Make a Movement. Leave a Legacy

Turn Moments into a Movement

5-minute read

Leaving a legacy and leading for the future takes more than keeping the lights on – although there are days when that is a true accomplishment! Here are some thoughts about turning great Moments into Momentum and Movement.  

13 Ways – and ONE CAVEAT – to Leave a Lasting Legacy

1. Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive Leadership says we increase ownership by engaging teams in choosing strategies. One maxim says, “We help support the things we help create.” Gallup has tens of thousands of studies pointing out how important engagement is. Kotter promotes a guiding coalition that identifies promising practices. Theory U says “co-create.”

2. Use adaptive questions

Keep the focus on true north but engage staff and community in how best to get there. Example: “How can we best create safe and welcoming places of belonging for all students?” Keep listening to your staff, repeating what you hear (good and bad), and address those needs. Those steps build credibility and momentum.

3. Framing

Adaptive questions keep the focus on our north star: the students, the need, and the data. And they open the door for all to contribute. They also leave the door open a tiny bit for naysayers by encouraging them to offer a better way to reach the goal. If someone is saying they don’t want to help students, that is different. That is where you stand strong and ask, “How can we help you get on board?” This train is leaving.  

4. Safe Spaces

Changing Minds is seldom done directly, although we should definitely keep trying.  The 70-20-10 rule (Google it) says we learn 70% from experience, 20% from relationships, and 10% from professional development. Keep finding things teachers and principals can do now (Schlechty). Create safe spaces (dangerously safe) where people can talk. How Minds Change, by David McRaney, says we change our minds gradually as we interact with others and grapple with tough questions.  

5. Nudges

Use tools and protocols to promote momentum, progress, and change. Research says we need small wins, signs of progress, to keep us going. Report frequently on success stories, surveys, and what you do in response to the surveys. Reporting enthusiastically that 60% of staff have tried out the new training in their classroom lets others know it is expected, appreciated, and time to get started. Find ways to help teachers share what they are learning from the project. Teachers learn best from those like themselves.

6. Momentum

Who is the heart and soul of this work? Who are the champions? Share back what you learned, good and bad. Make a list of FAQs. Create a shared database of tools. Work on the WHY and make that easily shareable by principals (give them the PowerPoint). Then work on the questions from the feedback; answer one each week. Answer the questions you can. Seek answers for others. And admit, where needed, “We don’t know how to do that yet.” All of this builds authenticity, vulnerability, transparency, and reinforcement. Keep up a steady stream of weekly messages.  This gentle pressure relentlessly applied says, “We are NOT going away.”

7. Norms/Non-negotiables

We learn concepts by what they ARE and what they ARE NOT. One district declared an emergency by asking every teacher to Pick 5 kids and build a plan. What are you doing to help make them successful? Or you might declare something like, We do NOT ever, ever say “those kids” and explain the big WHY. If you pick one non-negotiable per year over five years, you have made a significant shift in the culture.  

8. The BIG WHY 

Simon Sinek says, Start with WHY. Be clear at every opportunity to share the big WHY and help everyone see it, own it, understand it, and do it. Look for what resonates most with your audience. Refine the message and reinforce it often. When you are sick of hearing it, remind yourself that others are only really hearing it for the first time.

9. Stories

The Story of Self, Us, and Now (Google it) provides tools to create memorable stories. Their formula: Share the Challenge, the Choice, and the Outcome. Capture stories. Share stories. Stories touch emotions and help us bypass mental roadblocks. Ask leaders to join you in telling stories with a purpose. Stories motivate others to join in the action for our shared purpose.

10. Both/And vs. Polarities

Many, if not most, of our issues have two sides. Right now, we are trying to advance both academics and relationships. Pushing one too hard might harm the other. There are real needs on both sides of the issue.  As indicated in our book review, A Failure of Nerve, we need the fortitude to stay steady in our desire for improved learning (academics) AND stay attuned to the mental health of our staff without being held, hostage. 

11. A District Example

Wenatchee harnessed many moves in turning moments into movement and momentum. You can see their story here along with a dozen other district stories on my website at

12. Six Influencers

Grenny says we need to address both will and skill. And for each, we support a) the individual, b) the group, and c) the system /structures. That makes six change factors. Too often, he says, we put all our efforts into one strategy: persuading individuals (will). We go further faster when we use all six channels.  His book, Influencers, is about adults. His book, Change Anything, shows how kids can use those tools.

13. Tipping Point

A new book, Change: How to make BIG things happen, says the magic tipping point number is 25%. When 25% of our colleagues get on board, we rush to follow. So, make clusters (networks or PLCs) that reinforce progress. Do inquiry with them. Keep giving them new information from outside, AND note how they learn, grow, and adapt. You learn from them as they work the bugs out, developing a group of committed warriors. Next, the book says to build bridges to the next group and create a new 25% group.  


The best ideas are the ones that come from your team. Point to the north star with your adaptive leadership question. Then ask your team for their ideas. Engage others. 100% buy-in on Plan B is far better than 50% buy-in on our favorite idea. We are looking for traction, action, and momentum. Most important is what your conversation and questions prompt in others. Listen to your team. Find out where there is interest and momentum. Then learn and grow and amplify their learning, creating a viral groundswell around your leaders and teachers doing great things for kids.  

Achieving lift-off takes momentum to break through the pull of gravity.




Larry Nyland speaking

Larry Nyland – Leadership Coach and Consultant.
Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

To talk about growing extraordinary "high capacity" leadership for your team …
Contact: | 425-418-4398 |