Dr. Chad Dumas is a Solution Tree associate and international consultant, presenter and award-winning researcher whose primary focus is collaborating to develop capacity for continuous improvement. Having been a successful teacher, principal, central office administrator, professional developer and consultant in a variety of school districts, he brings his passion, expertise, and skills to his writing and speaking as he engages participants in meaningful and practical learning. In his Amazon best-selling books, Let’s Put the C in PLC and An Action Guide to Put the C in PLC, Chad offers readers and audiences educational research, engaging stories, hands-on tools, and useful knowledge and skills they can implement immediately.
Get underneath the iceberg and draw out the greatness you see in others.
Let’s Put the C in PLC – building that collaborative environment.
10 elements principals need to know to identify gaps in their schools.
Interpersonal communication skills and questions stem to help you land your message as a leader.
Multiply yourself through these strategic committees at “Collaborative Leadership Academy.”
The 8th element to engaging all staff in decision making.
Stop talking to a rock and see the red flag characteristics in broken relationship ships blocking your message.
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Read the Transcript here.
Put the “C” in PLC
So how did you end up in school administration? What’s the story? I’m actually super curious about that, and if you want to email it to me, Danny@BetterLeadersBetterschools.com, please do. I’d love to read it. But we kind of get into that at the beginning of today’s conversation, where my guest found himself surrounded by all these principals, central office leaders and so on. He was a second year teacher. Think about the imposter syndrome and that small negative voice in your head. I’m not supposed to be here. And when he got back to school, talked to the principal, said, oh, yeah, you are supposed to be there. I love that story. And my guess Dr. Chad Dumas is gonna unpack it even more at the top of the episode, but it makes me think a lot about how did you get into school administration, and even more importantly, how are you calling out the gifts that exist in all your people, calling them to a bigger, better, more ideal future self? Hey, this is Danny. I’m a principal development and retention expert. I’m a bestselling author, and I host two of the world’s most downloaded podcasts. And this show is for you, a Ruckus Maker, which means you’ve made three commitments. You’ve committed to investing in your continuous growth, you’ve committed to challenging the status quo, and you’ve committed to designing the future of school right now. But we’ll be back with the main conversation after a few messages from our show sponsors.
Take the next step in your professional development with Harvard’s certificate and school management and leadership. Learn from Harvard Business and Education School faculty while you collaborate with a global network of fellow school leaders. Get started at Better Leaders, better schools.com/harvard. Last year, teachers using Teach FX increased their student talk by an average of 40%. Teach FX uses AI to help teachers see the power of high leverage teaching practices in their own classroom level data. It’s like having a personal instructional coach on your phone, your tablet or laptop. Start your free pilot at teachfx.com,betterleaders. Why do students struggle? I’d argue that they lack access to quality instruction, but think about it. That’s totally out of their control. What if there was something we could teach kids, then what if there was something within their control that would help them be successful in every class? And it’s not a magic pill or a figment of your imagination. When students internalize executive functioning skills, they succeed. Check out the new self-paced online course brought to you by our friends at Organized Binder that shows teachers how to equip their students with executive functioning skills. You can learn firstname.lastname@example.org/go.
Hey, Ruckus Makers. I am here today with Dr. Chad Dumas, who is a Solution Tree associate and international consultant, presenter and award-winning researcher whose primary focus is collaborating to develop capacity for continuous improvement. Having been a successful teacher, principal, central office administrator, professional developer and consultant in a variety of school districts, he brings his passion, expertise, and skills to his writing and speaking as he engages participants in meaningful and practical learning. It is an Amazon best-selling book. Let’s put the C in PLC and an action guide to put the C in PLC. Chad offers readers and audiences educational research, engaging stories, hands-on tools and useful knowledge and skill they can implement immediately. Chad, welcome to this show.
Thank you, sir. It’s my pleasure and honor to join you in the Ruckus Maker Nation.
Absolutely. Thanks for being here. I’m gonna, I wanna ask you about a second year teacher.As a second year teacher, excuse me, your principal said you need to go to this training. That’s a good opening story. So what was that all about?
