CJ Huff http://cjhuff.com Insight | Passion | Resilience Thu, 06 Feb 2020 16:08:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 http://cjhuff.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/cropped-ezgif.com-gif-maker-1-32x32.png CJ Huff http://cjhuff.com 32 32 Leadership: The Yin and Yang of Head and Heart http://cjhuff.com/leadership-the-yin-and-yang-of-head-and-heart/ http://cjhuff.com/leadership-the-yin-and-yang-of-head-and-heart/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 17:41:44 +0000 http://cjhuff.com/?p=681 On May 22, 2011, around 6:20 p.m. I was walking down Connecticut Avenue in Joplin, Missouri. The debris on the street was heavy as I headed towards my office nearly 7 blocks away. I needed to grab my laptop before I headed to the emergency command center. The story of the physical destruction of the […]

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On May 22, 2011, around 6:20 p.m. I was walking down Connecticut Avenue in Joplin, Missouri. The debris on the street was heavy as I headed towards my office nearly 7 blocks away. I needed to grab my laptop before I headed to the emergency command center. The story of the physical destruction of the “Joplin Tornado” is well documented. However, the human suffering over the last five years is hard to quantify. Even today it remains present in Joplin although you can’t always see it. I have learned many valuable leadership lessons since that day in May that I will carry with me always. None so much as the leadership balance between organizational objectives and compassion. The yen and yang of head and heart. The fact is effective leadership isn’t always defined by the black and white of policy or the ever-present focus on the bottom line. Without question, we live in an era where results sometimes seem to be the only thing that matters.

The unfortunate truth is that compassion can easily get lost in the day to day grind of leadership in a “results only” culture. Think on this. Right now, in every organization in this country, there are employees that have come to work to achieve organizational objectives, but have been impacted in some way by personal loss or struggles. In large part, the culture of an organization is defined by how it responds to its employees when life happens. And the only way a leader can establish that culture is to know when life has happened to someone in the organization.

Shortly after our disaster, we added a new item to our daily leadership agenda that I hope other leaders take to heart. Agenda item number one became a status check of our “Joplin Schools Family.” Even in the months and years following the disaster we continued that practice. I had 1,200 employees and, within 10 minutes of starting our meetings, I knew who had just had a baby, who had lost a loved one, who was suffering from health issues, divorce, and a myriad of other life challenges faced by our people. It gave us the opportunity to help where we could, even if it was just a note of encouragement, a phone call, a personal visit, or a gift card to help with groceries. The point is just knowing what is was going on with your people can help you lead more effectively. It doesn’t mean that organizational objectives have to come second. But knowing whether someone needs a kick in the pants or an arm around the shoulder can help make sure you are building a culture of support balanced with high expectations.

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Safe and Sound Schools: An Interview with Michele Gay http://cjhuff.com/safe-and-sound-schools-an-interview-with-michele-gay/ http://cjhuff.com/safe-and-sound-schools-an-interview-with-michele-gay/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 17:32:56 +0000 http://cjhuff.com/?p=676 Michele Gay is a former teacher and a parent. She lost her youngest daughter in the shooting attack on Sandy Hook School in December of 2012. Determined to build a positive legacy for her daughter and help others learn to better prevent, prepare, and recover from tragedy, Michele founded Safe and Sound Schools with Alissa […]

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Michele Gay is a former teacher and a parent. She lost her youngest daughter in the shooting attack on Sandy Hook School in December of 2012. Determined to build a positive legacy for her daughter and help others learn to better prevent, prepare, and recover from tragedy, Michele founded Safe and Sound Schools with Alissa Parker, another Sandy Hook parent and the mother of Emilie Parker. Michele and I met a few summers ago at a school safety conference and have been looking for ways to support one another ever since. In this interview, Michele and I talk about school safety and the importance of parent and community involvement in our efforts to support the heart of every community—our schools.

CH: In light of your experience as a parent and an educator, what advice do you have for school leaders who want to make their schools a safer place?

MG: Having worked with many school leaders over the years, and learned from many of the best, I realize that each utilizes his or her talents differently. But they all have one talent in common: the most successful leaders are exceptional listeners. They can be found throughout the school day engaging students, teachers, parents, staff members, and professionals in the community in conversation. They watch, learn, and consider many perspectives, always with an eye for improvement.

