Bradley James Davies
A Georgetown University Leadership Coaching Program graduate and ICF-certified coach with over two decades of corporate and nonprofit leadership experience, he works with clients to help them optimize their lives both at work and at home.

A strategic listening expert and dedicated leadership wellness practitioner, he speaks and facilitates workshops on “Next Level Listening: How to Be the Best Listener in the Room” and “Leadership Wellness 101: How to Lead Well Without Losing Your Way.”

Born and raised in Minnesota, when not exploring our inspiring planet, he calls Crested Butte, Colorado and Madrid, Spain home.

Show Highlights

Pulling weeds versus watering plants leadership strategy.
Pulling weeds and watering plants is all about the most powerful lever we have as leaders to improve our schools
The one person on the planet who is most easily deceived. What to avoid in leadership.
The recipe we’ve been given to be a transformational school leader is fundamentally unhealthy.
Maintaining your well being need not be as rare as a copy machine that never breaks down.
Build yourself a “Buddy Bench” to maintain personal and professional effectiveness.
Ruckus Makers, straddle the space between what is and what could be.
The biggest bang for your school improvement buck comes from walking out of the emergency room.
“My body woke me up to what my head and heart wouldn’t let me see. And that’s particularly how I really resonate with Ruckus Makers. People who are trying to make tomorrow’s school a reality today. People who are really challenging that status quo. I was that. So how do ruckus makers respond to adversity? We work harder. We love more, we give more than we give. And so I was really blinded to the low point I was getting to and my body woke me up.”

“I was flourishing at work, I was floundering where it mattered most, at home and with my family and friends. And that’s what I hope my book and my work now can help Ruckus Makers do, is to avoid the place where I got so they can continue to thrive in their work and have the impact that they’re having.”

- Bradley James Davies

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Read the Transcript here.

Navigating the Path of Educational Leadership

In leadership circles, sometimes you hear a metaphor that is used, which is running in the red. And they’re talking about your automobile. And if you were just constantly “pedal to the metal”, driving fast, not getting the oil changed, that kind of stuff, your car would eventually break down. And this is a popular metaphor because it’s like, if you wouldn’t do that to your car, or if you wouldn’t do it to your rental, but you wouldn’t do it to your car, why would you do that to yourself. You’re the car. Your body’s the car. And in today’s episode my guest is really authentic and vulnerable, sharing his story about how he had a wake up call right in the ER room, wondering, is this it?
And maybe Ruckus Maker, maybe you’ve had an experience like that as well. But today’s show is really about a warning. Like wake up. Do you see what’s happening? And how can you make adjustments? How can you slow things down and take better care of yourself? Because you matter You matter. And when you get better, everybody wins. You hear me say that all the time. Here’s the thing, real talk, and as a principal development and retention expert, I am going to shoot straight with you. The district’s not going to take care of you like that. The district that does is few and far between. Maybe 1% of districts really take your wellness seriously, if that. And it’s also not their job. It’s your job. Stop waiting for other people to take care of you. It’s you. ‘You take care of you.’ I invite you to lean into this conversation, really take stock of where you’re at. Hear how our expert guest, Bradley James Davies, has some very practical concepts and tools that you can apply to take better care of yourself and slow things down. And the greatest part of it, when you do this, you actually are a more effective leader and your campus runs at a much higher level. Hey, it’s Danny. Like I said, I’m a principal development and retention expert, two time bestselling author. I host two of the world’s most downloaded podcasts. And you’re listening to the better leaders better school show, a show for Ruckus Makers. Which means you have made three commitments.

You’ve committed to your continuous growth, to challenging the status quo, and to designing the future of school right now, because of those commitments, you might be at risk and it’s time to take care of yourself. So we’re going to talk about that in today’s episode. But right now we’re going to pause to get some messages in from our show sponsors. Hey, Ruckus Maker, I’ll make this quick. If you’re listening to this message right now, you’re missing out. When you subscribe to the Ruckus Maker newsletter on Substack, you get access to micro books focused on how to do school different tools and other resources that will help you make a ruckus and do school different stories and case studies of the worlds most legendary Ruckus Makers of all time.

