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Decisions Decisions Decisions

3 Aug

Decisions1I was reflecting this week that in my role at school as a Deputy Principal I am required to make a lot of decisions on a daily basis. Sometimes I am provided all the necessary background information to make the proper decision, other times I am expected to make a decision with very little or limited background information. Sometimes the decision must be made immediately and there is no time to gather further background information, other times I have the opportunity to investigate and give the decision the proper time it deserves. I make a lot of decisions on a daily basis, and no matter what happens, there will always be those who agree with my decisions, and those who disagree with my decision. And guess what, I even make wrong decisions.

Here some thoughts that I have gathered and will reflect on this week.

  1. If everyone agrees with your decision, then it’s probably not the best decision.
  2. If everyone disagrees with your decisions, then it’s definitely not the best decision.
  3. If some agree and some disagree with your decision, then you’ve probably made the right decision.
  4. Try to listen and ask a lot of questions; the more information I have the better.
  5. Focus on making decisions that will effect the greatest good for students and community.
  6. Accepting the reality that each decision won’t be well received by everyone, nor will it be hated by everyone.

What do you think?


Collaborative Leadership

15 Jan

Technology has created the opportunity to know. Information is accessible, whether you want to share it or not.  In fact, the organization benefits when information is freely shared. People can do their job better when they have easy access to the information they need.   Values-driven leadership is essential. You can’t hide your morals behind closed doors. It might once have been possible to get away with questionable ethics, but there’s nowhere to hide anymore.

When diverse perspectives are combined, discussions are richer, more robust, and more relevant and we find better solutions. Conflict and creative disagreement, when focused on issues and not personalities, serve as the “grain of sand in the oyster” to produce creative new ideas, approaches and solutions.

In hierarchical organizations, the flow of information and decisions tends to be linear.  Although hierarchical organizations have advantages in terms of efficiency, there is a huge opportunity cost in not having access to relevant resources.

Leadership Bias

5 Jan

A leader’s job is to ensure that there is equal opportunity and that every voice is heard. His can be hard. The squeaky wheel syndrome etc… Sometimes though, it is not enough to provide opportunity. There are many reasons why people may not speak up or take opportunities you present them with.  A leader’s job I think, is to help remove the obstacles and blockers that people experience that stop them from reaching their full potential.  We can’t assume that just because a person has not shown interest in something that they are not interested in it (it may just be that for them there are too many perceived obstacles in the way for them to put their hand up). We need to be asking ourselves along the way if everyone is reaching their full potential. If not why not and how am I contributing to that deficit? We need to be reflective practitioners always checking to make sure our time and interest in people is not weighted to those who affirm us or make things easiest. To help avoid falling prey to confirmation bias, leaders can remove hierarchies and encourage a culture of critique and feedback. Confirmation bias is particularly resistant to self-correction and so we need others to respectfully challenge our beliefs and mental models.

Leaders stop being great when…

22 Oct

What causes senior leaders to stop being great and quit being inquisitive? I have written here about how I love to surround myself with those who are better than me. Be it experts on National Standards, Ministry Policy or curriculum design. Leaders stop asking questions, and stunt their growth, due to insecurity, low self-esteem, arrogance, contentment, and distractedness. Let’s take a moment to examine each reason. I remind myself often to avoid these. I am a great believer that sport has kept me on top of these over the year.


As leaders, we know others are looking to us for guidance, and thus we’re reluctant to reveal a lack of competence. After all, we want others to have confidence in our ability to lead. However, without inviting others to give you input, you not only won’t go as far in leadership, but the journey won’t be as fun since you’ll be traveling alone.

Low Self-Esteem

Many leaders, particularly those who are young, feel undeserving of the attention that a mentor could provide. They don’t feel wise enough, strong enough, mature enough, competent enough, confident enough, or qualified enough to take up the time of an experienced coach. Their sense of unworthiness holds them back from boldly seeking counsel from experts and veteran leaders in their field.

To succeed, leaders need to be humble before God and authentic with people. I go back to my educational vision and the prophet Micah. Practically, this means being willing to acknowledge our mistakes and to admit our weakness so that we can grow and change. If you insist on being right, you’re likely to go wrong and to cause your most talented people to search for a job someplace else where they’ll be heard.


The danger of becoming overly contented is difficult to avoid because we naturally grow accustomed to our surroundings. Dysfunction, when seen and experienced long enough, becomes normal. We have particular difficulty recognizing it as long as the organization is enjoying profitability. However, as John F. Kennedy advised, “the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”


If you’ve enjoyed success in leadership, then you possess a primary skill set, or sweet spot, which helped you gain influence. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted from using it. When your focus shifts away from considering to best leverage your strengths, then you begin asking the wrong questions and neglecting the most important ones.

