The Power of Listening


Do people describe your leadership style as an active listener, or are you perceived as disinterested and aloof?

The most successful leaders are listeners. Listening empowers others in the organization to grow, take risks, and provide the leader with the widest angle of insight for important organizational decisions.

Leaders who actively listen, and who plan intentional strategies to listen, can do so more easily today than ever. Here are 4 easy ways to increase you listening and gain a truer perspective of what’s actually going on, or not going on, in your organization.

1. Establish an online survey which asks the right ‘listening’ questions. I use survey monkey. You can find mine here:

Would you recommend our service to your friends and  family?

In the world of public ed, leaders often don’t see themselves and their organizations through a marketplace lens. This paradigm is changing, as charter, cyber-charter, and for-profit school management groups grow in Pennsylvania.

2. Create a regular convening of your senior leadership. I hold a monthly, Forum of Senior Leaders, and let them set the agenda. I listen to their questions, concerns, and celebrations.

3. Be present in the workplace. It’s easy, especially for superintendents who are sometimes officed in a building separate from schools, to be perceived as aloof. Get out of the office and spend time among your staff…in their offices. Eat an impromptu lunch with different employee groups and ask lots of questions. Interrupt office discussions and join in conversations. Make yourself available to answer in the moment.

4. Create a culture where question asking is not just acceptable, but expected, of all employees regardless of rank. Organizations today must be innovative in order to have staying power. Innovation starts with the right questions. Leaders who don’t listen, don’t get asked many important questions.

What important questions have you been asked lately?

What important questions are you asking?

To whom are you listening?



6 reasons why all educators MUST engage in social media



Despite the growing presence of educators participating online, our profession continues to be slow to the table. These are among lots of excuses why:

1.  Not all students have access to the internet.

2. Some schools don’t permit teacher/student interaction through social media.

3. Educators are fearful of disciplinary action should they establish an online account and say the wrong things.

Here are 6 reasons why all educators MUST engage in social media:

1. Social media permits education leaders to increase their sphere of influence beyond a single building or district. Others in your role, principal, superintendent, teacher…you name it, are already online and communicating ubiquitously through blogs, tweet chats, and more.

2. In the absence of strong education leader voices, goals and vision for education are often directed by elected officials with (seemingly) little true knowledge of best practices for schools and students.

3. In the absence of strong education leader voices, education becomes highly (completely?) politicized. I don’t see enough educators advocating for much. In PA, the only voices we hear regarding Common Core is opposition. Where are the educators?

4. Our sphere of influence as education leaders, is less than it should be, by ignoring the generations whose preferred learning and communication is online.

5. Public access to information is at an all-time high. Social media permits the preferred message of educational leaders to be hear first…in the absence of true information, someone will create and publish their own version.

6. We must overcome the fear of readers disagreeing with our opinions. Educators can’t bow to the pressures of a PC world that lacks values and opinions regarding instructional strategies, curricular decisions and materials, and assessment strategies. Professional discourse and reflection must return as integral practice of our work.

So….About what are you passionate?

What voices in education are you hearing to which you are opposed?

How often are you blogging and/or tweeting so that your voice is included?

Going Social – and stirring disagreement


Leaders today cannot ignore the requirement to cast their companies and personnel into the social media experiences. This is especially true for the oft anxious and seeming fearful, educational leaders.

The use of social media among school districts is growing, but there’s still too much fear and nervousness around individual leaders and users involvement. This is my effort to increase the voice of educational leaders.

If we are afraid to share our voice in a manner that results in some disagreement, we shouldn’t be leading.

There’s obviously a need to stay away from religion and politics, but school leaders need to write and communicate their passions and struggles around what matters most to them. This blog is dedicated to sharing some of my passions around leadership and education, especially in Pennsylvania.

Here’s a current passion of mine. 

Fair, predictable, equitable funding for all students must occur now. The time for which funding for students that is dependent upon which political party is in office, and which senators or representatives are in leadership positions has to go… this is a new era. 

State and federal education funding must be focused on closing the per-student funding gap between the richest and poorest districts by rewriting a formula that provides extra supports to students with disabilities, students in poverty, and students whose first language is other than english. Holding harmless this support of students must replace the outdated, and inequitable  district-based hold-harmless provisions currently in place in Pennsylvania. Anything less from the General Assembly this June is unacceptable.

All children of Pennsylvania deserve better… not just some of the children.