Access to my calendar to schedule coaching sessions, and you’ll also get bonus podcast content that won’t be released on the main podcast feed and podcast episodes without any advertisements. So if you love this show, if it’s helped you grow and you want access to more tools and resources that will help you make a ruckus and do school different and become a paid subscriber at Ruckusmakers.substack.com. As a principal with so much to do, you might be thinking constantly, where do I even start? It’s a good question, and that’s why I created a twelve month principal checklist just for you. When you download it for free, you’re going to get a twelve month checklist that identifies general tasks that every campus will want to do each month. But the checklist also includes space where you can write campus specific items and two opportunities to reflect on what worked and what you want to continue doing and what didn’t work and what you want to change or improve. When you take action on this checklist for a year, you will have built a leadership playbook for your school, and you won’t have to reinvent the wheel or feel like a first year principal all over again. Go to betterleadersbetterschools.com/principalchecklist to download for free right now. IXL takes the guesswork out of lesson planning for teachers. IXL’s ready-made lesson plans are aligned to your textbooks and state standards so teachers can turn to IXL for the exact content they need to help their students get started [email protected]. Leadership that’s ixl.com leaders.

Even the most highly effective Ruckus Maker can’t be in all classrooms, offering incredible feedback all the time. What if teachers could gather their own feedback without relying on you? And not only their own feedback, but meaningful feedback that would improve their instruction? Well, check out the TeachfX app by visiting teachfx.com/betterleaders and you can pilot their program today. Go to teachfx.com/betterleaders to see what does your school cafeteria make you think of? Chaos? Headaches?

Quality food? Quest stands apart in the school food service industry as a partner that provides high quality food for your students. This is food you can be proud of. Learn more at Quest food management [email protected]. Or follow Questfood on social media. That’s questfms.com Hey, Ruckus Makers. Today we are in for a treat. Bradley James Davies is joining us, author of School Leadership from a to z, how to lead well without losing your way. Davies is a retired teacher, coach and school principal. As a speaker and leadership coach trained at Georgetown University, Davies helps clients to lead, love and live better both at work and at home. Born and raised in Minnesota, Davey calls Colorado and Madrid home. Welcome to the show.

All right, thanks, Danny. Happy to be here.

Yeah, well, definitely excited to pick your brain. AndI think your story is an important story and something that I believe Ruckus Makers will relate with. And I just want to note and name that, really pay attention to what comes up for you during this conversation and really note what your next steps are. Right, because we’re really talking about you and taking care of yourself. And so to frame the beginning, Bradleyyou’re 46, you’re on your back in the ER room. You’re thinking you’re having a heart attack. And reflecting on it, you’ve told me you’re actually glad it happened, but what was going on?

I’m grateful to be able to say, Danny, that while I’m sad it happened through a lot of important work I’ve done in my own personal life, I can now say that I’m glad it happened and grateful I’m here sharing with the Ruckus Makers my story. So, gosh, basically, I served schools from early childhood through grade 12 for nearly 20 years. And I was kind of a shiny penny, Danny. At 30, I was a high school principal, which is pretty young. And then at 40, I was head of school, which in the private school world is kind of like a small town superintendent. I was leading an early childhood through grade eight school. Again, quite the shiny penny. From the outside, everything seemed great, married, career thriving, and really would have named and embraced the fact that I was a Ruckus Maker and really trying to move the school forward. Well, that was 46 years later, I’m divorced and I’m back in this emergency room. And the reality of what happened, Danny, is that my body woke me up to what my head and heart wouldn’t let me see. And that’s particularly how I really resonate with Ruckus Makers. People who are trying to make tomorrow’s school a reality today. People who are really challenging that status quo. I was that. So how do Ruckus Makers respond to adversity? We work harder. We love more, we give more than we give. And so I was really blinded to the low point I was getting to and my body woke me up.

And thankfully that was not my deathbed, but it was a just gigantic wake up call with what likely was the first ever anxiety attack of my life. But I walked out of that emergency room saying, okay, the work I love, the work I believe in passionately. I have grown to not be able to do it in a healthy way such thatI came home every day to a depleted Mister Davies. And where I was flourishing at work, I was floundering where it mattered most, at home and with my family and friends. And that’s what I hope my book and my work now can help Ruckus Makers do, is to avoid the place where I got so they can continue to thrive in their work and have the impact that they’re having.