The best leaders realize that leadership is not about them; it’s about serving the school community. They uplift others and make good use of the talent and resources within the school community. They have the ability to set aside politics, personalities, and turf battles to get to the core of each issue and away from these distractions and barriers to progress.

To put it simply, they have relationships with everyone—from the Chief of Police to the Cafeteria Manager, and they are able to bring the community together around the common goal of a safe school.

CH: If you could pick the three most important things for teachers to know about keeping kids in the classroom safe, what would those be?

MG: Know your surroundings–and the ins and outs of your room and building–literally.

How many ways can you get out of your area if necessary? How can you secure or lock down your area? What kinds of people and resources do you have to help in an emergency? For example, where is the nearest AED? CPR trained staff? Your nearest access to the PA or other communication tools? Do you have a school resource officer or local law enforcement liaison? Who’s your mental go-to in the school community? Pay attention to your environment, the people in it, and–most importantly–to your instincts.

Talk together, talk often, and talk to others.

Allow yourself to be curious and ask questions of others. This allows you to think ahead and think through how you might react during unexpected situations, as well as build a shared knowledge base together.

Remember why we do this.

Following safety protocols like keeping exterior doors closed and conducting drills regularly can feel inconvenient and disruptive to the plans we make in a school day. It’s up to us as educators and leaders to find the “teachable moments” in these tasks that make our schools—and lives—safer and these routines meaningful and engaging for our school communities. Teaching and training our students and staff for safety in school is teaching and training for safety in life.

CH: Is there a common challenge you see among school districts that you work with across the country?

MG: Schools nationwide have their own unique struggles, but nearly everyone is facing these three obstacles:

Getting people together.

It sounds so simple, but bringing folks together in today’s world takes time and creativity. And the truth is that it’s not just a matter of putting people in the same room (all thought that’s a good start), it’s about putting people to work together too. That is how a community builds common values, goals, and language.

Today’s world seems to have us all in silos, and there’s a reason for that. It’s how “experts” are made. But these silos can make it difficult to share expertise with one another for the benefit of the community. Although it’s a challenge, communities that manage to get folks together around shared goals are the ones that see meaningful and sustainable progress.

Time

Bringing people together, assessing, planning, practicing, and auditing safety takes time. It is a real challenge to find time in an already packed school day, at a staff meeting, or to find time in common with important safety stakeholders such as parents, police, and community members.

We see lots of school communities answering this challenge by carving a small amount of time out of every gathering—PTA, staff, student, and parent meetings–to target and discuss one safety topic. These conversations often grow and lead to the kind of practical changes that make a sustainable difference.

Money

Today, the cause of school safety may be the most underfunded national initiative. Federal funding for school safety has sunken to an all-time low in the last decade. Yet the challenge of keeping our schools safe has become much more difficult and complex. Schools face an array of complex issues that affect safety—bullying, addiction, sex trafficking, and security to name only a few.

To provide a safe facility and the kind of training that students and staff need for safety costs money. Many of the schools that we work with face this challenge with their community and all of the hands, hearts, and resources they find by working together toward the goals of a safer school and a stronger community.

CH: Do parents and the community play a role in school safety? If so, how?

MG: Parents bring context for all that we do in schools. They bring the most important part of the school community—their children. When parents are engaged and involved, the school community gains critical perspective and insight—the kind of insight that comes only from parents.

Our communities are unique to the people that make them up. Those people together establish the culture and values of each community and provide the foundation for which initiatives are built. When we involve the community in our efforts, we tap into the many resources—human and capital—that exist in every community. Involving the community builds momentum and long-term sustainability for improvement. When the whole community values and supports safety, not only is everyone’s burden lightened, everyone is empowered.

The truth is that school safety is not rocket science. There is no reason that students, parents, custodians, teachers, and community members should not be a part of the conversation. In fact, there is every reason they all should be. Each member of our community has something to offer toward the all-important goal of a safer school community. Simply put, when it comes to the safety of our schools, we need all hands on deck.

