“Hey Leader, What’s in your Wallet?”: What is on your Commitment card?

What is on your Commitment card?


One wonderful summer day, I was out and about with my five year old son when he decided he was hungry. We decided on a local restaurant and settled down for a meal. As customary , we were greeted ,seated, and then greeted by our server. Our server greeted us with a smile , introduced herself , asked for our drink order and then left to fill the order. However, before she left she place a small business card on our table. I thought the card was a coupon on something to do with the menu. However, when I picked it up, my mind was blown. On the card in print were four commitments that the server was making to me, the customer.  Not only were the commitments printed but simply and clearly defined:


Reliable- I am dependable and you can count on me

Responsive-I act quickly to respond to your needs

Knowledgeable- I can explain and recommend menu items

100%- Is what I will give you to ensure  your *Restaurant’s name* experience  is pleasurable

And at the end of the commitments was this phrase “ If for some reason, I did not meet my commitment to you, please let me know.”

This was different and I was impressed. Immediately I thought what if school leaders or teachers did this? How powerful it would be if as you hand out your business card to parents, students and stakeholders that they not only received your contact information but your leadership commitments and guarantees.

As an educational leader, you must be committed …accepting the position is not enough.  You must commit to the work, to the mission, to the students, the staff and the community. This is educational leadership 101. It is basic. Every leader and aspiring leader should know this.  However, as the leader, can you  and do you actually define and put into words your core commitments?

 Just as in the example above, can your commitments be summarized and clearly stated. What can teachers, students, and your community expect from you every time you step in your building. What can they expect every time they engage with you and communicate with you? What are your leadership guarantees? As a leader, you are a brand just like Coca Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds or Chick fila. When you walk into the door of any franchise or store with a brand, you know what to expect. How do you define your leadership brand and leadership experience? What can the people who follow you or engage with you expect?

Commitments hold you accountable and to a higher standard. They are completely essential to the work that we do as leaders. They serve as part of our compass which guides our actions, decisions, and directions.  However, how often do we say them aloud or put them out in world for others to see? Is it because we are afraid that once we say them or publicize them, others may hold us accountable for them? Accountability is a part of leadership.  Holding yourself accountable and allowing others to hold you accountable can boost your leadership into the next level. It also allows you to clarify and narrow your focus because you cannot do everything but there are some things that you can do very well. As a leader you just must ask yourself, “What is most important to me and what do I want to be my brand of leadership? “

When you give someone your business card, you give them your job location, phone number and ways to reach you. Why not give them what matters the most about you?

I think I am ordering new business cards.


As a leader:

What are your Leadership commitments?

 What do you guarantee to those you serve?

What can people expect from you every situation, every day, & every time?

Do your leadership commitments extend to your students as well?


“Sometimes it’s not the seeds or the plants… it’s the soil.”

Leader How does your Garden Grow? Series finale

 “Sometimes it’s not the seeds or the plants… it’s the soil.” Part 5 of 5. 

Sometimes you find that despite your best efforts, your garden is not growing. You have planted good seeds. You have watered and nurtured them, but the plants are not growing.   As the leader of organization, you can find despite your efforts your organization is not growing, living up to its potential or is just stagnate. You have tried research-based practices, organizational strategies, great resources and have the best people in place but you are not seeing any growth or positive yields. Then you realize something profound. Sometimes the problem is not the seeds or the plants…the problem is the soil!

It is not what you’re are planting, it’s what you are planting them in. All dirt is not the same. All soil is not the same.   Soil can sometimes lack key nutrients that plants need to grow. This can be based on the region or the location. Moreover it can be based upon what was planted in the soil before. Certain types of plants or gardens can leave soil depleted.  Farmers rotate crops on certain lands so that it gives the soil a chance to recover. Likewise, the culture of your organization can be depleted. The culture of your organization can not be ready or can not be optimal to support or achieve growth.  The previous administration could have created a toxic work environment, or your current organization goals were too ambitious and over worked the soil and burned out the culture.  Whatever the case, as the lead gardener when you realize that the soil is depleted or not nurturing for your garden, you must fix it.  The soil is important because it nurtures your plants.  The culture provides the inspiration for your organization. It is what connects all the people in your school community.  It keeps your organization going day in and day out. It brings out the best in everyone and allows every to be their very best.

How do you fix the soil? This is an important question to answer. Dirt is dirt, right?  How do you fix the ground? A school is a school, right? The answer of course is no it is not. Every school is different, and every school culture is different.