I appreciate you sharing that I could relate. Thankfully I probably, who knows what happened. They still did some tests and stuff, but there was a moment, even for me, I remember having some chest pain and stuff and I just laid down on the couch for a few minutes. I’m like, this is how it ends. That’s literally what I was thinking. I’ve been getting checked out and continue to be checked out and it seems to have been a fluke or whatever. But since then, I invested quite a lot of money to join a program. It focuses on helping a business scale because I want to serve more school leaders and have a big impact in education. But the interesting thing, they don’t get to that until year three. I was like, all right, a little frustrated. I want to get there today, right? The funny thing is they do to me what I try to do and what you do with school leaders. And we start with, how are you? Like, how are you really in year one? And it’s funny because I teach this and I can help others do it. Sometimes it’s hardest to do that for myself. Long story short, year one is really focusing on myself and I can proudly say to you and to other Ruckus Makers, I’m tracking the number of free days. I have focus days and what they call buffer days. And I’ve vastly increased the amount of free days. And I just haven’t taken a lot of time off. Now I get to. I can meditate.
I do a lot of hiking with Alba. You saw her. She’s on the podcast with us.
Hey, Alba. And believe it or notI love to read, and I love video games still, too. So, anyways, trying to not always beyond, but I’m sharing a little bit of my story because I think the Ruckus Maker can relate. And, yeah, I don’t know if there’s anything else you want to add to how this was a wake up call for you. And you’ve already mentioned how a Ruckus Maker might be more susceptible. Because they are challenging the status quo. Design a future school now. What would you say to that Ruckus Maker who’s given everything they got?

I would share one. Thank you for the absolutely crucial work you’re doing on behalf of the children and families and faculty and staff you serve. This is world changing work. It’s why we got into it. And I would also say, if there is one person on the planet who is most easily deceived, it is yourself. And we can. Ruckus Makers are idealistic and hardworking and committed. They serve and support. They give and they give. And so I would beg.Ruckus Makers use our stories here. We’re sharing with others to really raise their awareness of the fact that you can do the work well while maintaining your well being. That doing the work well while maintaining your well being need not be as rare as a copy machine that never breaks down. And yet, like you just modeled for us, Danny, it requires intentionality. A drop of intentionality gets you a gallon back. So things like you’re doing, investing in this program, investing in structures and systems, in your life, around what’s a busy day, what’s a buffer day, etcetera. Those kinds of things are what are going to give school leaders, Ruckus Makers, the best bang for their buck in terms of ensuring that they can honor the most important pieces of their life, their own mental health, their own physical health, their families, their friends, while also serving in tremendous and extraordinary ways their school communities. It requires intentionality. I think that’s what I’d love to emphasize, Danny, interrupt you. It just requires intentionality. And if you’re listening to this and you’re like, if you can’t name two or three things right away that you’re doing intentionally to honor your wellness, then mayday, mayday, reach out now. I mean better leaders, better schools, you guys provide coaches, et cetera. But gosh, reach out to a coach. Start that intentional practice right now.

We all need coaches. That’s part of why I shared that story is because I need somebody to say, danny, slow down. You know what I mean? And what are you doing to take care of yourself and that kind of thing? And the wild thing is, Bradley, my life’s gotten obviously better from health and emotional, spiritual, all that kind of stuff. But at the same time, the organization, better leaders, better schools has thrived as I’ve thrived. And so I don’t know that Ruckus Makers understand that all the time, but when you take care of yourself more, your school will really benefit. And that’s why I say, when you get better, everybody wins. That could be leadership, professional development, but it’s also just taking yourself seriously, too.

Anyways when it came to that experience and you had the wake up call, what were some of the shifts like? So you said mayday, if you can’t name a few things, how you take care of yourself. So how did you start to reorganize your life, what were the shifts you made?

Well, number one is particularly because I had gotten just so low and so lost, I immediately started doubling down on coaching and counseling. From there. Coaches and counselors are equipped with great resources. From there, I started just doing a ton of reading. I joke that I’m not 99 percentile in anything, Danny, but I’ve now, my life has emerged that in both breadth and depth, I’m 99th percentile in the midlife crisis. I am like the guy and just naming that, just understanding through the help of my counselor and my coach that, hey, you’re too low. You’re going to walk out of this valley. There is sunshine on the other side of this, but you are low. And just reading books and the resources, online classes, doing a deep dive into my own growth, because here’s a message for Ruckus Makers that I needed to embrace myself and I just got, life kicked me in the gut and in the shin and punched me in the face. So I got super low, really hoping we can help Ruckus Makers avoid. Where I got my message for Ruckus Makers is you guys are wired. We are wired to be doers. We do. The fact of the matter is, the biggest bang for your improvement buck, and that means your school improvement buck as well, comes not from doing better, but becoming better, not from doing more, rather becoming than more. And walking out of the emergency room, partnering with a coach and a counselor. I really got on that path.
I was always about doing more, loving more, more enthusiasm, more optimism, more idealism, the new program, the next thing. And it really put me on a path to say, wow, the best way I can serve and support and invest in others, be it as a school leader and now in my role as speaker and coach, is for me to evolve. Is for me to evolve. And as Ruckus Makers evolve, they will be amazed at how their teams evolve alongside them. Because we can’t take people, and that means big kids and little kids on our campuses. That means adults and the students. We can’t take our community places we have not gone ourselves. And that therefore requires real intentionality around our own personal growth, our own evolution.

