I had the opportunity to attend a webinar with Lynn Carter, Director of Talent Acquisition at Netflix. Many of you know Netflix as the first company to ship a DVD straight to your home (my mom still loyally queues up movies to be delivered to her Oregon home every week). In the past decade, Netflix has also gained recognition as a leader in organizational design and culture. Having had the chance to learn from Carter, I listen to Netflix Founder and CEO Reed Hastings on Reid Hoffman’s podcast, Masters of Scale. From these two interviews, I discerned three key lessons from how Netflix thinks about building and evolving their organizational culture that I think are relevant to any leader who wants to strengthen their own organizational culture.
In writing this blog post I revisited notes from the dozens of conferences I’ve been lucky to attend in the past year. One conference that continues to stand out in terms of content, collaboration, and creativity is the Responsive Conference. I was lucky to join as an attendee last year and plan to return with a team of colleagues and clients this September.
There were so many great sessions and presenters, but one quote, in particular, has stuck with me. Jocelyn Ling Malan, Principal Incandescent shared this concise, but powerful advice about organizational culture, “Design things as systems, not in parts.”
In one of the panel presentations at the Education Elements Personalized Learning Summit , Julia Freeland-Fisher (The Clayton Christensen Institute), Anthony Kim (Education Elements), and Lydia Dobyns (New Tech Network) shared what they’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about networked teams and learning. All three have new books out this year exploring the power of networks. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how we learn and how we share information as I’ve worked with Alexis Gonzales-Black and Anthony Kim to develop activities to support their book, The NEW School Rules.
As we work with schools and districts around the county to help them learn about and implement The NEW School Rules, one of the questions we’re often asked is “how do I become a better manager?” There are many theories of leadership and what it takes to be a great managers. I am particularly inspired by the work of LifeLabs Learning, who help managers develop a coaching mindset.
Take a look at your calendars and consider the number of meetings you have each week. Can you say that you go through most of those meetings and 100% finish on time and in each of those meetings you get 80%-90% of the agenda items covered? While getting all this done, can you say that 100% of all meeting attendees get a chance to participate? I can. Just tweaking a few things about your meeting will make a significant difference in your organizational culture.
Many of you may know about the influential book Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World that was published in 2016. General McChrystal and his book have had an enormous impact on how leaders think about teaming and collaboration. In particular, McChrystal’s book inspired Anthony Kim and Alexis Gonzales-Black and how they think about teams and decision-making in their own book, The NEW School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools.
Last month I was privileged to be one of 175 leaders selected to attend the inspiring Culture Conference in Santa Clara, CA. There were so many brilliant thinkers and ideas at this event that it will likely provide fodder for many future blog posts.
We all are familiar with the Trust Fall – the stereotypical team building activity where you fall backwards and another person catches you. The goal of this activity is to promote trust in the workplace; unfortunately, it doesn’t work. That is, although we almost always catch the falling teammate, the trust isn’t easily transferred to the world of work, where the circumstances, the speed, and the definitions of roles and accountabilities are apt to be much different.
If there was ever a time in my career as a school and district leader that I wish I could have a “do-over”, it is now.
Why, you might ask? Well, I just finished this fascinating new book about teaming.
In fact, as I read through Anthony Kim and Alexis Gonzales-Black’s recent book, The NEW School Rules (NSR), I was taken back by how clearly they identified the dysfunctions that occur so often in school district work. They point out what I experienced time after time. Teams I led, and teams I was a member of, worked so hard to develop plans to solve our problems. We had, what Anthony and Alexis refer to as the “effort of the engine.” But, we weren’t addressing the underlying structure, processes, and rules that our teams were using to focus and shape our efforts. Looking back, we missed in three key ways.
I was recently introduced to The NEW School Rules book on a webinar with co-author Anthony Kim. After learning about the book, I decided to dig into Chapter 1 Planning: Plan For Change, Not Perfection and Chapter 2 Teaming: Build Trust and Allow Authority To Spread. As I read, I found myself looking through a distributed leadership lens, starting with the question: How do superintendents bring innovation into their district while balancing the pressures for high levels of accountability for student success, as well as the maintenance of a professional learning environment for their teachers?