To the Loyal Members of the BLBS Tribe:
Although Better Leaders Better Schools is not a public company, I view the listeners and leaders we work with as our "shareholders." I may not be accountable for increasing profits, but I am accountable for increasing value with lthe tribe. I take this obligation very seriously as your time and attention are two of the most precious resources you invest in BLBS. To this point, 2018 was a wild success which I'll dive into throughout this letter.
In addition to accountability, I will reflect on some of the successes from last year and cast vision for where BLBS is headed.
I do not take the time, attention, and resources that you invest into BLBS for granted and I hope to improve what BLBS offers the tribe each year.
Better Leaders Better Schools passed many milestones in 2018 and I would like to personally thank members of the BLBS tribe for making 2018 a record year.
One of the most important activities I engaged in was creating my vivid vision. I combined what I've learned over the years to create this vision for BLBS, but there were two major influences: Scott Beebe for and the Four Steps to Business Freedom and Cameron Herold's book, Double Double. I combined the ideas from Four Steps and Double Double, put my twist on it, and voila -- my vision was born.
Last year I mentioned that I had arrived on a mission: to improve school leadership by upgrading habits, systems, and mindsets that optimize life
Yuck. Too general.
It doesn't share who I want to work with and how I serve them. Although I am deeply fascinated on habits, systems, and mindsets that will improve school leadership, I think I have arrived at a clearer description of "What I do."
You probably have seen this on social media and if you subscribe to my emails (e.g. Weekend Resource) you have definitely seen this:
We help school leaders fight isolation and frustration via a leadership community in order to gain clarity and find solutions to their greatest challenges.
Here is why that is a better mission statement. It clearly identifies:
- Who we help (school leaders)
- What we help them with (isolation, frustration)
- How we help (the mastermind)
- Why we help (clarity, solutions)
I can't predict what will happen next year, but I like where we arrived. This mission feels "dialed in" and I don't plan on tinkering with it anymore.
The mastermind was a huge success in 2018.
BLBS saw 38% growth within the mastermind increasing membership from 34 to 47 members from eight different countries around the world. No new groups were launched last year. As part of my vision work, I have already pre-established that my mastermind coaching capacity is four groups of 15 members each. Through the mastermind I will work intimately with no more than 60 school leaders. Once that number is hit (and that will happen in 2019), the mastermind will truly be closed "for good" and a waiting list will be established to work with me.
The numbers matter. Adding more world-class leaders exponentially increases the value of the community. I see the power of deep relationships being formed and leaders are experiencing many milestones.
Of course, 60 heroic school leaders is a small number when considering the amount of school leaders world-wide. The key to scaling will be to launch new masterminds facilitated by other coaches I trust. More coaches will allow me to honor my time, schedule, commi
tments, and family. This will be version 2.0 of the mastermind and I'm excited to reach this point for the following reasons:
- The opportunity to serve more school leaders and continue to nourish the community
- Developing other great mastermind coaches and seeing the magic they help create
- Offering more groups / increasing the flexibility of when masterminds meet
In addition to the mastermind, I became hyper focused on 1-on-1 coaching which grew by 250% in 2018 from two to seven leaders.
This also is an outgrowth of my vision work. I am clear on what my Zone of Genius is and what my highest contribution to the world is.
I do three things:
- Coach heroic leaders
- Create content for these leaders
- And connect these leaders through an authentic community
A focus on providing value through great, free content was the main reason BLBS has become a world-wide success.
2018 Content Highlights
Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast
- Through December 10, 2018 the BLBS podcast had 228,386 unique downloads. This is an 81% increase from last year's download numbers.
- To put this in context, the show was released in 2015 and has 417,624 total downloads. That means 54% of the total podcast downloads happened last year alone.
- The podcast growth has helped BLBS maintain its position as most valuable and most downloaded podcast for school leaders.