Yeah, I just heard, too, we can’t take the people on our campus to this ideal future state, too, when we might have been coached and mentored by school leaders who weren’t able to do it themselves. And like a lot of the broken stuff I see in education, it’s actually no blame to the school leader because they don’t know any better. They’ve been told first in, last out grind, like 80 hours, weeks. That’s the job. That’s what you signed up for. Well, maybe there’s certainly seasons that are more challenging than others, but there’s actually a different way. And you can have a life. You can connect with your family and still lead a very highly effective school. I’ll never forget it. A client that told me I’m a better mom to my students than to my own children. They’re hard right in the gut, like, oh, my God. And thankfully, if you now look at her life, that’s totally different. She’s still powerfully serving her campus. Family was always important, but now her actions show that, too, and she’s thriving in that way.

I can resonate with that. Danny and I plead with the Rutgers Makers to pause and ask themselves if that would be true for them. My ex wife, who is just an amazing human being, and I’m so grateful that we remain friends. She told me for many years, everyone else gets the best Bradley. And she was right. She was right. And it doesn’t have to be that way. I wrote school leadership from a to z, and I hope readers and Ruckus Makers understand that it’s not a narrative of, hey, I am or was awesome, so be like me. And yeah, there’s some tips and tricks of the trade and hacks, et cetera that I’m really proud and happy to share. The reality, though, is it’s not as much a how to as it is how not to and a real humble sharing. Nice thing about humility is unlike, I don’t know, chartreuse and neck tattoos, humility looks good on everyone. I’m grateful to have gone through this storm because frankly, as a Ruckus Maker, I probably fell victim to some hubris of being the first in, last out, hardest worker, etcetera. And this really humbled me to a place of saying, wow, the recipe we’ve been given to be a transformational school leader is fundamentally unhealthy. And there are some folks in our space, the school leader space, and those who are trying to support them, who still are singing that song. And I think it’s really dangerous.
And so I really value your work and echo that, hey, you can do more by doing less. It’s actually by becoming more and evolving as a human that you’ll see again that needle moves in your service to your schools.

Dangerous. It’s a nice way of putting it. We could just call it bull.

You’re better at cutting through all the bull that I am. And I appreciate that about you. I’m a Minnesotan at the end of the day so we have a hard time speaking hard.

And I love that about you. All good. Let’s dig into what to avoid because a lot of time when we’re thinking about being more effective or making better decisions achieving whatever goal you can optimize performance and that kind of stuff. That’s great. But maybe the lowest hanging fruit is just to remove your lowest performance. Or the big mistakes.The gutters, so to speak, and that kind of thing. Talk to me about how not to and why that’s such a powerful idea. Things you’ve seen leaders should avoid.

In the spirit of what I would encourage Ruckus Makers to do, and what I would encourage Ruckus Makers to be mindful of not doing or stopping. First thing, what you should do is get yourself a buddy bench. You’ve heard of the elementary schools that have a buddy bench at recess. It’s a place.

I don’t know what that is, actually.

Oh, gosh, it’s fantastic. So buddy bench, in the elementary school world is a place any child can go during recess. If they don’t have a pal to play with, they go gently and conspicuously sit on the buddy bench. And that’s a respectful signal to their classmates that, hey, if anybody’s willing to add me to the game, I’d really appreciate that. It’s a beautiful thing to do if you’re on recess, dude, you’re like, oh, check it out. Billy just went and sat on the buddy bench. Let’s see if this actually works. And then before you know it, some amazing human beings come over, invites them to play. It’s beautiful. And the message there is, please, please do not try to lead alone. Please, please do not try to lead alone. And so what a buddy bench.

