Insider Scoop.

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a superintendent is the continuous learning journey, where I’ve had the privilege of discovering new knowledge and skills that I never knew I needed (such as navigating lawsuits, managing bus routes, and overseeing school construction).  Now, in my role as a coach/consultant, I am honored to continue this learning process alongside current leaders who are driving remarkable transformations.

My learning this month

Learning Organizations have been my passion for decades.

I recently came across personal correspondence from Peter Senge.  His Fifth Discipline book on systems has informed my entire career and formed the centerpiece of the Executive Leadership program I helped build at Seattle Pacific University.  I am teaching the cornerstone course on systems to another cohort of great leaders and learners this quarter.  Here is one way of thinking about creating Learning Organizations.

Aligned Goal Setting.

As a superintendent, I had the opportunity to embark on a new goal-setting cycle of learning each year.  Now, I am fortunate to experience this process with four districts – Kent, Sumner Bonney Lake, St Louis, and Clover Park – and several nonprofits. Through this, I witness the profound impact of your work, the successes, the setbacks, and the invaluable knowledge that we can share between clients.  My blogs this month, on Goalposts and Effective Districts, aim to share some of these lessons: the importance of clarity, aligned focus, and a relentless push to the finish line. Here are two of the ADKAR templates to inform your work.

Iterative Implementation.

Setting goals is just the beginning. Implementing well is essential. This article by Jim Knight, The Problem of Nominal Change, articulates the idea of robust implementation well. My new learning for the following newsletter is the idea of normalizing failure—noticing what did not work and pausing to figure out a course correction. How do we, as leaders, learn how to learn from data? How do we notice what is amiss and the gaps in our learning and decide what to do about it?

10-10 organizations.

During this last trip to South Africa, we discussed this concept from Situational Leadership (Johnson and Blanchard).  Learning organizations need to be high touch AND high tech, focused on people AND product, results AND relationships.  Hence my interest in driving goals to the finish line AND engaging employees in figuring out how to make that happen.  My More Books Blog highlights several excellent books on belonging.  This Gallup website on employee well-being is priceless.

Consultant Learning.

On June 1st, my journey from Superintendent to Consultant will be published in the AASA journal The School Administrator. It shares the lessons learned from my consulting and the joy I get from working with a new generation of bright new leaders. The April issue includes my review of How a City Learned to Improve Its Schools, Brian Benzel’s review of Writing for Busy Readers, and Jack McKay’s story of why he wrote From Good to Great: The Superintendent’s Guide to Success.

Network Improvement Communities.

I have the privilege of working monthly with two partners and a great group of superintendents who come together to learn from each other.  Here is the link to our top ten ideas on how districts can provide instructional leadership.

Thank you for embarking on this learning journey with me. Your engagement and shared insights not only keep me young at heart but also continue to stretch my brain cells. I am truly grateful for your participation.






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

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