I Wrote a Book and Here is What Happened Next

I apologize if the title of this article resembles “clickbait“. I could not think of a better title to describe what happened Saturday as a result of Herbert O’Neil and I publishing a book on Amazon Kindle. Lots of more important things happened Saturday, including a trip to this place with the family, but I want to  share what happened as a result of publishing our (first) book- The Primer Entry Plan for New principals

Entry Plan for New Principals Cover

The cover!!!

Full disclosure, our book is only a book in the sense that it is a collection of words.  Lacking a professional editor, a publishing contract, and a movie tie-in, our effort was only published as a Kindle e-book.

Don’t let me mislead you, I think the book contains a lot of useful information for any new principal or aspiring principal, but I am also not going to try to convince you that this is a future New York Times Best Seller.

But in fact that is what basically happened on Saturday (sort of) and that is what I want to share with you.

After publishing the book on Friday, noticing some errors, and then updating it late Friday night, I awoke Friday to check to see if we had garnered any sales.  I had planned to originally give the book away for free, but the Amazon Kindle self publishing site mandated at least a 99 cent charge.  In case you are wondering, I am able to collect 35 cents for every book purchased (downloaded!).

When I logged in around 5:30 am Saturday morning to check on the book (did I mention we have a new puppy), I discovered that overnight our book had vaulted to # 3 on the Amazon Kindle rankings for Education Administration books.  In fact the only two Ed Admin books ranked ahead of our book were written by this guy and that guy.

I quickly called Herbert and we started an ad hoc promotional campaign that consisted of mass tweeting and texting everyone we knew about the book.  After all, we were locked into a book rankings battle with two Ed Celebrities.

Throughout the day our book climbed to #2 on the list (thanks mom), and then finally briefly held the #1 spot before sliding back to #2 at the time of this writing. It is hard to describe the rush that accompanied this meteoric but short-lived rise to fame.  At my son’s mid-day soccer game it took all of my self-control to not mention to the other parents that I was now a best-selling author.

In all seriousness, it has been fun, but we are not lost in the vanity of self-promotion.  The book is useful if you are a new or aspiring principal.  After that it might be interesting to others in the field of education and also perhaps to  our close friends and relatives.

A few days ago I wrote a post titled Just Start, and I can now affirmatively say that I have done that.  I encourage you to do the same and write a book or whatever else you have been longing to do.  It just might turn into an incredible thrill ride.

I am looking forward to sunday.  I have probably run out of personal contacts willing to spend 99 cents to buy the book, so it will now have to stand on its own merits to maintain its lofty ranking.

Link to the book

Five to Measure at A Weekly Campus Tactical Meeting

Scheduling weekly tactical meetings with their administrative team is an effective method for principals to stay in a proactive rather than reactive mode.

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During my first principal assignment I rarely had regular scheduled meetings with my assistant principals. It pains me as I remember that my mindset was to start each day doing things I thought were important and carrying out tasks that would help me achieve my campus goals.  However since I was not regularly meeting with my assistant principals,  I was not involving them in the campus leadership, keeping them engaged in important planning,  nor properly preparing them to be future principals.  Thankfully they were both so skilled that they eventually became principals, but I could have done so much more for them, the campus, the teachers, and most importantly the students by having regular meetings.

Principals should at least have a weekly formal tactical meeting with their assistant and associate principals.  While important for nurturing and strengthening team relationships, these meetings are also essential to ensure alignment and for measuring and monitoring.

A weekly tactical meeting should at least contain the following elements (including five essential measurements) as regular recurring agenda items:

Shared learning and professional development

Each week, the principal should ensure that they are intentionally growing their administrative team through shared learning and professional development.  As the year goes on, this activity will be always in danger of being replaced with an urgent task unless this time is protected and valued by the leader. A best practices approach would be to include a good mix of practical and theoretical professional development.

FOUR REASONS WHY ARRIVING LATE TO MEETINGS WILL WRECK YOUR CAREER

If you were once late to a meeting, this post is not for you. Instead it is to help bolster the careers of otherwise competent employees who are regularly late to meetings.

An alarm clock displaying the word "late". This could mean late for work, late for school, late for an appointment or meeting, etc.

Early is on time while arriving to a meeting, while arriving at or after the start time is late.

Play tricks with your clocks.  Put your keys in the same spot every night. Use WAZE. Leave earlier. Create calendar reminders. Do whatever is necessary for you to safely arrive before the meeting starts.