What I invite folks and Ruckus Makers to do is build yourself a buddy bench. First of all, get yourself a coach or a counselor. It’s a non negotiable. Yes, I’m biased because I’m in this space, but I can tell you passionately that if I had a leadership coach in my life for the last 20 years, one, I’d probably still be working in schools, and two, I’d be 20 x the human being I am today. So I beg you all, do it now. Number two, find yourself some colleagues from different schools, non competitor school folks you respect a real intentional circle of like minded Ruckus Makers who can provide a support system for you. Meet with them regularly, might be once a month, at least once a month at least, and invest some intentionality into that time together. For example, if you and I and maybe two or three others got ourselves a buddy adventure and we had that time together, we might say, hey, we’re all going to share one struggle we have, because we’re going to get realand in community, hurts are, have the joys are doubled. We’re going to help. We’re going to have that circle, that buddy bench to help care struggles, and we’re going to be real. And that’s difficult for Ruckus Makers, school leaders who are the chief storytellers of their community. Everything’s great. Everything’s fantastic. Tomorrow’s school we’re doing today. And that’s part of the role, is to share the fantastic things going on. Yet the risk of that is there’s also real strain. I’d call B’s. You’d call it bull, but I’d call B’s on any school leader who’s just like, everything’s great. And I was that guy. So in a buddy bench context, you offer some intentionality to it. We’re going to share one struggle because hurts are going to be halved, and we’re also going to share one best practice so these best practices can be scaled. Self a buddy bench. Yes. A professional who’s going to really help you grow, invest in your personal and professional development. And also, too, some of those colleagues were at that conference you just really connected with. Have the courage, reach out and say, hey, you mind getting together just once a month and we can just get real. I tell you what, I’d be shocked with the Ruckus Maker community. I’d be shocked anyone listening to this would not embrace that and gobble it up. So first of all, get yourself a buddy bench. Some tips for things not to do. They’re going to be a gift to you and to those you serve, number one. And people get so uncomfortable with this one, Danny. And I personally love it.

If I could wave my magic wand, this is how all schools would function. No emails between 07:00 p.m. And 07:00 a.m. No emails sent. No emails sent between 07:00 p.m. And 07:00 a.m. Now you have a family, you have children, it’s bath time, et cetera. You need to catch up on your email at 08:00. That’s up to you. Just don’t send them. Embrace the delay. Send on the email and faculty. And hey, now, there is a professional expectation at about 645 in the morning. You need to open up your email, see if there’s anything important. That can be a professional expectation. But what if we wave our magic wand and it is a sacred space and time, family time, personal time. Between 07:00 p.m. And 07:00 a.m. Instead of checking email right before you’re going to bed and having it mess with your sleep and your rest. Yes, you’re checking your email right before you go to work, but now you’re geared up and ready to go for the day. So 07:00 p.m. To 07:00 a.m. No email communication. If it’s an emergency, absolutely call. But hey, spoiler alert, guess what? It can’t be both in email and an emergency. Oh, no, those two things don’t. So pick up the phone and call. Absolutely. But no email between 07:00 p.m. And 07:00 a.m. And then, number two, I would plead with Ruckus Makers to embrace leadership is followership. I beg folks to Google leadership lessons from a dancing guy. It’s a super popular YouTube video. It’s hilarious, and it embraces this concept of leadership as followership.

Set the hill with Derek Sivers. Is that one or.

Exactly. The dude dances at, like, the show. Exactly. And so the lesson, basically, the video of what I did way too often in my career, was I got an idea. I thought it was fantastic. I thought it was going to impact kids’ lives positively. I was pushing that edge as a Ruckus Maker. And so then I just tried to whip boats. I just tried to get support. And that can be really tiring on teams. Also, it’s flawed thinking to think that if I’m being an effective leader, I should be the font of most of the great ideas. B’s our role as Ruckus Makers. Yes. We’re going to have ideas. Yes. Yet our ultimate goal is to cultivate a culture on our teams where those ideas are being put forth.

And then if we kind of love that idea our third grade teacher came up with, or that chemistry teacher came up with, or that parent came up with, or that student came up with, now we’re thinking, since we’re responsible for the institutional resources involved, because every school has limited resources. Wow. We now see a cohort of our team tapping their beat to the music. They’re thinking, ooh, this could be a game changer idea. And now, as the Ruckus Maker leader, we’re like, all right, I’d love to jump on board with that so that it’s not top down, it’s not by fiat. Yet you’re honoring those great ideas that are coming forth. Because here’s the reality. All school leaders, but especially Ruckus Makers, straddle the space between what is and what could be. And in between that space is real fertile soil for taking oneself way too seriously. And that’s unhealthy and tiring, both for the leader and the folks we serve. So to be mindful of leadership is followership. To be looking around and listening to those great ideas coming forth from our teams not only is better for innovation, but it’s also better for our wellness, because we’re not just forcing it, we’re not just pushing it, Ralph. It’s more joyful in this video, leadership lessons from a dancing guy. If folks haven’t seen it, I mean, you’ve seen it. I know. It’s fantastic. So I’d really invite folks to embrace leadership as followership.

