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We are not the Only School with these Problems

Posted by Scott Barron on Nov 5, 2015 8:23:57 AM
Scott Barron

Repeatedly we have heard the same message when discussing school strategies for enrollment, communication and innovation planning:

"You mean we are not the only school with these problems? That is such a relief!"

Last week we wrapped up a "west coast tour" of School Growth Labs and Workshops. We hosted Enrollment Blitz and The Laws of the Grapevine workshops along with an Enrollment Growth Assessment in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver. Each program features an interactive learning approach that fosters collaboration among the school administrators and board members, enabling them to build trusting relationships and explore genuine challenges together.

We are not the only onesOne pattern of dialogue emerged in every session: Recognition that every school has issues that cause great stress and require courageous leadership. It may be enrollment issues in the lower school, dissension among some of the families, or challenges with board members' expectations. From the outside it may appear that the other school has it all together, but, having interacted with hundreds of educators across the country through the engaging experiencing of our unique PD curriculum, I can assure you that no campus is immune to such difficulties.

This revelation produces a profound impact on the people with whom we're working. They physically relax their shoulders and facial expressions, allowing themselves to be less defensive and more vulnerable. They also become more willing to explore the realities of their situation without the protective mask that prevents honest interaction.

How does this knowledge make a difference, though?

"There is no wisdom like frankness."
--Benjamin Disraeli

Focus on Your Strengths and Genius

Recognizing that you're not alone in these stressful leadership situations allows you to shift your focus. School planning too often becomes an exercise in weakness prevention (or at least suppression), with board leaders and administrators spending way too much time trying to fix shortcomings. This is a stressful process that also plays out in the classroom, where extensive efforts may be invested to make students who they’re not.

Accept the fact that there is no well-rounded person with all of the known strengths. Instead, you can build a well-rounded team that understands and leverages their natural strengths and instincts. Excessive attention to weakness is the path to status quo mediocrity, but intentionally developing strengths is the gateway for your people (including students) to attain remarkable excellence. At the intersection of your strengths, instincts, interests, knowledge, and experience you can find a unique genius that is life changing.

Focusing on strengths makes you happier, healthier, more confident, more satisfied, and more engaged. Sounds like a great practice for schools.

Be Honest with Yourself

Accurately knowing where you are is required to get where you want to go. Whether you're using Google Maps or Apple Maps or a Garmin GPS, you need three pieces of data to get clear directions: Where are you? Specifically where do you want to go? How do you want to get there (mode of transportation)?

Once you have that data you can then decide on the best route from the available options. The same is true in your personal life and in the leadership of your school. Honestly facing the realities (or Brutal Facts as Jim Collins puts it) of yourself and your situation enables you to make better decisions in your school leadership to move closer to the desired destination.

Develop a Rhythm of School Leadership

With the understanding that you have distinct strengths and genius, that you have a specific set of goals to achieve, and that you have a dynamic target market to serve, you are better prepared to develop a rhythm of school leadership whereby you learn faster, make better decisions, and engage your stakeholders more deeply. The teachers, staff members, parents, students, and board members all want a humble yet strong leader who is predictably guiding the program to greatness. They want someone they can trust and follow through the turbulence and the joys of life.

So rejoice in the fact that school leaders across the country face very similar difficulties and stress points. You are not alone. But also take advantage of the opportunity to focus on strengths and unique genius, be ridiculously honest with yourself, and seek that rhythm of leadership that achieves greatness.

Topics: Administration, Leadership

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