- The BLBS podcast will have released 63 podcast episodes in 2018
- The BLBS podcast broke 20K downloads in a month for the first time in June 2018
and consecutively broke 20K downloads through October 2018.
The School Leadership Series Podcast
- I launched a second podcast, The School Leadership Series for two reasons:
- Serve more school leaders with a different format (daily, five minute or less inspiration)
- Expand into a new market. The show is available on my website, iTunes and everywhere else, but for the first time I launched a show on the Amazon platform.
- Serve more school leaders with a different format (daily, five minute or less inspiration)
- The School Leadership Series is also the top rated show in education on Amazon.
- The show launched March 5, 2018 and has "shipped" an episode every weekday since then.
- This show continues to grow and is downloaded more than most podcasts I know.
Amplifying Important Voices in Education
What I'm most excited for in 2019 is the content creation team I'm building for The School Leadership Series. In the mastermind, I asked members to question a practice that they do because of "tradition" and change it. I wanted to participate too. How could I apply this question to my business?
And then, an epiphany -- Why do I have to host my own podcast?
You may have noticed a slight shift on The School Leadership Series at the end of 2018 when I introduced other hosts as part of the content creation team (e.g. "podcast takeover").
I am sick and tired of some voices silenced and extinguished because of power and politics.
As a white male I will not contribute to a system that values my perspective over others. To combat this I have built a team to create content for this podcast and will do my best at amplifying the voices of female leaders and leaders-of-color.
Webinars and YouTube
In addition to the podcasts, which were huge successes, I hosted a number of productivity webinars, wrote a few articles, and definitely made a bunch of videos. For the first time I launched a YouTube channel. The viewership is low right now, but the content is transformative. I find value in making videos because it is fun, it a reflective activity, and is yet another way to serve school leaders. Right now I'm focused on creating content for a YouTube audience that doesn't yet exist. We'll see if I continue this past 2019.
My First Book: The Better Leaders Better Schools Roadmap
I want to write more in 2019, but not sure what form that will take. Probably more creative projects like this "Now" page which I think every school leader should send to her community.
In order to do this, I have to continue to cut tasks, to-dos, and other items from my plate. Currently, I am taking a huge step forward in this direction. I am hiring someone to run my podcast company so that I can focus on my Zone of Genius.
Speaking of writing (and maybe my proudest accomplishment) is that I released my first book for school leaders. The Better Leaders Better Schools Roadmap debuted as a "#1 Hot New Release" on Amazon and continues to serve school leaders.
Releasing the book was a major milestone in my life.
Last year I wrote about "Turning Pro." This year I took that to a new level.
The month my book was published, I also exceeded my principal income for the first time (and did so for three consecutive months). The book and the financial milestone illustrate the value of what I'm creating for school leaders. I share this in the spirit of transparency. I am actually quite uncomfortable writing this paragraph, but I want to communicate that I'm proud of how BLBS is serving school leaders.
This also illustrates a leadership principle: the power of focus. 2018 has been a tremendous success because I'm getting better at being an "inch wide and mile deep" instead of growing in the opposite direction. The focus was a result of developing my vision.
In 2018 I only offered my productivity webinar twice. It was still a success and I had the pleasure to serve nine school leaders in my productivity course. I am frustrated that inconsistency resulted in serving fewer leaders. However, by hiring more team members I should be able to improve this area.
I am also in the midst of a "Secret Project" for school leaders. To close out 2018, I have scheduled 50 calls with educators to have a great conversation focused on two things: priorities and challenges.
Through these conversations my goal is to identify how I can serve more school leaders in addition to the podcast and the mastermind. It's too early to tell what will be created as a result of these conversations, but most likely it will be a virtual workshop, online course, book, coaching, or other valuable resource.
In business, your email list is of utmost importance.
Facebook changes. Twitter changes. Apple Podcasts will change.
