Listen With an Open Heart & an Open Mind

The guest on this episode is the acclaimed author AJ Crabill who has made quite a career leading educational improvement. AJ starts off by explaining the purpose of a school board is to represent the vision and values of a community and to do that they need as much diversity as possible so they can represent the entire vision and value of the the whole community. AJ boldly declares that once you take on the mantle of leadership you have to represent everyone, not just the people who agree with you. He shared a memory of a time when he didn’t think he was measuring up that helped him catch the vision of what needed to be done and helped him learn more. A good leader surrounds themselves with great people who are willing to push them to be better than they think they can be. AJ talks about the needs of students and how student outcomes don’t change until adult behaviors change. He then teaches us the three powerful drivers for adult change: knowledge, skill, and mindset; with the most powerful being mindset. A change in mindset can free up knowledge and skills that are not being used to their fullest capacity. This leads us to a better process to be more reflective and introspective to assess our mindset and what can change and how we can better use our skills and knowledge. AJ uses some great stories to help illustrate how to learn to go beyond listening to the issues and listen for the values in ways that limit divisiveness and create more holistic and unifying outcomes. We can’t please everyone, and he expects healthy debate. When a decision is made if we have employed the proper listening and mindset we should be able to move forward in unity to support the decision. 

Airick Journey AJ Crabill serves as Conservator at DeSoto Independent School District, where during his guidance, DeSoto improved from F ratings in academics, finance, and governance to B ratings — and as Governance Director at Council of the Great City School. He served as Deputy Commissioner at Texas’ Education Agency and Board Chair of Kansas City Public Schools. He authored a chapter on Scholl board leadership to improve student outcome in On Leadership an Interdisciplinary Approach edited by Denver Fowler and Meghan Raehll and AJ’s book “Great on Their Behalf: Why School Boards Fail, How Yours can Become More Effective” just released in March of 2023. 

AJ believes that Student outcomes don’t change until adult behaviors change. AJ affirms Changing adult behaviors requires new mindsets, new knowledge, and/or new skills. AJ’s intention is to transform student outcomes through the transformation of adult mindsets, knowledge, and skills — starting with his own.


Airick Journey (AJ) Crabill – Website (book links, bio, blog)

Airick Journey (AJ) Crabill – Great on Their Behalf: Why School Boards Fail, How Yours can Become More Effective

Great on Their Behalf: Why School Boards Fail, How Yours Can Become Effective 

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