It’s Showtime

The greatest visionaries in every field have that gift for looking ahead. They don’t react.

Education is incredibly slow to change – it is a model of autopilot. For decades – for generations – we as educators have been slowly building on the tradition of American education. We continue with the same calendar, schedule, and structure; it is part of the expectation of society. Our children go to school, we went to schools, and our parents went to schools – little has changed. From Maslow to Dewey – we even prepare teachers the same way.

Where are the visionaries? Where are those who can bring uncommon solutions to today’s educational challenges. Where are those who break the mold? Those who finally act on purpose – not on educational autopilot. Who is looking ahead?

Folks it is simple . . . it is up to us. We have a framework for decision making that provides structure for each event we face. We must rise above the bureaucracy and politics. We must take our talent and skill to the next level. It’s not about reacting; it’s not about autopilot. It’s not about following the rules or embracing the past.

It’s about the future. It’s about the future for our children.

Culture drives behavior, behavior drives results. It starts with our culture . . . it’s time.

Now is the time . . . we are in alignment and we have the talent, skill, and focus to change the world. Be a visionary – see the future!

It’s Showtime!

Be Exceptional

Exceptional leaders think about common things in an uncommon way.

The work we do requires a growth mindset – we must continue to seek opportunities to be better. From our iPad rollout to the creation of online resources, from the ILC to blended learning framework . . . we expect innovation. In Hilliard, we think about common things in uncommon ways. We dream … and pursue our dreams for students.

Exceptional leaders think deeper; exceptional leaders question the status quo. Above the Line leadership requires digging deeper, embracing the productive discomfort of thinking differently, and alway questioning autopilot. Just because it worked yesterday, doesn’t mean we should do it again today. Yes, maybe the time tested practice is the best option, but elite leaders take the time to question. Elite leaders look through different lenses to seek ways to improve – constantly. It take practice and reps . . . it’s uncomfortable.

Best practices were best practices when they were created … create better practices.

Find the time to press pause – reframe each question – and consider uncommon responses to common events. It’s not simply getting outside the box; sometimes we may need to be considering entirely other actions. The solution, the road to growth, may be entirely uncommon.

I expect you to question . . . we are stronger as a team when each of you leads Above the Line. I’m asking for more for you . . . I’m asking you to take risks, to dig deeper, and to step up. It’s much easier, more comfortable, to follow directions. I’m asking you to actively seek to be exceptional each and every day.

It’s a Commitment

When things aren’t going right, the most important thing you can do is slow down, go deep, and figure out why.

Finding time to think – creating the opportunity to think – is essential for leaders. When things get tough, when our response is the most important, we must slow down to think. We must find time to “get our minds right” to answer the question, “What is required of me?”

Without question, this is a skill that must be developed. When things aren’t going right finding ways to slow things down – finding ways to press pause – it a skill that requires practice.

Mental reps . . . planning ahead in our minds . . . is essential in preparation for these situation. Sometimes having your critical friends, those “go to” people in your life, are part of your thinking process. For me, at a personal level, it is a combination of self-talk and critical friends when things get tough. My accountability partners know me . . . they assist to bring clarity and focus when I fall below the line. Then, after those critical conversations, I am able to think deeper and engage in better mental reps with intentionality and purpose.

When you have an irate parent in your office, how do you listen with compassion and create an opportunity to press pause?

When a colleague or supervisor is critical of your performance, or gives a directive that is counter to your core beliefs, how do you respond?

When the plans you’ve been developing for months, working to build consensus to implement, seemingly fall short of your expectations, what is your R?

You must create mental reps . . . time to think, prepare, and practice as self-talk. For Ohio State this is “competitive excellence” – it prepares every player to step-up when his number is called. For us, competitive excellence is being ready for any situation because we have mentally rehearsed it. We plan to overcome adversity.

Find what works for you, what slows you down and takes you to a deeper, more focused level of thought. We all fail; we all will act below the line from time to time. When you fail, fail forward. Learn, grow, and pursue excellence! It’s our growth mindset at work.

E+R= O works with all stations in our lives. It is simple, but not easy. It takes commitment . . . living Above the Line is a life choice.

Think Deeply and Bravely

Invest the time to think. Make it a priority. Leaders think deeply, originally, and often, bravely.

When do you find time to think? How do you frame leadership questions in your own mind?

You must make the time for you; you must be intentional. No one else can do it for you; no one else can make it a priority. There are no excuses – this is not a place to blame your busy schedule, complain about the mundane tasks that consume your time, or defend why you can’t make time to reflect and think. If you want to be successful, if you want to take your leadership to the next level, you MUST protect time for thought and reflection.

You control your 20 square feet . . . only you control your own self-talk . . . only you can take the time to think deeply, originally, and often, bravely. As an organization we are investing the time in our culture to cultivate a healthy leadership mindset. It is personal . . . it is your choice.

“A public opinion poll is no substitute for thought” – Warren Buffett.

Leaders build consensus; leaders are brave. Leaders have invested the time to think about options, to create cultures based on trust, and step up when it is required.

Leaders frame each question in their mind first, inspire greatness in others, and own it!

It starts inside of you!

Your time is now . . . step up!

Leadership is a Mindset

Leadership is a mindset first and a skill set second. If you don’t think like a leader, you won’t act like one.

