Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

Op-ed #11

Do you have more to fix than broken windows?


You may have spruced everything up on the outside of your building, but now you need to look at the people around the building.


Back in August I wrote about the need for keeping your shades at one level.  For me, this has always been a metaphor for having an appealing and inviting looking place. Yes, a neat and orderly place.  Always remember, as people drive by your school, they will remember what the building looks like.  The shades need to be even.  First impressions are critical.  I have also spoken about the broken window philosophy employed by many cities. There is a great deal of research on this topic offering both pro and con voices.   These leaders who live by this philosophy feel that it is essential to repair any broken windows and remove any graffiti as soon as possible.  Not taking care of these items quickly will send a message that it is okay to exist in this manner. 

As spring approaches, I am sure that you are trimming your bushes, cleaning out your gardens of winter debris and repairing pot holes in your driveway.  But are you taking a look at the people that hang around your building?  This could ultimately be more important than your garden being well manicured, your lawn being cut or if your shades are at one level.  All of the window dressing, will not matter if one sees people around your building that communicate the exact opposite message.

I know, I made this mistake.  My building looked fine, but the young adults hanging around the building, not even on school property, made it look terrible.  I did not work closely enough with the police and community to remove these people.  For the most part, these were young adults that had nothing better to do than to hang around the school at dismissal time.  They were no longer students, yet for them, this was still the place to be. I am not suggesting that they were doing anything bad or had bad intentions.  I knew most of them well.  But I am suggesting that these “hangers on” gave the school a bad feeling. And let’s stop there before anyone may think that I am going down some sort of profiling highway.  I am not.  These “hangers on” as I like to call them, come in all shapes, sizes, colors and sexes.

I know that outsiders could have very easily been frightened away by this group.  I could only imagine what a parent of an up and coming eighth grade student thought of this crew. Would you want your 13-year-old navigating this?

For those of you that perhaps don’t know what I mean, stop one evening, later than usual, at a local 7 Eleven, Wawa or Dunkin Donuts when you have to navigate a gauntlet of teenagers by the door to get into the store to pick up your quart of milk or that cup of coffee that you so drastically need. They were really not doing anything wrong, but I bet you were somehow intimindated.  And if that is too strong of a word, I bet that you were cautious.  You may have even decided not to get out of your car and find a different location.  I have been there and done that.

If you are a business owner or one that it is the corporate world, just think if your customers had to navigate a similar group when your customers were seeking to do business.  Probably most of you reading this blog are too young to remember what Times Square looked like years ago.  Part of the turnaround and transformation of this area happened because the unsavory characters were moved away from this place.

So, the lesson for the day is to look deeper at your facility.  Look beyond the lawn, shrubbery and trees.  Look beyond the “broken windows” and the level of the shades.  Is there something else that is sending a negative vibe about your school or business?  Each one of you may have a different issue.  Find your issue and address it.

Today on your way home, stop and look around.  And based upon what you see, and only what you see, do you want to come back?  And yes, more importantly, if you are the principal of this school, would you want your children to go there?


Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

Op-ed #10

Are you tormented by your vocal minority??


You have a silent majority, but I bet you spend your time dealing with the vocal minority.


If you conducted a truthful survey of your staff, I would bet that most people would reveal that although things could always get better, they are probably fairly content at work. If they are not truly happy, they are probably still at some level of comfortableness.  Hopefully, they are not miserable.

Of course, if the culture is functioning the way it should be, happiness would just about be a given.  A healthy climate and culture promote a happy staff.  The entire notion of a healthy climate is the focus of my next book.  For the purpose of this blog today I want you to think about that vocal minority that ends up being a big pain in your backside.

The first thing I would do is to eliminate the use of the singular or plural indefinite pronoun.   I spent many years chasing after everyone, everybody, no one, nobody and nothing.  I can recall many days after one of my bearers of bad news came to visit me, and after the conversation, I would sit at my desk in bewilderment and depression.  Was this information accurate?  Did everyone really feel this way? Did all people really believe that?

Sadly, I will never be able to get back the energy wasted, or the hair lost over these runaway comments by this vocal minority.  I also wish I had all of the time back that I wasted on these wild goose chases about me, my philosophy, or my procedures and policies.

As I matured in my leadership roles, I was able to put these comments in a much better perspective.  I was able to compartmentalize them in my brain.  Of course, I had to reflect and do my own undercover operation to see if there was some semblance of the truth in these comments.  But I soon realized that everyone or everybody was really three or four disgruntled people hovering near the company’s “bitching post, *” and then running back to tell me all of the dirt.  They also knew how these comments would eat at me. I wore this emotion on my sleeve. I think this gave this vocal minority a great deal of satisfaction and yes, power over me.  You can disempower these folks by putting very little stock into what they are saying. You can probe deeper asking them who exactly is this everybody or nobody.  I think you can rely on the people that you trust and respect to enable you to get the pulse of your organization.

Most great coaches have a trusted group of veterans whom he or she could always talk with to get the real feel as to what was happening in the locker room.  The allies that you have within the ranks are critical.  You must cultivate your own group of veterans. You must respect them and you must show this group your gratitude. 

The silent majority and the vocal minority must want what is best for the organization.  A good leader is able to get the best out of all of these people.  But he or she must never forget that it all starts with relationships and the culture of your team, school or organization.

Go and get to work on your culture.  Everything starts there!

**Bitching post-I am convinced that every school or organization has a spot where this vocal minority clusters to feed off one another.  In schools it may be in the faculty room, faculty dining room or around a secretary’s desk.  Yes, many times your favorite secretary is the source of information for this group.  Your secretary may be in your office applauding you one minute and then goes out and feeds your adversaries the next minute.  We may need a full blog on this in coming weeks.


Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

Op-ed #9

Do you have the courage to be great?


You know about greatness but real greatness takes courage.


You have read all about greatness.  You already know that it takes an incredible work ethic and that super positive attitude to be great. You know about the long practice hours and the staying late and coming in early required for greatness.

You have your dreams and you have set your goals.  You know all about grit and the persistence needed to achieve your goals.  Resiliency has become your middle name.

You have worked hard at maintaining your laser like focus.  You have developed the ability to tune out distractions.

You know all about practice.  Yes, I mean practicing your weaknesses, not practicing your strengths, for that is easy and enjoyable.

And yes, current research tells us that natural talent is not all that important to be great.

So, what message do I want to leave with you today?  What personal quality might separate you from the rest of the pack? 

That quality might just be courage. Do you have the courage to be great?

Drew Brees, the future Hall of Fame quarterback from the New Orleans Saints recently said that being great is lonely.  Yes, it is.  And this one quality is what may separate you from the pack.  In the work environment, do you have the courage to be an individual? Do you have the courage to stand alone when others just fall into line?  Do you have the courage and conviction to be that one last person holding on to an idea or principle?   Do you have the courage to do the right thing?  Do you have the courage to go for the win where others might be happy with the tie? Do you have the courage to ignore the naysayers?  Can you ignore those that are the malcontents in your organization?  You know the ones that hang out in the faculty room and do nothing but bitch and complain. 

It is so easy to fall in with the pack.  As a former school principal, I have seen this time and time again with many teachers.  I saw many teachers with the potential for greatness falling in line with the masses.  As a school superintendent I have seen the same things happen to principals and other administrators; my school leaders.  They too seem to have that propensity to join the clique of mediocrity.  They too seem to have trouble at times standing on their own.  It takes a great deal of maturity to be able to stand on your own in the face of your peers. The courage to be great.  Do you have this courage?  I hope so.