I Thought All Decisions Were Black and White.

In another life I’m positive I was a teacher (it’s been so long, but I’m pretty sure).

Back in the good old days, running a school or school district seemed so easy.

I could sit in a teacher’s meeting and come up with the correct answers in a split-second.

You didn’t even have to ask me.  (and trust me, no one did).

Actually, you didn’t even have to have a teacher’s meeting.  I could simply stand in the hallway and share my opinion.

I just knew how things should be done.

Things seemed so simple from my vantage point (in the back… sometimes paying attention).

I was positive I understood all the decisions school administrators should make (ALL… not some… ALL).

Give me a problem.  I had the answer.Everybody is An Expert.  Until They Have to Make the Decision.

Don’t give me a problem.  Still had the answer.

No hesitation.

No second-guessing.

No mistakes.

Back then, I was a genius (in my own mind… and only in my own mind).

Basically, I was batting a 1,000% on any and all tough decisions (I was keeping track… probably when I should have been listening).

It really wasn’t that hard.

In fact, it always confused me why principals and superintendents made things look so difficult.

Everything seemed clear to me.  Very black and white.

Then I became an administrator.

About 2 minutes in, I realized decisions were seldom black and white (it took 2 minutes because the first 90 seconds I was frozen from sheer panic).

In fact, after 8 years I have come to realize there aren’t any decisions that are black and white.

They’re all gray.

Every single one.

I think this is because each decision an administrator makes involves people.

Sure, you may be deciding on a sports schedule or a printer cartridge, but eventually the decision leads you to a person.

And that makes the simple complicated.

If only I knew then what I know now.

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Leadership Lessons from the Dancing Guy.

My new favorite video.


Thanks Rene.

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People Want a Boss.

It is definitely that time of year. And not just for resumes and countdowns (spring break and end of the year).

Schools districts are in the process of hiring administrators for next year.

More people will be joining me in this challenging profession (notice I didn’t say “foolish” people… although you can assume it’s implied).

In a matter of months, they will be neck deep in troubles.

The problems they will face are tough, but manageable. Especially, if they have an idea about what they are getting into.

Being in charge of anything makes you tired. Being in charge of kids makes you really tired.

Being in charge of adults makes you borderline stupid.

But someone has to do it. mean_boss2

When you are in charge, you quickly learn the tricks of the trade or you get steamrolled. And unemployed.

Once hired, people will expect you to make decisions. No one likes wishy-washy. You will never hear a staff member say “I wish my (principal, assistant principals, dean, superintendent, etc.) was more wishy-washy.”

People want those in charge to be decisive. While people hate being told what to do, they hate not being told worse.

Now this doesn’t mean they will approve of your decisions. In fact, some people will take a great deal of pleasure in pointing out your mistakes (and trust me, you will make hundreds… if things go well and you aren’t in the profession very long).

That is okay, as mistakes and second guessing are part of the job.

If you are hired to lead, you need to do it or get out of the way.

When placed in command – take charge. -Norman Schwarzkopf

While staff members may criticize your bad decisions, they will be even more critical if you don’t make decisions (in the profession we call that “smelling blood”… and by we, I mean me).

Since this is a lose-lose proposition for you, make well-informed decisions and hope for the best (and by hope I mean pray and call your lawyer… not necessarily in that order).

Others may point out your faults, but deep down they don’t want to be in charge. If being in charge was easy, everyone would do it.

People will always offer advice on the easy situations, but when things get difficult you are on your own.

While opinions are a dime a dozen, solutions are much harder to find.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help. Just make sure you involve people with knowledge of the situation. And those people want the situation to improve.

Please don’t force people to be on a committee. No one likes a committee. And if they do, that just shows the quality of their judgement so consequently you don’t want them on a committee.

It’s a vicious circle.

And if you force people to serve, they won’t be happy. Or productive. And then what have you accomplished.

You have angered people and you end up with a watered down idea.

To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent. – Robert Copeland

You will also learn that as a school administrator you are no longer a teacher.

I picked up on this when I noticed the sign on the Teacher’s Lounge didn’t say Teacher’s/Administrator’s Lounge.

You are no longer in the group; you are responsible for the group. The trick is remaining available and approachable to all employees, but not getting too close to some or all.

A good leader is part of the group, but not in the group.

Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them. -John Maxwell

I believe that people want to be led. They just don’t want to be bossed. Having a boss and being bossed are two different scenarios.

Employees have opinions and like to share their thoughts. Especially on decisions that affect them. And this is a good thing.

Most good leaders will tell you that some, if not all, of their best ideas came from other people.

