4 Ways To Learn From Other People’s Expertise

A few months ago I was planning to attend a principal’s meeting near my state capital. helping-hands

Since I was going alone, I asked a principal friend from a neighboring district if we could ride together.

Little did I know how much I would be learning! We spent the ride there and back sharing insights and stories from our schools. It was such a great conversation, I opened my Ipad and starting taking notes.

Sometimes our greatest resource for change is as close as a phone call (or a car ride in this case). As I thought about that conversation, I reflected on other ways I have learned from simply asking.

So here are four examples of ways we can reach out to others to learn from their expertise:

1. Connect with other people on your team or in your field.
You are blessed to share leadership with some awesome individuals in your school and district. Bouncing ideas off them always leads to better decisions. So look around at your colleagues. They have incredible ideas and have the context of working closely with you to give you advice no one else can.

Colleagues from neighboring schools are great resources too. Last year, I had the privilege of sitting on the interview committee for State Assistant Principal. It was an awesome opportunity to spend the day gleaning great ideas from some incredible administrators. You don’t have to be on an interview committee to have the chance to talk to great leaders. Pick up the phone, send an email, or ask someone to lunch.

Being a part of a principal’s association like CCOSA (in my state), NASSP or connecting online via venues like ConnectedPrincipals allows you to connect and learn from other leaders locally and globally.

Of course, connecting via Twitter, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, or Facebook are ways to discover the power of sharing ideas.

2. Visit Successful Schools or Organizations.
One of my favorite learning experiences is spending time at other schools. Last year, I was able to visit some nearby schools known for their incredible student test scores. We took a team of from our school and spent the morning observing their teachers working on data teams during their planning periods.

We also sat together with their teachers and administrators to discuss strategies and learn from their experiences. It is chore to leave your building for a day, but it is also great to come back with new perspectives and ideas that you can use to see your own improvement.

Our opportunity happened via email exchanges and text messages with administrators there. You can do the same in reaching out to an organization you would really like to visit.

In addition to schools, I enjoy getting to know friends with cooperate or entrepreneurial experience. Finding out how they run their organizations gives me more context for my own leadership.

3. Invite Outside Experts to Your School.
Whether it is technology support, curriculum, or instruction, sometimes a fresh set of eyes brings you new perspective.

In relation to school safety, for instance, our district has invited law enforcement and emergency officials to touch base with us, stay familiar with our buildings, and advise us on areas of concern. Your local emergency-responders should be your best allies in this area. We have also gleaned important safety tips from our student resource officer, our local fire marshall, and state homeland security experts.

The same applies to everything from curriculum to athletics–experts in those fields are great resources from whom you can learn.

4. Learn From Books, Conferences, Podcasts.
Sometimes our most obvious go-to’s are right at our finger tips. Find out what books are being read by other school leaders. For a list of more than 50 books other principals have recommended to me, see this list of recommended books.

Conferences are valuable ways to learn and network. I am excited about the upcoming Ignite Conference that NASSP is hosting in Dallas. In fact, I have been learning already from two of the keynote speakers I had the privilege to interview: Carol Dweck and Daniel Wong. How did those conversations happen? I just asked.

You can also learn by listening to podcasts. One of my favorite leadership podcasts has become Michael Hyatt’s This is Your Life. Each week, he provides practical, hands-on advice for intentional leadership.

Conclusion: We should never stop being life-long learners, and one way to do that is by seeking counsel from others. Whether you are connecting with others in your field, seeking outside advice, or taking advantage of good books, speakers, or podcasts, it has never been easier to find valuable input for the road ahead.

Now It’s Your Turn:
Who are some go-to’s you have found valuable for your school or team? Share some of the ways you learn from others with the rest of us!

Copyright 2013 by William D. Parker, Connect through Twitter with handle @williamdp or at www.williamdparker.com

Posted originally at WilliamDParker.com


  1. Ron Krause said:

    Sometimes the best way to “learn” is to TEACH. For the past three years I’ve had the pleasure of of officially mentoring aspiring administrators, and new administrators. It has added fuel to my passion and has helped me to rediscover the vital importance of great leadership in a school. I’d urge you to consider contacting the NAESP and learn more about the principal mentoring training offered through the association.

    January 8, 2014
  2. Thanks for the feedback, Ron, and for the NAESP mentoring rec. Can’t wait to check it out!

    January 8, 2014
  3. Murquhart said:

    What a great blog site! I am currently in a leadership training program to become a principal in Ontario Canada and for one of our assignments we were asked to go out and locate sites where we can connect with different administrators and teachers to share expertise and learning. How perfect is this article to drive home the idea that we can not become effective leaders in isolation. Again and again we have heard from our instructor (who says that some of her great learning comes from instructing new leaders) that we must form networks, both local and online, so that we have an outlet of support for our positions.
    I can not agree more with your position on life-long learning and I have used all 4 of your suggestions in my own teaching career to enhance my own understand as well as offering opportunities to my students. Looking back though some of my best opportunities to learn came from collaborative efforts I have made with other teachers or just through rich discussions on practices. Thank you so much for your article and I look forward to reading further posts.

    January 8, 2014
  4. I think that the greatest teachers and leaders are also master learners, constantly learning about the world around them, the people that they work with, and how to become better. Master learners are change makers and constantly on the look out for something new that they can apply to their own roles. Taking advantage of that car ride to and from the conference is a living example of this in action. Thanks for this post William -Andy Vasily

    January 8, 2014
  5. Marquhart, Best wishes on your aspirations in school leadership. You have already learned you don’t have to have the title of principal to already be a leader.

    Andy, you are so right about our need to be master learners! Thanks for the feedback.

    January 9, 2014
  6. Adriese said:

    As a new school leader, I reached out for a mentor, who could show me the in’s and out’s of school leadership. So much to learn on your own. Continuous improvement for me! Follow my first year as Principal!

    January 13, 2014
  7. Shawan said:

    Let’s go back and think about Abraham Lincoln when he said, “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” With that we will open the premise that learning is a daily adventure that one carries and explores throughout life. if we want to be an effective person in this life, we need to apply ourselves to constant learning and competing against ourselves to grow and learn day by day because education is value.

    January 25, 2014
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