Yeah, those are all good points. Really appreciate it. If you haven’t seen that video, check it out. Derek Sivers showed it in a talk a long time ago. But it’s this one awkward dude dancing, and it’s like, okay, are people gonna join them or not? And before you know it, I think there’s another one titled maybe how to start a movement. But before you know it, everybody’s together. Dancing. And don’t take yourself too seriously. If you see over my shoulder here, that funny picture, but people that have seen me on video, they might see a little triangle looking guy, but it says, remember rule number six? Rule number six is don’t take yourself too seriously.

You could search that on the BLBS website. I have a longer story that I tell around that, and I’ve told on the podcast before, so that’s a lot of fun. All right, cool. I think here’s a good place to pause to get some messages in from our sponsors. And then when we get back, I think I’d like to talk about pulling weeds versus watering plants. What makes an assessment effective? I would argue giving teachers access to quick, reliable, and useful results that inform the next best steps for teaching. And that’s where I excel, really stands out. Teachers get powerful insights into student performance on a daily basis so they can address issues the moment they arise. Imagine that. Ingesting instruction in real time before it’s too late.

Your teachers have a tool that helps them to be more effective and your students continue to grow. Check it out for [email protected]. Leaders. That’s ixl.com leaders. What do you see in your classrooms, and how did you see it? As a principal, you can’t be everywhere at once, so how can you help support every teacher in the building? With Teach FX, teachers can gather their own feedback without relying on classroom observations. The Teach FX instructional coaching app is like giving every teacher their own instructional coach whenever they want it. Ruckus Makers can pilot and teach FX with their teachers. Visit teachfx.com/betterleaders to learn how. That’s tgfx.com/betterleaders. When it comes to your school’s dining experience, it might feel like one more thing on your plate.

And it is, which is why you need a collaborative partner who will proactively listen and respond to your individual cafeteria needs. When you bring on quest food management services, you can expect support around school cafeteria facility and equipment design, concept and station creation, menu and nutrition development, employee management, technology implementation, marketing, communications and day to day guest food service and operations. With Quest, you get it all. Learn more about Quest food management [email protected] or follow Quest food on social media. That’s questfms.com. All right, and we’re back with Bradley James Davies, who wrote school leadership from a to z, how to lead well without losing your way. And before the breakI mentioned that I’d love to talk about pulling weeds versus water in plants. So what’s that all about? I’m terrible. I don’t have a really good green thumb.

I’ve got plants everywhere that end up dying. But anyways, but in a leadership sense. What does it mean in a leadership sense?

Pulling weeds and watering plants is all about the most powerful lever we have as leaders to improve our schools. And that comes via appreciation. And so what I’ve come to learn is that too many school leaders walk their campuses looking for weeds to pull instead of plants to water. And the reality is, oftentimes the best way to eradicate the bad is to emphasize the good. And another way of saying it is you get more of what you water. And of course, we do this with children, don’t we, Danny? We look to catch them doing good. The best discipline is catching kids doing good. And so my real invitation and encouragement to leaders is, yes, you have your vision of what excellence is. Instead of walking your campus looking for what is an outlier to that norm, look for the folks who are rocking it, emphasize their wonderful choices, and then watch your culture transform and embody that vision as you catch people doing good. Because there is great work in every school, but especially in schools trying to push the edge and do new things, find your winners and really celebrate them.

That’s good stuff. I just want to mention, too, for the Ruckus Maker listening. You know, if you go to betterleadersbetterschools.com/resources, just noting that there’s a number of resources that are free there, six of them. But one of the tools that I’ve created for you is called the positive spotlight tool. That’s exactly what Bradley’s talking about, identifying what to amplify. And it goes about four levels deeper, too. You really just get more of what you want on campus. And so that’s there for you with a little coaching video as well. I want to go ahead. It looks like you want to say something.

I wanted to add too. I think there’s a real wellness benefit to focusing on the good as well. Not only will it move schools forward more effectively than trying to confront poor performance, et cetera, but it’s also easier on your soul. It’s more fun, it’s more joyful. I felt victimized too often. I was like, oh, there’s an underperforming teacher. Negative energy, vampire pedagogical practices were absurd, et cetera. And I spent so much energy, performance plans and thinking about them, et cetera. And meanwhile, my rock stars are like, hey, what about me? Well, me. And so they’re not feeling honored and I’m mired in negativity more than I need to be. The best lever to pull is finding those rock stars and celebrating them. And I would add just in the spirit of appreciation, the research really points to if you’re going to appreciate a team member, it’s got to be personal and it’s got to be specific. And so mass emails of, hey, great job at back to school night. Oh, you’re amazing. You probably need to send that and then couple it with the fact that there are bagels and stuff in the staff room. So that could be a win. If you’re only doing the macro general praise, you run the risk of portraying yourself as disingenuous. Specific praise to specific people about specific things is the way to really move that needle and to really water that good stuff and to watch it grow because good stuff watered becomes a great bottom line.

