It's a pleasure to meet you.
I’m Dr. Tom Miller — a human behavior consultant and charter school leadership strategist who specializes in governance, school improvement strategies, and developing leaders. My core philosophy of leadership is this:
Leadership isn’t about telling people what to do, it’s about opening and building a relationship.
When we get this part of relationship building right, results follow. My company, Leaders Building Leaders, has provided training, strategic planning, consulting and organizational support to over 100 schools (charter, traditional, and private), helping them to improve their current results in the area of academics, finances, operations, and governance.
We’ve built strategic networking and training programs for principals, board members, teacher leaders and students!
We’ve assisted over two dozen new schools open in multiple states through charter application writing and Ready to Open process assistance.
Through grant writing, we’ve helped schools receive over four million dollars in additional funding to accelerate their mission based programs.
Every day my team and I are challenged with new problems to solve.
This is why we personally invest thousands of dollars into our own personal and professional development each year.
We meet new people and assist them in creating a path towards significance in not only their lives, but in the lives of the children and community they serve.
My alarm goes off every day at 4:00 a.m. not because I have to, but because I am excited to live every day to my fullest potential and serving my purpose.
Before running my own consulting business, I worked for other people's dreams and other people's missions." First as an Exceptional Children’s teacher, turned principal and finished my “working career” as a consultant for the NC Office of Charter Schools.
Nowadays you’ll find me traveling (a lot!), serving clients, speaking at conferences, and looking for the next great place to take a trail walk, enjoy an amazing view, or take in a unique landmark — all while coaching students, serving clients, and recording my podcast, The Principal’s Office. Check out some of our most downloaded shows below.
While I enjoy blogging and podcasting, most of my writing is done privately to my email list. The vast majority of my readers feel my email list contains my best content. This includes our daily leadership thought for you to share with your team or keep for yourself. You can sign up for my email list by clicking here and you’ll even get a nice gift — access to Tom's Top Ten Leadership lessons (retail value, $97)
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How Did I Get Here?
I have learned the 'hard way' for things to change, you need to change.
On February 12, 2006 after ten years of gambling pretty much every single day, and a half a million dollars lost on a teacher’s salary, the fun stopped for me.
The habits and life patterns I created were leading me down a path of destruction. Whether I bet $5 or $5,0000, for ten years, not a day went by that I didn’t gamble on something, and I never believed I could live a day without it.
I was sacrificing the wrong things and feeling stuck....and feeling stuck stinks!
So I went where everyone goes for help, Google. Google guided me to join Gamblers Anonymous (GA). The closest meeting was over 90 miles away on Tuesday nights.
For 10 weeks, I didn't miss a meeting. Surrounded by other recovering addicts, we discussed the meaning of words like honesty, humility, responsibility, and accountability.
If my actions were self-defeating, my GA brothers and sisters were there to set me straight.
We ended every meeting with,"It works if you work it - just work it for 90 days".
I was creating new habits and a new life pattern.
However, you would be correct in guessing there was no way I was going to tell them that on my 90th day I would be in Las Vegas for a friend's bachelor party.
When I walked in, the shiny lights, clean oxygen, and constant ringing of the slot machines brought back memories.
It didn’t take me too long to fall back into an old habit.
I found a table that prevented any of my friends from seeing me. I pulled out $40 and sat down.
My heart pounded as I placed my bet. I wasn't paying attention to the cards as much as I was worried that a friend would spot me.
I heard a groan come across the table. “Muck” yelled the pitboss.
The dealer had accidentally flipped over his down card, and all bets were off.
He began collecting the cards to deal again. I knew it was only a matter of time before I was spotted by a friend. I got lower in my seat as the dealer shuffled the cards.
As he was just about to deal the cards, another dealer came behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. “New Dealer,” yelled the pitboss. My dealer clapped his hands and walked away.
I watched this unfold in disbelief.
Then, all of a sudden, I heard a voice say, “Tom, pick up your chips and walk away.”
I followed those directions and cashed out my $40 in chips. The cashier asked me if I had won, I replied, “I certainly did.”
You see when the challenge arrives it is too late to prepare.
Your thoughts will consume you. My thoughts and actions had programmed me to lie, steal, and gamble. I wasn’t programmed to see the hurt I was bringing to myself and the people who I loved. I surrendered to what came easy.
When I joined GA and surrounded myself with new information, new thoughts, and better role models, it forced me to take a deeper look at how I thought and how I wanted to be thought of.
My 90 days of uphill thinking and actions towards creating new habits and patterns combatted my over 3,650 days of downhill decisions as a gambling addict.
I believe that many people want to change their circumstances but are unwilling to change themselves.
Remember, for things to change, you need to change.
For me, this change was brought on by bringing more positive information into my mind through books, listening to positive thought leaders, and surrounding myself with the people I aimed to be more like.
This definitely required a change in my environment as well as the people I surrounded myself with.
The late, great speaker and author Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the people that you spend the most time with.”
If you find yourself at the head of the class, it is time to find a new class.
For you to become more and achieve more, you have to be willing to do what you have never done before. For some, these are minor tweaks. For many, this is a full 360, depending on the need for change. The largest gap in life is the knowledge gap: the gap between what we know and what we do.
Over the next five years, I became a principal and earned two graduate degrees. I surrounded myself with like-minded leaders who had a common goal, and I became a consumer of leadership books and enlightened perspectives.