How I can be a better leader

15 Sep

My experience has told me there is an art to successfully supervising people. A great leader brings out the best in their people; while a bad one creates disharmony and drives away talented people. This week I have been reflecting on the great leaders I have been involved with. Some of the equalities they have had:

  1. Has a sense of humor. This doesn’t mean the principal becomes a regular Jerry Seinfeld that constantly cracks jokes or acts like a clown. It simply means they are approachable, relatable and see the value in an upbeat, positive workplace. A friendly environment starts at the top.
  2. Allows freedom to fail. Once teachers are given the proper training, a good principal will step out of the way. Teachers flourish when they know they are trusted to do the right thing after given clearly defined expectations. A good principal steps in when they see an issue, but continually relies on teachers especially middle managers to do what they have been hired to do.
  3. Values .strong communication. A good principal clearly articulates expectations, freely shares news that will benefit their team and offers feedback, both positive and constructive, to each teacher they directly supervise. Most importantly, they establish communication as a two-way street, creating a safe atmosphere to voice opinions and concerns.
  4. Asks for input. Everyone on the team is there because they have professional skills to contribute to the organization. A good principal knows they can’t be an expert at all things, and must rely on their team for corporate success.
  5. Encourages growth. A good principal will provide opportunities for teacher development and growth. They are tuned in to those who demonstrate initiative and are eager to expand their knowledge.
  6.  Acknowledges success. A good principal compliments and rewards their team and doesn’t miss an opportunity to “brag” about an teacher’s job well done – at a staff meeting, board level, or in front of the community

My Goals in 2014

1 Jul

My NAPP experience in 2013 has taught me that a great leaders set goals and I find those easy as I have always been a prolific list maker. This list of five goals will be on my desk as a daily reminder of what I am pointing to achieve. It sits alongside my daily ten which I try to stick to every day.

1) – I will have high expectations for students, staff and myself. I will help to empower others to take control of their own learning and development by establishing an environment built on accountability and I will support and encourage those with whom I work. I will work to embrace a sharing and collaborative school culture that takes risks in an effort to do great things.

2) – I will listen more than I talk. I will use my two ears more than I use my one mouth, and I will try to learn as much as I can from others. I will make it a priority to get into classrooms to observe on a daily basis, and I will learn by listening and observing.

3) – I will communicate with and involve parents and community stakeholders as often as possible. I will work with teachers and staff to keep parents informed and up-to-date with what is going on in our school through the use of weekly newsletters, our school website and social media outlets.

4) – I will base every decision I make on what is best for students. It is difficult to not get caught up in everything that is going on, but I will make every effort to put students and their needs first.

5) – I will have a healthy balance between my professional and personal life. Though I anticipate the high level of time commitment required for this job, I do not want my job to consume my entire life. My family, friends and colleagues will all benefit from this healthy balance.

I’ve been thinking…

4 May

As a member of a Senior Leadership Team in a secondary school I take time over the holidays to reflect, think, write and read. And I mean read. I have an addiction. I admit it. I love to lose myself in fiction and nonfiction alike. I digress this week I have read and reflected about leadership and what is good leadership.

When you’re in the presence of great leaders, you just know it. Their energy is infectious, they inspire with ease, and when they speak about their mission, you want to get involved. Some of my best friends have these though will deny it. As I have written before you are not born with it. You develop it.

What I have done here is summed up my Big 5 if you like.

1. Treat people well. Look no further than Luke 6:31. This is not easy. When you think about it, this requires trust, going that bit further doing anything to insure that their emotional and professional needs are being met. This type of care requires time, a willingness to invest financially in your people, and an ongoing commitment to evolving how that’s executed.

2. Be humble. This hard but this moves us from good to great

3. Walk your talk – all the time. Saying one thing and doing another is a common trap that leaders find themselves in. Most of the time, it’s not intentional.

4. Have a clear mission and moral purpose. Great leaders aren’t driven by financial gain. They do what they do because they have a higher calling. Here I go back to the Kiwi Leadership Model. Awhinatanga. Awhinatanga is about having empathy with groups and individuals in the school community. By being able to appreciate the point of view of others, leaders can help build a strong learning cultures if the store is living the mission and purpose. And Manaakitanga: Leading with moral purpose. Effective leaders have a central belief system that is focused on student learning and well-being. They set clear goals, and pursue them to ensure success for all. They focus on closing the gaps between the highest and lowest-achieving students in order to raise learning standards and outcomes for all. They create schools that welcome and include all members of the community.

5. Keep asking questions and being Ako. Great leaders are non-stop learners and they know they don’t have all the answers. Ako is about building collaborative learning and teaching relationships within the school. It suggests a reciprocal approach to leading learning. When principals demonstrate ako, all members of the school community participate in identifying significant issues and solving problems

Enjoy your week.

Leadership Tips for any Organisation – Part One

10 Mar

It has nothing to do with being right or wrong.

I think being right is typically one of the least important reasons for getting something done. Far too often I have seen something “wrong” end up getting the green light because of the many variables and circumstances that ultimately have nothing do with what is right or wrong. Being right is not wrong, but understand that being right is not always right either.

