Do you want a winning season? Or are you interested in a winning team? A winning team will make it to states year after year, and no single player or coach takes all the credit.
If you follow football, you may have watched the game between Clemson and Ohio State. If you watched that game, you saw something that has ever happened before. With a final score of 31-0, Urban Meyer, one of the most celebrated coaches in college football history, was shut out for the first time in his college career which spans more than 30 years. I was sad for him.
Clemson went on to win the National Championship agains Alabama (35-31) , a target that was elusive 12 months ago. In 2016, Clemson lost to Alabama in the Natonal Championship 40-45.
When I was a school administrator, I often referred to a school year as a race. And we didn’t win every race. But each year was an attempt to reach the finish line successfully. While a successful year was marked by academic success for all students based upon standardized test results, there were other goals of working as a team, maintaining a clear and distinctly spiritual student climate, parent and community support. All things that are a little more difficult to measure, but easily identifiable when all goes wrong.
One year we had experience some significant growth and I needed to hire 6 new teachers for the upper school. I gave the responsibility of placing ads to my assistant principal. It wasn’t long that she reported that she had hit a “gold mine” of potential candidates. Since we were already down to the wire, I made a quick decision to add 6 very young members to the team and within a week we began orientation.
That year was horrendous. Two of the new hires under up having an affair and being terminated. Two of the teachers just didn’t rise to the level of rigor for which our program was known. And while they were good people, they did not believe the same things we corporately believed as a staff and school, that the key to our program was intensely structured discipline and excessively high expectations for all students. We lost the race that year.
Long term school improvement depends upon a solid strategy to improve over time. Nothing is more important to that task than the team that leads the initiative.
My kids attend a local school that has a decent football program. A few years ago the team won the state championship. They haven’t been back since. Part of the reason is keeping and cultivating quality players. If a football team cannot keep and cultivate an excellent quarterback, they likely will never really accomplish much. The quarterback is the central leader of the football team (on the field anyway).
If we break this down to its simplest terms, developing strategic improvement for any organization is like developing a high school or college football team. Anyone can get lucky and win a state championship one year. But to return year after year requires developing a program that identifies weaknesses, improves upon strengths, and develops the whole team at the individual level as well as the group, or corporate level. There is nothing more devastating to a football program than losing half of your team to senior graduation. How deep is the talent that is left behind? If time was not spent developing those players, then you will simply wait for that one ringer to transfer into your school so you can get lucky one more time.
Do you want a winning season? Or are you interested in a winning team? A winning team will make it to states year after year, and no single player or coach takes all the credit. Likewise, a school that has developed each program, and each system will win year after year. I have seen many school where the reputation for quality is vested literally in one or two great teachers that the school has been lucky enough to hire. Should those teacher retire or otherwise quit, the school’s reputation will quickly spiral downward.
What is your school’s reputation built upon? Is it a quality program? Or is it based upon a few quality teachers? As a school leader, focus on creating a winning team. Don’t worry about the year that you are in. Think about long-term improvement.
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