Thursday, November 5, 2015

Creating a Championship Culture: What Do the Leaders Do?

By Vicki Bechard, 
LFKS Secretary

Many of us (myself included) have spent the last few weeks staying up late, watching and cheering as our boys in blue (Royal blue that is) scratched and clawed their way to a World Series Championship.  They are at the top of their game.  The fans have been swept up in the excitement and marvel at what they can accomplish both individually and together as a team.  Most of us just watch the ball.  However, since I’m an old coach, so I also like to think about how they got there.  And because I’m a teacher at heart, I also wonder what lessons educators can take from these boys of summer (and fall!). 

In my most recent personal blog, I wrote about the lessons we could learn from the Royals’ journey to the 2015 championship.  I cited 3 lessons, although I probably could have cited 30.  There were so many teachable moments as we witnessed the players taking advantage of tiny cracks in the opponents’ armor, making amazing defensive plays, and banging out clutch hits as they “kept the line moving.” But for this blog, my question is not about what we saw on the surface, it is about things generally unseen by fans or media.  The most compelling question for me is, “What did the leaders do?”

Communicating and Implementing the Vision.  As we celebrated with more Facebook posts, tweets, pictures, and articles than I could count, I loved reading about how we got there.  There was indeed a plan…. In fact, a long term plan….that guided the many decisions that were made both on and off the field over the past few years.  It wasn’t by accident that this team was successful and is now in a position to be successful for years to come.  It started with General Manager Dayton Moore creating and clarifying a vision to develop a championship culture.  From that beginning he made many moves, not as fast as some would have liked, but he built the Royals team that we see today coach by coach, player by player, and trade by trade. There was no magic bullet or quick fix.  Everyone had to buy in and commit to the long haul.  Even the team owner had to finally demonstrate his full commitment by adding more money to the salary pool so they had the necessary resources at their disposal to realize the vision.  

The Royals rise to success focused on people first.  As Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and other leadership books, writes, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”  They analyzed data (player performances) but more importantly focused on the people behind those numbers.  In a recent Yahoo Sports article, author Jeff Passan illustrated how the Royals General Manager understands the value of the people in developing a championship culture when he quoted Moore as saying it was important 
“to focus on people, trust them and bask in their success.”   
When we want to affect change, taking care of the people must be a top priority.  Many of the change models we have studied in Learning Forward’s Educational Leadership Program (ELP) stress the importance of understanding the needs and strengths of the stakeholders.   How are we involving and nurturing the teachers in our schools as we implement change that leads to excellent teaching and learning?

Another key leader in the Royals success was manager Ned Yost.  Much maligned early in his tenure in Kansas City, and even down the stretch for some on the field strategic decisions, Yost is a skilled communicator of his philosophy.  He also has learned to trust his players and coaches to make good decisions – built on the purposeful work and preparation that happens in spring training, before games, and during the off-season.  He has made adjustments in his managerial style that paid dividends with the Royals.  Yost, quoted by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Tim Haudricort in an October 2014 article, says, 
"I've learned to let my players be themselves. I'm every bit as patient as I was (in Milwaukee). Because I have great coaches, I think I listen a lot more than I did back then. I was pretty hard-headed. I'm a little more flexible now." 
This shift in his own perspective and behavior helped turn the tide for the improving Royals.  His understanding of his players created loyalty from those players and a family-like culture where they support each other and believe they can overcome any obstacle, which has led to this year’s wildly successful season when most picked them to be at home watching the playoffs on TV.  We take away from Ned and his staff the importance of communication and trust, and the benefits of self-reflection.  Leaders develop a culture of success by their believing in their people, communicating their vision and assessing their own performance as well.  When you reflect on your performance as a leader, are you looking at only the results or the process too?

Effective leadership develops capacity, advocates, and creates support systems.  The Royals organization is a model of this type of leadership.  Consider all the “home grown” talent that makes up the majority of the Royals’ roster.  They have developed capacity and provided support for these young players that have led to quality skill development, can-do attitudes, and championship thinking.  How are you developing the capacity of your educators in your school or district to achieve the goal of excellent teaching and learning every day? 

Leadership matters in every organization.  We are in the business of school and the leadership affects every aspect of the school.  In order to create and implement a plan, leaders must effectively communicate the vision and ensure that decisions are made that align to the intent of the plan.  Leadership matters as we plan professional learning opportunities that provide understanding and support of the change initiatives.  Gone are the days where stand-alone staff development days consisting of sit-and-get activities are considered effective ways to positively impact professional learning.  In what ways is your school moving past these one and done silos of learning toward more personalized learning for individuals and/or small groups?  How are we addressing the learning needs of the faculty?

Three of the Standards of Professional Learning really stand out when considering the Royals’ rise to success:  Leadership, Resources and Learning Communities.  By developing capacity, prioritizing and coordinating resources, and engaging in continuous improvement, organizations such as the Royals, and more importantly your school, can develop collective responsibility and achieve the outcomes set forth in the road map for success.

As you reflect on your own leadership journey, consider some or all of the following questions:
·         How effectively are you communicating the vision? 
·         Have you surrounded yourself with quality teammates and listened to what they have to offer? 
·         How are you building the capacity of those with whom you work and/or supervise to achieve excellent teaching and learning every day?
·         How are you creating and sustaining a culture of success in your school?  

Consider the kind and quality of leadership that put together this group of Royals players who had the talent, the heart, and the commitment to succeed, and then let them play.  What would teaching and learning look like if Kansas schools did it the Royals’ way?

1 comment:

  1. GREAT QUESTIONS.....Let's begin the dialogue. What WILL teaching and learning look like when Kansas schools do it the Royals’ way? Of course.....STUDENT SUCCESS!!