Archive for the ‘ Leadership ’ Category

Matthew May’s Three Hour Vision

Matthew May has it right. We no longer can afford to wait until the annual offsite retreat to react to the latest innovation in the education business. His three hour vision meeting is a good alternative. Perfect? No. But if you build some flexibility and interim decision points into the key projects in the last step, you will be miles ahead.

Educational institutions are notoriously risk averse. What if you get it wrong???

You have still learned much more about the problem than if you did nothing. Still worried? Don’t bet the house, use Peter Sims tactic of Little Bets.

By Any Other Name

All education organizations are risk-averse. It comes with the territory. We believe that no parent will ever entrust their child to an organization that is the institutional equivalent of Fast and Furious. But here’s the thing…every parent (and grandparent) wants their child to receive the absolute best in terms of instruction. Often what that means in this day and age is innovation – at least some variation to our time-honored pedagogy.

Yes innovation is scary. But how can we teach our kids that it’s okay to fail, if we are afraid to fail ourselves? Lisa Bodell, one of my heroes, says in her latest article in Strategy + Business,

Making it safe to try new things is critical for innovation to happen.

And yes, my educator friends, we must innovate! Think about it. By the time our current fourth graders graduate from high school, it will no longer be necessary to know how to manually drive a car. Maybe “FAILURE” just has too much cultural baggage in the educational environment. We need to find another term for a temporary lack of success. Any vocabulary suggestions?

What is your Reputation?

James O’Toole in a recent blog in Strategy + Business http://www.strategy-business.com/blog/Why-New-CEOs-Sometimes-Bring-New-Problems?gko=186b5 talks about the perils of a new CEO being appointed and in order to be distinguished from the old CEO, fixing things that are not broken.

Yet in trying to differentiate themselves, new CEOs often abandon successful strategies, programs, and even organizational missions.

I wish I could say that this never happens in educational institutions, but unfortunately it does…often. Whether the former superintendent was a well-respected leader or someone who had to leave town under the cover of darkness,  we all feel the need to distinguish our administration from the former administration.

Here is my suggestion to avoid this pitfall. As a new CEO/superintendent, find a seasoned, authentic staff member who has no problem telling truth to power, check your ego at the door, and let them advise about what you are thinking of changing. Review with them the logic behind your proposed change. Realize that almost any change requires a cultural shift, as well as a structural change. And remember “Desperately searching for a tree on which to leave a mark”  is not a career builder legacy, nor the caption you want scribbled under your portrait in the lobby!

 

 

10,000 hours of Leadership Practice?

There has been a great deal made of the 10,000 hour rule to accomplish mastery discussed in Gladwell’s Outliers and Colvin’s Talent is Overrated. Unfortunately, most of the references neglect the other part of the research that says that 10,000 hours must be spent on deliberate practice.

There is a great discussion of the Anders Ericsson research regarding deliberate practice in the book, Influencer. The authors apply it to the practice of leadership.

Granted, business schools typically offer a course in giving presentations and speeches where the performance components that students are asked to practice are so obvious. but this is not the case with other important leadership skills, such as addressing controversial topics, confronting bad behavior, building coalitions, running a meeting, disagreeing with authority figures or influencing behavior change – all of which call for specific behaviors, and all of which can and must be learned through deliberate practice.

OK, so how many of you have practiced those crucial conversations? Think it might be time for some role play? Your executive staff could probably use some practice as well.

What good is a performance review, if it doesn’t change behavior?

Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone in their article in the January-February issue of Harvard Business Review say that feedback, a necessary component of continuous improvement, is problematic because it creates a tension between two very human needs – the need to learn and grow and the need to be accepted for who we are. They describe the three ways criticism can push your buttons – truth triggers, relationship triggers and identity triggers. then they suggest six ways to be a better receiver, that is ways to find the coaching in the criticism. Here is the article.

http://hbr.org/2014/01/find-the-coaching-in-criticism/ar/1

Understanding and adjusting your attitude when you are receiving or delivering a review is one aspect of the process. This sensitizes the giving as well as the receiving. The other aspect of the productive review is frequency. In order to make reviews more productive they must be delivered frequently. Timing is everything. More work? Not necessarily. Go back and review One Page Talent Management by Marc Effron and Miriam Ort. This technique absolutely nails the productive review process. The review as described by these experts eliminates complexity and adds value…and changes behavior! And isn’t that what you want?

