5 Reasons Culture Trumps Strategy

The idea that “culture eats strategy for lunch”, is a quote most often attributed to Peter Drucker and has spurred plenty of conversation about the importance of culture in any organization. Within the educational context, it’s quite simple. A commitment to a culture of continuous improvement determines the success of student learning.

Schools that embrace this commitment have the following attributes:

1. Everyone shares collective responsibility for the success of all students served by the school, particularly the newest teachers.

2. Leaders are models and advocates for learning. They show the learning community their commitment to life long learning every day.

3. Data drives improvement and decision making at every level.

4. Professional learning is grounded in evidence; aligned to individual, team, and system goals; driven by protocols, and personalized.

5. Educators have immediate access to classroom-based support virtually and on site at all times.


Creating a healthy school culture is a vital part of the work that educators must do if students are going to achieve at high levels. Teachers matter, and what they DO matters most.

How has the importance of school culture played out in your world?

4 Paths to Heart Leadership

HeartThe source of our real power is the heart.

It’s how we connect with others. It’s how we nurture trust. It’s the heart — both ours and theirs — that makes people want to follow us and throw everything they’ve got into making something successful. People follow leaders who show compassion, competence and warmth with their head and heart. A growing body of evidence  suggests we should always begin with the heart.

1. Go after your vision.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else. The heart-centered leader’s mission is divining the organization’s culture, and then perceiving a vision of what path the organization and its members should take to achieve its goals. Vision and mission bring the “meaning” to the heart-centered organization.

2. Listen with your heart.

Great organizations are built on a foundation of strong relationships–both inside and out.  Two-way communication within an organization–opening up a true dialogue with colleagues–is critical. Worker accessibility to top management is more common today than ever before. The best leaders encourage an openess of ideas throughout the organization. They seek to break down the walls that separate employees from one another whenever and wherever they find them.

3. Encourage employee involvement that’s heartfelt.

No one of us is as smart as all of us–every employee is a source of unlimited ideas on how to improve his or her organization’s work processes, and systems. Effective employee participation works only in an environment of complete and unconditional trust. You can encourage employee participation at work by continuing to build bridges of trust.

4. Change the organization–one person at a time: Relationships.

Putting people first is the key to unleashing the full power and creativity of employee teams. One person can make all the difference in the world! So, whether it’s at work, at home, or in any other part of our the world around us, we can reawaken our hearts–and the hearts of those around us–by putting people first in all that we do.

Try it…….

Stop Talking and Listen

“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Mark Twain.

There are many life skills I constantly strive to improve upon such as diet and exercise. Better communication skills is another. Talking less…listening more!

We live in a high-tech, high-speed, high-stress world. Communication is more important then ever, yet often we seem to devote less and less time to really listening to one another. Authentic listening has become a rare gift. It helps to build relationships, solve problems, ensure understanding, resolve conflicts, and improve accuracy. Effective listening can also mean fewer errors and less wasted time.–All the things we strive for on a daily basis at school.

A good listener will listen not only to what is being said, but also reflect on what is left unsaid or only partially said.

Consider these 5 ideas for improved listening skills:

1. Don’t Talk: Don’t talk, listen.  When somebody else is talking, listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them.  Stop—— just listen.

2. Prepare to Listen: Focus on the speaker.  Put other things out of your mind.  We can easily be distracted by other thoughts. Put other thoughts out of your mind and concentrate on the messages that are being communicated to you. This one may need to be practiced.

3. Put the Speaker at Ease: Remember their needs and concerns. Nod or use other gestures or words to encourage them to continue and maintain eye contact.

4. Empathise: Try to understand the other person’s point of view. Look at issues from their perspective and let go of preconceived ideas.  

5. Wait and Watch for Non-Verbal Communication: We don’t just listen with our ears but also with our eyes – watch and pick up the additional information being transmitted via non-verbal communication.

We are in the learning business! Consider the additional opportunities that await with excellent listening skills.


5 Characteristics of Intuitive Leaders

I recently re-read Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman and reflected on the many decisions I make as a school leader that are based on intuition. Don’t misunderstand me. I use reliable “evidence” for most critical decisions, and in a few instances,have been reluctantly stuck in the “paralysis by analysis” mode. I trust my intuition and am continuing to learn and grow with it.

Intuitive Leaders have a greater awareness of their surroundings, circumstances, events and other peoples ideas. Leadership intuition is a developed skill. Intuition is a gathering of information and experience. Many people might view this as a “feeling” or a “hunch”. I believe it’s–experience reapplied. This is especially important with our experiences with people. We are taught to believe that if we can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. In most cases, human behavior cannot be measured, even though it IS real. Our leadership intuition grows when we observe people’s behavior, synthesize it and reapply it!

  1. Intuitive leaders risk trusting their hunches. They value their experiences.
  2. Intuitive leaders use holistic thinking. Their experiences have taught them to see past an isolated case, but the Big Picture.
  3. Intuitive leaders are most successful in dealing with the unexpected and the unpredictable. The unexpected happens on a weekly basis with school leaders.
  4. Intuitive leaders often ask themselves, “Does it feel right”. They assess, synthesize and apply. Isn’t this what we want our students to learn?
  5. Intuitive leaders understand that intuition is natural AND learnable.
What are your thoughts?

9 Leadership Lessons Learned as a Conductor

Raised in the Seattle area, I have been a professional musician since my teens. I have directed award-winning High School Bands, musicals and community orchestras. My expertise in percussion and keyboard have allowed me to perform throughout the United States with orchestras, jazz and rock ensembles. I am also a high school principal.

Here are 9 valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way.conductor

1. Great conductors  turn their back against the audience to conduct the orchestra. No matter what challenge is at hand (or audience response), they focus on doing the right thing with their team.

2. Great conductors spend hours and hours reviewing the musical score and “vision” of the end result. Now, I spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing our school’s vision.

3. Great conductors practice. Practice definitely makes perfect. I review and practice my leadership skills weekly. I just don’t assume the “music” of a great working team will happen by itself.

4. Great Conductors get the best out of their team. They ensure that individual musicians, and the “team”, feel significant and valued.  I do my best to take the time for relationship building.

5. Great Conductors are aware of their gestures and the impact they have on the ensemble. Everything’s done with “intention“. They are role models.

6. Great conductors always share the spotlight. Without the orchestra, the conductor is nothing. Together Everyone Achieves More.

7. The conductor stands on a podium and is visible to every member of his orchestra. Visibility is key when leading an effective organization.

8. Great conductors strive for balance with the orchestra. One section should not “overplay” other sections unless directed. The conductor pays attention to every section of the orchestra, or organization, to help them perform effectively within the entire orchestra.

9. Great Conductors lead! They inspire, and create an exciting environment, and share a clear vision for the orchestra.

Are you a great conductor for your organization?