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School Culture is Your Advantage or Your Adversary

Posted by Scott Barron on Dec 3, 2014 3:00:06 AM
Scott Barron

School CultureA few weeks ago I spoke at the Free-Enterprise Leadership Summit at Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Florida. Having visited that beautiful city many times, I confess that I had not heard of this fine school where they brag often about their commitment to entrepreneurship and that Rollie Massimino is the men's basketball coach.

Dr. Keith Pretty, President of NU, and his staff were diligent and gracious hosts. I had the opportunity to meet several successful CEOs who are keenly interested in collaborating on and investing in education innovation.

One topic that was frequently raised during the Summit centered around how to foster more effective innovation in K12 and higher ed schools. My challenge to the attendees was to consider ways of engaging education and community leaders on solutions rather than shortfalls. We all know there is room for improvement, but how do we build continuous momentum toward a culture and ecosystem that will sustain real growth?

Culture is an undervalued asset for school leaders. School culture is your advantage or your adversary--it's either a competitive asset that is contributing to your desired results, or the culture in your school is driving teachers and students away to consider other options.

Question to ask when assessing your school culture include:

Responsive: Do your leaders and community respond or react to situations?

The answer depends on the emotional intelligence of your leaders and your organization as a whole. Responding means that you have a plan of action, maintain your composure and connectivity, and assist the people involved in resolving the issues and moving forward with your mission. Reacting to situations involves emotional swings that undermine trust and unity because the leaders have not adequately prepared--self-interest supersedes the good of the whole community.

Collaborative: Do you cooperatively create solutions?

There are no well-rounded people--only well-rounded teams who leverage the strengths of each individual. A collaborative school culture has evidence of working jointly towards common goals, sharing knowledge, and wisely and respectfully navigating conflicts.

Engaging: Are faculty, staff, students, and parents deeply and intentionally connected?

The commitment of the entire community to enhancing the mission and quality of the organization is an accurate predictor of student growth and success. This is especially true regarding faculty engagement.

Innovating: Is creative problem solving advocated, supported, and rewarded?

No school is ideal, so it makes sense that you have the humility to acknowledge opportunities for improvement and then actively seek better solutions. Innovating is finding ways to improve your value proposition for faculty and families, connecting the dots in new ways that move you forward toward your mission and desired results.

Personal: Are you developing the unique genius of each person?

WIIFM? That's the question every employee, parent, student, and donor is asking. What's in it for me? Your school culture can be designed to identify, support, and develop the unique genius of each person. Your classroom experiences and methods can be designed to inspire each student rather than groups.

How will the design of your school culture emerge in 2015?

Topics: Administration

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