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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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Good Leaders Ask Great Questions

Hey, I am Dr. Tom Miller and I have a really big idea and an important book that I wanted to share with you today. 

I believe that good leaders ask great questions. 

Roddy Galbraith, the world's best speaker trainer and coach (who also happens to be my mentor) wrote a great personal growth book titled Go Out and Make a Mess that helps anyone who is feeling stuck or suffers from procrastination due to a desire to be perfect.

 During these times of unchartered territory, we are all being stretched personally and professionally and might be questioning what their future may look like.

Roddy's questions forced me to take a deeper look personally and professionally. They raised my awareness and brought key answers to questions at one time I wasn't comfortable asking or answering. 

You see, your success will be determined by the questions you are willing to ask and willing to answer.

Questions can connect people. Enhance collaboration with team members, build...

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EC Team Collaborative (COVID-19) Resource Page

Hey everyone, 

Our team are committed to bring this group of EC Leaders together every Wednesday at 3:00 virtually to Inform, Connect, Guide, and Unite charter and business leaders during this time. We will continue to do so until we are back in school. 

Start by saving these School Leadership Community Created Resources to your DRIVE:

Google Folder Access (Click on the Exceptional Children's Folder)

School Leader Shared COVID-19 Resource Document 

DPI FAQ New Link

National Examples:

  • At one St. Paul charter school with a Hmong language and culture focus, Community School of Excellence, plan sets the expectation that these meetings align with IEP service minutes.
  • Similarly, another Twin Cities charter, Excell Academy, describes in their plan how teachers will upload videos and lessons that align to the student’s IEP goals, as well as low-tech options for students who cannot access materials required for an online lesson.
...
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Worrying is Like Bubble Gum for the Mind

habits leadership mentoring Mar 31, 2020

"Hey, I’m Tom Miller and I’ve got a quote I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes from my mentor Paul Martinelli. "Worrying is like bubblegum for the mind." 

Many times, thoughts that consume us are such – ‘Did I do right?’, ‘Could I have done better?’, ‘Am I enough?’, ‘What will be the result of this?’. 

In fact these are such familiar thoughts, that they are often on in our daily habits without our awareness. 

Lots of times, we are in these grey situations where there is nothing obvious that we’ve done wrong, but nothing that we’ve done terribly right either. These thoughts can paralyze you. 

One example is when a client or a potential client emails or calls me. My mind immediately goes to…”What did I do wrong?’ I sometimes delay in opening the email or listening to the voice message. 

Do any of these thoughts ever enter your mind? How do they make...

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