I read a very compelling article in the Harvard Business Review last month that highlighted the steps one fast food company in Tennessee uses to build a high functioning culture while attracting and keeping key personnel in an industry that is notoriously transient and arbitrary.
Click here for the story.
In the article Thomas Crosby, CEO of Pal’s Sudden Service, discusses how they build a culture of consistency, high performance, skill building, and success. As a an educator that leads curriculum and instruction work for a district along with teacher induction and professional development programs, I was quick to note his big three points align quite well with the work all educational leaders should embark upon in their daily work with developing teachers and other staff on the campus.
While often times looking at a business world model for improvement can break down at some point when trying to compare it to the education world where we do not control the quality of the raw materials at the outset nor do we remove or kick out imperfect raw materials during the process of teaching students, the truths of this article can stand the test of time and cross over to the educational arena.
- The best companies hire for attitude and train for skill–As educational leaders, we can sometimes become overly focused on the content that needs to be taught and particular skill sets or backgrounds that teachers possess when we hire. We will be better served (and so will our students) if we, instead, focus on exactly what kind of character and attitude our current and aspiring teaching staff possess and realize that we can teach and develop skill but the core of a person is much more difficult to mold. Lesson for leaders: define and know what your core values are for your staff and your campus and skillfully measure anyone who wants to be part of your staff by those standards.
- Even great people need constant opportunities for improvement–As an educational leader, how do you check the “calibration” of your staff? Just like machines, people can become uncalibrated. We have to be specific and purposeful in how we design our professional development and how we ensure that our teaching staff participates in the appropriate and necessary type, style, and amount of training. Moreover, we have to provide opportunities for our most talented educators to share what they know with others and to be a vessel for others to fulfill that constant need for improvement opportunities.
- Leaders who are serious about hiring also have to be serious about teaching–As an educational leader, one has to be committed to modeling an insatiable desire to learn for the entire campus. Michael Fullan describes this as being a “lead learner”. The most successful leaders formalize the learning and teaching (sharing) expectations for their campus or organization. Pursuing knowledge and sharing the learning from that pursuit cannot be optional.
So there you have it. Three statements of truth that work for leaders whether your running a fast food burger shop or a comprehensive high school or even a school district.
It matters what we do (or don’t do) when it comes to investing in our teachers and other instructional staff. While some may argue that the task is too difficult or that there isn’t enough money/time or that it takes too much money/time, a quote by Thomas Crosby sums it up quite well:
“People ask me, ‘What if you spend all this time and money on training and someone leaves?’” Crosby says. “I ask them, ‘What if we don’t spend the time and money, and they stay?’”