Four reasons why chronically arriving late to meetings will wreck your career:

  • You are indicating that your time is more valuable than everyone else’s time.  Your lateness will annoy some of your peers and colleagues and probably the meeting organizer. You and your company will be more successful if those relationships are functional rather than strained by your tardiness.
  • You will disrupt the meeting.  At the very least the speaker, who may be your supervisor, is disrupted.  Most likely everyone else has also missed something important because most of us like to watch a late person make their way into a crowded meeting.
  • You appear to be incompetent.  If you can not accomplish the relatively simple task of regularly arriving on time should you be promoted to lead a strategic company asset?
  • You miss important things that might not be covered again but will be essential to your next project or ongoing performance.

Even if you think the meeting is of no value, or even sadly if it really is of no value, if you are required to attend then be on time.

Are you chronically late for meetings at work?  Do you have ideas to help others be on time?  Continue the conversation with me on Twitter.

TEARING DOWN “OLD FENCES”? DO THIS FIRST

Tearing down “old fences” is often appealing to those new leaders who want to demonstrate their decisiveness to their new staff.  These “old fences” are the procedures and practices of the organization established by the previous leadership.

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New leaders will be quickly approached by the staff who have particular practices or procedures that they want to be changed.  Rebuffed by the prior leadership, they see in the new leader a chance to mold things more to their liking. Their arguments may even be well thought out and are convincing since the new leader has no experience with their issue.

G.K. Chesterton once remarked, “Before you tear down a fence find out why it was built in the first place.”  This is good advice because with only the limited perspective of a new leader it may not be obvious what the unintended consequences of a procedure or practice change might be to the organization.  The “fence” was created for some reason.  Discover that first and then decide if a change is needed.

And if a change is needed, then involve everyone affected by that change in the development and implementation of the solution to the greatest degree possible. (Consider reading: What is 3iA?)

THE PRINCIPAL’S FIRST MEETING WITH THE STAFF

Joining a new campus, even if it is in a familiar district, requires a well-planned entrance strategy for the new principal.

Change
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One way a new principal can make a mistake at the beginning of their tenure is to make sweeping changes before first building staff relationships. Unless it is a compliance or safety issue they are well served to wait until building a support base and making some personal observations before enacting changes.  As G.K. Chesterton once said, “Don’t tear down a fence until you first learn why it was built.”

The first meeting with the staff is critical, here are a few ideas to consider when planning for that meeting:

Overview of the First Staff Meeting

The first staff meeting presents the new principal with their first opportunity to make a good impression on those they will lead and serve. At this point the staff will be mostly concerned about how the new principal and their leadership practices will personally impact them. It is recommended that the new principal choose another opportunity besides the first meeting to unveil any new changes. Even if necessary, the changes will seem autocratic rather than collaborative if there have not been any previous planning meetings on those changes. The first meeting should be less about the accomplishments of the new principal and their plan for the campus and more about communicating eagerness to get to know and work alongside the staff.

Setting up the meeting

The principal’s supervisor or the previous principal may be involved in the planning of the introductory meeting with the faculty. Confirm with both of them if applicable prior to setting up any initial staff meeting. Learn about some recent accomplishments of the campus prior to this meeting.

What to say

Share positive recent accomplishments of the campus and the staff. Communicate an understanding of the quality of the school that has existed prior to transition. Share a desire to work alongside the staff. If possible, share something positive about previous leadership. Communicate interest in building professional relationships with the staff and reference any current efforts underway to begin that process. Tell the staff why the position of principal of this campus was so desirable and appealing. Brevity is preferred. Sharing of generic positive goals is acceptable, but avoid specifics as this creates change related stress. Linger after the introduction to shake hands and meet the staff.

What to avoid saying

Communicating about any intended changes or specific goals unless there is a critical safety or security issue. Sharing any plan for the new campus. Sharing too much about your personal accomplishments.

(pdf of article)

 

Connect with me via Twitter and share your ideas about a principal’s first meeting with their staff.

NEW PRINCIPAL? LEARN THESE PROCEDURES FOR YOUR NEW ASSIGNMENT

Summer time is a busy time for new principals, but they must take time to learn the important operational procedures of their new assignment.