I was a middle school music teacher and my principal, Dick Spearman in Lincoln Public Schools, came to me and he said, Chad, there’s this training downtown. That’s what they referred to district authors as downtown. I think you need to go to this training. And it was like eight days during the course of the year, I had no idea what I was getting into. Janie Polac was the presenter, and I get to this training and the training was on classroom instruction that works, that 2000, 2001 copyright book. And of course, Janie is one of the authors. With RBob Marzano and Pickering and Janie. I get to this training and I’m in a room with 50, 60, 70 people power suits everybody’s dressed up. And then I’m a second year teacher, and I come to find out that I was the only teacher. Every person was principals, directors, assistant superintendents. I don’t think the superintendent was there, but like all of the upper Echelon and then me. It was like two days, four times during the year or something like that. I went back to the principal, and we got back at the end of the two days and I said Dick, I think you’re supposed to be the guy here at this training. And he looked at me, he said, no, Chad, you’re supposed to be there.
I’m curious how they feel? Because, you got that message from the principal, you’re supposed to be there, but also before you unpack that with the principal, you’re sitting there and you said, surrounded by these power suits or whatever. I’m also curious, do you remember what you were wearing by any chance?
I don’t, but I know it was not a tie because I did not wear a tie.
Probably a button up shirt of some sort. You’re there. And you realize what I am doing here too? Can you unpack that a little bit for us as well, because I don’t know if that was unnerving for you, or you suck around. And then you got that feedback from your principal. You are supposed to be there.
It was very unnerving. When we engaged with partners or in small groups, I was pretty silent listening to others, which I think was a good early message to me about myself as a person and as a leader, the importance of listening. Yeah. Over the course of those six or eight days, during the course of the year after, Dick said to me, now, Chad, you’re supposed to be there growing into something that I didn’t think I could be. He saw in me more than what I saw in myself. And so it challenged me, it pushed me, and it was an incredible learning experience. I can point back to that as being like one of those touchstones, if you will.
We all have these times in our lives that we look back and we say, maybe maybe at the time we don’t realize it, but we look back a year or five years or 10 years and say, you know what, that was really a seminal moment for me. I have that moment too. I was hanging out, working out, lifting with my friend D’Andre, and he just accepted his first principalship and he said, Danny I see leadership in you and I want you on the team. You should really consider going back to school to get the admin credential. I wanna hire you as an AP. And up until that point, Chad, like, I was super happy in the classroom, never thought of myself as an administrator maybe a little bit as a leader here and there, I, led like the AVID program, the department grade level types of stuff but certainly not principal, assistant principal, but he said, I want you on the team. And that was the moment for me that everything changed. And next thing you know, I’m starting this podcast, I got to talk to Dr. Chad Dubus on the show, like some really interesting people. And it’s changed my life. So thanks for sharing that. I’m wondering for the Ruckus Maker that’s listening or watching what are some tips that you might have for them in terms of pulling out that greatness that we see in others, their potential? That’s sometimes just kind hanging out there, you know?
I don’t know if I have like hardcore tips, if you will, but just some like, considerations. Anyway, how’s that sound? I know for me how important it is to see beyond what other people see. It’s like this idea in your work too, you talk a lot about values. And the values we hold. Those are things you can’t see. It’s like underneath the ocean and the iceberg. We only see what’s right at the very tip. And so we only see people’s behaviors. We don’t see what they believe in themselves, what they think of themselves, what they know of themselves, those values and beliefs. And so for me, seeing in others what they may not see in themselves and believing that they are the best person possible. And maybe it’s a hallucination sometimes, I don’t know. But it helps me to frame how I come about working with that individual. To then to first of all see it, but then the second consideration I have is to act on it. To listen intently, to engage in active listening. I’m not just giving the perception that the sound waves are washing over my ear, but I’m actively listening and engaging in paraphrases that help to reframe another person’s thinking or to raise assumptions or values that they might hold that they’re not even aware of. And to ask questions that also prompt thinking. So those would be a couple of considerations I would have to see the best in others, and then to act on that, to treat them as if they’re the best, most noble human being possible.
