As a school improvement coach, much of my daily work is focused on supporting leaders. In fact, most of my readings, writings and conversations focus on leadership. It has been that way for close to thirty years. I had my first school administrative position in the late 80s and it was about that same time that I learned one of the most valuable lessons in leadership. The one that stuck with me through all the positions that I have had and impacts what I try to share in my coaching role. And, I learned it from the person who, before that, I only knew in a different role… my older brother. Here is how the lesson evolved…
When I was starting my school administrative journey, I was taking courses to finish my Masters in School Administration. One of my assignments was to interview a leader and find out what made them successful. Now, I didn’t know many “leaders” at the time so I thought that I would just call my brother who, ten years prior to this, had started a company with three others. I didn’t really know much about what they were doing but I knew that he was part of the management team so he was my chosen “leader” for the interview.
I had several questions for Edgar but the one and only one that I remember today has greatly impacted my understanding about leadership. I asked him what he felt was the most important practice that helped him be successful. He answered, without hesitation, that he always went in to the office early so he could reflect and think about the bigger picture of what he wanted to accomplish. He went on to explain that once others were in the office he knew that the day would be more about problem-solving and daily decisions. He liked being able to be reflective during the quiet early morning hours and it helped him stay focused on what he wanted to accomplish. From that day and almost 30 years later, it is a practice that I work very hard to build in to my daily work and what I share with others as a coach. I know how busy my school leader’s lives are and I also know that when they can reflect and focus on their goals, they are more successful.
On March 1 this year, my brother, Edgar Goguen celebrated forty years as a business owner. His company, Arrow Construction Products Limited (https://www.arrowco.ca) has its head office in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. He is now the sole owner, CEO and President. Serving Atlantic Canada, his company has five locations plus the head office. Arrow began with a focus on very specialize products used in concrete for bridges and overpasses. Over the years they have grown and diversified and have introduced many innovative products including specialized roofing applications.
But, the real reason that I am writing my school improvement blog about him is because he is an exemplary leader. Even though his role is not about making schools better for students, he gets the big picture. Over the years I have watched as he stayed committed to his goals and knew that his number one asset was his employees. He has looked after both his staff and his customers and he seems to be able to do it with the perfect blend of hands-on leadership and empowerment. I also know that he is humble about his success and not really great about telling his own story. ( I am a little nervous that he may not like this attention at all!). In fact, we all know that it is hard to be a prophet in your own land and I am quite sure that there would be many, many New Brunswickers and Atlantic Canadians that do not know about this highly successful local story and leader.
So, when I think of leadership and my personal journey over the years, it all seems to go back to that interview with Edgar and how much being able to be reflective and visionary at the same time was so important to my work. In our schools and districts, taking the time to do both is culture-building. It means that we go backwards ( by reflecting) to go forward (with our vision). It means that we take personal time for thinking and this might mean shutting off our devices, keeping distractors away and intentionally being committed to this kind of practice. It takes self-discipline as a leader and it doesn’t mean that the next steps or answers to every problem come easy. But, it demonstrates a belief in you as a person, that you know how important it is for you to be at your best. Combine this with a positive mindset about your staff and students and you have a recipe for great success.
When Edgar drives across many bridges and overpasses in Atlantic Canada, he knows that he likely had a hand in building them. We might not need concrete products as leaders of schools, but in order to see our continuous improvement, we do have to think of ourselves as architects and builders. We are designing and building lives; the lives of our students. And we are often “bridging” the gap between knowing and doing. Are you clear on your vision? Do you reflect on your progress to accomplish your goals? Or, is it time to reset your daily practices and create time and space for you? Thank you, Edgar for being. a great role model and an amazing favorite brother (I only have one so he always knows he is the favorite!). Have a great week everyone and as always, I appreciate your support and feedback.