Jim Collins has written extensively about the concept of turning the flywheel. The idea is simple.
Success breeds support and commitment, which breeds even greater success, which breeds more support and commitment… around and around the flywheel goes. People like to support a winner.
I have written about leadership quite a few times and have modeled some examples of good and bad leaders on real individuals. This comes as no surprise to any of my readers. I have also served my time working for public and private universities and public school districts, as well as for two Fortune 500 companies, and meanwhile have consulted for the past 10 years across the Permian in multiple industries. I have served on many nonprofit boards as well. Therefore, I want to discuss the nonprofit/social sector, particularly public education, in this article.
Educators are disciplined and—with some help, encouragement, and less criticism—will embrace the notion that they are great and can make the future workforce great. I am not naïve, I am realistic. How did Tim Leach or Autry Stephens achieve success without believing in themselves, their abilities, and their employees?
In education, defining Great means not looking at how much money we have but at how effectively we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact with limited resources.
What does superior performance look like, how can we have a remarkable impact, and how do we have lasting endurance? How do you track progress and gather quantitative and qualitative evidence?
I have had the good fortune of being a school leader in three Blue Ribbon Schools. The report Early College High School at Midland College turned in that eventually won them the same recognition was based on data and results. Is it possible to replicate this in other schools? Yes!
So how do public schools in the Permian get to greatness?
Getting to greatness requires excellent leadership. School leaders need to have legislative leadership skills that require being great at persuasion, political currency, and shared interests to create the conditions for the right decisions to be made.
Getting the right people on the bus is essential. It would be best if you filled the seats with people compulsively driven to make whatever they touch the best it can be.
Education, like any other business, focuses on the great and not just the acceptable staff members. Employees want to be well-trained and have the tools to do their jobs well. School leaders must stay focused and not jump on the next best thing to fix education. I have been around long enough to see programs recycled several times with different names. Good teaching is good teaching.
Hiring educators is no different from hiring an accountant. You want someone with the education and experience to do the job well.
We all need to remember that not everyone can be the boss. The best of the best need to be in a classroom teaching. It’s no different than hiring the best lawyer or CPA, right?
To rebuild the education systems in the Permian, we need transformational leaders. They need time to get to greatness and to build a better brand to attract the best talent in the Permian Basin from local and regional universities.
We need money. We need to look for every grant, review every budget item, verify the data, and evaluate what is working and what is not working. Money makes the world go around. Robinhood takes millions of dollars away from our community, so public education cannot leave one stone left unturned.
Public education’s brand has taken a hit in the past 15 years in the Permian. Rebuilding a brand is not just a good marketing plan; it means building the momentum and excitement to be an educator in the Permian. Remember, success breeds more success. Brand refers to how well your organization can cultivate a deep well of emotional goodwill and mindshare of potential supporters.
From Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept, if you have good results, those results attract resources and commitment. Once a school is awarded a Blue Ribbon School, it is eligible for grants for which it would not have otherwise been eligible.
To summarize, build a great organization, attract believers, build your strength, demonstrate results, and build your brand while always staying focused. Remember, the main thing is the main thing.
Lastly, learn to say “no” to what is not your focus. What are the goals, and what is the plan?
Just because it is challenging to be an educator does not mean you cannot succeed.
This article is dedicated to the leaders in the Permian Basin who oversee educating and delivering a great workforce.
Every one of us can stand shoulder to shoulder and make our unique community a better place, one student at a time, one classroom at a time, one teacher at a time, and one community member at a time. Remember, success breeds success.
I am asking the reader to do one thing in 2023 to encourage the success of our schools in the Permian Basin. Together we can pay it forward.
Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.
Note: The quotes in this article are from Good to Great and The Social Sectors by Jim Collins.
“Your employees are the heart of your organization.” Dr. Michele Harmon is a Human Resource professional, supporting clients in Texas and New Mexico that range in size from five to more than 3,000 employees. Email: email@example.com