Saying “no” is the most important word you could ever say.

“Yes” is so easy. Many times I have had to say no and it is not popular but it the best for the organisation.

Let it go. 

Sometimes you need to leave it for another day. Sometimes you need to swallow your pride and acknowledge I was wrong. Lose the battle in order to win the war is such fine advice.

Web Tips

3 Nov

When preparing lessons or staff meetings I often spend hours sorting through videos, in search of a high quality one.   Check out the following:

YouTube for Teachers : A collection of playlists of videos that align with common educational standards, organized by subject and grade. These playlists were created by teachers for teachers so you can spend more time teaching and less time searching.

YouTube Education: An area within the larger YouTube site that restricts access to only videos from well-known organizations like StanfordPBS and TED as well as from up-and-coming YouTube partners with millions of views, like Khan Academy, in addition the TV3 and TVNZ websites are rather good.

Google also has a Google For Teachers‘ Section with advice on how to search more effectively with Google.

The site offers quick access to resources for:

Using the Google Apps

Creating and using YouTube videos in your classroom

They are just getting started with a  Lesson Plan Search Engine but it needs a bit more development before it will be particularly useful.

TED – Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing site has the same overall theme as the TED conferences but has  ideos geared specifically for use in the classroom.

Leadership Lesson from the Week

Over the course of the year in my NAPP inquiry and in this blog I have written about a range of issues but the central theme has been about learning and teaching in a contemporary and connected world. The more I reflect on this, the more I recognise that improving student learning is about improving teacher quality.  It’s not pie in the sky stuff, it’s achievable when we get teachers working and learning together, opening their practice up to critical reflection and setting high benchmarks for themselves and their students. In this process I have found it useful to use the student voice and ask hard questions.

I know this has been the road less travelled in our profession for the past hundred years and I suppose it can be difficult to imagine how teacher practice could change.  Opening your teaching up to comment is a huge risk but when done in the spirit of continuous improvement, the rewards can be great.

Professional Reading

Clyde Piercy Sabbatical Report 2012

On the subject of student voice I enjoyed this report this week. The subject to explore the extension and building of the role of student voice when building ‘learning – focused’ relationships. In an inclusive and integrated curriculum environment, what are the successful strategies in engaging learners right from the new entrants in building their ability to own their own learning and have their voices heard in the development of their school’s curriculum and culture?


Being a Principal: Some Reflections

18 May

During the last few weeks I have been Acting Principal. As this time comes to an end I thought I should reflect on some key thing I have learned and been aware of. Before you write them off as not applicable to you, consider that these are common in any type of leadership position and in a great deal of literature.

Healthy relationships: A common mistake that leaders make is to hole up in their office and neglect the relationships that will help them to be successful. You have plenty of other things to do, but this is the most important. Make time in your schedule to make the connections that will be mutually beneficial.

Listening: You must go beyond hearing to developing the kind of listening that goes deeper. This kind of listening includes watching body language and observing emotions. If you don’t listen in this way you’ll miss plenty of opportunities to learn and connect to others.

Silence: Leaders who exhibit strategic silence know when to stay still. They understand the impact of words that can hurt, anger, or create fear. They know that when they say too much, others stop speaking and creativity and inclusion are a lost cause.

Appropriate pace: It’s a difficult thing to match the pace of others. I find some leaders are so driven that they outpace those who follow, leaving them in the dust, confused and dazed. Other leaders may be too slow to make decisions and take action, and we all know what happens if this becomes a repeated pattern. You must be authentic to who you are.

Patience: Many leaders are intolerant of others who might do things differently or at a pace the leader finds unacceptable. Action oriented leaders may have a tendency to jump to conclusions before things are thought through. The lack of patience can manifest itself as anger or decisions that aren’t fully thought through.

Calm: Remaining calm is a great asset that can be lacking in many leaders in our high pressure, high stress organizations. Leaders who are not calm may show anxiety and an inability to remain still. They might be excitable at the moments when an organization needs calm, spreading anxiety.

Inclusive: There are very few places where a lone wolf leader can be effective. Decisions are complex, and it takes a village of smart people to help make them. Leaders who aren’t inclusive may find that their organizations lack creativity. The people who are most talented may be taking their brilliance elsewhere.

Respect: A deep respect for all people in the organization is the hallmark of a great and enduring leader. Everyone is treated as someone who matters.

Professional: A leader who is professional is one who dresses appropriately, walks the talk, and is loyal to their organization. Despite how they might feel about certain guidelines, rules, or bureaucracies, they do what needs to be done.

Reflective: Leaders who spend their days reacting are heading for trouble. Most leaders get more responsibility by taking decisive action, but unless they take some time to reflect on past and future successes and failures they’ll eventually run into trouble. Setting aside thinking time is imperative for success. I suppose this blog reflects this.


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