The means or the end?

amplifi clarifi simplifi Mar 31, 2021

No plan ever survives its collision with reality.

We often coach well-intentioned leaders who are serial planners. Inevitably when we try to drive home the point that someone actually needs to do the work, we will start with a smile and the phrase no plan ever survives a collision with reality.

But we’re not going to say this anymore.

Because for the serial planner, it's simply not true.

The inertia that plagues many school districts and schools is all too often poorly masked by lofty, beautifully crafted, and jargon-filled plans and mission statements that aren’t affected by reality.

Many well-intentioned plans lose track of the very problem that is being solved and become the end and not the means.

The very best plans are malleable and adjust to the needs of the students, teachers, and community. Plans should be active documents and if they are printed, they should be dog-eared and wear their fingerprints and coffee stains proudly.

Many years ago, a...

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Has email become your to-do list?

simplifi Mar 24, 2021

In many ways, email is a to-do list created by others. 

When someone sends us an email with a request, what do we typically do? Probably something like this:

  1. We read and internalize the message
  2. We check our calendar
  3. A helpful inner angel leads us to say “yes”
  4. And eventually, we feel stressed because there isn't enough time to do our most important work and far too much coming at us

A 15-minute meeting with myself every week to proactively review next week's priorities and place them in a calendar can help us say “no” to things that aren’t important to us. We can overcome much of the pressure to say ”yes” with one glance at our calendar.

All too often, calendars only include events like meetings, around which we take care of what the day presents while hoping to have time for our priorities.

A properly constructed calendar includes our ...

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Always On

amplifi clarifi simplifi Mar 17, 2021

Do you feel like there's a lot of stuff coming at you?

If so, you might be suffering from the always-on conundrum.

You know that feeling that something will come at you at any time or that awful persistent thought that you might be missing something?

It's hard to put edges on our work in the information age.

Just fifteen or twenty years ago, people could parcel off pieces of their lives. Not completely of course, but enough to have some peace of mind when spending time with family and friends.

Thus we have the conundrum.

If we try to compartmentalize our work and home, we probably make the noise worse, because of something called ironic process theory: The more we try to not think of something, the more that thing is cemented into our brains.

You may have read studies on this using a white bear or a pink elephant.

Give it a try.

Don't think about a pink elephant!

While one part of the brain is shutting out thoughts of the pink elephant, another part helpfully reminds you that...

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amplifi simplifi Mar 11, 2021

A leader who doesn't empower people to dig into issues or take the time to build consensus creates a culture of parking lot conversations and hallways filled with whispered negativity.

Power illuminates strengths and weaknesses in areas that can be improved, like skills and tasks. And it also illuminates those things ingrained in the leaders that are very likely to never change like empathy, integrity, and engagement.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” (Voltaire)

And it can be difficult to identify those who have the qualities necessary to both pursue and nurture an exceptional culture.

The founders of Western Philosophy (Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato) subscribed to a belief wherein the few wisest should be permitted to rule. One problem is, of course, gaining agreement on who is the wisest.

But even if we could choose the wisest leaders, what if the person with power lacks integrity or is simply an unkind or apathetic person?

Herein lies the problem: how do...

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One Intentional Move

amplifi Mar 04, 2021

Somewhere a university student is working hard at his computer, hoping to be considered for a teaching position that will allow him to guide students to be all that they can be.

Somewhere a teacher is staring blindly at the screen, thinking about beginning her journey to become an administrator and lead a school one day soon. 

Somewhere countless people are facing an impending retirement, uncertain and searching countless blogs about how to make a contribution with the next phase of their lives.

This is today.

But what about tomorrow morning?

Will these people sit in the same chair, looking at the same screen, with the same positive aspirations? 

Any of us can find ourselves in a rut and a forlorn déjà vu where we repeat the same habits and routines, hoping for a different outcome.

The harsh truth is that nothing will change until we change. We have to make a move.


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Smooth Stones

amplifi simplifi Feb 25, 2021

It sure would be wonderful if we could avoid the bumps, bruises, and pain that comes with growing, right?

