Eight COMMON MISTAKES
that BOARD MEMBERS and
but you can avoid.
IT IS NOT THE JOB OF THE
SCHOOL BOARD TO RUN THE
DISTRICT, BUT TO ENSURE
THAT THE DISTRICT IS WELL
• Make decisions based solely on Politics (Factions)
• Function without ground rules (Board Policies both
written and unwritten)
• Respond to coercion (Threats)
• Fail to connect with the community (Visibility,
• Neglect self - improvement (Professional Learning)
• Take fragmented actions (Fail to see the Big Picture)
• Practice poor listening skills ( Too busy preparing for
1. MAKE POLITICAL DECISIONS
When boards and superintendents make
decisions that are not based on objective
information, assessment of alternatives,
and rational judgment, but have a partisan
bias that supports hidden agendas and
2. FUNCTION WITHOUT
When boards and superintendents
conduct business without agreement of
fundamental rules concerning the relative
roles of superintendent and board, the
responsibilities of the board chair, and the
use of information and public decorum.
Disagreement about these actions
undermines trust and mutual respect.
3. RESPOND TO COERCION
When boards and superintendents allow
particular constituencies to influence
decisions instead of determining what is
best for all children.
4. FAIL TO CONNECT WITH
When boards and superintendents do not
provide information to the community; they
fail to solicit input and offer inadequate
opportunity for dialog – all leading to
community distrust and lack of
5. NEGLECT SELF
When board members and
superintendents seek to maintain the
status quo and fail to seek out self
improvement opportunities. Continuous
improvement should always be the
6. TAKE FRAGMENTED
When boards and superintendents
consider each issue as a separate item
without looking at the “Big Picture” and
establishing priorities; important district
direction is lost in conflicting or unrelated
7. Practice Poor Listening
• When engaged in a conversation we are often
more interested in sharing our viewpoint than
hearing the other person’s perspective.
• We often begin to prepare our response or
defense without allowing the person to finish
• This may appear as a mental disruption for us,
or even worse, we may initiate a physical
8. Not Following the Chain of
• In Smaller Communities there is a natural tendency for
citizens to contact board members regarding problems,
especially if they know one personally. The board
member is caught in an awkward situation because they
want to be respectful. The appropriate response in most
situations is to listen patiently and refer the individual to
the level in the chain of command where the problem
occurred and move up until the problem is resolved or
run the course.
• Emergency or Crisis issues demands immediate
Success Factors for Board
• Initiate actions to overcome the 7 Mistakes discussed
• Become a Team Player and there is no I in Team.
• Always count your votes prior to a recommendation
being made. This will determine if more work is needed.
• No surprises and don’t present anything to the Board
that you know they will not approve.
• This may create embarrassment for you, the board, and
personnel impacted by the recommendation.
Recommendations and Action
• Ask: Is the recommendation and action taken aligned
with these elements and is it in the best interest of our
The Use of Discretion
• The failure of leadership is often found in
the poor use of discretion.
• Many leaders see things as black and
white or right and wrong.
• 20% Black and 20% White
• 60% consists of different shades of gray.
• Most of life is in the gray area.
When is Discretion Acceptable?
• When it does not violate one of the
– Guiding Principles
– Core Values
Conflict and Consensus
The Difference Between Success
What is Conflict?
• No consensus is conflict
• Conflict results from divergent views and
incompatibility of those views
• It can be good when it is manageable.
• It amounts to a diversity of thought and
challenges the process.
• Bureaucratic Theory
– Conflict is seen as a breakdown in the
organization or as a failure to plan properly or
exercise adequate control
• Traditional Theory
– Smooth running harmonious organizations
are to be desired and conflict is disruptive and
something to be avoided
An Aspect of Diversity
• Contemporary Theory
– Is seen as inevitable, endemic, and often legitimate
actions of organizations
– Individuals and groups within originations are
interdependent and constantly engaged in the defining of
those interdependence relationships
– Conflict will be found in well led organizations
• Leaders control resources and set organizational goals.