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An Empty Stomach Has No Ears http://cjhuff.com/an-empty-stomach-has-no-ears/ http://cjhuff.com/an-empty-stomach-has-no-ears/#respond Fri, 02 Mar 2018 18:27:44 +0000 http://cjhuff.com/?p=672 Recently, I spent some time in North Central Missouri in the community of Edina. A rural community in Knox County that bears a striking resemblance to the area I grew up in Southeast Kansas. A community group had come together to implement the Bright Futures Framework. Edina is a great example of another wonderful community […]

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Recently, I spent some time in North Central Missouri in the community of Edina. A rural community in Knox County that bears a striking resemblance to the area I grew up in Southeast Kansas.

A community group had come together to implement the Bright Futures Framework. Edina is a great example of another wonderful community full of compassionate people who desperately want to meet the growing needs of the children in their community. They are beginning to address physical needs and creating opportunities that do not currently exist for their children.

During the training, the group was asked to reflect on their perception of the most pressing needs of the children in Edina. It was no surprise. Childhood hunger was once again at the top of the list. It never fails.

Each time I walk away from one of these meetings, I am blessed with a new nugget of wisdom that needs to be shared. Edina was no different.

As we talked about childhood hunger and the impact it has on children’s learning, a local minister offered this thought to the group…

“An empty stomach has no ears.”

It was quiet as all heads nodded in agreement. Everyone knew exactly what he meant.

When a child is hungry, how can we expect them to learn, grow, and achieve?

I do not discuss politics on this blog, nor do I ever intend to. Consequently, I may never have the readership of the more controversial blogs in cyberspace. Political finger-pointing does not accomplish much in my view.

Frankly, the fact that we have starving kids in the wealthiest country in the world is not a political issue anyway. It is an ethical and moral one. The responsibility to feed the hungry falls to you and me.

Today, children in your community have empty stomachs. It is within your power to do something and help feed them. Do you know where they are? Are you truly willing to sacrifice of yourself and help them?

As a nation, we have lofty aspirations. There is even talk of putting a man on MARS in the 2030s. I am pretty amazed at the things that we are capable of when we work together toward a goal. It is incredible that we have the ability to follow through on such dreams. I sincerely hope I live long enough to see it, but not before we figure out how to feed the hungry and fill the stomachs of our nation’s children. That is the sort of ‘lofty aspiration’ I am most interested in. Aren’t you?

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Life is a Highway…Just Drive http://cjhuff.com/life-is-a-highway-just-drive/ http://cjhuff.com/life-is-a-highway-just-drive/#respond Sat, 24 Feb 2018 18:23:12 +0000 http://cjhuff.com/?p=668 As kids grow up, there are few things more unnerving for a parent than when they start learning to drive. Being in the passenger seat while they first try to parallel park is scary. It’s even scarier to imagine (or experience) not being in that seat as they pull out of the driveway and leave […]

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As kids grow up, there are few things more unnerving for a parent than when they start learning to drive. Being in the passenger seat while they first try to parallel park is scary. It’s even scarier to imagine (or experience) not being in that seat as they pull out of the driveway and leave by themselves.

The gravity of parenthood weighs heavy, and the respect I have for my own parents and what they went through to raise me is growing daily.

Learning to drive is a right of passage from youth into adulthood. Depending on how you drive, you may or may not appreciate the following quote by James Baldwin:

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

The fact is, they have seen how you show respect for other drivers. They have seen how you handle the vehicle, accelerate, brake, signal, and more. (By the way…how do you use your phone in the car?)

You have been teaching them to drive all along. They have been learning ever since you put them in the car seat and brought them home from the hospital.

Good drivers model behavior to match. Although I won’t worry any less about my kids when they start driving on their own, I do know that, for the most part, I’ve been an example of good driving for my kids. And I know I’m not going to let them go it on their own until I feel certain they are ready.

Imagine for a second if you were a 15-year-old who had never seen a car and someone handed you the keys and simply said, “Just drive!”

The point in this analogy is that far too many of our kids are handed “the keys” to life and told to “drive” without any driver’s education. No one was there to model behavior for them.

As a nation, we can talk all we want about the need for our students to be college, career, and civic-ready. But think about a kid who has never had that behavior modeled for them. They have no idea how to even get the “vehicle” out of “park”. Imagine being the first one in your family to graduate from high school, let alone go to college. It’s a scary thing to go it alone.

