Strategies to Optimize Your Impact
Updated: May 5
Summer is a time for self-reflection and goal setting. During the summer, teachers and education leaders have the opportunity to step back from the busyness of work, to take pride in their accomplishments of the past school year, and then to plan ways of building on these accomplishments in the upcoming year.
Summer also gives teacher-leaders and administrators time to think about who they are becoming as a result of their experiences, to reflect on their developing identities as educators and people. We all strive to be effective in our roles, to have a significant impact on student learning, to support and encourage the adults we work with, and to contribute to the well-being and efficacy of our schools and districts. We aspire to be true to our values, to bring our best selves to the important work we do each day.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a personal coach to support your summer reflection and planning, a critical friend who could guide your efforts to stretch beyond your current understandings and capacities? Vernon Wright is a leadership coach who, on a daily basis, helps educators map out and take strategic steps in their personal learning journeys to become leaders who make a positive difference. Vernon’s personal mission is to help educators in all roles learn to lead with passion, purpose, and authenticity.
Recently, Vernon shared his thoughts with me about how educators can make the most of their summertime opportunity for reflection and planning related to their own self-development. Here are some highlights of our conversation.
Vernon Wright (@TheWrightLeader, TheWrightSpeaker.com) is a life coach, consultant, and leader. He has over 17 years of experience in education working in large, urban school districts and has previously served in the roles of teacher, teacher leader, campus leadership team member, and district-level support.
Vernon knows that real change begins when we first start with authenticity and altruism within ourselves and then commit to creating a vision for future impact. He is committed to a life of inspiring and elevating others. He does this with a relentless focus on informing minds and touching hearts around the globe.
Vernon, in your podcasts about leadership, you offer fresh perspectives and practical strategies for education leaders and teachers who aspire to step into leadership roles. I jotted down this quote from one of your podcasts because it speaks to the opportunity that educators have this summer for self-reflection and personal goal-setting. You said, “So many people in the future are waiting to connect with you, to have their lives changed.” Tell us what this means to you and why this idea is important.
It’s important for leaders to consider how their efforts are impacting others beyond this moment and into the future. Is there someone in your future who is waiting to connect with you and to have their life changed by you? I encourage leaders to hold onto this perspective because it helps them to stay focused on the skills of effective leadership:
Connect – Making authentic connections with those we serve
Impact – Adding value, making a positive impact in others’ lives
Add scale – Reaching as many people as possible to make their lives better
You say a lot in your podcasts about a leader’s identity. Here’s the advice you’ve given to your listeners: "Stop and really think about your identity. Are you living someone else's dreams, or are you living your own?” Tell us more.
During the pandemic, a lot of people had to put down their dreams. It’s time to pick up that dream again. When you dream, there’s something inside of you that connects to hope. This hope broadens your perspective and keeps you going. It is grounded in the belief that you have the ability to add value to your organization.
You believe that leaders need to invest time and energy in building their soft skills. Can you give us an example?
At the end of the day, it takes people being aligned and focused on common goals to accomplish anything. And so, it’s absolutely essential that leaders have strong emotional intelligence and skill sets that allow them to connect authentically with others, add value to others’ lives, and reach as many people as possible.
I’ve worked at multiple schools over the years that were in danger of being closed. In each and every case, we turned the school around because people came together. In a word, it’s trust. If mutual respect and trust are present, people think, “I want to do something really great in this space with my team. I want to give my absolute best.”
All roads lead back to trust. Have we nurtured trust? Have we cultivated trust? If the people you work with trust you and feel that you care about them as human beings, they will coalesce around a common purpose and a common goal and accomplish amazing things together.
Leaders need to ask themselves,
In my current spheres of influence, do the people I work with trust me?
What would people say about me? What adjectives would they use to describe me? And do those adjectives align with my personal vision and mission, with what I’m trying to accomplish?
If you were my leadership coach, what advice would you give me about using my time this summer to grow my effectiveness as a leader?
Summer is a great time to sit down with those you lead and ask them, “What changes in our current systems would allow you to do your best work?” Simply listen and take notes. When we listen to those we lead, we’re listening to future solutions.
I also suggest that educators use this time to create a personal impact statement that addresses the following questions:
Who are you?
Who do you work with?
What do you focus on?
What is the end result that you want to achieve?
One of the best things people can do for their careers is to think about what they should focus on. You can use a technique called inventory. List the things you are good at and then strive to accentuate these strengths in your daily life.
After you create your strengths inventory, the next step is to think about the end result you want to achieve. Ask yourself, “What would need to be in place for my goal to happen?” When we ask that question, we activate our brain’s executive function which begins to transform our leadership abilities. Transformational change doesn’t begin with outward action. It begins with introspection. Summer is the perfect time to have these important internal conversations with yourself.
Strategy for Summertime Reflection and Goal Setting
Create a personal impact statement that addresses the following questions:
Learn more from Vernon Wright by attending his sessions at the Learning Forward Texas Annual Conference.
Vernon will present two sessions at the LFTX Annual Conference on June 22.
Summer Learning Goals
Sue Chapman is a professional learning consultant and author of MathVentures: 33 Teacher-Coach Investigations to Grow Students as Mathematicians. Learn more about her at SueChapmanLearning.com and connect with her on Twitter at @SueChapmanLearn.