Friday, June 18, 2010

OHUG Research Links

Many thanks to the OHUG team for another great conference. I had a few questions after the keynote about the research we cited - here are a few links.

Center for Creative Leadership: The Changing Nature of Leadership

Gallup: The Next Generation of Leadership (subscription required)

Harvard Business Review: Mentoring Millenials (May, 2010)

Harvard Business Review: How to Keep Your Top Talent (May, 2010)

Harvard Business Review: Are You a High Potential? (June, 2010)


So what are YOU thinking about Leadership and Retaining Key Talent? Any other good research to share?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Tenure Trap

We had a contentious Music Boosters meeting last week: the High School Band Director was let go, and the Principal came in to explain his decision.  I’ve been in the Principal’s shoes before – having to explain why a well-liked person was fired.  But I was surprised to learn how much of the Principal’s decision was impacted by the tenure rules he has to follow. 

In California, if a school employee is slotted against a defined position, that person has to be given tenure, or released, at the end of 2 years.  Think about that for a minute.  What do you know about a person after 2 years?  If they are a rock star, you’ve figured that out.  Grant tenure and congratulate yourself on a great hire. If they are a D player, you’ve got that covered too.  But what if they’re in the middle?  They seem ok, but they aren’t lighting the world on fire.  Or they were dealing with personal problems over the last 6 months, so work wasn’t their 100% focus.  Or they look like they are about to turn the corner and grow into the rock star you know they can be.  In the corporate world, we have tools to deal with that situation – the person meets expectations, gets a low salary increase and you focus performance discussions on how to get to the next level of performance.  But in the school system, you don’t have that room.  If you grant tenure, this person cannot be fired except for egregious actions.

After 2 years, the music program was improving, but not as much as the Principal expected.  Students loved the teacher, and parents were fairly happy as well. But there was still room to grow on the overall excellence of the program, and the Director wasn't necessarily "owning" the vision for the department.  So the Principal had to make a call: keep the Director, who is a great person, but hasn’t risen to the level you expect, or say "we can do better" and release the employee?  Make a bet that a B player will grow to be an A, or cut your losses? 

Despite the pressure from students and parents, the Principal made the decision to release the Director. As he said, if he has the slightest doubt on whether or not to give tenure, he’s not going to do it. It’s far better to go through the short term upheaval of recruiting a new A player than get by with a B player for the next 15-20 years. 

I agree with the Principal’s decision – because I think it’s the right principle to establish in this situation.  To me, the idea of making this long-term decision after only 18 months of performance is ludicrous.  Other states grant tenure after 5 years, which gives an employee more room to take risks and grow earlier in their career.  But if we’ve removed the idea of lifetime jobs from other industries, why is it still acceptable in education?  How would you feel about granting tenure in this situation?   Educators, or parents with kids…what do you think? 

[Image from Thinkpublic used under creative commons]

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Presentations: Square One. Again.

The 13 year-old arrived in the living room last Sunday with a wild look in his eyes.
"Mom, I have to do a presentation on my Math Problem of the Week. Can you teach me Powerpoint?"

[NB: Once upon a time, I was, in fact, paid to teach people how to give presentations. So there's some precedent to the request.]

So we sat down at the table, fired up the computer, and I asked him what he wanted to present. In order, his answers were:
1. I need to show all of the content from my math assignment, because that's what the teacher is looking for.
2. I need to do something that will keep people awake, because this could be boring.
3. I want to do some cool transitions - do you have any with flames?

He's only 13, and already he's been taught that presentations should reflect all of your content, and creativity is limited to how you get from point to point.  On the plus side, the idea of "keeping people awake" had some merit - although I think it had more to do with him not liking math, than thinking about presentations.

45 minutes later, he had 19 slides - all text, with 1 thought per slide. As we were editing for font alignment, I decided to try again - "How are you going to keep people awake?"  We brainstormed, and he loved the idea of framing the problem around creating a new Olympic sport.  All the math calculations could be brought in as "supporting material" for presenting to the IOC on safety standards.  We started changing graphics, adding new images, and talking about the difference between the Story, and the Slide Content.  We finished by finalizing the math components, and agreed to practice the story on Monday.

Monday night. 8pm. "Mom, I know we had a good idea, but I watched the smartest person in class give her presentation today. She had all of her information on the slides, and just read them. So I'm going to do that, too."

Sadly, it'll be a while before the IOC gets to learn about para-skiing ... however, I now know where to find animated slide transitions.  Maybe I'll throw in some flames the next time I'm low on inspiration!

[Image from Chris and Laura Pawluk. Used under CC]