When I finished my doctoral degree in Educational Leadership in 2011, my dissertation study, The Characteristics of Effective K-8 Charter Schools (I know you've read it!), earned me a position working as a consultant for the North Carolina Office of Charter Schools. The NC Legislation had just eliminated the cap on charter schools in North Carolina and the flood gates were about to open.
In fewer than 30 days, my family and I packed up and moved to Raleigh, a city where we knew no one. There were new opportunities not just for me, but for my wife and daughter as well.
As a state consultant, I was responsible for overseeing the compliance of 40 operating charter schools while developing and leading the online charter school application process and the still currently utilized Ready to Open process (If you went through it please don’t be mad. I had great intentions!).
Over the next three years (2012-2014), the State Board of Education approved over 50 charter schools to open. I read and reviewed over 200 applications, and I thought I was living my dream job.
But something was missing.
In December of 2013 I had my end of the year evaluation. My supervisor said to me, “I am not sure how to grow you, and I am not sure how much longer I can keep you.”
I had no idea what this meant and to be honest, his comment made me angry and a little emotional.
Not understanding the true meaning behind those words, I let him know that growth is an inside job. I would take care of myself.
Around that time a new voice began to influence me.
A few weeks prior to my annual review, I signed up for a daily email from leadership expert John Maxwell called Minute with Maxwell. Each day, John has a word that he spends 60 seconds teaching on and sharing a call to action.
Up to that point, I had never read one of John Maxwell’s books, but I loved leadership quotes and had borrowed a few of his to share during my charter school board and leadership training sessions when I was a consultant for the Department of Public Instruction.
Somewhere near the end of January 2014, I noticed John Maxwell’s daily message started to change. In addition to his daily message, he was also inviting me to learn more about a global team of like-minded coaches, speakers, and trainers who aimed to transform their organization, community, or country.
The email came over a period of three days. By day three, it’s almost as if John was speaking directly to me. “If you aim to be more, see more, and do more, reach out to one of our program coordinators.”
I scheduled a time, and a gentleman named Mark Moffitt reached out to me. We spent 30 minutes on the call.
Mark asked me about my hopes, dreams, and goals of providing high quality professional development and keynotes to school and community leaders across the country.
Then he said, “You know, Tom, after everything you shared with me you are a perfect candidate for the John Maxwell Team.”
I still had to get this investment approved by my wife. When I shared with her the opportunity over dinner, she said, “I’ve never been able to stop you before.”
You see, achieving your goals or succeeding in any field of endeavor requires action. In fact, it requires massive action; the kind of action that most people are not willing to take to get the job done.
I joined the next day.
Over the next three weeks, I read John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership three times and participated in the weekly mastermind calls (a weekly discussion around business building and a shared curriculum).
I had never felt this excited about learning in my entire life.
I was feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, learning the Maxwell leadership principles, sharing everything about what I was learning, about the leadership mistakes I had made in the past, and what we could do as an organization to help schools understand leadership because, as John says, everything rises and falls with leadership.
But in the end, when I shared this information with some people at work, I felt as though there was a giant lid on me, a leadership lid.
On Friday, February 28, 2014, I was lounging on the couch with my wife, watching my favorite show ‘Shark Tank’. A doctor pitched a device that uses vibration to numb skin in medical shots called Buzzy4Shots. Robert Herjavec asked the entrepreneurial doctor whether she was going to quit her practice and run this business. The doctor quickly replied with “No.” Robert was instantly out. He shared that when he was a CEO, he had lots of great ideas but was comfortable. Then he got fired and became uncomfortable very quickly. It was at that point that he decided that no one would ever determine how successful he could be.
I jumped off the couch and said, “That’s me! I am too comfortable in this cushy government job.”
“I know I can be doing more to assist schools and school leaders.” I told my wife that I had been thinking of starting my own business to help school leaders make a greater impact on the community they serve.
My wife and I quickly grabbed a few pieces of scrap paper and began to lay out how much money we would need. What would the business do? Who would be our clients? How much money would I need to make? When would I quit my job?
The fiscal year for schools begins on July 1. The first week of July was just 18 weeks away. July 3rd would be my last official day as a government employee, just 126 days away.
When we finished our outline and highlighted what we would need, my wife looked at me and said, “Is it weird that I am not feeling a little scared?”
The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you figure out why.
On July 3, 2014 I walked out of the NC Department of Public Instruction: Office of Charter Schools with a cardboard box filled with my personal items and a mission!
Since then my team and I have worked alongside hundreds of school leaders across the country working to provide strategic leadership solutions to their challenges.
The more you move towards your vision, the clearer it gets.
You’re welcome to join me and dozens of other school and teacher leaders in one of our leadership programs. I truly believe our School Leadership Solution programs will be the most powerful, game-changing force in achieving your school’s short- and long-term results because better leadership gets better results, attracts better teachers, more students, and greater opportunity.
Our School Leadership Programs, serving principals, board members, teachers and students, are designed to provide busy school and teacher leaders the structure, consistency, and strategic content they need to take their school to the next level.
Today, I celebrate over 5,100 days in a row without gambling.
I own a successful coaching business, transforming other individuals and organizations to achieve their goals. Most importantly, as a father of two, my wife and I now have a relationship I never imagined before. All because I turned my good intentions into intentional action.
I know that I am always one step away from stupid...but from now on, I only bet on me!
Your friend in service,