Inclusion is a Journey: Rethinking Equity vs. Equality

Often in my work as a professional developer of educators and leaders, I remind participants that becoming culturally responsive is a journey, and that one cannot expect to become culturally proficient simply because they attended a diversity training or two. In fact, I share that the journey never really ends, not even for someone like myself who works in this space and considers herself a fierce advocate. You see, I realized recently, that even the beliefs we hold near to our hearts can sometimes be challenged, forcing us to dig a little deeper.


Why Comprehensive Employee Training is so Essential


After a long process of interviews and reference checks, you may think your new hire has all the skills required to be successful. While somewhat true, it is crucial to continue training opportunities.

Providing resources for training and employee development helps keep quality staff. It also saves you money in the long run.

Still not convinced? We’re here to show you a few of the top reasons employee training is good for you and your business. Keep reading to find out more!

Ingrain Work Ethics and Culture

New hires can have diverse backgrounds and experience regardless of their applicable skills. Creating a training and development program helps bring new staff into your business’s culture.

Communicating work expectations will ensure new hires understand their role. They will also be more likely to ask for help where needed.

While crucial for new staff, regular refresher courses can also be helpful for all staff.

Staff Consistency

You will only hire qualified staff, yet they still may lack some core knowledge needed. Creating a comprehensive employee training program will provide all new hires equal footing.

Include specific knowledge or skills that your business requires. Cover all policies as well. This will help staff understand important elements like safety and discrimination.

Improve Employee and Bussiness Performance

By giving all staff the tools required for their job, they will be able to work at a high level. The increased knowledge and skills will give any employee more confidence.

As newer staff become more confident in their work and their role, they will more often volunteer new ideas. They may also offer to work on more complex projects.

Through all this, your business will grow and shine. Include training on leadership and emotional development for all levels of supervisors.

Employee Training Leads to Happy Employees

When staff has access to tools they need to succeed, they will not only perform better, but they will be happier. Providing learning and development opportunities shows that you care about your staff. It shows you care about their career.

Happy employees are more likely to stay in their positions, which means less turnover for you.

Keep Current With Best Practices

Finally, investing in development helps staff stay ahead of new technologies and trends.

If your business doesn’t invest in learning and teaching new practices, you will fall behind the field. This means you will be less competitive with peers in your field.

It is crucial to understand and use the latest technology because, in current society, customers expect the best.

Focus On Training for Longterm Success

It should be clear now how important employee training can be for new hires and existing staff alike. No matter your industry, thorough training ensures your staff has the knowledge needed to succeed.

Want to discuss staff training and development further? Please contact us and we would love to help!

4 Ways You Might Use the Supports of an Executive Coach

executive coaching

Being in a position of leadership and managing a team of people working towards one goal is challenging, but rewarding. Executives often put supports in place for those they lead, but seldom put a support plan in place for themselves.

Leadership can be a lonely place, and while you focus on the growth of your organization and of other people, it’s important not to forget to commit to your own continuous improvement.

Don’t panic. Here are three ways that having an executive coach can help.

1) Time Management

Have you ever seen your incoming emails balloon by the hundreds before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee on a Monday morning?

Or have you ever been in a meeting and felt that you wish you could get that hour of your life back?

Time management is an increasingly important skill in this modern world. Often our jobs start out one way and we add more to our plates.

Finding an executive coaching session that will help organize how your time is spent is a lifesaver!

2) Career Development

Have you been promoted to a new and different branch of management? Are you looking to change up your position?

Executive coaching that focuses on career development is the way to go. It’s a great option whether you’re looking to advance to a different career or have been given responsibilities beyond your scope.

3) Intervention Coaching

This type of coaching is more about helping your employees be their best selves. Of course, you might be able to get something out of it as well.

Intervention executive coaching is all about finding a manager or employee that shows promise but can also be problematic.

Whether they’re struggling to keep their head above water or need guidance in managing others, intervention coaching swoops in and nips issues in the bud. It’s a better solution than simply tossing an employee out when with a bit of structure, they could improve.

4) Therapeutic

The title o this type of executive coaching – therapeutic -probably calls to mind a psychologist and a couch.

While it’s true it can be very personal, it’s still all business. This method helps you, as an individual, develop skills that are beneficial to your job.

You’ll receive support along with nurturing advice to help manage any stressors you have on the job. In turn, your morale, productivity, and creativity can improve.

What Type Of Executive Coaching Is Right For You?

