Culture of “Nice” vs Culture of “Honesty” #suptchat

“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is for you”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

In terms of organizational culture, many (Drucker & others) are clear that culture “eats strategy for breakfast”. Meaning – focus on culture or you’ll have nothing on which to focus! Culture is not just important – it’s everything! I write about culture a lot, folks a lot smarter than I (Fullan, Marzano, and others) write and research a lot about culture too! So … if we know how important it is to create it, measure it, build it and sustain it (in education especially) … why are we so “nice” instead of “honest” in the context of leading and managing change?

So this year in the Deerfield Public Schools District 109, two more of our six schools earned the highest education award in our nation – the National Blue Ribbon Award. They join two other of our six schools who earned this distinction last year.

In two years four out of our six schools earned the highest honors. Leadership, Culture, Focus, Excellence, and Joy define the experiences for children and adults at these schools. What are the leaders doing with respect to culture at these schools that it making the difference?

Are these leaders confronting brutal questions? Are these leaders acknowledging when good is good and when good is not enough? Are these leaders honestly and respectfully addressing that which needs to be addressed even when it ruffles feathers? “You bet they are!”

In education many of us have been faced with “niceness” and an aversion to “critical review” for whatever reason – we don’t know why – “that’s the way we have always done it” (TWADDI). In conversations, training workshops, conversations, discussions etc. with school leaders, I have discovered many report that the toughest part of supervision/evaluation/coaching is giving honest, direct feedback. 

Often the “culture of nice” supersedes the “culture of honest”. With this post I’m hoping to highlight how the culture of honest impacts the organization in measureable and powerful ways. The culture of honest is pervasive in the Deerfield Public Schools!

If you’re reading this blog and you are wondering why your particular organization is not changing or is not making progress – perhaps you should check your culture and communication.

Is everything in our district’s culture perfect? – NO – of course not; but we as a matter of leadership assess, measure, and lead with respect to culture and dimensions of culture every year. Our school principals are held accountable for their school’s culture. We expect increases in dimensions especially when action plans are centered around growth, acknowledgement and honesty. This year 93.81% of all employees report that they are highly engaged and highly satisfied with their work in our district!

2017 Organizational Culture Results – DPS109

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In In 2013 the average “dream box” (top right) score was 61.90% from a database of more than 10,000 education employees in the USA. Our district’s “dream box” score in 2013 was 85.75%. See below for a look at the past five years’ worth of dream box organizational culture for the Deerfield Public Schools:

 

 

In our district we are far from perfect – highly successful but never satisfied!

We are on a journey toward excellence with a focus on continuous improvement. Over the past two years we have had a failure in the execution of middle school standards based learning. There are a number of reasons for this. One of the reasons was the “culture of nice” superseding the culture of honesty; and our deliberate decisions to “compromise” in the spirit of cooperation (compromise with the best of intentions – but it was really appeasement).

Students of history remember what happened when Neville Chamberlain appeased Adolph Hitler … well – appeasement doesn’t work so well in leadership

honesty and courage work. Granted I’m oversimplifying a really complex and life and death time in history with the day to day leadership of a school system … you get the point.

Strong, direct, honest, dignified, respectful conversations and coaching are required – are imperative – are expected – are to become the norm when success is desired. With honest, direct, clear communication people know what the shared vision is – what the direction is and to what they’ll be held accountable. The three goals shown above reflect the current strategic goals in our district; clear, concise, coherent.

Five years ago the principals in our district began a process of becoming honest and clear culture leaders. They started to address student growth, teacher performance, stretch goals, limitless opportunities for ALL as well as innovative, future focused leadership. As a result, we have four of our six schools honored with the nation’s highest educational honor, we have administrators with regional honors, and we have shared the DPS109 story around the USA. Is it easy to lead in a culture of honesty? No – but I don’t go to work for an easy time … I go to work for a meaningful, impactful time!


I would love to hear your thoughts about culture – “nice vs honest” and leadership overall! If your leaders are too focused on management and not on leadership – excellence will be out of reach! Those who can manage and lead with courage, power, honesty, and in line with the shared vision – those leaders will be successful!