I believe this with all my heart. So many kids have no one in their life to model the way. No one is there to show them how to get from point A to point B. We have a responsibility as a society to put someone in their life that can show them how. It’s not about lowering the bar for kids, it’s about raising the bar for us…the adults.

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Building Resilient Communities http://cjhuff.com/building-resilient-communities/ http://cjhuff.com/building-resilient-communities/#respond Tue, 23 Jan 2018 18:18:56 +0000 http://cjhuff.com/?p=660 Severe weather events, global conflict, and economic hardships seem to have become commonplace in this world we live in. Media coverage brings to light how people and communities respond when faced with the real-life drama created by extreme adversity. A word often cited when measuring a community’s response to these challenges is the term resiliency. […]

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Severe weather events, global conflict, and economic hardships seem to have become commonplace in this world we live in. Media coverage brings to light how people and communities respond when faced with the real-life drama created by extreme adversity. A word often cited when measuring a community’s response to these challenges is the term resiliency.

By definition, resiliency is the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity (1). Applied to the above a more appropriate definition may be the ability for a community to return to its original form after having experienced trauma.

Joplin, New Orleans, New Town, Aurora, Greensburg, Moore, West, Boston, San Bernardino are all communities of different sizes and demographics that share a common experience. Each was “bent” beyond comprehension. Faced with tragedy in a variety of forms, these communities were suddenly and unexpectedly tasked with the responsibility of recovery. In short, the resiliency of each of these communities was tested.

Unlike the stress ball you have in the upper right-hand drawer of your desk that immediately returns to its original form after being squeezed, communities tend not to recover so quickly. Even with the best architectural, economic, emergency, or disaster plans, some communities respond and recover in a much more efficient manner than others.

Unfortunately, far too many communities are looking for resiliency in all the wrong places. Resiliency is not necessarily found in the depth of foundations, abundance of financial resources, or even the thickness of an emergency manual. The resiliency of a community is most often found in its people. Specifically, resiliency is found in the volume and quality of a community’s social capital also known as relationships.

Don’t get me wrong. Bricks and mortar, infrastructure, financial stability, and careful planning are all important. However, at the end of the day, it will be people who make it possible for the community to return to its original form. The lesson…building a resilient community begins and ends with building deep relationships.

1. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/resilience

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Creating Rapid Response Systems to Meet Student Needs http://cjhuff.com/creating-rapid-response-systems-to-meet-student-needs/ http://cjhuff.com/creating-rapid-response-systems-to-meet-student-needs/#respond Thu, 04 Jan 2018 18:13:19 +0000 http://cjhuff.com/?p=655 Less than one hour north from where I am writing this blog sets the community of Lamar, Missouri. For you history buffs out there, our 33rd President of the United States was born in Lamar…Harry S. Truman. In 1946, Missouri’s native son, President Harry S. Truman, signed into law the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) […]

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Less than one hour north from where I am writing this blog sets the community of Lamar, Missouri. For you history buffs out there, our 33rd President of the United States was born in Lamar…Harry S. Truman. In 1946, Missouri’s native son, President Harry S. Truman, signed into law the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) which provided funding for lunchroom equipment for schools, as well as free or reduced-price lunches to children in need.

A sign of the times, the tone of NSLA was serious in nature. Section 2 of NSLA reads: “It is hereby declared to be the policy of Congress, as a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children…”(1). A measure of national security…interesting.

Nationally, the number of children living in poverty continues to climb. In 2013 the percentage of children who qualified for the National School Lunch Program crossed a new threshold. For the first time since its inception now more than 50% of our nation’s schoolchildren come from qualifying households (2).

Unfortunately, children with empty stomachs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the unfulfilled needs of our children. The growing challenge for educators is figuring out how to meet those needs quickly utilizing already limited community resources.

Bright Futures USA is a national not-for-profit currently working with 51 communities in 8 states across the country serving close to 250,000 students. Many of these communities far exceed the national average for children living in poverty. What continues to amaze me is that even in communities that are under-resourced they are figuring out new and creative ways to meet children’s needs quickly.