When a gardener realizes that their soil is lacking, they find ways to nurture the soil. They add the nutrients to the soil.  They bring in fresh soil(ideas) and mix it into the depleted soil.  They are careful which plants they plant and when they plant them. Some gardeners even bring in outside help(shout out to all cooperative extension agents) to analyze their soil so that they can find exactly what it needs and what it is lacking.  Leaders in turn must look at the culture of their organization and find ways to fix and adjust it.  If you want to have a certain type of achievement or to meet certain goals, the culture is important to the seeds that you want to plant. By analyzing your soil can figure out exactly what is wrong with it and what the plants need to thrive. A master gardener will spend time learning. A leader must become a student of their organization. Perhaps morale is low in your organization. Maybe the work load is too much for members or maybe the people are willing but do not have the skills to do the work. In education, your school may not have the community support or stake holder buy in that your school needs. There could be a lack of resources in your school for your teachers and students. Maybe the soil of the school does not give or show enough gratitude and appreciation … after all it takes a lot of effort to push through dirt and mud to bloom.

Building relationships are important for the leader so that they can understand what the soil needs to nurture staff growth.  Through good relationships a better understanding of the history of the culture or your school can help you gain valuable information into why the culture is how it is and has developed.

Just like a master gardener knows that some plants are more resilient than other plants and thrive in the soil when other plants have not, a leader will know that there are staff member who have thrive when others have not. There are always teachers and staff who have remained with a school through good times, bad times, abundant times, lean times, good leadership and bad leadership. A good leader will take time to build relationships with them to listen and better understand the culture of the school …the good, the bad, and what is needed. Leadership is a people business. You win with people. You can not win without people and you cannot win consistently if you do not know your people.

Leaders need to realize that major culture shifts can take time. the leader must plant carefully and be realistically of what they plant. You don’t grow Oranges in Maine (at least not without massive effort and resources). It can take a while to build the perfect soil …sometimes through trial and error. However, you can find ways to be creative within the culture you have now …slowly making changes adding in additives here and a boost to the soil there.  Leaders can plant small ideas with big yields or easy wins that can boost confidence and morale. Leaders can sprinkle in small rewards and recognitions to boost the growth. Leaders can build relationships with their staff so they can better support them and grow a supportive culture.

Everybody can afford a little Miracle grow every now and then!

As leader:

  • Do you have good soil to nurture your planted seeds?
  • What are the needs in your organization’s culture that need to be addressed?
  • In what practical ways can you affect or address your culture to make it better for students? For teachers?  For parents?
  • What relationships do you have with people in your building? What do you know about them professionally and personally?

Read my blog posts and reflect to see “How your garden grows.” Please leave comments so that I can “grow” too.

“Perennials or Annuals” : Leader How does your Garden Grow? Part 4 of 5

Leader How does your Garden Grow?

 “Perennials or Annuals” Part 4 of 5

If you have ever gone to the local nursery with the intent to plant buy plants or if you have ever searched a plant website for ideas, you have come across this sign “Perennials or Annuals”. ( I always have to remind myself which is which!)  One type of plant returns every season once planted and the other must be replanted each year.  You must make the decision on which type of seeds or plants you want and be aware of which type of plants that you have in your garden. 

Once planted and nurtured, a perennial plant will automatically bloom each year and come back every year. A Perennial plant becomes a permanent part of the garden.  It becomes part of the culture of your garden. In every organization there are some things whether habits, ideas, procedures or practices that you want to be automatic and you want it to be a permanent part of your garden(organization) and the way and how you conduct business.  These types of things may be your customer service, your procedures for addressing issues, the quality of service you provide, the things which separate you from your competitors or industry.  In education there are somethings that you may want to be a part of the culture of your school: staff commitments, quality of work, positive relationships and instructional practices or standards.  Also, as educational leader, there are people, positions that you want to bloom every year and return to your garden.

Annual plants have a season and then must be planted again the next year. This is not bad because everything has a season. It always gives you the opportunity to plan better, get different plants, move plants around or to get more durable types of plants. In organizations, there are things which are only for one season and are temporary. There may be quotas to be met, company priorities may shift, the needs of your stakeholders may change, you may have to address a specific need or unexpected situation. In education, we may need to address certain issues for a season: student discipline issues, attendance issues, achievement data issues, staff or faculty issues.  However, once those issues are resolved or results are achieved, the issue no longer needs to be addressed.  Also, unfortunately in education, this can also mean education fads or trials that we use in attempt to boost achievement but later realize they do not work or not good for students, so we let them go after a season.  As a leader is may also mean people, committees, positions or task force that were brought into the organization for a season but may only be needed for a season.

In your garden:

  • Do you have “annuals” or “perennials” in organization?
  • Can you identify which plants are which?
  • Do you need more of one or the other?
  • What is your plan to re plant your “perennials” each year?

Read my blog posts and reflect to see “How your garden grows.” Please leave comments so that I can “grow” too.