Many of us have heard the quote by Patrick Lencioni, “if everything is important, then nothing is” - yet as educational leaders, should we continue to share this notion with staff that everything is equally important? Take an honest look- is this the message you share in your school? Sometimes, almost unknowingly, we jump on the bandwagon of every new idea that comes our way.  Let's take a moment to take an inventory of our own practices. Are we pausing long enough to develop a vision and a pathway to bring “the critical few” ideas to fruition? As we continue into the second half of this school year, take time to pause and reflect on what you should be laser-focused on for the remaining 20 weeks of the year. Consider which ideas have the potential for the most impact on your students and start there.

Find out what your community values

To determine the highest priority initiatives, it helps to collect community sentiment. Survey your staff, students, and families. At PLC Associates, our data triangle will help you gather that data so you can determine what areas stand out that our stakeholders (our consumers) want us to address.

Create a guiding coalition 

Create a team responsible for prioritization of ideas and have them dig deep into your academic, attendance, and behavioral data and the Data Triangle results. This team or guiding coalition will discover the critical areas that need attention. Talk with this team about what they notice and what you wonder about as you review the findings. The team will also look at what the research tells us about our identified areas. This process allows you to move slowly and be intentional in your decision-making about what to focus on.

Share the ‘why’ behind this work 

Co-create a vision for where your building or district will focus and explain to stakeholders the why behind these areas of focus to generate buy-in. Explain to your stakeholders that you are committed to a long-term strategy to achieve in these areas and you won’t be jumping on new things every time they arise. 

Set a SMART goal 

As part of your vision, set a SMART goal or one which is strategic, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and timely.  And, don’t just set that goal but share it with the world. A great practice is to add your SMART goal to the top of your meeting agendas, newsletters, and presentations. Don’t hesitate to let everyone know this is your primary focus.  

Develop strategic action steps  

Strategic action steps are clear, definitive steps on the pathway toward your SMART goal. This is not a check-off list but instead clear steps that will help you and your team meet the goal. Identify who will be responsible for these individual action steps and distribute responsibility for them across your team. People are less likely to resist when they are part of the plan to achieve results.

Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate!   

When you complete each action step, celebrate with all of those involved. These quick wins generate momentum and will help you gain the support of resisters who will jump on board when they see that you are staying true and focused on the agreed upon areas of critical concern. When the school year comes to an end, reflect on your successes.   

A great example of this work in action is Viola Elementary School in the Suffern School District. At Viola, the principal Christine Druss worked collaboratively with her leadership team to develop a laser-like focus as part of their school improvement plan. She worked tirelessly with her staff, students, and parents to follow the steps outlined above. The results are a positive shift in the way the school operates and the mindset of all involved. After 3 years of this work, the school is now a school in good standing. The action steps they created were easy to follow, allowed for numerous quick wins, and resulted in numerous celebrations along the way, all showing the power of this process. Principal Druss shared:

“As a principal who prioritizes learning and achieving through a growth mindset, I took Betsy Conners unwavering message about being " a laser focused leader" as my own daily mantra. Every day I made this my own self-reflection exercise and a test of my "leadership" commitment to our school wide "continuous improvement" commitment plan. This was and still is the question I ask myself and hold myself accountable to!  This message resonated in our daily efforts towards strategic work towards achieving clearly written commitments, to following defined action steps and to continual reflection practices as a staff. It is easy to say "laser focus" but the real work and success was in living it within and beyond our school. It lived in our district leadership work and with all stakeholders to ensure the "why" and power of focus was and continues to be supported by all. The only time I encouraged others to stray from having to be "laser focused" was in our CELEBRATIONS! We had no problem in sharing multiple forms of evidence within diverse and data driven achievements-Thanks to the "Power of Being Laser Focused!" 


Once you reach your goal, you should reflect, review the data, and start the process all over again with a new goal. As you build this continuous cycle of improvement, the laser-like focus will emerge and be clear to all involved. As you gather momentum, you will build credibility as a leader. We encourage you to follow these steps and start a movement in your district to make impactful change. At PLC Associates, we are here to help you with your journey.

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