Just imagine communities, both large and small, working together to find ways to meet the basic needs of any child in less than 24 hours. To take it a step further, the systems communities are developing as a part of the Bright Futures Framework in many cases can now meet those needs in less than 15 minutes! The three-tiered system developed by Bright Futures USA and now replicated across the country with amazing results consists of effective communication, utilization of local resources, strong social media networking, volunteer support, and local leadership.

These communities are taking care of their kids. Teachers in these communities no longer have to “pass the hat” during lunch to meet those needs on their own. In these communities, teachers can now get back to teaching. As for the children? They can now focus on learning, knowing they are loved and supported by the community.

Join the movement! Learn more at http://www.brightfuturesusa.org/

 

  1. https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/NSLA.pdf
  2. http://www.southerneducation.org/getattachment/4ac62e27-5260-47a5-9d02-14896ec3a531/A-New-Majority-2015-Update-Low-Income-Students-Now.aspx

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Meet the Working Poor: Learning not to Judge http://cjhuff.com/meet-the-working-poor-learning-not-to-judge/ http://cjhuff.com/meet-the-working-poor-learning-not-to-judge/#respond Sun, 03 Dec 2017 18:09:49 +0000 http://cjhuff.com/?p=648 From a US Bureau of Labor Statistics perspective, the working poor are defined as “…people who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force (that is, working or looking for work) but whose incomes still fell below the official poverty level.” -1. For a family of four, the official poverty level reflects an annual […]

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From a US Bureau of Labor Statistics perspective, the working poor are defined as “…people who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force (that is, working or looking for work) but whose incomes still fell below the official poverty level.”

-1. For a family of four, the official poverty level reflects an annual income of less than $24,300.
-2. Passing judgment on families living in poverty without understanding the circumstances is a modern flaw of both society and public policy. Consequently, there is a myriad of pervasive opinions about families living below the poverty line ranging from the obscure to the absurd. The following Washington Post article flushes out some of these misperceptions: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/04/07/the-double-standard-of-making-poor-people-prove-theyre-worthy-of-government-benefits/

Let’s run through a quick scenario to make an important point about the working poor.

Let’s pretend for a second you are a classroom teacher in a high poverty school. Three brothers attend your school and come to class daily with hygiene issues that became so pervasive that it disrupts the learning environment. What assumptions would you make? Now, a little more information. These boys’ parents would be classified as working poor by the aforementioned definition. Does that change your thinking? Let’s continue. Dad was fully employed, but his place of employment had to lay him off due to reasons beyond his control. How about now? In the meantime, this family’s hot water heater broke down and needed to be replaced. However, the meager budget they now had to live on forced them to prioritize their budget. The issue at hand for this family…hot water or food? You are the teacher. What would you do? Ignore it? Ask the principal to “hotline” the family for neglect? Isolate the kids in the classroom so as to not disrupt others? Of course not.

If this scenario would have only been one sentence about three brothers that smelled bad your reaction may have been different had you not known the other details. Why is this an important point? Uninformed people are quick to judge, informed people become empathetic to the situation. More importantly, when good people who fully understand the situation and where resources exist to solve a particular problem they are driven to take action.

One of the most rewarding experiences of my life has been my work with Bright Futures USA (BrightFuturesUSA.org). The scenario above is played out in real life in one of our Bright Futures communities. The happy ending to this story looked like this. The teacher was alert. She knew the kids and family. The boys’ hygiene issue did not line up with her personal experiences with the parents. Instead of requesting that social services get involved, she brought the issue to the counselor. The counselor reached out to the parents and learned the reasons behind the hygiene issue. Without identifying the family by name, an all-call was put out into the community through the Bright Futures support network. In 24 hours a local supply company donated a new hot water heater, a local plumber volunteered to do the installation. The unemployed dad helped the plumber with the installation. The plumber was impressed with his work ethic, skills, and attitude. The plumber offered dad a job and the family had hot water again. Problem solved.

We are all guilty of passing judgment from time to time. Frankly, it’s easier to judge than it is to become informed. My question to you is this…what could society and public policy look like if you and I choose to truly “love thy neighbor” – instead of judging them?