For sure.It’s holding them in high regard is what you’re talking about. And it’s sort of very what you do with another person. It’s sort of something I teach Ruckus Makers too, when they feel like they’re stuck. To me, one of the best ways to get unstuck as a leader, to slow things down for a moment, maybe even you close your eyes and focus on the breath, but it’s sort of a visualization where, all right, I don’t wanna do this thing, or you’re lacking the energy, motivation will, or whatever. And I ask leaders to visualize themselves five years, 10 years out. So, the chat or the Danny in 2033, they’re doing, in my view, like I always am trying to expand and grow. And create more value. So they’re doing bigger and better things. That’s just an assumption I have. What is that future version of me? A more ideal version of me is needed from the current version of me that’s stuck in this moment that always snaps me out of any type of funk. I’m trying to grow into that. I think that’s kind of what you’re doing in people too. And the other thing too, just to honor you for a moment, you were talking about listening and reflecting. You’re great at that really seriously prior to hitting record, the Ruckus Makers won’t know, but it’s very it’s apparent that Chad’s aware of stuff going on for me. And when I talk to a lot of people, they’re not always as aware or as empathetic and compassionate checking in. I just wanna highlight that it is a superpower of yours, and that really means a lot to me. So they, that’s really awesome. Thank you. You have a book. Let’s put the C and P L C and maybe listing’s a part of building that collaborative environment. But could you give us a, just a high level overview. What are the 10 elements found in this book?
Yeah, so for those familiar with the phrase, PLC stands for professional learning Community. And so the idea of this book is what it takes to create that community, that collaborative community in a professional learning community. What I’ve done is look at what do, what do other people say about what it takes to create that community?
And what’s the role of the principal specifically in building that professional learning community? And identify 10 elements of what it takes to do that. And so these are this is what knowledge principle needs to have. It’s not skill focused, it’s really focused on what do I need to know? Because before we close the knowing doing gap, we need to know. And so there’s a lot of emphasis in society around closing the knowing, doing gap. I know that I shouldn’t have that donut, but I need it anyway. There’s a knowing doing gap, but first I have to know I shouldn’t have that donut. And so this is looking at what are those 10 things? And it just happened to be 10 items that what principals need to know. And then we can focus on the doing that principal needs to know to build that collaborative environment. And you kind of like gave a little headway into that first element of building relationships. I like to use the phrase, and so I took Latin in high school, and I don’t remember a lot of Latin. One of the phrases I loved in height and refer to periodically is c aqua known c aqua known. And it means without which there is nothing. Relationships without relationships, there’s nothing. And so it starts with that foundation of love, of hope, of trust, of humility, of caring. These are like these foundational elements that really get to who we are as people. And if you aren’t well aware of those at virtues, if you will, and working to build those virtues in yourself, then any skills that you develop will simply become manipulative. And so we don’t wanna be manipulative, we wanna be authentic, and that requires us to just examine our own selves and, and establish those relationships based on hope, faith, compassion, empathy.
What I heard, I guess the challenge is, the red flag to watch out for is if you’ll come across as manipulative or you know, just an example of some like feedback. And you put in all this work and you read all the books and get trained and maybe even have a coach around delivering effective feedback. If you’re not building that relationship, if you’re not looking within yourself, it’ll just, it’s not even gonna land. You might as well tell it to a rock, is that correct?
Exactly. Well,and people may not tell you that you’re being manipulative. They probably won’t. You just won’t see us being effective in building that collaborative environment. Well can I follow up?
Let me pull on that thread. So yeah, they’re not gonna, Chad, that’s manipulative. They’re not gonna say that, but surely there might be some signs. I don’t know, just thinking off the top of my head, if you’re asking yourself a question like, oh, I know this is the direction we need to go in. This is a great idea and da, da da, but nobody seems to be implementing or with you. Like, would that be a sign? Potentially?
Yep. And absolutely that can absolutely be a sign. I also think that I’ve had the benefit of working with many amazing leaders over my career, and then I’ve also had the benefit of all, it is a benefit. We learn a lot from the people. Non examples. And I’ve also engaged with folks of amazing leadership. And so some of the characteristics that jump out there become a lot of what sometimes they call car key conversations. Mm. So people are in the parking lot with their keys in their hand and having their conversations out in the parking lot as opposed to. That’s like a sign, people leaving voluntarily and if you’re having problems . Retention problems. And you know, as leaders, we need to be able to have ways to gather feedback from folks in anonymous ways. If you’re in meetings and you’re the first one to speak and others aren’t speaking, that’s probably a sign that there aren’t relationships established. So there’s lots of little subtle things that start to show up along the way.
