Teach & Serve
No. 19 * December 8, 2015
Related Content from And There Came A Day:
- Teach & Serve No. 18 – “Do the Undone”
- Teach & Serve No. 17 – “Giving Thanks for Our Own Gifts”
- Teach & Serve No. 16 – “The Networked Reality”
- Teach & Serve No. 15 – “It’s Not What They Think, It’s HOW They Think.”
YOUR ALL-STAR CAST
We’ve experienced groups clashing painfully and failing. What’s the difference? How does a cast go from a cast to an all-star cast?
As I sat at my computer this weekend wrapping up a few work projects that had spilled over into Saturday, my Facebook Messenger chime went off and I was delighted to spend a few moments in virtual conversation with my old friend Sean Gaillard who is the talented and well respected principal of John F. Kennedy High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Blog post after blog post have been written extoling the importance and potential of robust Professional Learning Networks that can be built online and I am very happy to say that Sean has led the way for me getting my head around this concept. He leads by example here, connecting himself with teachers and administrators all over the country. He’s had played a significant role in pioneering Twitter movements such as #Read4Fun and #CelebrateMonday along with moderating online chats and professional development. He’s absolutely a guru of this stuff and I am always happy to have a chance to learn from him.
Given that, do you know what we talked about?
The cast of the 1970s miniseries Centennial, of course.
People of a certain age remember miniseries. If you’re too young, think of them as Netflix or Amazon dropping 10 – 13 episodes of a complete season of a show and you moderating your binge watching to three episodes a night. Does that ring bells for anyone out there? Do you remember Centennial?
We got on the topic because we were exchanging addresses for our Christmas card lists and I informed my old friend that I live in Centennial, Colorado. From there, it was rapid-fire word association playing on the author (James Michener), the miniseries and the novel. Sean even dug up and sent me a picture of his tattered copy!
As we talked about the miniseries, we began to run down the actors we remembered from the cast. As you may recall (again, if you of a certain age), it was a pretty amazing cast. Richard Chamberlain, Robert Conrad, Sally Kellerman, Raymond Burr, Timothy Dalton, Richard Crenna… need I go on? One could say it was an all-star cast.
As Sean and I wrapped up our chat, it occurred to me that what good leaders – like Sean – do is create all-star casts around them. Good leaders put people in positions to work together in cooperation. Good leaders empower people to combine their strengths, to deemphasize their weaknesses and to work towards shared and clearly articulated goals.
I don’t want to open up an extended sports metaphor here (though it might be apt to do so) and I don’t need to because sports teams are not the only teams many of us have experience of in our lives. Whether we played a sport in school or not, we’ve been put on teams: teams to do projects, teams to choose textbooks, learning teams to plan curriculum. Teams. Teams. Teams. (Okay, yes, you could read the last three words as a Hoosiers paraphrase, but that’s as far down the sports road as I plan to go).
We’ve been on the team, a part of the committee, in the cast. We’ve experienced groups working well and succeeding. We’ve experienced groups clashing painfully and failing.
What’s the difference? How does a cast go from a cast to an all-star cast?
I am not sure it always comes down to the composition of the group. Frankly, I think that’s lazy thinking and lazy leading. I’ve ever been wary of the leaders who come newly into a situation and say “when I get my people in place, things are really going to work.” What about making things work with the people already there, with the cast already on its marks?
I believe good leaders work with casts to take them from being different individuals vying for the spotlight and shouting their lines over one another to being casts that work together, supporting each other and moving towards a standing ovation.
Is the metaphor too strained? How about this, then: I believe good leaders put people in positions for success, places where that play to strengths and deemphasize weakness. I believe good leaders structure the roles, responsibilities and tasks of their committees, advisory groups, departments and tasks forces cognizant of the makeup of the groups and understanding that one of the primary roles of the leader is to help people succeed. I believe good leaders create organizations of people within their communities who work together not only because they have to but sometimes because they want to.
In order to do this, good leaders know their people; they know their makeup and their personalities. They understand their strengths and their weaknesses. They’ve taken the time to communicate, to meet and talk and learn.
They know their actresses and actors.
Good leaders know how to assemble people into all-star casts.
Would Centennial have been as good without Robert Conrad’s Pasquinel or Richard Chamberlain’s McKeag? I think we all know the answer to that question.