This process leads to differences of opinion and thus, the
opportunity for conflict
Methods of Dealing with Conflict
• Win-Lose Orientation
– Confrontation followed by non-negotiable
demands and ultimatums
– One party attempts to force its ideas on the
– There will always be a winner and a loser
– Compromise is not an option
• One must understand the underlying causes before
conflict can be resolved
• Five behavioral perspectives to be used to
– Competitive behavior – only one’s own concerns
– Avoidant behavior – apathy, withdrawal
– Accommodation behavior - appeasement
– Sharing behavior – compromise, trade-offs
– Collaborative behavior – mutual solutions with
• Communications, communications,
communications the ONLY way
• Remember vision, mission, beliefs, goals,
• Time consuming
• Depends on the capacity of the group
leader to convince others that the selected
solution is the best one
How to Build Consensus: A Process
• Ask each person to state his/her position
of the issue
• Ask the others to restate the position they
• Search for conflicting points of view
• Look for “value” reasons for the points of
Seek Common Ground
• Look for common ground or positions that
transcend the differences
• Reach agreement supported by the vast
majority of the group and that all the
others can accept
• Put forth a unified plan
Affirming Cultural Values:
Building a Winning Educational
Affirming Shared Values
Shared values are the glue that
hold this organization together.
“Leaders do not wait for a disaster
or an external event to pull people
together, however. Instead, they
build community through shared
values”. (Credibility, Ch. 5)
Using Shared Values
To Make A Difference
• Leaders build upon agreement.
• Employees are more loyal when they
believe that their values and those of the
organization are aligned.
• The truly great companies know the
importance of being clear about their
vision and their values.
Finding Common Ground
• Wholeness Incorporating Diversity.
– John Gardner
• Leaders and constituents must learn to
speak with one voice.
• Determining the key shared values is a
• People want to see the bigger picture, to
understand that what they are doing
makes a difference.
Creating a Cooperative, Proud Community
• Community is the new metaphor for organizations.
• Creating a community requires promoting shared
values and developing an appreciation for the value
of working cooperatively and caring about one
• For a strong community and for a strong and vibrant
organization, we must be willing to make other
people’s problems our own and to solve them
• Leaders need to recognize that the metaphor of community goes a lot
further in unifying people than does the standard hierarchy.
• Leaders must energize people to take actions that support higher
organizational purposes rather than self interests.
• Leaders show how everyone’s interests will best be served by coming to
consensus on a collective set of shared values and common purpose.
• Leaders who establish cooperative relationships inspire commitment
and are considered competent.
• Their Credibility is enhanced by building community through common
purpose and by championing shared values. In contrast, competitive
and independent leaders are seen as both obstructive and ineffective.
• Relationships characterized by cooperation have higher levels
of productivity and resource exchange than competitive
• Cooperative objectives are seen to result in better progress
on the job and more efficient use of resources than
competitive or independent goals.
• When there is community, leaders and employees assist each
other by sharing resources and expertise, integrating different
points of view and ideas to solve problems, discussing issues
to reach mutually satisfying agreements, showing initiative,
consulting with others, and following proper procedures.
• Why do competitive or independent relationships fail?
• 1) Success often depends on sharing resources efficiently;
this task becomes nearly impossible when people have to
work against one another.
• 2) Competition generally does not promote excellence; trying
to do well and trying to beat others are simply two different
• Dean Tjosvold, who is a management professor, explains that
forging unity requires people on the team to perceive
themselves as part of a community, where their goals are
cooperative and they are united in their purpose. Leaders
cannot make team members believe their goals are
cooperative; team members must decide for themselves.
• Organizations must enable employees to explore and
understand their common agendas.
• Projects requiring the team as a whole to make a set of
recommendations, develop and produce a new product, or
solve a problem all enhance the alignment of individual and
corporate actions. Further, the task itself promotes
cooperative behavior and a sense of community when team
members realize that the work requires them to coordinate
• Leaders structure the work flow so that the process of getting
the job done demands that one person’s efforts have a direct
impact on the activities of another and vice versa.
Using Organizational Systems to
Reinforce Shared Values
• In the process of affirming shared values, leaders
get people to identify themselves as a group and set
the expectation that they will share in some long-
• In realizing that no one works all alone creates a
strong sense of obligation to assist and support one
• Nurturing this sense of connection and belonging
between people creates a natural incentive to
engage in cooperative behavior.
