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    « Barnstorming | Main | What the pitch says about the technology »

    Before they walk in the door

    This morning I walked my 9 year old son to school, (and proved, despite his assertions, that the walk was not actually 'Uphill in both directions').  As we approached the main entrance of the school the school's Principal was outside, greeting students and parents, asking questions, checking on two students that were attempting to raise the American flag, and generally and actively presenting a positive message of enthusiasm, encouragement, and in a way, acting like an old friend.Patrick - too cool for school

    At one point, as he was chatting with a student and her Mom (I am making an assumption it was her Mom, go with me on this), his phone rang.  He glanced at it quickly, silenced the ringing, and continued to talk with the student and parent, while keeping one eye on the flagpole, one on the buses unloading, and the third one on the back of his head on people entering/exiting the doors.

    Yes, the kids are right, the principal really does have eyes in the back of his head.

    What was telling to me was how the principal was so out there, so up front, outside the school before the 'official' start of the day making sure that for as many students as possible their first interaction with school was going to be positive, welcoming, and in a way comforting.  

    It is the middle of May, these 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders are mostly probably sick of school at this point, counting down the days to summer break, tired of the routine and the teacher, and maybe even their classmates.  A random Thursday in May can't seem to be all that exciting to them. 

    The principal knows this,  I am sure, and in this small way, by being the physical face of the school, by showing his engagement, attention, and genuine interest in the students and parents that he encountered outside the building he works to combat the natural disengagement of the average 10 year old.

    I am out here, I am interested in you, I want you to succeed, I will encourage you to achieve. 

    I am not sure if that message, delivered in less than 30 seconds by the principal, actually impacted my 9 year old this morning, but it made an impression on me. 

    I am sure in the time he spent outside with the student and parents, being a kind of cheerleader to some extent, the calls, emails, voice mails were piling up in his office.  I am sure he has to find time to read, reply, forward, comment on many hundreds of messages each day. 

    But for me, by taking a few minutes to connect with students before they walk in the door, seems much more valuable than anything he could of been doing tucked away in the dreaded 'Principal's Office'.

    This is an ineffective blog post, since I don't really have a 'call to action' I suppose, just an observation of a leader trying to inspire and encourage in an environment where the 'followers' can be really tough to motivate.

    Maybe my 9 year old was not inspired, but I was.  Hat's off to Principal Hall.





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    Reader Comments (14)

    You have a 'call to action' - be the leader you want to see. You are a great example by walking your son to school. I see your actions saying, "I am out here, I am interested in you, I want you to succeed, I will encourage you to achieve."


    May 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela Jacobs

    How awesome is He!! I love the little things in school that makes my children's day!! You are right how encouraging it must be for both the parents and the students to see their REP out there!! What a positive message and great blog!!

    May 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHipcop

    I appreciate your thoughts here Steve. You are a special individual.


    HRMargo http://hrmargo.com/in/margorose

    May 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHRMargo

    What I love about this post is the time that the principal is willing to invest in something that seems trivial - but isn't. How many leaders take the time to greet people in the morning? Take a few minutes away from email, phones or the crackberry to connect with employees? Great stuff - I love this.

    May 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeirdre

    Thanks for the post Steve. As business leaders we work very hard to implement programs and processes to achieve the best work from our employees. As parents we work hard with incentives and motivation to get our kids to produce their best work. What this post says to me... don't over complicate it all the time. Sometimes being present, smiling, interacting an engaging your employees can achieve similar results.

    Same goes for your kids. Walking your son to school sends the same message. You matter, school matters. You set the example. Bravo. And please say that even though 9 year olds act too cool for school - they really love that walk time with Dad. I'm not ready for that time when my 9 yr old will tell me I'm embarrassing!

    May 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLyn Hoyt

    Right on, Steve. All of us can and should be leaders, for our children and each other, however incremental or monumental the action.

    May 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin W. Grossman


    The message came through loud and clear... Casual, caring, engaged activities are far more important to MAKE happen than that urgent phone call or guarding the door.

    Being a friend buys you A LOT more than having a private office and the stature of leadership.

    Walking the walk (uphill both ways) with your son says "I want to know your experience".

    It's the emotional intellect that, sometimes, we try to hammer out of our daily routine in the name of efficiency. Some people (not often enough me) are smart enough NOT to let it get lost in the daily chaos.

    Thanks for a relevant and very effective post!

    May 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRay Ferreira

    @Angela - Thanks very much, I hope I am sending the right messages, parenting sure is a tough job!

    @Hipcop - Thanks for reading and for the great comments, I really appreciate them

    @Margo - Thanks very much for the kind words.

    @Dee - I really admired how engaging and interested he was, very impressive and effective. Thanks for the comments

    @Lyn - Thanks! I think my 9 yr old is already embarrassed by me!

    @Kevin - I agree

    @Ray - Thanks very much, great points.

    May 14, 2010 | Registered CommenterSteve

    Walking around and talking with people like this is incredibly valuable. I'd like to see more of us incorporate this in our business relationships.

    May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Keeffer

    @Marsha - I think you are right , making connections in person, one kid at a time seems to me like a great approach for sure.

    May 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterSteve

    "Everything communicates." This principal was communicating that he values the students he's in charge of. That is, indeed, the best kind of leadership. I just read a soon-to-be published book on effective leadership, and the anecdote that hit me most was a story of a young man who spoke of a supervisor who actually looked up from his computer screen and looked him in the eye when he came in. The young man said, "I'd do anything for that guy." Why? Because people want to feel valued. You can't put a price tag on the kind of commitment and excellence that caring leaders can elicit.

    May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeath Davis Havlick

    @Heath - Thanks for the insights. I totally agree that a simple gesture on the surface can have great impact and meaning.

    May 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterSteve

    Great stuff. And hey--it actually is uphill both ways!

    May 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkrista francis

    @Krista - Thanks Krista - it felt like uphill for an old guy like me!

    May 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterSteve

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