“Every great leader I have been around or studied has demonstrated the unique ability to think. To think deeply, originally, and often, bravely,” shares Urban Meyer in Above the Line.

Thinking like a leaders is about knowing when to listen, knowing when to inspire, and knowing act with courage. Leaders have a deep desire to serve, to encourage, and to think differently.

A leadership mindset isn’t “command and control.” A leadership mindset creates a culture that drives the behaviors that produce the desired outcomes. A leader inspires others to consistently perform at a higher level. It’s about accountability through action; it’s about the experiences you create for others. Leaders build trust by earning it . . . it begins with the leadership mindset.

It starts with you. You must intentionally, purposefully, and skillfully choose to think like a leader. When you think like a leader, you then act as a leader. This is leading Above the Line.

Every Rep Counts

Elite performance requires elite preparation. Developing skill requires lots of reps. Physical and mental reps. Every rep counts.

It’s Friday morning . . . another week has passed. We are one week closer to Christmas Vacation; we have one less week to make a difference with the students we lead. Are you better today than you were on Monday?

Mental and physical implementation of the R-Factor . . . purposefully planning your response to each event you face . . . is a great step towards elite performance. Have you taken the time to utilize positive “self talk” . . . to prepare yourself for a specific response? Once you press pause, this is the time to get your mind right.

Implementing the R-Factor is a journey . . . it is a process. With each situation, each time you press pause, you are getting reps. Every time you feel tension . . . every time you feel yourself quick to respond . . . are you asking yourself “what is required of me?”

It’s the Holiday Season . . . a time for family gatherings, for busy schedules, and for additional stress. We have concerts, parties, meetings, shopping, travel . . . and the list goes on and on. Don’t think your preparation stops on Friday at 3:30 when the busses have delivered the students home.

It’s personal . . . every rep counts!

You Play like you Practice

You will play like you practice. You can’t practice on autopilot and play with purpose. How you compete in practice will determine how you compete in games.

As a leader – as an educator – my practice is often self-talk. My preparation is often the thinking I do while swimming or running . . . it is the time spent reflecting on the previous day or the time spent preparing for what’s to come. I play scenarios out in my mind . . . I rehearse meetings and practice conversations. I practice my “R” to potential “Es” before they take place. I practice the tough conversations and events over and over.

During the day I practice pressing pause and getting my mind right as I prepare my response to the events of the hour. For us, our practice is continuous . . . our practice is how we think, how we respond, and how we act. Unlike a sports team, we don’t schedule practice to gain reps. Our reps are in our mind, in our actions, and part of each day.

How do you practice? What is your mindset?

If it isn’t part of your mindset, it won’t be part of your behavior. If it isn’t part of your behavior, it won’t be part of the culture you are creating as a leader. If it isn’t in your culture it won’t be part of your results. It must be happening in you before it can happen through you.

Practice in your mind . . . get off autopilot. Intentionally, on purpose, and with skill relentless dedicate your mind to practicing right . . . it lays the foundation for Above the Line behavior.

Elite is about toughness

Elite is not about how talented you are. It is about how tough you are.

This is tough work. We get hit from every angle. We have unions and parents; we have the media and politicians. Yes, you are talented. You wouldn’t work in Hilliard if you didn’t have skills. You wouldn’t lead on this team if you were average.

To be elite take those skills and builds on them . . . builds skill every day. You must overcome adversity, lead in the face of challenges, and step up to make the tough choice every single day. For you the choice is often simple, but not at all easy. Your choice is to use your talent to make a difference. You won’t lose your job by simply managing your response, but you won’t become elite either. You must make the choice to be tough, to have the tough conversations, and to take leading to another level.

I’ve got your back. Your team has your back. Toughness starts with your 20 sq ft … it builds as a unit. It’s starts with leadership . . . You’ve got this! Embrace the productive discomfort it takes to be Elite.

Leadership isn’t about YOU

“Here’s the great secret about leadership: it’s not about you. It’s about making other people better. Leadership is more about trust you have earned than the authority you have been granted. You must earn the right for people to follow you.”

I am thankful to have the opportunity to work with you. I thank God on this Thanksgiving weekend for you and the trust you have given me to lead us on this journey.

While I am thankful each day, I know I am still earning the right to have you follow me. Trust is earned, and in some cases I know I am still working to earn your trust. I strive to be Above the Line each day; our journey together this year has had a profound impact on me. I hope this work is stirring “in you” as well.

Staying Above the Line

“Getting and staying Above the Line is the foundation for success in anything you do. It does not come naturally. It must be taught and learned.”

Without hesitation I share that I am relentlessly committed to living and leading Above the Line; I believe it has changed me as a father, husband, friend, and leader. While it has changed me, I am only at the beginning of my journey. I get better and better at staying Above the Line every day.

Also without hesitation I share that this commitment is a battle every day; it is a battle to live and lead Above the Line. I fail just as much as I succeed; I catch myself in negative self-talk and I still feel my chest tighten in moments of stress. Our jobs are difficult . . . it is not natural to change how we think and operate.

We are a team. We are a family. We learn together and we teach each other. We build skill together. You will fail . . . never give up . . . each failure is an opportunity to learn and to improve.

Staying Above the Line is the foundation for success . . . we are just laying the cornerstone. We have a long way to go, but our future is extremely bright. Keep it up!