Recruiting and Hiring
• Organizations must attract employees who already share
at least some of its key values and whose needs are
likely to be met by working there.
• Paul Cook, chairman of Raychem Corporation and its
CEO for more than thirty years, asserts that one of his
most important jobs was always that of finding the right
people: that means “learning how their minds work, what
they think about, what excites them, and how they
• Cook estimates that he spends twenty percent of his
time recruiting, training, and interviewing.
Good to Great
• Author and Researcher Jim Collins states
that you seek
– The right people
– Place them on the right bus
– Place them in the right seat
– Then make the collective decision of where
you go (vision)
• Orientation programs also play an important part in
transmitting shared values.
• The example given was how do Disneyland and Disney
World rely on teenagers to manage crowds of sixty
thousand people per day and keep the place clean, the
rides exciting, and the experience fun? The answer is
• Every trainee, even the ninety-day summer hires meets
Walt Disney (by videotape) and learns about his vision
and the underlying values in which every customer is a
guest and every employee a performing artist.
• They are quizzed about traditions and come to
understand the reason why every rule, policy, and
procedure is important. The result? Shared Values!!
• The question of who gets promoted in the
organization is another key determinant of whether
or not people believe that shared values make a
• Promotion decisions made solely on the basis of
technical competence run the risk of undermining
commitment to shared values.
• Promotions should reflect the strength of
employee’s commitment to the company’s values,
as well as technical competence (much as training
should clarify a company’s values and provide
• Promotions should reflect the strength of
employee’s commitment to the company’s values
• The person must be committed, understand the
values of the company, and work hard in the
company so that they may be promoted.
• Leaders must be active in ensuring that organization
systems communicate a consistent message about
agreement on shared values. This will help in the
Reconciling Values Dilemmas
• The first step in reconciling differences is to explore your own
inner values, so that you are clear about what is important to
you and what you are seeking in a relationship.
• The next step is to understand the other party’s perspective.
• Four main common obstacles to agreement are: it’s not my
idea; this doesn’t meet my needs; this embarrasses me; and
you’re asking too much, too fast.
• When there is an obstacle that causes value dilemmas, a
leader must act to resolve these issues.
Reconciling Values Dilemmas
• Scholars at the Harvard Negotiation Project
have come up with a six part strategy to
resolve problems. The six parts are as follows:
1. Balance emotion with reason
2. Try to understand
3. Inquire, consult, and listen
4. Be reliable
5. Be open to persuasion; try to persuade
6. Accept the other as worthy: they are worth dealing
with and learning from
Reconciling Values Dilemmas
• Leaders should make sure that their organizations
have set values and that everyone believes in these
values and are headed in the right direction.
• Get input from employees on the basic principles of
the company so that everyone agrees with them,
and this will eliminate problems and people will not
• Then often the principals and shared values of the
organization need to be assessed.
Affirming Shared Values: First
• The process of determining, maintaining, and renewing shared values
and starting the process over again is as follows:
– Get together to start drafting your group’s credo.
– Make sure there is agreement around values.
– Conduct a values survey.
– Connect values with reasons.
– Structure cooperative goals.
– Make sure everyone knows the business.
– Be an enthusiastic spokesperson for shared values.
– Accumulate yeses.
– Go slow to go fast: start off with easy issues then progressively
move to more difficult issues.
– Establish a sunset statue for your credo: throw out a third of your
values every 5 years and create new ones.
• Firnstahl motto: “We Always Guarantee
• Distributed authority to employees
• “[They’re] better than most because they
have the power and the obligation to solve
customer problems on their own and on
the spot. Giving them complete discretion
about how they do it has also given them
Follow the Chain od
• Problems are resolved best at the lowest
• If a problem originates in the classroom let
the teacher try to resolve the problem by
keeping the vision, mission, values, core
values, guiding principles as the guiding
LIBERATING THE LEADER IN
• Leadership is a set of skills/practices that
can be learned.
• Credible leaders enable people to act.
• Empowering: Is not a matter of giving
power, but freeing employees.
LIBERATING THE LEADER IN
• Credible leaders liberate the leader within.
