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Make Big Things Out of Little Things

finances leadership vendors May 26, 2020

Third party vendors can be pebbles in your shoe or building blocks for your school. 

This is the time of the year when you should be taking significant inventory of WHO is on your team. This doesn’t just include employees; this includes Third Party Providers. Typically you hire a third party provider for one of two reasons:

  1. You don’t want to do it.
  2. You cannot do it (time, skill, etc).  

Having strong third party support to do the things you cannot or don’t want to do is critical to your success. It can also be the pebble in your shoe that takes you down. 

Six  years ago, I started my business, and there have been two particular areas in which these pebbles have nearly destroyed my shoes, my toes, almost everything. (If you know college basketball and Zion Williamson from Duke--that’s the kind of shoe blow out in the 2019 tournament I’m talking about.)

These pebbles are:

  • Website support
  • Bookkeeping/Accounting

I was so naive...

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What Matters Most to You?

family priorities May 25, 2020

Hey everyone,

Just a quick message here on a quote I recently read that I believe is critical for any leader to think on,

Things which matter most can never be at the mercy of things which matter least. 

Six years ago, Budd Dingwall, who has been an amazing friend and mentor to me said during a mastermind call. "You know Tom, as a principal the to do list will never be empty. You'll never feel caught up. The school will be there tomorrow. But you might not." 

He went on to share about how as a principal he missed precious family time to be the best principal he could be.

And he was!

How many principals do you know that have earned two Blue Ribbon School Rewards?

Each at a different school in a different state! Budd is an incredible servant leader although he doesn't spend his days walking the hallways, he is still leading by walking around in my mind. 

I knew what Budd was trying to convey to me; but I was just about to launch my new business and the "to-do" list...

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What’s on Your June Board Agenda?

organization planning May 22, 2020

As my year finishes as a board chair of a public charter school in North Carolina, I combed through my reflection journal from the last year. On July 27, 2017 I wrote, “You only have 12 meetings to make an impact, sustain the last chair’s work, or improve for the better.” When you think about it, 12 board meetings is a very short amount of time to create sustainable change without ruffling feathers. It has taken me this long to just begin to figure it out the Board Chair position, let alone how to improve our board. Unlike my predecessor, I was fortunate enough to be on the board one year prior to being elected Chair. He was elected Chair in his first meeting! Talk about walking into the fire. 

While preparing the agenda for the June meeting I drafted ten questions I would like the answer to:  

  1. If I read the last 11 months of board meeting minutes, would I be able to tell that the organization in a better place, healthier now than it was one year...
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Finding Your Focus

#decisions #goals #learning May 14, 2020

Finding your focus can often be a challenge when you’re in a leadership position, but is a necessary attribute as agreed by many. In HBO’s documentary Becoming Warren Buffett, there’s a scene that explores Buffet’s friendship with fellow billionaire, Bill Gates, during a dinner party hosted by Gates’ mother. She asks guests to identify what they believe attributed to their success in life. Gates and Buffett shared the same one-word answer: Focus.

In school leadership, finding your focus can be a challenge when other people are always vying for your time and attention. Take fire drills for example. Fire drills, though necessary, can always serve as an opportunity for someone who “just needs a few minutes of your time. “ It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of somebody else’s priorities and lose focus, especially when the scheduler is an upset child or parent. However, just because it’s easy to lose focus, it doesn’t...

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Escape Being the Best Kept Secret

Today, there is just one message I wanted to pass on to you dedicated readers. 

Because leaders are readers and readers are leaders. 

People need just one reason to start following you, but many reasons to keep following you. 

Six years ago, when I was just starting Leaders Building Leaders, I hired a sales coach because let's be honest, in the world of education, words like sales and profit are dirty words. 

Most educators do not see themselves as sales people, or like asking people for things, but they do it every day. 

We were four or five sessions into our sales coaching sessions and my sessions were not productive.

My coach asked me one simple question. 

"What is your story?" 

I went on to share my experience as an exceptional children's teacher, principal, my doctorate in education leadership and time as a state wide consultant who developed many state wide initiatives to open and improve public charter schools. How on the last day in...