I own my email list and it represents a way I can talk directly with BLBS "superfans." I intend on sending more emails in 2019 to subscribers with a focus on:
- telling entertaining stories
- coaching via email leadership tips
- and sharing opportunities to work with me
Just like other areas of BLBS, I saw success here as well.
Subscribers increased 119% -- as of December 10, 2018, 2,858 school leaders subscribe to my emails. And that's after cutting just over 500 "cold" email subscribers (individuals that haven't opened an email from me in a while).
What's the leadership principle?
In education, things are changing at a rapid pace, but not everything. Just like my email list, leaders should consider what they control and what is a consistent way to communicate with the community.
Of course I'll continue to create podcasts and post on social media, but at the end of the day, my email list is the best way to develop relationships and provide value to my Tribe. One way I honor that is through #FreeLunchFriday coaching twice a month. This is a BLBS Tribe exclusive and the invitation to this coaching opportunity happens only through email. T
he leadership principle here is how can you do something above and beyond for your "raving fans"?
I was very grateful to have four sponsors in 2018.
Organized Binder. Organized Binder is an evidence-based RTI2 Tier 1 universal level solution focusing on improving executive functioning and noncognitive skills. Organized binder is in direct alignment with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework and is an integral component for ensuring Least Restrictive Environments (LRE)
The Conrad Challenge. The Conrad Challenge promotes collaborative, student-centered, real world-relevant learning that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship, unleashing students’ potential to create future-defining solutions and a sustainable society for generations to come.
Mastery Leadership Institute. This Mastery Leadership Institute is an intensive, three-day professional development retreat facilitated by nationally recognized principals.
School Spirit Vending (SSV) offers “hassle-free” fundraising for schools which I love and make it super easy for schools to make some extra money. More importantly, I know and can vouch for the owner of the company, Matt Miller. He is a man of extraordinary character and has been a positive role model in my life.
I co-presented with Jethro Jones and Will Parker at the 2018 NASSP Conference in Chicago. I also threw a huge party for a number of school leaders at one of my favorite stomping grounds in Pilsen, Chicago. I partnered with a great company, Abl Schools, who is taking on making better master schedules. Together we provided a bunch of great Chicago pizza and bought everyone's drinks. If you didn't attend and you were at the conference, you definitely missed out. This party was a great time.
Goals for 2019
But here is a snapshot of what I'd like to accomplish in 2019:
- Fill my mastermind with 60 heroic school leaders.
- Grow to ten 1-on-1 clients.
- Launch the mastermind 2.0 with a new coach, new members, and available on new days/times.
- Plan my first live event and host it in 2019 or early 2020.
- Start my second book.
- Host the School Leadership Series 10% or less of the time creating space for under-represented voices.
- Create a new course, workshop, etc. for school leaders based on the 50 calls I have scheduled for November - December 2018.
- Stop obsessing around vanity metrics. Who cares about downloads, number of followers, retweets, etc.? I'm going to be laser-focused on providing world-class content for the smallest number of school leaders possible. And we'll change the world as a result.
In Closing ...
As I stated in the intro of this letter, thank you so much for being an engaged member of the BLBS Tribe.
My success is dependent on providing content and resources you find valuable and promotes your growth. Because of your engagement and generous sharing, BLBS enjoyed two consecutive record years and the future looks bright in 2019.
BLBS listeners know this quote quite well: “Everyone wins when a leader gets better. Everyone wins when YOU get better.”
BLBS is my way of living out this quote while making an impact in the education and leadership space. I humbly ask if you have received any value from what I offer here at BLBS, please share this content with friends and invite them to join the BLBS tribe by subscribing to my email newsletter. Or if you are already a raving fan and you're ready to invest in leveling up your leadership, please consider joining the mastermind.
Thank you for your attention, trust, and contributions to BLBS. I will do my best to continue to provide high quality resources here for you. If there is anything I can do to help you on your leadership journey, feel free to reach out to me.
Danny “Sunshine” Bauer
Founder and CEO of Better Leaders Better Schools.