 

  1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/working-poor/2014/pdf/home.pdf
  2. US Department of Health and Human Services: https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines

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Joplin’s EF-5 Tornado: 3 Lessons Learned about Crisis Leadership http://cjhuff.com/joplins-ef-5-tornado-3-lessons-learned-about-crisis-leadership/ http://cjhuff.com/joplins-ef-5-tornado-3-lessons-learned-about-crisis-leadership/#comments Thu, 30 Nov 2017 22:59:16 +0000 http://cjhuff.com/?p=643 Crisis happens. Sometimes a major crisis occurs with a sudden shift in the economy. It can occur with the sudden loss of a key individual without a succession plan in place. Major changes in policy, laws or regulation can also cause organizational upheaval. And certainly, we have all seen what happens when it comes in […]

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Crisis happens. Sometimes a major crisis occurs with a sudden shift in the economy. It can occur with the sudden loss of a key individual without a succession plan in place. Major changes in policy, laws or regulation can also cause organizational upheaval. And certainly, we have all seen what happens when it comes in the form of a natural or manmade disaster. The truth is that when a major crisis strikes, the person sitting in the leadership chair at the onset of crisis can never be fully prepared. Why? Simply put…every crisis is unique.

Every crisis, whether large or small, has its own unique characteristics that present a unique set of challenges. In organizations, the type of crisis, the abilities of the people sitting in decision-making positions, the emotional and mental capacity of every individual, the duration of the crisis, organizational structures, financial stability of the institution, time of day, experience, etc. all play into that uniqueness.

On May 21, 2011, I turned 41 years old. At that time I was wrapping up my 15th year in education and was serving as the superintendent of schools in Joplin, Missouri. I was blessed to be leading a phenomenal group of 1,200 educators supporting over 7,700 kids. We had already come a long way together as a team. A fully operational strategic plan was in place and the results we were seeking were coming to fruition. However, at the same time, we were bracing our system for what was then known as “the funding cliff” – an inevitable shortfall in school funding due to the Great Recession.

Fortunately, we saw the funding crisis coming and had carefully planned our strategic response. We had made tough budgetary decisions, we had involved all the right stakeholders in the right conversations, and we were prepared to overcome reductions in state and federal funding to protect our educational programming. We were positioned well to continue our good work and ride out the economic storm headed our way. However, that economic storm paled in comparison to the event we were about to experience the very next day.

The following afternoon our world in Joplin was literally turned upside down. On May 22, 2011, at 5:41 p.m., less than an hour after the last senior walked across the stage at Joplin High School’s graduation ceremony, the most costly tornado in our nation’s history touched down on the western edge of our community of 50,000. In just 32 minutes, over 1/3 of our community was destroyed. Thousands of homes and businesses were impacted. As a school district, we had 10 of our 19 schools destroyed or damaged.

Bricks and mortar are one thing – buildings can be rebuilt. What was devastating beyond comprehension was the fact we suddenly lost 161 of our friends and neighbors. As a school district, we lost 7 of our children and an educator. Over 3,000 of my children lived in the direct path of the storm.

May 22, 2011, started out as a day of great celebration but ended as a day that will be forever remembered for the immense shock, pain, loss, sadness, fear, and uncertainty it left behind. The crisis was sudden and overwhelming. Yet, the heroism of so many – from inside and outside of our community – brought out the best of what makes this country a special place to live.

Invariably, every leader is going to be faced with a crisis at some point in their career. It’s just a matter of when and to what degree. I’ve read a lot about crisis leadership over the years. There is a lot of great information out there on the topic. However, I’ve concluded there really is no secret formula on how to lead through a major crisis of an EF-5 magnitude. There is a reason why a book titled, “Crisis Leadership for Dummies” will never be published. There is no playbook that can provide clear answers.

Although I don’t pretend to be an expert in crisis leadership, I have had a lot of time to reflect on our particular disaster. So please take these “nuggets” for what they are…one leader’s crisis experience. I will not pretend for a second that my response in each of these areas was flawless. In fact, I’d argue there were more flaws than not, but with mistakes come learning and hopefully that has value to those who take the time to read this post.

For those of you that are in leadership roles, or are responsible for the development of crisis plans, I challenge you to look beyond the “nuts and bolts” of crisis planning. Think on these things and on what you might need to add to your organization’s crisis plan to be better prepared.