Give an invested person a problem and it is highly likely they will come up with a solution.

If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results. – George S. Patton

Another challenge is leading people to change. Just a heads up… people don’t like change. At least at first.

People like change when it is over. But only after it has become the new norm.

Employees have put time and effort into the status qou. Things just didn’t accidently become like they are. Someone worked towards it.

So when you ask those same people to change, their first reaction is often “This will never work”

They usually don’t have a reason why it won’t work. Unless you count “Because” as a reason.

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be. -Rosalynn Carter

Most people react to change better than they think they will. Too often, they don’t give themselves enough credit on their ability to adjust.

And the older we get, the more of a challenge it seems to be (I am well on my way to reaching my goal of being an angry old man who is stuck in his ways).

People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing. A leader’s job is to help people have vision of their potential. -John Porter

You can lead people to change if you give them several things. Fair warning, time to adjust, direction, and support are all important.

But there is one thing that is more important.


The people involved have to be told (usually over and over) that everything is going to be fine. We can survive this and we (and students) will be better off for it.

Hope is free. Feel free to spread it around.

A leader is a dealer in hope. -Napoleon Bonaparte

If you want to be successful, this is the best advice I can share.

Don’t be afraid to look stupid (it’s going to happen, so don’t fight it).

Surround yourself with good people. Don’t feel threatened if you aren’t the smartest person in the room.

Take this as a blessing, not a threat.

The ultimate leader is one who is willing to develop people to the point that they surpass him or her in knowledge and ability. – Fred A. Manske, Jr.

Like with most things in life, leadership isn’t overly complicated.

Keep things simple.

In summary, my 4 Keys to LEAD.

Listen more than you talk.

Encourage more than you dictate.

Anticipate more than you react.

Don’t be the smartest person in the room.

Lastly, keep in mind that I have no idea what I am talking about. This advice, says my lawyer, should not be taken for anything more than it is… rambling incoherent thoughts of an administrator who is not getting enough sleep. I am just like everyone working in a classroom or a school… wondering if my spring break will ever get here.

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You Want To Be a Good Boss? Let Others Do Your Work.

Common Sense Helps Make a Good Boss.You want to be productive? You want to get things done? You want your school and district to run smoothly?

Do you want to change things and be forward thinking?

It’s easy (not really, but it can be done). The answer is quite simple.

Get others to do your work.

Sure that sounds bad. That’s why you don’t say it out loud. Because some people will think you’re lazy.

But that isn’t true (actually, I don’t know that for sure because I haven’t met all of you).

If you let other staff members do your work, you aren’t lazy. You are a genius (well, technically not a genius, or you probably wouldn’t have taken a job as a school administrator).

Delegation is a skill. For many people, it is something that has to be learned. But, don’t think of it as taking the easy way out.

It is quite the opposite. It’s bringing people in.

It’s how you improve your school for the sake of the students and teachers. And you can accomplish this more quickly when you have help.

As the leader of your school, you have one primary job. Leave it better than you found it.

Progress isn’t easy. If it was, everybody would do it. Progress is slow and painful, but worthwhile.

To make productive changes, you are going to need help. And lots of it.

Smart leaders surround themselves with good people and then get out of their way.

Running a school, or any business, is an impossible task for an individual. It is a huge, but manageable task, when a group of people tackle it together.

If you want your employees to get on “the bus” and head in the same direction as you, give them some ownership.

This can’t be done if all the ideas are yours.

Some of the best ideas for change come from secretaries, janitors, bus drivers, cooks, parents, and yes… even students.

If it makes the school better, who cares who thought of it?

Listen to everyone’s thoughts. Ignore the bad ones and steal the good ones.

And then share the work. But not the credit.

Always give the credit to others. Time spent patting yourself on the back could be better spent focusing on the next big challenge (and trust me, there is one right around the corner).

People involved with schools and kids have already proven they want to help.

Let them.

The idea for this blog came after reading Jim Burgett’s thoughts on leadership (www.burgettgroup.com):

• Leaders who don’t delegate burn out or lose effectiveness.

• An “It’s easier to do it myself” attitude by leaders results in apathy, not excitement by employees.

• Successful delegation promotes pride, ownership, and a sense of being needed by employees.

• Successful delegation encourages employees to be creative and innovative.

• Successful delegation includes good manners and appreciation.

• Successful delegation includes recognizing successes.

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While this site operates with the knowledge and awareness of the Tuscola CUSD #301 School Board, Tuscola, Illinois, the content and opinions posted here may or may not represent their views personally or collectively, nor does it attempt to represent the official viewpoint of Tuscola CUSD #301 administrators or employees.