I learned this probably the hard way as a younger leader, but you don’t realize how much weight your voice has. Even if you’re not like this over the top gregarious sort of leader, just the fact that you’re the leader your voice has weight. I would challenge myself to just ask a lot of questions and really give my input last if that became a game for me, because if I spoke first, they colored the tone of everything. And what you don’t want is everybody saying, yes, great idea, Danny, you’re the best.
Just thinking along those lines, that is a sentence starter that may be useful for some Ruckus Maker leaders , who are listening. Well, that, because people may look at you and say, Hey, what do you think a sentence frame could be? One that I would use is, that’s an interesting comment or question. It seems like you’ve thought about this more than I have, so share with me whether you’re some of your initial thoughts based on this topic. Like this idea of you’ve thought about it more than I have. What do you think? You know, pitching the ball. But I am honoring your expertise and I do wanna hear what you’re totally, and nine times outta 10, they talk themselves through it, and off we go. They never come back and say, what did you think?
I love that. ’cause You’re building on the person up at the moment. And I’m currently in this two year mindfulness meditation certification program. And I’ve just noticed with the leaders of that program, they’re so good. Even with a comment that I judge in the moment, and I’m just like, why? They never say that. They build that person up, even like, you know what I mean? And it’s just, it’s amazing. The person sits a bit taller and all this kind of stuff. So without relationships, you have nothing that leads me. I’ve been, I took this off the wall. I wanted to show you, Chad, I’ll read it to the Ruckus Maker listing. But one of my values, you can never go around treating people. That’s how I like to think about it. We’re really, really talking about relationships, loving this conversation. We’re gonna get some messages in from our sponsors. Chad, when we get back, I wanna hear more about the Collaborative Leadership Academy. Perfect. Learn how to successfully navigate, change, shape your school success, and empower your teams with Harvard Certificate and school management and leadership. Get an online PD that fits your schedule. Courses include leading change, leading school strategy, and innovation, leading people, and leading learning. You could apply today at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com/harvard.
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And hey, if it aligns with where you’re going as a leader, we’d love to have you out. All right, and we’re back with Dr. Chad Dumas, and we were talking recently about his book, let’s put the C in PLC, which you should definitely pick up. And Chad you have an interesting program, the Collaborative Leadership Academy, and I’d love to hear a little bit more about what’s that all about.
The Collaborative Leadership Ca Academy grew out of the book people who are reading the book saying, Hey, I want more of this, and I want to take it, take it from knowledge to skills, from knowing to doing. And so that’s where the Collaborative Leadership Academy came from. And year long academy, where we do two days of upfront training in, typically in the summer. And then three days on onsite coaching with the participants like one hour onsite coaching, coaching for participants during the course of the year. And then we’ll come back at the end of the year for one day to pull together our learning and make steps, plans for next steps. And so typically a district or a regional service agency, E S U E S A, whatever they’re called, different places. Has engaged in this for like the principals or other school leaders. And we just, we take the book and we dive into it by going beyond just the knowledge, but to the application and then the action. Where we’re coaching during the year, and you’re implementing the implementation.
You hit that knowledge and put it into a practice gap. The application, like that’s such an important part, you know another thing that I say, our ideas are great, just not the greatest. That’s because action’s, everything and you help people implement. I really admire and appreciate that about your work. The question I’d like to ask is, when somebody enrolls in this Collaborative Leadership Academy, they’re going through the book with you, implementing the ideas, what’s that result after they apply. Like you have a mini case study or something you’d love to celebrate this leader was able to achieve X because of the work.
It”s amazing actually this last year I’ve had two different organizations, district and a regional service agency engage in a collaborative leadership academy. And every single participant has latched onto the same idea which I was not expecting. Those, yeah, first times through but they all latched onto element eight in the, okay, I’ve got these little bookmarks that I had made, well, when they participated. It’s got 10 elements, but element eight is about involving staff in important decisions. And what I think happens that makes sense. We wanna involve staff. What we don’t have is systems and processes to access the thinking of all staff. And what I laid out in the book is an example from a school with some considerations, and every single one of ’em has just run with it. And basically in the 32nd synopsis, the idea is setting up strategic committees to lead the work of improving the school. So it’s aligned with the strategic plan or the school improvement plan, whatever you call it. And the principal is guiding the work through chairs and co-chairs of these committees and subcommittees who then are touching every single staff member. So you can have a school with one school I work with that has 170 teachers on the staff just certificated teaching staff.
