Step Up to Lead

“Don’t use difficult Events as an excuse for a default Response. Use it to Step Up to the discipline required at the moment.” – Tim Kight

Covid-19 has been the most challenging, ongoing Event in my career. Each day brings new challenges. In some ways, Covid-19 has been one large Event; in other ways, it’s been a daily series of continual Events, each requiring discipline Responses.

Leaders must Step Up when faced with difficult decisions. We are under pressure due to conflicting health recommendations, tension heightened by the politicization of mitigation efforts, and changing scientific guidance. Covid-19 is new from a research standpoint; as scientists learn, guidance changes. Each day we receive email and social media posts advocating for polar opposite positions. Under pressure, we don’t rise to the occasion; we “step up” to learned behavior. We act with purpose and skill.

As a leader, my inner-core is focused on serving our students and community. It’s not about Stepping Up to some decisions; it’s about focused and disciplined daily actions. It isn’t uncomfortable and may be unpopular. We have trained with Tim and Focus 3 to prepare with R-Factor Skills to Step up and Respond with skill.

Focused Self-talk & Mindset

Our mindset affects every aspect of our lives. Our “inner response” determines our “external response.” When we “get our minds right,” our actions are intentional. When we are disciplined in our self-talk, our behavior is discipline.

I’ve struggled at times keeping my mind right during the coronavirus crisis. I get frustrated by the situation; I try to control things that are out of my control. When I see critical, or just hateful, social media comments, I lose focus on what’s most important.

To achieve the best available Outcome, we must act with purpose to choose the required Response. We must have a disciplined focus on the facts, on listening to understand those with expertise, and on what we can control. I can’t control how some folks choose to comport themselves on Facebook. I can manage my Response and my behavior.

During the most challenging days, the ability to Get My Mind Right is critical to strong leadership. I am at my best, so are you, when my self-talk is disciplined and focused. Stay focused on your behavior, on your inner-core, and others will follow your lead.

Press Pause to Gain Focus

We Press Pause to think before we Respond. It’s necessary to gain focus – to respond in a discipline, skillful way.  

During the ongoing months of this Covid-19 crisis, I can’t count the number of times an Event has sparked a passionate Response from me. My first thoughts, sometimes my first words, are often undisciplined. Like many, I have Covid-Fatigue; there are times I am tired, frustrated, and just sick of operating in a no-win situation. Then, I Press Pause to focus – so I can gain clarity. I ask myself, “what is required of me to achieve the best possible Outcome?”

Leading with discipline becomes more critical the more difficult the Events we face. When we act to balance the health and safety needs with our students’ educational and mental health needs, skillful leadership is required. We can’t operate on impulse during these unprecedented times; we listen to experts, review recommendations and guidance, and maintain focus.

It’s never too late to Press Pause. Your feelings are real; your emotions are raw. As leaders, we stand firm on the foundation of our training. We recognize our feelings, press pause, and regain focus on what’s needed to achieve the best possible Outcome.

E+R=O ~ The R Factor

“Every day you choose how to respond to the events you experience. The outcome you get is determined by the responses you choose,” Tim Kight.

Covid stinks; it has produced irreparable loss, pain, and suffering. Covid is an Event; it creates a series of events in our lives every day. All we can do, each of us, is choose the best possible Response available to us. The Outcome is the result from our “R” we choose.

Not every “R” is good; not every “R” will make everyone happy. In fact, in difficult situations, we must step-up and make decisions that may be unpopular, but we act with purpose to choose the best “R” available to us. We intentionally strive to separate emotion from facts and data; we purposefully fight impulsive “Rs” to act with skill. As a leader I own my decisions because I have confidence that I’ve acted with discipline in choosing my “R.”

We are all leaders; we all create Events for others. Discipline-driven action is our foundation, but it isn’t easy. Let’s resist default-decision behavior to create the best possible Outcomes during these challenging times.