We’ve only touched on four different executive coaching methods but there are many others out there. It’s all a matter of doing your homework and seeing which one is the best fit.

These four methods are great to start with. If you’re interested in how executive coaching can benefit you, we’re here to answer your questions.

We’ll take a look at what you can do to improve your leadership skills, time management, and effectiveness and guide you along the way.

Schedule your consultation today and become your best self!

Top 3 Tips for Building Team Culture for Educators


Looking to boost morale within your team and create a better workplace climate? Want to take your staff’s cohesiveness to the next level?

Building a strong team culture is imperative for workplace success and employee satisfaction. It promotes a healthy and happy environment, and it makes your leadership job easier!

Let’s get into the top three tips for building and enhancing team culture.

Establish and Nurture the Norms

In schools, each office and classroom environment and every adult-to- student and adult to adult dynamic impacts the overall school climate.

Building a strong school culture requires a set of norms for how everyone will work together, treat and support one another to build and nurture healthy relationships. A climate a mutual respect – students to students, students to staff, staff to staff, staff to students, staff to administration, administration to staff, administration to students and on and on.

The environment must be primed for collegiality and respect as the standard and best practice. That means that there is a high expectation and accountability for a standard of practice, grounded in mutual trust and confidence. Without this foundation, the rest of the work will always be difficult.

Build and Celebrate Authentic Relationships

Getting to know the people you work with is one of the easiest (and most effective) ways to strengthen your team culture. Be intentional about allowing people to bring their authentic selves to work and allow them to express that beyond just “what they do” but also bring “who they are”.

Create a “connected” workplace by establishing some workplace traditions, celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries, or retirements. Host potlucks or specialty appreciation lunches on a regular basis. Carve out time for celebrating holidays or even just small successes. Acknowledge accomplishments and recognize strengths so people feel appreciated and can reciprocate that with colleagues.

A happy workplace where employees feel supported and can support one another is a productive workplace, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

Provide the Appropriate Resources

Even if you have the most talented employees, the greatest team needs the right resources and tools to thrive.

Provide the adequate budget, materials, and space for your teachers to convene and strategize. Protect them and their time and buffer them from distractions that derail. As the leader, stand between them and the things that could serve to hinder their success.

Create ample opportunities for growth and continuous improvement and share feedback and constructive criticism in a way that doesn’t damage relationships, and that helps people grow.

When individuals feel encouraged to grow within their organization and feel safe to make mistakes and learn, they are more likely to feel satisfied with their career.

Final Thoughts on Building a Team Culture

Even if you have your hands full with daily tasks and responsibilities, neglecting the cohesiveness of your team can be a costly mistake! Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

At the Valbrun Consulting Group, we specialize in leadership development and executive coaching. Check out our expert services today!

How to Develop Leadership Capacity Among Members of Your Staff


The Professional Standards for Educational leaders, (formerly known as ISLLC Standards) suggest that effective educational leaders develop the professional capacity of school personnel and provide them with opportunities and mentoring. We know that simply leading from the top doesn’t work and that good leaders understand the value of shared leadership, and know that many voices and diversity of thought, yields better results.

Having leaders on your staff is a huge asset. When you know how to pinpoint leadership potential, you know who to engage in discussions, gather input from, and delegate authority and responsibilities, all of which benefits the organization. But how do you spot the leadership potential of those among your staff, and cultivate and capitalize on their skills and talents?

1. Pay Close Attention

The saying that “cream rises to the top” is generally true. Leadership potential should be obvious. The best future leaders demonstrate a willingness and desire to learn more, are often thinking ahead and are aspirational.

These are the people who are willing to put in the extra effort and show that they have both high skill and high will to work for the good of the organization. They are also the people who other staff members respect and trust and can help to build critical mass.

2. Consider Both Potential and Readiness

As you think about succession planning, ask yourself who might be able to fill your shoes in a year or two if they are supported, coached and mentored? That’s potential. These people demonstrate some ability and may have even articulated a desire or aspiration for greater responsibility.

Now ask yourself, who could do your job today? That’s readiness. These are people who understand the role and already possess many of the skills necessary for leadership.

Understanding the current and future needs of your organization can help you better develop a support strategy for both of these individuals. For example, a person who is ready, might be given autonomy to lead and complete a project or task in his/her own way, while a person with potential might benefit from opportunities to be on a project team where they can work with and learn from other leaders.