Or would it?

In good times, we don't move until we're uncomfortable, much like we might wait until we're actually shivering before we put on a sweater. Often, some of our best results come from discomfort or even pain.

Every problem introduces a person to himself. (John McDonnell)

Imagine a rapidly flowing river replete with jagged rocks on the edge and smooth stones under the surface.

The stones are worn down by bumping up against one another and the water that rushes over them. Their beauty is amplified by sharp contrast to the roughly edged rocks sitting on the periphery, relatively unscathed.

The smooth stones weren't always smooth; it took many tumultuous years in the most powerful currents for them to be so polished.


Sure, you can buy a rock tumbler, but the result is just a bunch of smooth stones, without the beauty of the river and the latent potential...

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Leaders Love

amplifi Feb 18, 2021

Is it a bit of an exaggeration to say leaders need to love their people?

Not like.


We don't have to like someone every day or even most days, but isn't love a leadership requirement?

We should always strive to build a community that encourages cooperation, emotional support, and personal learning as we work together to achieve what we cannot accomplish alone.

The connectedness of people is always on display in an exceptional school. No leader ever builds lasting success in isolation. One of the most underutilized and most effective strategies for improving results is building a community that connects people's deepest hopes and dreams to the work at hand.

Schools need leaders who address matters of the heart, leaders who engage in an ongoing process of reminding people that their work is important, they are being successful, and their continued success will depend in large part on their willingness to work together to share their knowledge, skills, and insights. (Rick Dufour,...

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Shouldn't a Strength Make You Stronger?

amplifi Feb 11, 2021

Is there something that you do well that you really can't stand doing?

I was a principal and superintendent for sixteen years, and I think most people felt I did a good job, helped build people up, and cared a great deal about them. I always carried good weather into any meeting, including the most negative situations, and everyone knew I was calm and strong in a disagreement.

I heard from a lot that people who were happy I had their backs in an argument. At times, compliments delivered with kindness can make us cringe.

I'm happy to have left that part of me behind.

I don't consider being good in conflict a strength. I see it as embittering expertise.

“When people’s talent does not match their dreams and they fail to recognize it, they will be forever working but never winning.” (John Maxwell)

Is being good at something synonymous with strength?

Certainly, there are times we have to do some things that we don't want to do. Such talents might be a strength for the...

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I Have To. I Get To

amplifi Feb 05, 2021

Quickly changing the angle of our phones and webcams has become a rather instinctive motion.

So why is it that we are so quick to show the world a better version of ourselves, but don't adjust our lens to offer the world around us the same opportunity?

"We see the world, not as it is, but as we are - or, as we are conditioned to see it." (Stephen R. Covey)

How much better would we be as leaders if we re-oriented our gaze to see obligations as opportunities? How much brighter would each day be? Not only brighter for us but for all those in our wakes?
I have to work out early today.
I get to go to work out early today.

Each day is filled with choices and these choices ultimately shape the value we add and joy derived from our work.

"We can choose how we view our life and work. We can realize that every day is a gift. It’s not about what we have to do. It's about what we get to do." (Jon Gordon)

Whenever we are tempted to say we have to do something, we should instinctively...

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Wag More, Bark Less

Uncategorized Jan 26, 2021

More and more, it seems as though we are dividing into camps with fortified walls that are increasingly harder and riskier to cross.

One of the biggest challenges faced by a leader is to put together a diverse team and coalesce around a common vision.

But what can we do to bring people together when there is so much focus on what makes us different?

Leadership in polarized times means being willing to pull our people together, even when the world would rather pull them apart. It’s difficult and sometimes unpleasant, but that’s the reality of what it means to lead—leaders get the hard stuff because no one else wants it. (John Maxwell)

Knowing what we believe and where we're going increases the likelihood that we will focus on what binds us together.

Values determine integrity, which extends to our thoughts, words, and actions.

A clear vision points everyone in the same direction. 

If we tirelessly wag more about...

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