The BIG 3 of Crisis Leadership

1. It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint.
But unfortunately, crisis leadership tends to start out a sprint pace. When you finish the initial crisis “100-meter dash,” you don’t get to put your hands on your knees and catch your breath. You get the opportunity to start the next race immediately with no clear finish line in sight. The significant leadership challenge at this point is maintaining business continuity and giving people hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

During this phase, vision still matters. In fact, it’s critical. You have to paint a picture of a brighter future to help people see beyond the misery and tragedy of the moment. If you don’t do so quickly, you may just find your organization stuck right there. It’s an essential part of crisis leadership and, in my opinion, the first step in the recovery process. Sir Winston Churchill may have summed it up best, “When you are going through hell…keep going!” Sage advice from a man who clearly understood what it took to lead during a crisis. Create a vision, start the work, and get people moving.

The other leadership challenge that comes during this time is making sure you are running the marathon at a pace others can keep up. Adrenaline and emotion are strong drivers that can move a leader and the organization at an unsustainable pace. If the people you are leading can’t keep up, you may cross the recovery finish line…but you may find yourself crossing it alone. Being aware and self-regulating your “stride” takes self-discipline and mindful monitoring.

2. Take Care of Your People.

Regardless of the type and scale of the crisis, make sure you are taking care of your people and their families. There are two specific needs that will likely need attention:

Basic Needs: Again, depending on the crisis this can look like clothes, food, and shelter. But can also include mental health and counseling services, insurance consultation, financial support, and a myriad of other supports depending on the needs driven by the crisis situation.

Information Needs: Your people, your business contacts, and your community need to know what’s going on. And you need to be thinking long term – not only past the initial crisis, but until there is a crystal clear sense of normalcy across the organization. I can’t stress this enough. If you have a public relations department, understand they are going to be very busy, AND likely need extra help. Not just in the beginning, but also at various points throughout the recovery effort, which frankly may take years. Anniversary dates and other key moments throughout the recovery effort are going to require additional attention, time and personnel. The bottom line is that you cannot communicate too much, but you can most certainly not communicate enough.

3. Take Care of Yourself.

If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else. The fact is, good leaders put others first. That’s what we do. No question it is a great leadership attribute on a day-to-day basis under normal circumstances. In a crisis, however, a caring heart can become a curse. If you are not taking care of yourself because you are too busy taking care of everyone else, you and your organization may not find the finish line. Please be mindful of the following:

First, you are human…not superhuman. If you think you are superhuman, it’s the adrenaline and emotion talking, not logic. Don’t fall into that trap. Eating right, sleep, regular exercise, and time with your family are absolutely crucial when problem-solving through a crisis. When you think you don’t have the time, make the time.

Make time to grieve. The greatest myth of crisis leadership is that you have to be emotionally immovable during difficult times. Any counselor or psychologist would tell you grieving is natural and a critically important part of personally recovering from the pain that comes from loss. It’s healthy. Certainly, during times of crisis, everyone will be looking to you for leadership. Does showing strength or resolve really matter? Absolutely. But even history’s greatest and most stoic leaders (Lincoln, Washington, and Eisenhower to name a few.) cried. And they didn’t cry alone. When, how and with whom you grieve is up to you. But give yourself permission to do so. It’s o.k.

Every time a disaster happens in this country, whether it be natural or man-made, my heart and prayers go out to those leaders on the front line. I’ve been there and it takes a tremendous physical, mental, and emotional toll on those in the trenches.

At the end of the day, just remember every leader is human. We hurt when others hurt, we fear when others are fearful, and make mistakes just like everyone else. However, if we take good care of our people, good care of ourselves and clearly articulate a compelling vision for others to follow…you will make it across the finish line.

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The Trouble With Disconnected Youth http://cjhuff.com/the-trouble-with-disconnected-youth/ http://cjhuff.com/the-trouble-with-disconnected-youth/#comments Thu, 23 Nov 2017 22:51:19 +0000 http://cjhuff.com/?p=639 The Measure of America project, sponsored by the Social Science Research Council defines disconnected youth as “…teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. There are 5,527,000 disconnected youth in America today, or one in seven teens and young adults – 13.8% (1). I’m going […]

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The Measure of America project, sponsored by the Social Science Research Council defines disconnected youth as “…teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. There are 5,527,000 disconnected youth in America today, or one in seven teens and young adults – 13.8% (1).