Yeah, for sure. I could tell Jesse on my team that I appreciate his hard work. Or consistently showing up each week. Or I can tell him, hey, when you wrote the weekend resource and in a recent one, he shared this whole story that was like gripping to read. I was there with him and I think that’s the first time I’ve really seen him flex that kind of muscle because usually shorter anecdotes and here’s a link to a helpful resource. But he really drew me in and I’m a tough person to impress. But giving him that specific praise, way to go with that story. And by the way, all the people that also resonated and emailed me because of that story, here’s what they said about it and that micro praise, which is great. I think before I get to the last few questions I ask, is there anything like school leadership from a to z related that we didn’t cover during the conversation that you think is important to note here that you want to make sure we riff on.

No, really, I just emphasize to your listeners that I wrote the book to help. And on my website, Ruckus Makers can go find the first number of the chapters of my book for free. And so just invite them to check it out and let them know that I’m here to help, like you and your great work, Danny, we’re here to help and support you. Please don’t try to do it alone. You got people like Danny and me ready and willing to help you along the way.

So go to bradleyjamesdavies.com/books and you know, I’ll encourage you just to pick up school leadership from a to z. But if you want to try before you buy, there’ll be a few free chapters there for you to check out as well. Anything you want to say about your coaching approach? Because I know you work with leaders and create a little space for you to talk about that.

I appreciate that. So the training I received from Georgetown University was transformational for me. And the approach is appreciative inquiry. And the heart of the matter is that the best way to become a better leader is to become a better person. So it’s really an investment, personal growth. And so I partner with school leaders over an entire school year where we meet biweekly. And really that our agenda is always their agenda. They can be as micro or as macro as they want it to be. And it’s really standing in that space where, Danny, school leaders don’t have anyone to talk to. There’s always a power dynamic at play. So even if you feel like you’re really close to their leadership team, you can’t really vent. You can’t really be totally transparent.

And so what happens is school leaders go home and they might have a partner who’s a willing listening ear, but gosh, that person doesn’t deserve all that. You don’t want to spend all of your time at home with this dumping ground. So here in my space, and the space you and your coaches create is a space where we can take off our navy blue blazers. We can be real. My clients express rage. They express sadness, frustration. It just creates that safe WTF space. And then we get to, gosh, this is pushing your buttons. Let’s talk about what’s behind your button. Danny just showed me a sign of a WTF question mark. He’s got him as well.It’s a sacred space that I cherish and really enjoy the journey over an entire school year with a school leader. And then outside of that, I will tell you that I emerged from my emergency room moment really with the conviction that, gosh, we should all have a leadership coach. And in my leadership coaching, I’ve now come to the belief that all leaders should have leadership coach listening skills. And so what I’ve also done is created an excellent listening workshop and speaker series. And the subtitle for next level listening is how to be the best listener in the room, be that the classroom, the boardroom, or the family room.
And so part of my work with my school leader clients is also exploring, hey, how can you bring next level listening into your leadership practice? We talk a lot about becoming a better communicator, and oftentimes we’re thinking, I want to be a better public speaker, I want to write better, etcetera. And this is, for me, super important. I mean, gosh, imagine a world where we are all ten x better listeners. That’s a game changer. So that’s at the heart of my work as well.

. Plus one that, for sure, if you could become a better listener, learn to ask better questions, it almost doesn’t matter like the other stuff, because that will, I believe people have the answers inside them. And you create the space, and it’s kind of connecting to followership versus leadership too, because you’re really empowering your people through listening and you’re asking those good questions. All right, cool. Well, you. You’ve been a wonderful guest, and the last few questions I ask everybody are always the same. So here we are. If you could put one message on all school marquees around the world for a single day, what would Bradley’s message be?

As I think about that question, a few quotes are coming to mind. The first is part of my own personal growth journey. I can’t recall the book right now, Danny, but the book’s message was, it wished every human on the planet would have the same tattoo, and that tattoo would say, it’s not them. And I really appreciate that. At the end of the day, we can change ourselves. And folks pushing our buttons, it’s not their issue, but we’re the common denominator in all the scenes of our life. So that’s a candidate. Another candidate quote for the marquee would be. My favorite poet is Mary Oliver. And in one of her poems, the line is, and Ruckus Makers, I think, will really like this. The line is, imagine everything you can imagine. And then keep going. I like that one a lot.

