What is the difference between saying and doing? How many “hidden” messages do we give others when our intentions are not align with our deeds? What really does it mean to live or lead with intention? Why is this so difficult for us? And, how many times do you hear someone say, “I had the best intentions but….”
In my continuous journey of supporting school improvement, this is still a barrier in daily leadership practices. I find myself having more and more conversations about being focused, knowing priorities and actually carving out the time to stay committed to this work. It seems to me, that it is getting more and more difficult for school and district leaders to keep distractors at bay and truly lead as they want to.
I had a leader tell me this week that he finally figured out how to focus on the work he truly needs to lead. He has been in his position for over a year and has felt the struggle of so many demands on his time. In my coaching conversations with him, I have felt the personal conflict he experiences; he believes he should focus on building a collaborative system with the goal of improving student achievement but most of his daily time was spent on other things. From day one, he has told me that this is his vision. Sadly, when I visit with him, there have been very few times that I have seen this vision in his actions.
The great part of this story is that he knows the difference between his intentions and his actions. He doesn’t need me to point out to him that his “saying” and “doing” are not aligned. He speaks candidly about the distractors and his reaction to them. He can articulate exactly what he should be doing and what he allows to take him off course. It just took a little bit of time for him to get to a place where he could courageously take control of his time and energy and stay focused on the right work.
What is he doing differently this week? What changed? He has honestly figured out that it is all about his daily habits. He is making a plan with his time that is focused on getting to his vision and he is sticking to it. We hear about the 21 days that it takes to change personal habits and this is what he is proving with his practice. He is about three weeks in to his plan and he feels amazing. He has spent time with his collaborative teams, had conversations about student work and really examined the goals that he and his staff have set. He still has his “distractors” to think about but his mindset is shifting to keeping his energy and focus on what he knows are the priorities of his work.
If I could give all of my leaders a “pill of intention” to take every morning, I would. In fact, I would swallow that pill myself. It is HARD work to live and lead with intention. There are so many great things we want to do with our time; people to see, places to be, learnings to be had. Opening our computers early in the morning can lead to an hour of distraction as we enjoy reading about our favorite sports team or celebrity. That hour of distraction, for me, means I didn’t get out for my walk. Stopping in the hall to talk to a teacher for a minute might mean your work day goes in a totally different direction based on this brief conversation. These personal pleasures and relationships are important and we need them in our lives. It is the alignment of time to our priorities that seems to be the challenge.
I know that this blog might sound a little (ok…a great deal) like last week’s writing about leading yourself. I guess we can call it a continuation of a very important theme. Or we could say that I am trying to hit you over the head with this hammer. It just really, truly does matter that we spend the time doing what is important and what we “intend” to do. When our book, Leading with Intention (ttps://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention.html) was published, Jeanne Spiller and I were asked by a reader if it would be a quick fix to all things that were causing her to be distracted and not focused. I wish it was as easy as that.
There is no quick fix to leading or living with purpose and intention except doing it… creating the mindset and discipline to know the purpose and intention of our work. What school or district do you envision? What do you want for your students? What are the end goals? Mapping the actions out is one step, however, “doing” the actions is what really gets you there. Have a great week of focus and intention. See you next Saturday.