I’m going to put that number out there again…5,527,000 disconnected youth in our country; 5,527,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24.

One of our most basic needs as humans is the need to be loved and feel valued. What that love and value looks and feels like is very different for children who are disconnected versus their connected peers. When you look at those 5,527,000 kids between the ages of 16 and 24 and you realize that number does not take into account the number of disconnected children under the age of 16 the challenge at hand is sobering.

For the record, I’m not a child psychologist. I have zero credentials outside of 20 years of experience working with kids, schools and communities. Although I have read the research, I’ve never conducted a study of my own. So take this blog for what it is worth…one guy with an opinion based on experience rather than subject matter expertise. However, I am confident that my perception and experience reflect this reality – there is a stark difference in life outcomes between connected youth who are accepted by society and disconnected youth seeking acceptance.

In response to the issues facing communities across the country, the battle cry sounds like this… “We must take back our streets!” The fact is we simply need to take back our kids. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an entirely different conversation.

Think on this for a moment. As we grapple with gang violence, ISIL recruitment, criminal activity, drug and alcohol abuse, runaways, teen homelessness, drop out rates, and other youth issues plaguing our country, I would like to point out this one simple truth…Our youth are not running AWAY from us, they are running TO something that will fill a void we failed to fill.

What are you doing to connect youth in your community?? Learn more about how you can become involved and take back our kids at www.brightfuturesusa.org.

1. http://www.measureofamerica.org/disconnected-youth/

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Growing Resilient Kids http://cjhuff.com/growing-resilient-kids/ http://cjhuff.com/growing-resilient-kids/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 22:39:41 +0000 http://cjhuff.com/?p=635 The study of resiliency goes back several decades. However, recent economic challenges, natural disasters, and the prevalence of violence, among many other factors, have brought a laser focus to this growing body of research. Although I can’t bring my own personal research on the topic to the table, I can bring my personal observations of […]

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The study of resiliency goes back several decades. However, recent economic challenges, natural disasters, and the prevalence of violence, among many other factors, have brought a laser focus to this growing body of research. Although I can’t bring my own personal research on the topic to the table, I can bring my personal observations of 20 years of working with children faced with the challenge of overcoming adverse situations. The research questions to be answered are two-fold:

1) Why do some children demonstrate resiliency in the face of adversity, while others flounder? The psychology behind resiliency is complex. However, from my observations, there are three factors that I believe play a primary role in how kids respond to adversity.

First, a meaningful, personal and caring relationship with at least one adult is profoundly important. Whether it is a family member, friend, pastor, or some other mentor, quality relationships are the cornerstone of building resilient youth.

Second, children who have been empowered to contribute to society feel in greater control over their own destiny. These kids understand they are a part of something bigger than themselves and don’t feel helpless when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Third, a strong sense of faith. I have witnessed a number of dire instances of adversity and loss directly impacting children of all ages. In most of those cases, these children were able to express their personal spirituality as a tool to overcome significant obstacles.

2) What can communities do to nurture resiliency in our youth? If you believe there is merit to the three factors identified above, the simple answer is to assess and focus your community resources to help children make those connections.

If no positive adult relationship exists with a child, create opportunities. Mentoring programs, in-school relationships with teachers, after school adult/student tutoring programs, before and after school clubs and activities are ways to help make those adult connections.

For children to feel empowered, think of ways to engage kids in a meaningful way to be a part of the larger community. Providing transportation to participate in youth civic organizations, developing service-learning projects, and peer mentoring are proactive approaches for kids to take a role in giving back to society. Embedding the ideal of service above self not only empowers kids, but it is also personally fulfilling.

In terms of spirituality, faith organizations representing a broad cross-section of religious beliefs need to be out in the community on a much broader scale. I heard a minister once say, “We need our congregation to get out of the pews and into our community.” What this looks like will vary greatly, but should be done in partnership with parents and caregivers.

I think most everyone would agree future generations of youth are likely to be challenged in ways we have not even thought of yet. Building a more resilient nation requires communities to be resilient. However, that work starts by creating a community culture strategically focused on the nurturing of resiliency factors in our youth.

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