21 Day Focus Journey

2020 and Covid-19 have challenged me like never before. Over the past nine months, I’ve wrestled with decisions that tested my discipline – my ability to act with intention rather than emotion. There are times I’ve felt defeated; there are times my feelings have gotten the best of me. We’ve all experienced a sense of loss; the coronavirus took things we may have taken for granted from us. And, it’s not over.


What’s sustained my leadership during this crisis has been my foundation and training. For years, I’ve been working with my friend and mentor, Tim Kight. Our leadership team, our district as a whole, has partnered with Focus 3 since the summer of 2014.

As Tim reminds me, “The core purpose of E+R=O training is to make your Response strong than any Event you face.”


Covid-19 is an Event, a global pandemic, that requires an elite Response.
Keeping Life in Focus is critical as we navigate this crisis together. I invite you to join me on a 21-day journey to keep our focus on intentional, Above the Line, Responses. Each morning for the next 21 days, I will post a short, 2-3 paragraph message reminding us of our training and tools to choose the best “R” available to us.

#HCSD1 – A New Day

The first day of school will be a very different experience.  It won’t be the first day we’ve come to expect; it won’t be a typical first day.

First of all, thank you to our teachers.  Your unwavering skill and dedication have our district prepare for eLearning this week and, hopefully, hybrid very soon.  Teachers are essential workers, and you have responded to this challenge.

Our support staff and administrators have been working endless hours preparing for multiple instructional modes.  The team has rebuilt schedules, and class lists shifted 3,000+ students into an online academy and managed daily changes in conditions.  Our bus drivers will assist with classroom preparations for hybrid; our food service team is ready for delivery this week and boxed meals in hybrid.  It’s a new day in how we provide support and services.

Finally, to our parents and community, thank you.  Our schools are the cornerstone of our Hilliard Community.  Covid-19 has disrupted all our lives; the impact from a school perspective is significant.  We appreciate your patience with ever-changing plans and short notification periods.  We share in your frustration and understand your desire for consistency.

I wish I could promise consistency in our school schedule, but that’s not possible.  Our motivation is to get students in school, with their teachers, as soon as safely possible.  Our commitment is to be open with our communications and transparent in our decision-making process.  We will change when state orders and public health officials dictate; we remain student-focused and intentional in our decisions.

This isn’t the first day we hoped for, but it is our first day.  As a teacher shared last week, “We’ve got this.”  Let’s not lament what’s lost but celebrate what we have.  

Teachers and students will connect beginning tomorrow.  We start a journey together –  a journey that will have ups and downs.  Our Power of the Team, our values, will keep us on course.  Together, we’ve got this! 

The Amazing Power of Grace

As school districts across the country embark on a new, uncharted journey, each of us must embrace the need for grace.  It is amazing how grace –  courteous goodwill – changes our perspective.

The COVID-19 Crisis has put all of us, from the most discipline to the hyperemotional, on edge.  Our lives have been disrupted in unimaginable ways.  Yesterday’s routine, daily activities are only memories.  A friendly hug when we see an old friend, a firm handshake with a new acquaintance, or simply grabbing a cup of coffee with a colleague are remembrances from a seemingly different era.  

For schools, small reading groups on the carpet, a student section cheering at a football game, or the joyful noise from a packed lunchroom will be eerily missing from the school experience.

As we prepare for the unknown, as we respond to rapidly evolving information about this virus, uncertainty and change will be part of our school life.  No one week will be like the next; schedules, bus times, and instructional tools will be in a continuous flux state.  School officials will do their best; we will communicate what we know when we know it.

Keeping our students safe, keeping them in school is going to require flexibility and adaptability.  For families that depend on regular childcare, this year is going to be stressful and exhausting.  A single class or a school building could be placed into eLearning, quarantined, with short notice.  Games may be suddenly canceled for students, and teachers may need to shift assignments due to changing learning modalities.

