Lead Smarter, Not Harder Tip 6: Develop an “Avoid at All Costs” List.

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet and to the point:  If you want to be an effective leader of schools, the most important step that you can take is to develop an “avoid at all costs” list for your school.

John Matychuk

What exactly IS an “avoid at all costs” list?

It’s a twist on a Warren Buffet idea that is EXACTLY what it sounds like:  A detailed list of all of the leftover initiatives that teachers in your building should walk away from immediately.

See, here’s the thing:  Schools are SWIMMING in good ideas. 

We want to see critical thinking or collaborative problem solving or the integration of creativity in every classroom, every day.  We want to develop grit and a growth mindset in every student.  We want teachers to recognize and create equitable learning spaces.  We want to see kids using new nonfiction reading strategies regardless of the classes that they are taking.

We want learning to be flipped and blended and differentiated and personalized.  We want a Smarter Balanced, Next Generation Common Core that every teacher implements with fidelity.   We want to be STEM schools and STEAM schools and BYOD schools and 1:1 schools and 3:1 schools.

We want restorative justice and morning meetings and bullying prevention and brain-based learning.  We want real world problem solving and project-based learning and problem-based learning.

And while ALL of these ideas have value, NONE of them are worth a durn-tootin’ thing if you are trying to convince teachers to tackle them all at the exact same time.  

In fact, most experts argue that if you try to tackle too many projects at the same time in your building, your teachers will suffer from initiative fatigue.  Here’s how that’s defined by Doug Reeves:

The Law of Initiative Fatigue states that when the number of initiatives increases while time, resources, and emotional energy are constant, then each new initiative—no matter how well conceived or well intentioned—will receive fewer minutes, dollars, and ounces of emotional energy than its predecessors.

But speaking as a teacher, I’d argue that if you try to tackle too many projects at the same time in your building, your teachers will suffer from INITIATIVE PARALYSIS.  Here’s my tongue-in-cheek definition for Initiative Paralysis:

 The Law of Initiative Paralysis states that when the number of initiatives increases while time, resources, and emotional energy are constant, then each classroom teacher — no matter how well intentioned — will stop working with a purpose, confused about just where to spend their time and effort.  Initiative Paralysis will last until the afflicted teachers are convinced that an initiative is truly worth investing in because it really IS a priority in their school and/or district and it really DOES improve learning spaces for students.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?  

Are YOUR teachers suffering from Initiative Paralysis?

If so, then sit down RIGHT NOW and use this worksheet to create YOUR Avoid at All Costs list.

And then make it public.  Tell people the projects that they can walk away from over and over and over again.  Emphasize that you really ARE prioritizing the work your people are going to do over the next few years and that it really IS okay to ignore all of the stuff that used to be important in your building.

There’s something strangely beautiful about staying focused, y’all.

#leadsmarter

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Related Radical Reads:

Lead Smarter Tip 1:  Understand Teacher Approaches to Change

Lead Smarter Tip 2:  Start Asking Better Interview Questions

Lead Smarter Tip 3: Start Building Social Capital with Everyone

4 thoughts on “Lead Smarter, Not Harder Tip 6: Develop an “Avoid at All Costs” List.

  1. jen hasler troutman

    Thanks, Pal! As always!

    Your work is my inspiration for my goal setting process again this year. So, another nod to you.

    Think of ya each time we have breakfast at the little spot on the square where we had breakfast when you were here for ICE at Noblesville… gosh, has that been 2 years ago now?

    Hope all is well!

    jen

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Jen,

      I ALWAYS dig seeing you in my stream, that’s for sure! It’s people like you who leave me convinced that education really is in good hands. I’m so glad that we connected in Cincy and again in Noblesville — and I hope it happens again someday.

      Hope you are well and happy,
      Bill

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