Changing Culture in order to Succeed

On November 14, 2013 Booz & Company published a whitepaper containing their survey findings about culture and organizational change. They surveyed 2,200 executives, managers and employees and analyzed the results. 

As an enabler of change, culture remains stubbornly under leveraged. Both the survey data and our years of experience observing a wide range of companies trying to transform some aspect of their business or operations suggest that culture is usually pretty far down the priority list.

Day-to-day attention to organizational culture from leadership is the only way to make sure change is successful. Your strategic plan must stress the “why” and its connection to culture. Change management consultants frequently use the analogy of a ship’s trim tabs as an illustration of how to apply leverage and change direction. Organizational culture is the trim tab for change. Recognize culture’s importance, or your initiatives (regardless of how logical or well-meaning) will likely fail.

 

Maeda Exits

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John Maeda announced on Wednesday that he will be leaving his post as president of Rhode Island School of Design. RISD is one of a handful of premier post-secondary institutions. His interview by Shauncey Ferro in Fast Company is here. http://www.fastcodesign.com/3023047/why-john-maeda-is-leaving-risd-for-a-venture-capital-firm?partner=newsletter

Although the fact that he is leaving to join a venture capital firm is surprising, it is this comment that I found most thought provoking:

RISD’s in great shape. At the [MIT] Media Lab, one of my mentors was a man named Stephen Benton. He once told me, “John, the role of someone in a job is to make the job more attractive for the next person.” I’ll never forget what he said to me. In that spirit, I have worked to make this job a better job for the next person.

How many of us can say we have done this? How many teachers, principals, superintendents that leave for a promotion, or another career, or another challenge have worked to make their current job better or easier for the next person?

What’s Your Story?

Turnover in the education business is a fact of life. I have been told there are 200 new superintendents in the state of Texas alone every year. In the United States it is unusual to find a superintendent who has been in a district longer than five years. It is even more unusual as the size of the district increases.

We work in education because we want to make a difference in this world. For a superintendent, regardless of your years of tenure, leadership is about making your district better than how you found it. One simple way to do that is to help your district to write their story. Ty Montague talks about writing a company’s narrative when a leader departs. http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/08/if-your-leader-departs-preserve-the-companys-story-first/

To ensure continuity of purpose, doesn’t it make sense for school districts as well?

Plan the Work…and Work the Plan(ner)

Mixed Media from Patricia Steele Raible

Think of the Possibilities Patricia Steele Raible

I am amazed how many organizations large and small do business without a planner. There is a reason that planes aren’t allowed to take off without a flight plan! Yes, we all joke about building it while we are flying it, but you still have to know where you are going. Of course many organizations publish their vision and mission and goal statements. Some even display them on their web sites. Still it comes down to who is measuring progress? The CEO/Superintendent cannot be expected to do it all and keep everyone on course.

If you haven’t already, designate someone to measure your organization’s progress toward your goals. And then call them a chief Planning Officer or Chief Strategy Officer or just a Planner. Send them up to the crow’s nest to see what is on the horizon. You might be surprised at what’s ahead!

Educational Moneyball

  1. Although they require a living wage, teachers unlike baseball players are not motivated by money; if they were, they wouldn’t be in education.
  2. The real measure of a high quality educational organization should be how many of their minor league teachers can they turn into major league all-stars. Hiring effective teachers that someone else has trained is cheating. Buying the Red Sox just before the World Series, doesn’t make you the world champion. 
  3. Most educational organizations put their rookies into the starting lineup from day one. Most baseball organizations carefully cultivate their minor league players make sure they are ready for the big dance.
  4. Even the best professional baseball player doesn’t win the world series every year, and the best teacher doesn’t dramatically improve their students’ test scores every year. In fact some excellent teachers don’t even teach tested subjects!
  5. You can’t predict the winner of a baseball game by knowing which team had the highest income. And yet, academic performance and a students’ family income are very closely correlated. You can even predict ACT and SAT scores based upon this.
  6. Just like in baseball, disruptive innovation in education will not come from the big money organizations.  There are thousands of highly capable general managers (public school superintendents) in this country with low-budget educational teams in small revenue markets just like the Oakland A’s. These educational leaders will be the source of innovation. Not because they are flush with cash from grants, but precisely the opposite. There were no baseball teams using sabermetrics until Billy Beane came to Oakland.
  7. Baseball is now a statistically rich game, education (though surely more important) is statistically anemic – almost all of our performance conclusions are based upon the annual results of three to five standardized tests. This too shall pass.