Monday, September 8, 2008

Failure to back you team will result in failure

Everyone has their weaknesses and often as Principals it becomes easy to identify weaknesses in staff. Staff too are able to recognize weaknesses in leadership. The thing though that all staff need to be able to do is to identify and appreciate the strengths. It’s I suppose the glass half full scenario.
BUT for me the most important thing is knowing when colleagues need support and recognizing that given time, opportunity and help, that success will follow.

Daniel Waaka was a very fast boy who could only take one instruction at a time. Not the sharpest tool in the shed. He was quick and was pointed at the corner flag and told to “run Forest run”. I asked his parents to stand in the corner he was pointed at and I said “wait for Daniel to score in this corner”.
The problem was that the opposition kicked a few times and Daniel got the ball in awkward situations, he was needed to do other things instead of running full tilt. By half time he was a liability and his confidence was as low as the looks of sadness on the faces of his proud parents. My wonderful assistant whispered “get him off Lukey”, before halftime. The writing was on the wall for poor Daniel.

The thing was that that the game was secured, almost, and the risk was low. Why not leave him there, encourage him, and hope the ball comes his way just once. By pulling him off his game was over, his confidence shot, and he wouldn’t play again at the tournament.
My head and heart told me he stays. So Daniel plays on, nothing comes his way, he continues to have a shocker, he leaves the field devastated, but we do win the game.

After a few ales my offsider mentions politely that Dan’s tournament is over. The next morning (and this is significant - the fact that I slept on it) we name the team for todays game. I start the meeting with “first name for me is Daniel”.
It was a game we needed to win, but Dan needed to be backed/supported more than the teams result. He needed success, we could cover for the times he got the ball in awkward circumstances, and we could give him early opportunities to run for the corner.
Dan started, and parents waited in the said corner, he scored three times before half time right in front of them. I was able to sub Dan at halftime and I watched him head for mum and dad, hugs, pride, success, confidence.

So Principals here is my inference for you:
Take your time over decisions.                                                 slept on it
Look at the big picture not at todays result.                          he needs to play again
Look for potential especially after failure.                             he can still run fast
Place a support network around if its required.                    got other players to cover for him
Line up the ducks so success becomes easier.                        called moves to put him in the clear
Measure success in small steps.                                                subbed at half time after success

We went on to win that Roller Mills Tournament in 1992 and Dan lined up with 21 others for his gold medal.


Pedro said...

Nicely put.
So then how do staff offer similar support to their leaders? Often it's hard to see the struggles faced when they've got their own heads down and the only time there's an energy exchange is when they want something. But what to offer back? and how to be informed of the need?
It would require a kind of honesty, transparency, vulnerability even in the leader to allow that to happen. I wonder what sets leaders up to succeed and what can they expect from an ideal working relationship with their staff for the principals to thrive too?
So much dialogue seems focused on what principals can give to a school, or how they 'manage' resources and staffing.. It seems almost a given that the needs of principals are fueled beyond the gate, with PD and principal networking. ( thank goodness for those resources too, that keep vision and purpose beyond the day to day..) But perhaps there's a roll for teachers in that too, and in acknowledging that or making opportunity for it, new things can happen.
So, if your staff wanted to support you the best they could, what would that look like and how would they know?

Podgorani said...

Nice point pedro. I think for me the best support you can give a leader is a glass half full. Its really hard to lead with doom sayers and people who are wallowing. Personally I feed off staff and when their attitude is good it becomes infectious. When a positive attitude prevails, it becomes easy to be honest, and deal with problems without dragging things down.