I’m going to go with, though, a story. This fellow named John Herzfeld, he was a 7th grader humanities teacher. Just a beautiful soul, creative and compassionate educator and beautiful human being. And the story is we had evening parent conferences, parent teacher conferences. And he came down to me, it was about, gosh, 08:00 at night or whatever. We were just wrapping up, and he just mentioned that, gosh, he’s had kind of a pain in his chest and felt fatigued all night. He goes home. His partner quickly encourages him to go to the emergency room. Turns out he’s having a heart attack. This guy was having a heart attack. And rallied through parent teacher conferences, which only speaks to the humans that are in our classrooms. Wonderfully idealistic, yes, autonomous, but, wow, he rallied. Well. As a result, he had to retire early.

He had to take a few years off of school. And in his parting letter slash email to families, he wrote this quote. So this is what I would want on all marquees. He said, please tell my kids and yours that only two things matter in life, to love, to learn, and to learn, to love. Please tell my kids and yours that only two things matter in life, to love, to learn, and to learn, to love. So shout out to John Herzfeld. That’s what I’ve won on all school marquees for, heck, more than one day. But you’re only giving me one beautiful thing.

Well, you snuck three in there. Let’s talk about your dream school. If you were constrained by any resources, your only limitation was your ability to imagine. How would you build your dream school? What would be the three guiding principles?

Three guiding principles of my ideal school. They would be very expensive schools. I get it. But I love that there are no constraints. The three things would be relationships, relationships. So first, relationships with self. The best way to become a leader is to become a better human being. The best way to become a better teacher is to become a better human being. The best way to become a better parent is to become a better human being. So these schools would really be just anchor home bases in any community where personal growth is absolutely a priority. Teachers would be trained to help their kids with this work, et cetera. So first would be relationship with self, and number two would be relationships with others. Student, teacher, teacher, parent, school board, school leader. And the list goes on and on.

This is where a super personalized learning paradigm would flourish and come to life. Imagine teachers trained in being learning coaches across multiple disciplines, from, you name it, from welding to high level physics to your name. And so kids would really have just a deeply personalized learning experience. And also, however, think about the teacher teams in an elementary school. Oh, gosh, talk about an arranged marriage. And that can be stressful. They are leading a first grade classroom, and it’s an arranged marriage. Well, in this ideal school, there’d be wonderful investment in an evolution of humanity, that these kinds of teams would flourish and thrive without strain. Imagine school board meetings where we lead with love and desire to listen and learn and be compassionate. Relationships with others, and that includes the world as well, to be really great stewards of the world and would be part of my ideal school. And then third is the relationship with that which transcends all understanding. I feel we’ve grown disconnected with the divine, and somehow to invest a greater awareness to that which we can only point to. Nature excursions, outward bound experiences, really just an invitation, a naming and an invitation to embrace the sublime. And I think the result of that, Danny, would be a global populace that is more enlightened, more transcendent, a populace that is more in touch with compassion rather than competition, and also would lead to a dramatic reduction in fundamentalism and dilution of fundamentalism that I think would have just an incredible impact on the world. So, relationships would be at the core of my ideal school.

Brilliant. Well, we covered a lot of ground today, Bradley. So everything we discussed, what’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?

Please, please, do not try to lead alone. Get yourself a buddy bench. Get yourself a coach. Get yourself some trusted colleagues from different schools, and let those hurts be halved. Let those joys be doubled. Let those best practices be shared and scaled. But please don’t try to do it alone. It is a sure path to burnout. And we need you in the schools. We need you thriving. So get yourself a buddy bench.

Thanks for listening to the better leaders better Schools podcast. Ruckus Maker. How would you like to lead with confidence, swap exhaustion for energy, turn your critics into cheerleaders and so much more? The Ruckus Maker Mastermind is a world class leadership program designed for growth minded school leaders just like you. Go to betterleadersbetterschools.com/mastermind. Learn more about our program and fill out the application. We’ll be in touch within 48 hours to talk about how we can help you be even more effective. And by the way, we have cohorts that are diverse and mixed up. We also have cohorts just for women in leadership and a BIPOC only cohort as well. When you’re ready to level up, go to betterleadersbetterschools.com/mastermind and fill out the application. Thanks again for listening to the show. Bye for now and go make a ruckus.



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