Last month I had the opportunity to collaborate with Kawai Lai, a former Education Elements (EE) teammate who recently founded VizLit with Lisa Kay Solomon and Dan Roam. Kawai and I are working together to create a Responsive Org Playbook for EE (sneak peek here). We believe the playbook will help us clarify our organizational design, support us to continue evolving as a company, and enable us to share our responsive practices with others (and build on what we’ve already shared with The NEW School Rules). During our three days huddled in a room together, it became increasingly clear to me that visuals are the best way to simplify complex ideas. This isn’t an insight unique to me, in fact, many others including Nancy Duarte, Dan Roam, David McCandless, Willemien Brand, and Jamie Slater have expressed the power of visuals to clarify and synthesize your thinking.
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.
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.
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.