3. Recruit and Retain the Right People

In some cases, we inherit staff members, but when possible, be intentional and recruit and hire people who, among other skills and talents, also possess leadership potential. Instead of looking to fill a position or role that is specific to content knowledge, or that matches the performance criteria, also look for leadership potential.

Ask questions about how the candidate handles conflict or overcomes challenges, and how they can work with others to solve problems. Ask about how they work best when they are part of a community of practice, and what strategies they employ when plans are derailed.

No job is completely predictable. A good leader can face challenges at work with responsiveness and confidence, rather than sticking to a routine approach no matter what comes up. You want a leader who can take on challenges as they arise and handle them appropriately.

4. Look for Passion

Think about your own mentors. It’s likely you would describe them as passionate about their work. The employees who make the best leaders are always looking for ways to do better. They want to learn more, develop new skills, and bring fresh ideas to the table. They are motivated and determined to do better every day. They are PASSIONATE!

If an employee shows a real passion and hunger to learn more about how to be better at the job, they have great leadership potential. If they’re passionate, they create a greater likelihood of bringing out the passion in others. What they say matters, but how they say it matters more, so they should be warm, friendly, and relatable, showing a high level of emotional intelligence. They can easily have a conversation with students or staff that doesn’t feel one-sided and be a good listener who pays attention to others and can hear people out and respond with genuine interest. The best leaders are often not the people who talk the most or the loudest.

Now You Know How to Spot Leadership Potential Among Your Employees

As a leader, you have a responsibility to foster leadership skills in all of your employees. Share your expertise with them and share leadership responsibility because you can’t and shouldn’t do it all alone.

Want to learn more about leadership development and education? Schedule a consultation with us today.

National Summit for Principal Supervisors


Valda Valbrun and Mary-Frances Winters will share best practice strategies for building culturally proficient leadership to address issues of equity, diversity and inclusion district-wide. We will discuss the leadership imperative to solve equity challenges by dismantling deficit models, exploring inequitable practices and policies, developing cultural self-awareness and using leadership strategies that support inclusive environments and lead to improved student outcomes.

Participants will learn ways to respond to the diversity of school and district populations, leverage the diversity and welcome ethnically and culturally diverse communities. Participants will also have an opportunity to hear directly from a panel of Charlotte Mecklenburg district and school leaders who will share how they have applied the learning to advance the district’s cultural proficiency initiatives.

Register today at

Live Inclusively Actualized: Taking Action Against Complicity

As a Haitian-American, I was affected by recent statements made by the President of the United States. Of course, it makes sense that I would be hurt or angered. Despite being born and raised in the U.S., I took personally these statements that disparaged a place that is so much a part of my heritage. I also felt helpless. I wondered how I could channel the painful feelings in a way that would make a difference, educate others and help them better understand the danger in the rhetoric being spread nationally.

I feared that while some might express outrage in the moment, these statements, like so many others, would go without consequence in the short time that it would take for the next big headline. In times like these, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the cleavage across race, class and gender in this polarized world we find ourselves in now and think that there is no way to impact the many injustices, inequity and divisiveness we see daily. It’s easy to get so overwhelmed that we begin to think that it just might be easier to throw our hands up and retreat to our safe spaces.

Read More

3 Ways to Improve Your Strategy Implementation

Improvement Strategy

Most districts require an annual school improvement plan. In many cases, creating one is more of an act of compliance, rather than a real roadmap for change.

Here are three ways you can advance an improvement strategy for results.

1. Be S.M.A.R.T

While most improvement plans have a series of goals, it’s important to make sure the goals are SMART- Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Results-driven, and Time-bound. A simple online search will yield tons of resources, templates and tools for SMART GOALS development. But then what? This is just the first step and the easiest. The real work is developing the tactics and strategies that will be needed to advance towards reaching the goals.

Ask yourself where are you now and what’s missing or preventing the advancement you seek? What barriers (perceived or real) need to be overcome? Be clear and have a vision for where you want to be and articulate what success will look like when you tell the story that has the happy ending. This will be your Theory of Action. “If we do (fill in the actions) then we will (fill in the desired results.)” Determine what needs to happen to get there. These actions should direct your steps and help you decide if you have the necessary people with the needed skills, and the right resources, tools and supports in place to move forward.

2. Now Be S.M.A.R.T-ER

The reason why most improvement strategies fail is not because the goals were not SMART or because they were not developed with the best of intentions or attempted with fidelity. Instead, they fail because leaders failed to measure the impact of the execution. To avoid this be SMART-ER and add Evaluation and Review to your goals.

