are an Expert: Because public education is so vastly different than the “business world,” branding is definitely not a component of educators’ professional practices. I’m not sure why this is–fear of exposure and attention at a large-scale? Fear of judgement or scrutiny by colleagues and supervisors? Fear of a public identity that is accessible to colleagues, students, parents, and neighbors? Fear of appearing to be self-absorbed and/or a braggart? Regardless, school leaders need to tap into the social media tools available and brand themselves appropriately. By doing so, educators can repurpose their identity toward being an expert, or trusted resource, in their respective discipline. By strategically branding one’s self, it also has the strong potential of building credibility to others. Lastly, branding is an awesome tool to network and connect with others. Such digital networking and connecting leads to digital collaboration, self-regulated learning, and autonomy. Build a website, use social media, publish whitepapers and ebooks, or record podcasts and YouTube videos. Don’t be afraid–you’re an expert. Brand yourself as such!
3. Pause, Listen to Others: I’ll lead-off by saying that I should have probably listed this tip at #1, as I’m definitely an “emerging-learner” in this category. School leaders and educators need to pause and start listening more. Don’t be confused with my preceding tip about believing that branding one’s self means incessant self-promotion and alienating others’ perspectives. You can still successfully brand yourself, while partnering and collaborating with others. There is so much knowledge that can be gained from others, it would be foolish to not draw upon the wisdom and advice of others. From a leadership standpoint, listening to others’ perspectives helps conveys just how important others truly are. When others know they are being listened to, it increases trust, relationships, rapport, collaboration, and motivation…just to name a few.
4. Being Untraditional is NOT Bad: This tip “hits home” for me, since I am a school administrator at an alternative school. It didn’t take me long to notice that some individuals do not “succeed” or “prosper” in “traditional” environments. And why would we ever think this to be the case? People are so unique, with extremely-specialized talents, skills, and knowledge. But all of these characteristics could be severely stifled if people are not able to perform in their ideal environments. Therefore, we need to quickly abandon the idea that educators and students can ONLY succeed using “traditional” methods and cookie-cutter, prescribed approaches. School leaders MUST allow colleagues and teachers time to reach, stretch, experiment, create, imagine, and innovate…without punitive responses. Our students deserve better. And they definitely deserve better than the “same old song-and-dance!”
5. Empower Others: One of the biggest mistakes people make, particularly school administrators, is believing that others cannot be trusted and they must do EVERYTHING. What a big, big mistake! Effective leaders should be constantly thinking about the future; pondering how to improve and how to adapt. But, effective leaders need to also strategically align an organization’s efforts toward its goals. No single person could, or should, be able to achieve the organization’s goals alone. Principals and central office administrators must develop capacity-building within each of its teachers and support staff, empowering EVERYBODY to maximize their contributions. For school leaders, it is essential to believe, and trust, that teachers are totally skilled and eager to perform. By doing so, school leaders can delegate responsibilities to others and lessen the burden that was previously-imposed on a single individual.