It is has been almost two months since Connected Principals has gone “public” and I have been sitting back and enjoying learning from others. When I first came up with the idea of creating this site, I could not have imagined how beneficial it would be to my own learning. I have enjoyed every step of the way and look forward to continuing my growth in my own practice.
In our school division, we use the “Covey Leadership” model which I see is mirrored even in the process of creating and maintaining this site. Although many people do not always believe in the effectiveness of Covey programs, it’s values are so essential to creating strong organizations built upon the strengths of systems, not individuals. Here are the values of Covey leadership program, how I have seen them portrayed in the creation of the Connected Principals site, and their parallels to creating successful school environments.
All great organizations are built on trust
If you do not have trust, you can do nothing with your group. As a leader, it is so important that you give trust to those that work beside you. I honestly believe that you do not have the option of letting people earn your trust as a school administrator, if you are expecting them to trust yourself and others. Of course people can “lose” your trust in process, but we have to show our belief in the people around us.
As it pertains to Connected Principals, I was basing the success of this site on trusting that virtual strangers to me were passionate enough that they would do great work. My first conversation with another member of the “Connected Principals” group even in a Skype conversation was not until I chatted with Patrick Larkin a few weeks after we launched the site. All I could see in those that wanted to be a part of writing for the site, was that they wanted to write for the site. I do not pay anyone to do anything so I know they are doing it because they are passionate about school administration and furthering our schools. As a leader, I know I can teach skills, but it is much harder to ignite passion. If people have enthusiasm for what they do, I know that they can do great things. As a group, I have been proven right over and over again.
Without trust, you have nothing.
Aligning systems and clearing the path
At the beginning of creating the Connected Principals site, I wondered if I would have time to maintain the site and deal with the little issues that kept popping up when everyone first started posting. There were a lot of little challenges with just the aesthetics of the site and something as simple as pictures showing up properly on the site and passwords not working. Doing a few little things such as creating a video on how to ensure a picture would properly show up on the front page, and saving it so it worked helped to get rid of a ton of work for myself. I have gone from checking the site continuously and “fixing” little issues, to not having to do that. As administrators, we need to do the same things. We need to get rid of the little issues that give us grief as a whole and create systems that just make it easier to focus on the important things. Now that everyone on the Connected Principal’s site do not have to worry about pictures showing up properly and other “little” things, they can just write and share their knowledge.
Aligning and creating this system and clearing the path for people is something that is essential to effective practice.
Creating a vision
A vision is essential if you want to be successful as a team or organization. When everyone is working towards a common goal and set of values, it places the emphasis on the “team” as opposed to the individual. It also gives us some commonality and purpose in our work. It is important though, we recognize that although we can have a shared vision, our process of moving towards that vision may vary.
One way that we ensure that we had a vision was through the collaborative process of creating the “Guiding Principles” of the site. Although I did start with some of my own ideas based on my beliefs and what I had seen through the writing of my colleagues, to make it a “shared” vision, I had to be open to collaboration and suggestions. After the initial group had completed the process of creating the ““Guiding Principles”, the site was not about a group of individuals, but a team with a vision. Even though others have joined the Connected Principals site following this process, they understand our collective vision and want to be a part of that direction.
Without vision or direction, how can we walk together?
I have been blessed that it has been such an amazing group of administrators that are so clearly able to articulate their thoughts on educational leadership. The true power of it though has been on how each person does it in their own unique way and can connect with different groups of people. Jonathan Martin writes with such detail and precision that I innately feel smarter and more prepared in creating a better environment after reading his posts. Lyn Hilt writes with such heart that I feel invigorated and passionate every time I read one of her post. Patrick Larkin is a reflective practitioner and his consistent reflection and questioning always helps myself and others to try and get better in our practice. Dave Meister is precise and to the point. His posts reflect his focus on doing what is best for his school community and I appreciate his straight forward nature. Chris Wejr inspires me by how much he cares about his students and staff. David Truss is just a plain fantastic writer who happens to also be an administrator. I could list off several other contributors to the Connected Principals site and how they have impacted my learning. I am continuously blown away by the quality of their work.
The point I am trying to make is that although we all share the same vision, each one of us has a different personality and strengths. We must ensure that we give those that work with us those opportunities to use their own strengths to move us towards our collective vision.
Recognize and value the unique and varied strengths of those that surround you as they all play an essential role in the success of your school.
What has been confirmed through this process
I am always excited when I see that another post has been written in the Connected Principals site. It has been a rewarding process and I have grown in my own practice from learning from this group. What is important to understand is that the values that I have discussed in this process do not simply follow each other in a chronological order. We must continuously work on all facets of leadership and they simply supplement one another.
I no longer have to worry about the continuous maintenance of the site and can focus on simply enjoying learning from others. It is nice to simply stand on the side and let the group lead the way in our collective vision. I am simply no more than another contributor to the site and know that I am a part of something much bigger than I could have ever done as an individual. If I am an effective leader in my school, I will mirror these values in what I do. It is imperative that I help to create a school that is built upon a strong system, as opposed to built upon the strength of a few individuals. If I have created an environment that is dependent upon my strengths, I have failed as a leader. Thank you to a wonderful group of administrators that have proven once again that the strength of the collective is always better than that of individuals.