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What Should You REALLY Be Doing Today?

I believe that leaders never advance to a point where they no longer need to prioritize.

Great leaders know that activity is not necessarily accomplishment. That is why they follow the 80/20 rule, or as many call it, the Pareto Principle. 

The 80/20 rule sounds like a mathematical formula and in some ways it is but don’t fret, this isn’t a lesson on statistics.  The rule came from an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, who stated that 80% of the Italian income was earned by 20% of the Italian population. 

What this means is that 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of your inputs.  

Here are some relevant examples: 

  • Productivity (20% of your time per day brings 80% of your results)
  • Habits (20% of the cups that I own are used on a regular basis)
  • Happiness (20% of your activities create 80% of your happiness) 
  • Revenue (20% of your product brings 80% of the revenue)
  • Assets (20% of my wardrobe is worn 80% of the days per year)
  • Mileage (20%...
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Leadership Land Mines

leadership Apr 26, 2020

Ever Play the Game Operation?

It was the game where you, the doctor, were responsible for remedying health issues like the charlie horse, spare ribs and butterflies. The most fun was removing the ankle bone from the knee bone. You all remember getting buzzed before you could remove the infection. Wouldn’t it be great if life really gave you a buzzer before you stepped on the landmine?

My last 12 months have been filled with leadership landmines. One of the critical elements in learning how to lead is to avoid those landmines, outline the map through the battlefield, and make it to the final destination with all limbs intact. Having reflected on these last 12 months, I realize that I need to raise my awareness. This will take more than just putting new batteries in my buzzer. I am going to need a better map to guide me through the battlefield.  

Here are some landmines I hit that I must avoid this year.  

Poor Staffing Decisions: If you have read anything I...

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What I Struggle With Most: Listening

Today (April 20) is the anniversary of one of my greatest leadership landmine lessons where I learned...

Those who don't listen to their people will eventually be surrounded with those who have nothing to say.

You know how principals sometimes find themselves working on large projects by themselves that should be a collaborative decision.

Well, ten years ago I developed the second half of the school year calendar over our winter break. I was very proud of myself, feeling “ahead” for once. When the staff returned we went over the key dates and celebrations.

On the calendar I listed April 20th as Earth Day. Leading up to the event I was excited hearing all of the cross-content ideas the team was putting together for Earth Day. The day ended up being a HUGE hit. I could not have been more proud of the way the staff came together as collaboration had been one of our areas for growth. 

You could imagine my surprise when two days later I woke up, on April 22nd,...

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To Be Unclear is to be Unkind: A Note To School Leaders

This is a note to all decision makers in education.

In times of crisis, it is alright to be uncertain, but it is never alright to be unclear. To be unclear is to be unkind. 

Over the past 30 days, schools across the country have been forced to take their education plans virtually and serve all students the best that they can with very little, if any, preparation. 

Parents are scrambling to balance being full time employees, home makers and now home school teachers. Doing their best to keep up with the work. Identifying and filling in the learning gaps they now see in their children. Blaming teachers for not “making it easy” for them to follow the daily lesson and questioning what is my child learning at that school? 

Teachers are creating new ways to educate and engage students remotely, collect and grade work, take attendance, and do what they can to create some sense of a routine. Many have very little information on how to do all of these because they...

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Avoid This E-Communication Killer

communication leadership Apr 14, 2020

This is one of my most valuable lessons, and if you read this entire blog, you will be an expert on how to avoid this problem. 

Stick with me, it’s worth it.

First, let’s assume that you find the perfect article or resource to share with your team or staff.  

Something that, in your eyes, they would be foolish not to want to read or see.

And then you send it… and NO ONE REPLIES. 

Not only does no one reply. You do not see any evidence that anyone read and implemented it. 

 Why? What happened?

Let me show you some examples in hopes to clarify some things.

During our COVID-19 time, or maybe even before, many of you have either received or forwarded email to a friend, colleague or a supervisor that either has no text or a few words like; “Check this out”, “This is great”, “Love this!” or  “Take a look” and a link to an article, program, or resource. 

You, being a great friend or...

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