• Five essentials to develop capacity:
• Leaders must act as educators.
EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE
• Credible leaders invest in developing
employees’ skills and competencies.
• MICA survey showed that investing more
money in training resulted in higher levels
in employee involvement, customer
services, understanding company vision.
• US and Japanese auto makers
EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE
• Training is at the top of any
company’s or organization’s agenda.
• The more education and knowledge,
the better the workers will be.
• Ford’s education, development, and
• Choice necessitates ownership.
• Choice builds commitment
• “Ownership is not a set of legal rights but
a state of mind.”
• “Choice is central to feeling ownership and
expanding people’s capacity to act on the
values that they espouse.”
• Major of Madison Wisconsin, Joseph
Sensenbrenner explains that providing
people with choice, discretion and latitude
liberates the leader and then leads to
• Parts manager explained to Sensebrenner
about stocking parts and the problems
• Sensebrenner began his hunt to resolve
• A 24-step purchasing policy with multiple
levels was cut into a three-step process.
• Everyone has the internal need to
influence other people and life events in
order to experience a sense of stability in
• People often feel powerless when they
perceive themselves as lacking control
over their immediate situation or lacking
• Professor Albert Bandura and Robert
Wood documented that self-confidence
affects people’s performance.
• Managers told that decision-making is
learned and gained over time were better
managers than another group who was
told that decision-making skills measured
Creating a Climate for Learning
• Climates must be conducive for learning.
• Safety and trust help to make an environment more
• Good leaders encourage questioning routines and
challenging assumptions with a respect to appreciating
• Breaking mindsets is an important part of being a good
company and practicing “Kaizen” (meaning:
Promoting Communication and
• Sharing information is critical in
developing people’s capacity.
• Hold series of meetings to allow larger
groups to develop and choose
• When people are involved in developing
plans, they are committed and their
ownership is increased.
Rules of the Game
• Teach employees the rules of the game
so they know how the company operates.
• Show employees how to keep score and
follow the action (i.e., assessments of
growth—making money, generating cash).
• Give employees the information to “play
the game” and they will stay “in the game.”
Power of Communication
• Unless leaders share information, few
employees will take interest.
• People have to see the effects of what
they do, or they won’t care.
• Sharing information promotes
understanding of decisions linked to
shared values and common purposes.
• Everyone sings in unison—from the same
Goals and Feedback
• Studies indicate that motivation to improve
only increases when people have challenging
goal and receive feedback.
• Feedback based on goals helps people see
the big picture and feel interconnected.
• Leaders must help build compentence and
confidence to create climate conducive to
people in which they will assume
Fostering Mutual Responsibility
• When everyone is a leader, each is
responsible for guiding the organization.
• When something needs to be done, each
person sees the need and does it.
• Capacity building reinforces credibility by
giving people the ability to do what they say
they will do (DWWSWWD).
• Credibility is earned through credible actions
that are supported consistently.
First Steps/Next Steps
• Stop Making Decisions—let those
responsible for implementing make them.
• Stop Talking at Staff Meetings—listen to
others; let people learn from each other.
• Set Up Coaching Opportunities—train
others to lead meetings and allow peer-
coaching to improve abilities.
• Give Everyone a Customer—add this ‘C’
to Competence, Confidence, Choice,
Climate, Communications. Employees
need to identify a person or group they are
serving. It helps develop connection.
• Have an Open House—let employees
invite family, friends, and customers to
share their pride.
…Two More Steps for Building
• Share the Big Picture—don’t give out
puzzle pieces without sharing a picture of
the end product. When people know how
their “piece” fits, they know how and when
to place it.
• Enrich People’s Jobs—design jobs so
people know what is expected of them and
provide enough training for success.
Final Steps to Develop Capacity
• Let Constituents Be the Teachers—Peter Drucker:
”knowledge workers and service workers learn most
when they teach.” Let success stories be shared for
understanding. Design instruction to assist.
• Use Modeling to Develop Competencies
1. Model skills for basic competencies.
2. Provide guided practice under simulated conditions.
3. Help people apply new skills in ways that will bring
success. Always supply feedback so they experience
• What other mistakes do think I might need
• What are the more frequent mistakes?
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