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(link to downloadable pdf of list)

Campus Procedures

Morning Arrival/Drop off

  • Bus plan
  • Car rider plan
  • Walker plan
  • Student access plan including staging areas and early morning building access
  • Late student procedures
  • Student parking plan including parking pass procedures, insurance requirements, and lot monitoring

Breakfast/Lunch

  • Set up and break down procedures for cafeteria seating area preparation
  • Cafeteria food service plan including checkout and line queuing
  • Monitoring plan for lines, tables and access hallways
  • Seating plan including acceptable alternate eating areas and student movement restrictions
  • Cafeteria cleaning plan between or during lunch service periods
  • Applicable cafeteria sound and video equipment operation

Staff procedures

  • Sign in/sign out
  • Notification of absence
  • Preparations for substitutes
  • Parking including parking pass procedures

During the day operations

  • Building supervision plan
  • Tardy procedures
  • Administrative 2 way radio channel access and charging procedures.

Maintenance operations

  • Building cleaning schedule
  • Custodial assigned cleaning areas

Dismissal

  • Bus plan
  • Car rider plan
  • Walker plan
  • Plan for students who are not picked up or who do not leave campus at dismissal
  • Plan for controlling access after dismissal
  • Parking lot monitoring plan

Stakeholder communication

  • Public address system operation
  • Emergency announcement communication system
  • School closing and extracurricular event cancellation procedures
  • Plan for updating stakeholder emergency contacts

Other special procedures:

  • Pep rally plan and schedule
  • Assembly procedures including student loading and dismissal from assembly

What other procedures should a new principal learn about their new assignment?  Connect with me via Twitter and share your ideas.

THREE WAYS TO ENSURE YOUR NEW IDEA FAILS

Catastrophic implementation failure guaranteed in three easy steps.

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First, do not involve anyone who will actually be implementing your new idea in its development.  They probably have little to add and what they do offer you will have already considered and dismissed.  Involving people slows things down, blurs your laser focus, and may empower them into thinking their opinions matter on other issues.  Work out your idea with a small group of other high level leaders who will not be affected by any part of the new initiative.

Second, forego any staff training for your new idea.  Your staff is too busy to learn a new process that you will eventually abandon and replace next year.  Training costs money and time which should be hoarded for the inevitable damage control and backtracking that typically follows your program roll-outs.  If you feel you must train your staff then do it all by email.

Third, implement your program systemwide rather than through a smaller scale piloting program.  The best way to find flaws in your idea is having everyone implement it at once.

What are some other ways you can ensure that your new idea is DOR (Dead on Roll-out)?  Share with me via Twitter

If you think their is a better way to develop and implement solutions…

HOW TO ASK “WHAT DO YOU THINK?” USING THE SKS SURVEY

What do you think?  That is the most important question for a collaborative leader.  The Start-Keep Doing-Stop survey, or SKS, is a feedback tool for asking this question. It can be a part of a new principal’s entry strategy or as part of a regular feedback loop on any idea or initiative.

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Respondents are asked variations of the following three question types:

  • What should we start?
  • What should we keep doing?
  • What should we stop?

The purpose of an SKS survey is to create direct communication between members of the organization. SKS questions usually result in answers with concrete examples. There are variations of this process that rearrange the question order. Properly used, the survey can identify areas of concern for the leader and organizational perception about a variety of topics.

ENSURE YOUR CAMPUS SPECIAL EVENTS ARE BETTER EVERY YEAR

School event quality reflects on the campus administrator. Often these events represent the attendees’ only interaction with the school and form the basis for their opinion of the entire campus. A good example is a graduation ceremony in which many of the attendees will be visiting the campus or district for the first and only time. The experiences from a well or poorly run event will be shared.

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Printable PDF of this entire article

Most campus special events recur on an annual basis. A good strategy to improve annual campus special events includes the following:

  • Detailed record keeping of all planning notes, agendas, and copies of other materials from the event.
  • Actively soliciting the staff and stakeholders for feedback following the event.
  • Updating your planning checklist for the meeting immediately following the event with any identified modifications or improvements based on observation or feedback

ARE YOUR MEETINGS CATALYTIC?

Catalytic meetings are those meetings that result in solutions identification, development or implementation victories for the organization.  Catalytic meetings, unlike some other meetings, are not a wasteful use of organizational resources.

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Want to have catalytic meetings?  The following ingredients create the best opportunity for a catalytic meeting:

  • Participants  know beforehand what items they will be expected to discuss
  • Participants know their roles on each agenda item as either an Influencer or the Decision Maker.
  • Participants know that they are expected to contribute
  • Participants are given an opportunity to contribute
  • Participants do not leave the meeting without establishing “who does what for whom by when”

What other ingredients do you think create the best opportunity for a Catalytic meeting?  Share your ideas with me on Twitter