We must respond to each challenge with compassion and empathy.  A school district’s changes are not from lack of planning or communication; everyone is doing their best during an unprecedented global pandemic. Moreover, on our end, our teachers and staff will give our students and parents the same grace – the same courteous goodwill.

We are all seemingly feel lost as we respond to this time’s events, but we will all be found as we work together.

Purpose-Driven Educators

“This isn’t what I signed up for.”

While just background noise on the television, I heard a reporter interviewing a classroom teacher. The teacher, holding a sign that read “No Vaccine, No School!” spoke with impulsive emotion.

Unlike doctors, educators don’t take an oath before taking the job. After years of training, educators are granted a license by the state and hired by a district. Nevertheless, there is a covenant – an implicit promise – that elite educators keep. We serve our students; we take all reasonable means to prepare the next generation.  In short, we stand up and own our actions; we make a difference every day.

Just two short years ago, our district conducted a full-scale safety drill with police and first responders. With colleagues made-up to mimic wounded victims and others blockading doors to keep out a violent intruder – the exercise was frightening. We didn’t sign-up to be educators to prevent a deadly shooting in our schools, but we answer the call to be prepared for the unimaginable.  We pray our training will never be necessary, but we are ready to respond with skill.

A well-documented story unfolded just three years ago when a student was discovered plotting and recruiting co-conspirators, for a mass shooting event. We didn’t sign-up to foil violent incidents, but we answer the bell to prevent tragedy. We’ve had sharpshooters on buildings during homecoming football games and undercover law enforcement at pep rallies. As educators, we do what’s required of us. We serve and keep our students safe.

Our commitment to our students’ social-emotional needs is codified in our policies, plans, and goals. Mental health and well-being are targeted focus areas- a focus equal to academic progress and physical health. Teachers are counselors; they are guides on a student’s journey. Many didn’t “sign-up” to be a wellness counselor, but it is now an essential job requirement.

We prepare our students for success in a rapidly changing world. Our jobs – our commitment as educators – have new demands every year. Covid-19 has rocked our world. This virus is going to be part of our lives for years to come. Nearly every aspect of normal-life has been disrupted; we have all been impacted in many ways.

There is nothing fair about what we are facing today; we are all experiencing a loss. We grieve for the security and certainty we crave. Some people are fearful of the future, while others more willingly accept a certain level of risk. Professional adults are struggling with reality – and now, more than ever, our students need us.

No one signed-up for living in a world with Covid-19; we are amid a global pandemic. Our implicit promise – as professionals – is that we serve our students. We take every reasonable step to meet their social, emotional, and academic needs. We act with purpose and skill; we are meticulous in our planning and steadfast with our safety precautions. We demand social distancing, barriers, and masks. As professionals, we step-up and answer the bell.  Our community has a renewed appreciation for our profession.  I continue to be impressed with the work of our teachers.  As one teacher said to me today, “we’ve got this.”

I didn’t sign up for this, but I will do what is required of me during a time of great crisis.  We are purpose-driven and focused on children.

Press Pause . . . It can make all the difference.

In times of crisis, when emotions are high, it is increasingly essential that we Press Pause to make the best possible decisions.

Press Pause

The current COVID-19 crisis creates unprecedented Events in our daily lives. We are managing strong emotions – loss, isolation, and fear. When we act base on emotion – rather than intention – we don’t achieve the desired outcomes.

We intentionally focus on health and safety; we save lives by being disciplined in our responses.  This work isn’t easy; we are living in historic times.  How we respond to this crisis, and how we recover from it, will determine our future.

Teachers change the world, one child, at a time.

IMG_0026Our society’s most important investment in the future is in our children.  The resources we put into our public schools, the work our teachers do in our classrooms, are the single most important factor in America’s future success.

Each child in our public schools has the potential to have a positive influence in the future.  Each individual student is a work in progress . . . our teachers are shaping our tomorrow.  We can provide the foundation of knowledge and support the development of values.

Our teachers are creating and building tomorrow one student at a time.  There is nothing more important!