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7 Questions with Jason Huffman
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7 Questions with Jason Huffman
Name: Jason Huffman
Current title: Principal
Current organisation: Calvary Chapel High School
Father of 3 boys. Married for 27 years. Working at Calvary Chapel Schools in admin and classroom for 24 years. Masters in Education. Bachelors in Biblical Theology. Bachelors in Human Development. I enjoy surfing, family, and staying active.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader in the education sector?
The obvious cultural and Covid challenges are difficulties to overcome daily in education. But really those are just things to work through. One of the most challenging things as a leader is working with poor leadership and then the lack of unity and collaboration within your team. Getting a wide array of educators to value a common vision and stay on mission with high standards is a constant challenge. Having the wrong people in the wrong place is a challenge that takes time to win over, then train up or eventually replace.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Wake up between 5:30-6:30 am. Read the Bible, have some time in prayer and reflection, and dip into a couple of leadership devotionals that are full of wisdom and insights. I may or may not work out in the morning. If not in the morning, then I will work out when I get home. Physical exercise is key to mental and physical health. Then I had to work at 7 am. I am greeting students for the first 40 minutes. I catch up with the office or staff immediate needs. We have a daily 10 minute stand up meeting. Then the day is on with handling problems, meeting with parents/students, interviews, tours, discipline, meetings, break and lunch supervision and emails. But I really only do emails once in the day and then later at night not all through the day. After work I like to go for a walk with my wife or decompress at home answering email. We almost always have some sort of sit down family dinner. It is a priority for whoever is home to connect. At night or early in the am, I may work on more thoughtful random projects when the house is quiet. Bed is between 10 and 11.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Here are three quick lessons. First, always keep learning and growing. I am always listening to podcasts or books on Audible. Second lesson that came from a recent book is, “No bad teams, only bad leaders”. This is from Jocko Wilink. His books are really good. This idea was so convicting at first. If the team is not performing, it is ultimately my responsibility as the leader to do what needs to be done to reach the goals and continue the right processes. Second is from a pastor with a great leadership podcast, Craig Groetschel. He said, “Culture is what you create and then what you allow”. It is pretty easy to create a good culture. You have vision and ideas to begin, but it is a real challenge to keep that going. You can’t allow the wrong culture to exist or grow. You have to address it and realign all the time.
4. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Like I said, I am always listening to books. Probably the greatest impact has been Good to Great by Collins. I love the research and story part of it, but it is so practical too. I took our admin team through it together, and we had great conversations about getting the right people on the bus, knowing our hedgehog, level five leadership, and of course confronting the brutal facts. I am always going back to those foundational ideas, and looking to be that “level 5” leader he describes that is selfless but resolute in pursuing to create and lead a great school.
5. How do you find and keep great leaders in the education sector?
Train, trust, and empower. I think the best is to build from within. You have to be willing to let them do their thing in their strengths but within your values and goals. Strong leaders are not always easy people to deal with. You have to learn how to work with them to get the best from them. You can’t be insecure or take things personal.
6. What's most important as a leader in the education sector for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
Culture is so important! Here are a few things I have found really valuable. Humility, honesty, communication, a sense of humor, and having a clear mission are vital. Then you have to constantly realign and recalibrate to stay the course. Really valuing people is the bottom line.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader in the education sector so far?
Coming into a leadership role after a very hard transition of someone that had been there for a long time. The culture was not good and the trust was low. Our enrollment had been going down for nearly 15 years. After working really hard to create a healthy culture, a clear vision, and formulating new core values we began to see the culture change for better, students behavior was different, staff relationships were happier, and we had our first bump in enrollment. The admin team had come together, trusting each other and really working together. It was really satisfying to see the growth both inwardly and outwardly.