The Power of 20 Minutes and 3 Questions

One of my roles is helping facilitate different pieces of our school leadership team meetings each month. In preparing for December’s leadership team meeting I realized that most of our focus, often for good reason, was on getting our staff and students (plus ourselves) successfully to winter break. However, I started thinking about the precious opportunity that would be lost by not considering the importance of the transition we were about to make. This was our last meeting, together, before the new year. Before we leave behind 2016 and its successes and failures to begin a new calendar year full of possibility.  I wanted this meeting’s content to reflect the gravity and importance of this turning point in 2017our school year. I didn’t want our leadership team to walk into 2017 without taking the time to reflect on our work. One of my eduheroes, Principal Kafele refers to this as “reviewing your game footage.” All the great coaches do it and what is a principal, if not a coach. This idea stuck with me. It cemented the importance of spending time each day replaying my actions and conversations then critiquing myself.  This was the prime opportunity for our leadership team to “review our game footage.” We were putting in work, but how effective were our efforts and were we getting closer to our goals? In addition, in the words of Jim Collins from Good to Great, are there things we need to put on our “stop doing list”?

I’m lucky to work with great people and we created a simple but impactful handout and activity. We have three school-wide goals and we created one handout for each that listed the goal in bold at the top and the connected student success indicator right below in italics. (We are using NCStar which helps schools align, create, assess, and monitor key indicators for student success). It then provided them space to answer the following three questions.

  1. What’s working?
  2. What’s not working?
  3. What needs to happen next to build on what’s working and change what’s not working?

We divided the leadership team into small groups of 3-4 members and gave them 10 minutes to discuss the goal listed on their sheet and to answer the questions. We used another 10 minutes to share and record our findings. For us, the timing was just right. It gave time for meaningful group conversations that needed to be succinct and targeted and a focused sharing time.


Do not be fooled by the simplicity of the questions, it was the collaboration and dialogue around the questions that were game changers. We discovered that in the hustle and bustle, we hadn’t stopped to have these specific conversations collectively. They may have been happening in silos but what was missing was the power of our collaboration to affirm our work, generate new ideas, and create new actionable steps. I think the reflection helped us all walk away with a deeper understanding of our goals, what it would take to reach them, renewed dedication, and a plan for revisiting this activity and building on at January’s meeting. This was 20 minutes that will pay dividends as we closeout 2016 with reflection begin 2017 with promise.