Cover and Move
Cover and move is a technique that the SEALS utilize to protect themselves while moving. When a small SEAL team moves through an urban environment, this technique is essential to ensure the safety of its members. The design of cover and move is straightforward. When moving, the team is divided into two parts. While one team moves forward, the other remains stationary and protects them. Once the lead team stops, they become the protectors and the team in the rear moves forward to meet them. This pattern is then repeated until the destination is reached. The troop movements resemble the movement of a slinky toy. The author uses the cover and move tactic as a metaphor for teamwork. Even something as seemingly simple as moving can not be done safely in a hostile environment without teamwork. While each individual plays a critical role in succeeding, it is only when all work as a team that the mission can be accomplished.
During the summer of my first year as Superintendent, I organized a summer retreat for my leadership team. I also invited one of my friends who I look up to in educational leadership, Dr. Michael Snell, to speak with us. While he said many insightful things, one that especially stands out is when he spoke directly to my leadership team and said: “the most important thing you can do is not to let Erik make a mistake”. That reflects the theme of this chapter. My leadership needed to provide cover for me. As the superintendent of a district, you are always viewed as being in front. Whether giving public comment, guiding School Board meetings, or referring to the organizational chart, the Superintendent is the district leader. By not letting the superintendent make mistakes the leadership team is covering the forward movement of the leader. In return, the superintendent must provide protection to the leadership team so that they can feel secure when doing their jobs. Education is dynamic and leaders need to make decisions on their own. They need to know, even if the decision ends up being wrong, the leader will “have their back” as long as the decision was made in line with the district vision/mission. By “having their back” I mean taking the blame, speaking with Board members, dealing with the media, and similar responsibilities. Taking this one step deeper, superintendents need building leaders to provide protection to their teachers in the same way. If teachers make decisions based on the district vision/mission, they need to feel protected so that their actions have the greatest impact. If we do this, while mistakes may occur, the leadership culture will provide protection and ensure that we are driving towards achieving the vision/mission. Cover and move.
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