This principal hasn’t gone through the Collaborative Leadership Academy, but they’ve been implementing this principle. They’re able to get the voices of 170 staff members into the work without having to sit in front of a staff meeting in a lecture hall. So we just have to think about those systems and processes to make it so that we’re systematically encouraging, accessing, and implementing the best ideas of staff. t.
The Ruckus Maker multiplies himself herself through these strategic committees, is that what I’m hearing?
Yes, that’s exactly right. You’re quite the listener yourself.
I’ve done a few of these conversations. So anyways. That’s awesome. I’d feel terrible if I didn’t ask, so, okay, cool. It sounds like a great opportunity to learn more about the Collaborative Leadership Academy?
How could they find out more about it and reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook or my email and we’ll, we’ll hook you up with it.
Sounds good. We’ll have all those links for you in the show notes. Let’s get to the last three questions that I’d love to ask all my guests. Chad, if you could put one message on all school marquees for just one day, what would your message be?
This is a hard one. ’cause There’s actually two that I would want to put on, but I think I’ll go with them, since the question is just one. And I have it appear actually on, in on cure. It says, I want you to be happy to laugh, smile, and rejoice in order that others may be made happy by you.
Very encouraging. Thank you, Chad. And let’s talk about building your dream school. If you were not constrained by any resources, your only limitation was your ability to imagine building your dream school. What would be the three guiding principles?
The first guiding principle is we’ve gotta access the voice and expertise of the community in, in which we’re building this. Students, parents, community members, the whole whole thing. The schools are expressions of communities. And so in the physical design of the building, et cetera, we wanna access that. The second thing that I think would be really critical is making sure that whatever the physical, our building is, that it has elements of the outside, inside and elements of the inside outside. So that it’s fully optimized for student learning. And my mind goes to Stevenson High School for anyone who’s been to Stevenson in Chicago, it has some of those elements that are just like incredible where when kids come there, it doesn’t feel like a school. It’s not institutional. It feels like it’s a community. There’s spaces for kids to interact with each other that are outside of classrooms, comfortable couches and chairs and coffee shops . It’s a place that we come to. That’s a safe, loving, welcoming space. And then the third thing, a third principle that I would wanna employ is that adult learning is as important as student learning. As we know that when adults learn more, students learn more. And so we are focused on, as the adults in the building, improving our practice and results for students.
When you get better, everybody wins. We covered a lot of grounds today. It was a rich episode, and I appreciate all, all the wisdom in practical things that you shared with the Ruckus Maker listening or watching everything we discussed today. What’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?
The one thing is that you matter what you say and what you do impacts others. As you are impacting others, be sure to be drawing out from them their very best, even if they don’t even know what they’re best at.
Thanks for listening to The Better Leaders, Better Schools podcast Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel at Better Leaders Better schools.com, or hit me up on Twitter at @Alienearbud. If the Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve more Ruckus Makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway from the episode, extra credit for tagging me on Twitter at alien earbud, and using the hashtag#BLBS. Level up your leadership at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com and talk to you next time. Until then, “class dismissed.”
Transform how you lead to become a resilient and empowered change agent with Harvard’s online Certificate in School Management and Leadership. Grow your professional network with a global cohort of fellow school leaders as you collaborate in case studies bridging the fields of education and business. Apply today at http://hgse.me/leader.
With TeachFX, teachers are creating classrooms that are alive with conversation. Our app gives teachers insights into high-leverage practices like: How much student talk happened? Which questions got students talking? It’s eye-opening for teachers, and scales the impact of coaches and principals. Start your free pilot at teachfx.com/blbs .
Why do students struggle? I’d argue that they lack access to quality instruction, but think about it. That’s totally out of their control. What if there was something we could teach kids there was something within their control that would help them be successful in every class? It’s not a magic pill or a figment of your imagination.
When students internalize Executive Functioning Skills they succeed.
Check out the new self-paced online course brought to you by OB that shows teachers how to equip their students with executive functioning skills.
Learn more at organizedbinder.com/go
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