Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Transformative Principal is 

Jun 6, 2022

Last month I talked about the TBD framework for making career decisions, and as I teased at the end of that episode, I was evaluating a current opportunity for myself.

Today, I’m going to walk you through my thought process using the TBD framework.

First, a little review, because maybe you don’t listen to every single episode! Gasp!

TBD stands for Tribe, Brand, and Domain. I learned about it because a friend shared this article on LinkedIn with me called "[[Tribe, Brand, Domain (TBD)–How to Think about Building Career]] (link) It is written by David Boyce.

This strategy is effective in evaluating where you currently are in your career, and can also be used to evaluate a specific position.

The tribe part refers to the people that you are working with. Who are you surrounded by. I had a job just after I graduated high school, and I did not like the people that I was around. The owner seemed super shady, I never trusted my paychecks. My coworkers were very negative and vulgar. I knew that I didn’t want to be around them long term.

In this new position I am looking at currently, I thought, who will be there? Who are the people that I’ll work closely with. Thankfully, I’ve known this company for almost 6 years and I have had many interactions so I could feel reasonably confident that I would be surrounded by great people. In fact, if I had to identify the people that I would want to work with, several of them would already be employed at this company.

You know that’s a good sign right?

I know people who have left this company, and I have seen how there is still respect for them. They weren’t tossed to the wind when they left. Articles and videos by these people are still up, still promoted and still relevant.

In thinking of the kind of people that I want to be around, these seems like my tribe.

Honestly, the hardest part of being out on my own for the last two years is that I haven’t really had a tribe. Well, it’s just been very small!

I’ve been very fortunate to work with great districts and great principals, but those have not been working side-by-side with people on the same things. And, I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with Dr. Courtney Orr on some specific projects the last few months as well.

I realized that one thing that was lacking in my current solopreneur efforts was a tribe. I’m part of a coaching program, so I have some peers, but they’re all working on their own stuff, and I’ve really missed working collaboratively on specific projects.


The next piece is Brand. It’s not just name brand recognition. It is really about do they align with my own personal brand. In the article, David Boyce asks if you would be excited to talk about this company at holiday parties and over the weekend hanging out with your friends. Are you excited to say that you work for this company?

Well, the exciting part for this company is that I have been consistently positive in talking about them for the last several years. I’ve referred many people to them for resources and support. Furthermore, I have also seen how this company works first hand. I worked with them when I was up in Fairbanks, Alaska.

I know their value, their work ethic, and their contribution. All of those things align with my brand.

In fact, when I was talking with someone about this the other day, I said, “I can’t think of a company more aligned with who I am that isn’t my own company!”

Honestly, when I left the principalship two years ago, I was pretty certain that I wouldn’t work for anybody besides myself ever again.

But then, I found this TBD framework, and thought about things a little more strategically. Part of this brand piece is what kind of impact it enables.

As you probably know, I want to impact the lives of 100 Million kids in the next 10 years. That’s a big task. I want to make a bigger impact than I currently am making. Could I make a bigger impact with a company that is already making a big impact? I think so.

Another part of my brand is that I want to learn constantly. I have gaps in my capabilities, and I want to improve them. I’ve thought long and hard about how to improve them. I could spend more time and energy learning academically and through coaches, or I can work with someone and learn by doing.

Which of those aligns with my personal brand? I’ve learned just about everything I know by doing. This podcast is a perfect example of that. I have learned so much by doing this that it is crazy. Ironically, this podcast is also an example of learning by seeking mentors and coaching as well. The interviews that I have done have always been about finding a solution to a problem that I or one of my clients was having.

Basically, I felt that I could go either way: more private coaching or working with someone else. Either way, I could still make growth happen, which is exactly what I want.


That leads into the third part of the framework: Domain. What do I want to get good at?

I want to get better at thinking strategically at a high level. I want to get better at looking at district level solutions, not just school level. This company really only operates at the district level.

Furthermore, I want to know how a larger-than-me small business operates. This is not a one-man shop, but it is a lot bigger than I am on my own.

What I would like to see is greater opportunity in understanding how to make things work at a bigger scale. It’s one thing for me to serve schools by myself, with no or little support. It’s another thing to serve districts with tens of thousands of students with a team behind you.

I’ve been doing well in my entrepreneurial journey. I’ve been able to support my family, but I’m learning more and more that I don’t really want it to be just me. I want a team. I want a tribe.

As I always do, I’m going to look back at this later and think how quaint I sound. But that’s just what happens when you grow!

Before I get to my final decision, I want to share something that I am sponsoring: The Equity Awards.

Transformative Principal is proud to sponsor the inaugural Excellence in Equity Awards, presented by the American Consortium for Equity in Education.

This award program, designed to spotlight and celebrate high-impact work across K–12 education, features 27 different award categories covering all angles of equity – 10 categories for educators and support staff from every role in our schools, and 17 categories for companies and nonprofits. 

Educators of all roles and backgrounds –including school and district leaders, technology leadership, teachers, mental health professionals, librarians and media specialists, and more – can self-nominate or nominate a colleague. All companies and nonprofits – including publishers and authors – can submit nominations as well.