Most leaders make the mistake of thinking that once the plan is written and submitted, the work is just to enact the strategies that were outlined, assign tactics to the individuals responsible for them, and then hold them accountable, perhaps by checking in periodically. This link between strategy and action sounds feasible but is most often the place where the breakdown occurs. Leaders can’t be expected to oversee every aspect of implementing an improvement strategy, but to measure if the return on the investment (of time, resources, and people) is making a difference, there must be an ongoing commitment to evaluation and review during implementation and not just after. Sometimes a mid-course correction will be necessary, or an unforeseen obstacle pops up. The only way to know and address this is to stay diligent about not just the end goal, but the process by which you get there. Determine the key performance indicators (KPI’s) that will help to establish efficient management of individual strategies and help track progress of the work during the implementation.

3. Be R.A.C.I

Avoid the assumption that everyone knows and understands the strategy and action steps. Its not enough to just publish or distribute the improvement plan documents. Involve others in developing the strategies so they can share ownership (rather than just buy-in) and know how to enact upon the improvement strategy in their respective roles. Determine who is RACI- Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. Find out what resource needs or professional development those who are responsible and accountable might require. Focus on the performance of those who will drive the strategy and provide the necessary feedback and support throughout implementation. This will build in a system of accountability and a progress monitoring model that allows those who are responsible and accountable to share data towards the key performance indicators.

By being SMARTER and knowing who is RACI, you can execute your improvement strategy, measure progress towards specific targets that can be tracked to provide organizational insights, create accountability to ensure that tactics and strategies are aligned, attainable, actionable and alive, and central to the daily work of improving your school.

Get Started on Your Improvement Strategy Today

Improving strategy implementation doesn’t have to be a negative or apprehensive process. In fact, it shouldn’t be.

Here at Valbrun Consulting, we help school leaders and executives learn how to create successful learning environments through effective strategy management.

Learn more about our services and sign up for a free consultation!

Emotional Leadership: How to Use Your Emotional Intelligence to Be a Better Leader

emotional leadership

Do you have emotional high intelligence?

Signs of emotional intelligence include politeness, self-reflection, and awareness of other people’s feelings. These are great attributes to have in business.

In this article, we’ll explain how these characteristics are crucial for effective leaders. Read on to find out why emotional leadership is important in the workplace and how you can practice it.

How to Use Emotional Leadership

In order to be an effective leader, you need emotional intelligence. Here’s how emotional leadership can improve your business and interpersonal skills.

Regulate Yourself

Emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions and the ability to use this information as a guide to thinking and behavior. (John D. Mayer, Peter Salovey and David R. Caruso.)

According to these researchers, there are five components that help leaders connect with themselves and others. These include: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills to manage relationships.

Being your authentic self is important, and that means being true to your core values. Write down the values, ethics, and rules that guide you and hold yourself accountable to them. Use them as the filter through which you make decisions. Ask yourself important questions like, “How does this (decision, action, etc.) make me feel? How might it make others feel? How will I address the feelings of others?

Regulate your words, as well as your actions. Sometimes, emotion forces us to react, rather than respond. Using emotional intelligence, allows us to better process the initial reaction, think through the impact on others, and develop a more intentional response. Then, you can express the response in a more measured way.

Be Empathetic

According to Forbes, empathy is essential for moving forward in business.

Many people assume that showing leadership requires quick and decisive action. While that may be true sometimes or in certain situations, it can hold you back when you’re trying to lead a team.

If you practice empathy, you can better understand the people you work with and make better connections with them. If you’re aware of how other people feel, understand what they have experienced, and are able to put yourself in their shoes, you’ll be better-equipped the come to an agreement and a compromise that suits both of you, resulting in better relationships and higher productivity in the workplace.

Using emotional intelligence helps to gauge other people’s feelings before becoming annoyed, irritated or critical, and instead, thinking about why they act or feel the way they do, keeping other viewpoints in mind. This in essential when you’re trying to manage change in the workplace.

Be Self-Aware

When your emotional intelligence is high, you’re more aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, which means you can identify the areas in which you need to improve. You’re also more aware of how your actions and words affect others around you. This also means understanding what motivates you, and where you get in your own way. Sometimes that requires embracing the areas where you are vulnerable and where you might need to check your ego and demonstrate more humility.