Deerfield Public Library Podcast Interview #Engage109

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those cannot read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler

The other day I had the good fortune to spend some time with Dylan Zavagno at the Deerfield Public Library. He took the time to interview me for the Library podcast. Dylan and I chatted about the District as well as my recently published book, The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today!

With this post I am sharing with you the links to the Deerfield Public Library Podcast channel as well as our interview:

Leadership! Episode 3 of 3 – Perspectives in Education Podcast

“Without excellence, we have lost our honor. Without honor, we have lost our integrity. And without integrity, we are all lost.”
– Anonymous

Nick and I wrote the following as the first two paragraphs of the conclusion of our book (p.95): “The premise of this book is that we all need to unlearn because old conventions stymie meaningful change. In addition, learning is very difficult to unlearn. The “wiring” in our brains is hard to alter. Once we learn what is right, it’s often almost impossible to unlearn and accept a new right. As we stated in the beginning of the book, our landscape as leaders is applied to school leadership, classrooms, pedagogy and educational systems in general.In order to change course and effectively prepare today’s youth for tomorrow, we submit that much of what we have learned in general over the course of our lives, education, and professional careers must be unlearned in order to provide a new tomorrow for our nation’s children. It’s urgent to reimagine education. It’s urgent to pack up the 19th Century and move it into a museum. It’s urgent to unlearn so we can create a modern educational system for our nation’s youth.”

The process of writing a book, going through editing, copy-editing, revisions, rewrites, and peer review was energizing and humbling at the same time. Nick and I are really proud of The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today (2017-Rowman & Littlefield). The three podcast series from Perspectives in Education allows the reader and the prospective reader a chance to get to know us, our perspectives, and the value of the book! Please reach out with any questions – share comments to this post – and if you like the book, please consider sharing a review on Amazon!

 

 S01 Episode 6 Part 3: Mike Lubelfeld and Nick Poylak: Superintendents, #suptchat hosts, and authors.

Episode 6 Part 3: Superintendents, #suptchat hosts, and authors.

Our guests for our 3 part mini series of episode 6 are Mike Lubelfeld and Nick Polyak.

Michael Lubelfeld, Ed.D. currently serves as the superintendent of schools in the Deerfield, IL Public Schools (District 109). He is the co-moderator of #suptchat – the superintendent educational chat on Twitter.

Nick Polyak, Ed.D. is the proud superintendent of the award-winning Leyden Community High School District 212. He is the co-moderator of #suptchat – the superintendent educational chat on Twitter.

Both are co-authors of a book called The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s School Today

In this episode we discuss:

  • Characteristics of good leaders
  • How to unlearn things of the past
  • Preparing students for college, workforce, and how to be good citizens
  • Their Perspectives on Education

Please share and comment!  Would love to get feedback and suggestions.  If you are interested in sharing your story, please reach out to us!

Thi

Sharing Part 1 of a 3 part series of Podcast Interviews #suptchat #unlearn

S01 Episode 6 Part 1: Mike Lubelfeld and Nick Poylak: Superintendents, #suptchat hosts, and authors.

Episode 6 Part 1: Superintendents, #suptchat hosts, and ed authors.

Our guests for our 3 part mini series of episode 6 are Mike Lubelfeld and Nick Polyak.

Michael Lubelfeld, Ed.D. currently serves as the superintendent of schools in the Deerfield, IL Public Schools (District 109). He is the co-moderator of #suptchat – the superintendent educational chat on Twitter.

Nick Polyak, Ed.D. is the proud superintendent of the award-winning Leyden Community High School District 212. He is the co-moderator of #suptchat – the superintendent educational chat on Twitter.

Both are co-authors of a book called The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s School Today

In this episode we discuss:

  • Social Media
  • Creation of #suptchat
  • Getting started with social media
  • Tips/tricks for those already utilizing social media

Please share and comment!  Would love to get feedback and suggestions.  If you are interested in sharing your story, please reach out to us!

Unlearning Leadership Planning – Article in IL ASCD Journal Summer 2017

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”
Alvin Toffler

 

In this blog post I’m sharing an article published in the Illinois Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ILASCD): The Unlearning Leader’s Guide to Strategic Planning, Summer 2017, Volume 63, Number 1, pp. 8-16