You can find all the information at Get your nominations in before June 30!


As you have probably guessed by now, this new position fills all the criteria using TBD. Naturally, I used other criteria as well. It’s remote, so I don’t have to move again. The compensation is fair, benefits are good and there is room for growth. Perhaps most importantly for me right now is the idea of making a bigger impact by working with whole districts. I love my work with principals who are in my mastermind, but as I have just completed spending a year with a district in Wisconsin, I can see how much more powerful it is to work with a whole system and support them in making those changes.

The services they provide are in line with what I want to be talking about in education, as well. Their flagship service is personalized learning, which I absolutely love! They also do surveys (effectively), strategic planning, responsive leadership (which is almost as good as Transformative Leadership), teacher retention, data culture, and more.

And, obviously, because I am a man of faith, I prayed and pondered to see if this was the right move for me.

It is. For sure.

I’m excited to announce today that I am the newest partner at Education Elements. You can learn more about what they do at

Overview of Services Provided by EdElements!

One of the things that I am most excited about with EdElements is that they are doing so much good in education. I want to dive in a bit deeper to some of the things they do, so that you can call me up and say, “Jethro, let’s do more of this!”

Personalized Learning

If you’ve been listening to this podcast for any amount of time, you know that I believe that personalizing learning for our kids is the best way to educate. My flavor of Personalized Learning is student driven learning, but EdElements has been doing this work for years, and they do great work. I worked with them on this in Fairbanks as a principal and they made a huge mindset shift accessible to teachers who had been teaching for decades. I’m really excited about this part of this new adventure. In my mind, so many things that we are really grappling with in education can be solved by Personalized Learning. Teacher shortages, trauma, SEL, equity, and so many more things can really be gathered up into a Personalized Learning approach. Think about it, if we are personalizing learning for our students, we naturally bring so many of these other areas into it for them.

For example, in the district I am working with in Wisconsin, one of the teachers said that a particular student was overwhelmed by the choices she had and just wanted to be told what to do. The teacher commented how she had had no idea before that this girl was struggling with anxiety. The way school was set up didn’t decrease her anxiety, but it didn’t open a door to address it. The beauty is that now this teacher knows, knows the signs, and can help this student and others in the future.

Strategic Planning

Another area that I am really excited about is strategic planning. Usually, with strategic planning, we know that as “put all this work into something, then put it on the shelf to never look at again.” In rare instances, a few select “inner circle members” may know what the strategic plan is for the district, but nobody else knows why we are doing all this stuff!

With Education Elements, they do things a bit differently. First, it’s not a template that the district just follows. Each school district’s plan is as unique as that school district. It has to be, right? Otherwise, what is the point of being just another cookie cutter school district!?

So, there are several different approaches:
- Did your school enrollment go down because of the pandemic?
- Did your school enrollment go up because of the pandemic?
- Is there a new superintendent or school board and we now have different priorities?
- Do you want to have more innovation in your district, but don’t know how to capture that?

One school board really wanted innovation in their district, but they didn’t know what that looked like. But they wanted to feel like they were innovative. By doing a strategic plan, they were able to define what innovation looked like and make some positive steps in the right direction.

Community Surveys

One of my mastermind clients recently complained a survey that her school district administered with an outside company. One of the anonymous questions was, “Do you trust your principal?” Of course, she got some responses that indicated she wasn’t trusted. But she didn’t know how to deal with those responses, because they were anonymous and the question was so broad, there was really no way to explain what trust meant in that situation.

Education Elements does surveys differently. There’s a way to ask questions to get at what people really think about something. An anonymous, “do you trust your principal” leaves way too many things out there in the ether. So, these surveys are, as with everything else at EdElements, focused on the specific needs of that district, not just pulling from a random question bank, or worse, the same questions for every single district, even if they don’t apply.

Responsive Leadership

Another service that EdElements provides is responsive leadership. Of course, this is an area where I am really excited to contribute. As Todd Whitaker says, “When the principal coughs, the school gets a cold!” The same goes for the district level leadership as well.

As I’ve said hundreds of times on this podcast, leadership is lonely. It’s tough. Leaders need support.

Especially in education, where we are great teachers and maybe not so great at being managers, leaders, visionaries, or inspirers. But leaders have to be all those things and more.

There are other areas where Education Elements works, like data culture, teacher retention, custom curriculum, and more. I’m excited to start this new journey.

If you’re listening to this, and you would like to work with me, you can reach out to me at my new work email address, I hope I can help you make a HUGE impact on your students’ lives!


Transformative Principal Mastermind

Lead a school everyone can be proud of.

Being a principal is tough work. You’re pulled in all kinds of directions. You never have the time to do the work that really matters. Join me as I help school leaders find the time to do the work they became principals to do.

I help you stop putting out fires and start leading.

Learn more at

Just Right Reader

Just Right Reader Decodables are a great way to help your students learn how to read, with research-based strategies that are proven to be effective. Each grade level has over 100 books. Send books home in packs of ten, with video lessons accessible via QR codes on each book, with lessons in Spanish and English. Learn more at