To practice self-awareness, start by writing a journal. In a Harvard Business Review article, “Managing Oneself,” Peter Drucker wrote, “Whenever you make a decision or take a key decision, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the results with what you expected.” Drucker called this self-reflection process feedback analysis. Writing down your own thoughts and feelings will help you to reflect and evaluate the impact of your leadership actions.

Ask for and be open to accepting feedback from others, and assess your own emotional intelligence using online resources and tools. Here are a few that we recommend:

EI Assessments

Become a Better Leader

If you’re looking to enhance your leadership skills even further, consider taking part in a hands-on training course.

With our leadership training, you’ll learn how to increase your productivity, improve morale, and become more adaptable. You’ll also learn how to make stronger bonds with employees and partners, so you can retain connections and improve your employee turnover rate.

Contact us to see how we can make you a better leader.

3 Reasons A Leadership Development Strategy Is Essential For Educators

leadership development strategy

Today, the median salary for a school principal is close to $100,000 — nearly double that of a teacher. Next to teachers, a strong and effective instructional leader is the second most important human resource in any school building. As an instructional leader, the expectation is that you model, coach and mentor to build leadership capacity in others to create the conditions where everyone can meet with success.

Being a leader means also being able to identify, invest and develop talent in others to meet future needs, create critical mass and build a pipeline. This makes the leader’s job easier because they build an internal cadre of other leaders who they can share responsibility with, gather feedback from, and create learning opportunities for, as they advance the school or organization’s vision together.

The best leaders create a solid team culture, such that the school or organization can still run effectively in their absence. They have cultivated effective relationships, and empowered others to make decisions.

Let’s take a look at some strategies for developing your bench of leaders by having a leadership development strategy in place that builds other leaders, instead of just followers:

Leadership Development Strategy Builds True Leaders

A real leadership development strategy creates qualified and prepared candidates for future roles, rather than just filling vacancies or creating empty promotions. In building future leaders, there must be intentional planning for creating the right growth and learning opportunities. For example, as an assistant principal, it is important to learn about budget and financial aspects that would be beneficial when the assistant becomes a principal themselves. This means the principal must be willing to share learning, even when “just doing it yourself” might be faster or easier.

Identify the key behaviors, core skills and functions that are most important in the role of the leader. Be clear on the leadership needs of your school or organization – in the present, but also into the future. Next identify those who might have the greatest potential to assume a leadership role, but who can be further developed so that leadership responsibilities can be shared. Identify the right people, plan for transitions, and create a training and development plan to build leadership in those who are identified.

Many leadership programs in colleges and schools of education may provide theoretical knowledge, but real leaders are best groomed through practical application. As a leader, you create opportunities for future leaders to marry theory with practice.

Leaders Are In Every Classroom

How we define leadership may sometimes be tied to a title. Teacher Leadership happens every day and in every classroom. Leading learning, creating a culture for success, being an effective planner – all things teachers do on a daily basis, and also the best qualities in any leader. Leaders should look into classrooms to identify high potential employees- those with both the skill and will to take on new challenges and welcome opportunities to be stretched. Find those who embody the vision and mission of your school or organization, those who understand the goals and have deep interest in governance, operations and a desire to lead. Don’t assume that previous formal leadership experience is a pre-requisite for those who should be tapped. Remember that skills can be taught, but attitude and will are strong indicators of potential.

Leadership Doesn’t Have To Be A Lonely Job

One of the main complaints of leaders is that there is a certain level of loneliness at the top. It doesn’t have to be that way at all. When faced with challenges, an effective leader should tap into the team culture he or she has created. Leaders shouldn’t neglect the power of the relationships they build, with teachers, students, parents, members of their leadership team, and anyone who they can work with to impact the greater good of the school. These are all opportunities for developing the leadership skills of others. This may take a more formal development approach, like that of a principal grooming an assistant principal, or can be informal, like working with students and parents to help develop better leadership of the PTSA or Student Government. In all of these instances, a leader has the potential to influence others, build their capacity and create a culture of shared leadership.

Solid leaders set the tone and standards for the organization. People that work with these leaders become more skilled and motivated as a result. Every leader can be built from the ground up if they work with someone committed to investing in their development.

Build A Sound Leadership Development Strategy With Us

Need to identify and develop leadership potential in your school? We can provide executive coaching, leadership development, and professional training.

We take education seriously at the Valbrun Consulting Group. Let us put your school in a position to succeed.

Take the time to contact us to learn more.