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No bad teams, only bad leaders

The title, No bad teams, only bad leaders, fairly sums up the essence of what this chapter is about. There were two quotes that resonated with me. The first quote is “ It pays to be a winner”. The authors write about the SEAL instructors repeating this phrase to the students during some of their most intense training. For example, the SEAL team that won a boat race was afforded a timeout during the next race. To win, the team leader needed to get his individual members to operate as a fully functioning team. So, while winning meant time out, it was indicative of an outstanding team and team leader. In education, what does winning mean? If you asked 100 educators that question, you would get 100 unique answers. My definition is fairly simple. If the student leaves school better off than when they arrived, we've won. But, that definition becomes murky the farther removed your position is from the classroom. That is, as a central office staff member, student growth is not readily apparent. This is just another example of what I spoke to in my Summer Reading - The Beginning blog about the disconnect between the business world and the world of education. It is fairly easy to assess winning in the business world while it is extremely difficult to come to a common definition of winning in education.


The second sentence that spoke to me was, “When it comes to standards, as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.” It reminded me of a conversation I had with my good friend, Michael Snell. We were discussing leadership and our staff members. He stated that there are always a top 20% of staff, he called them the go-getters. These are the people who understand the mission and constantly drive toward it without much input from the leader. He then explained the bottom 20% as those who, no matter how much effort the leader expends, will do the bare minimum. The battle, he stated, was for the middle 60%. They are looking up at the top 20% and down at the bottom 20% and deciding which group to emulate. It’s the leader's job to develop them into the top 20% mindset. If we view the bottom 20% as anchored in mediocrity, are we unknowingly tolerating unacceptable standards?


Setting high standards, and consistently enforcing them, puts pressure on the bottom 20% to improve. Just as the SEAL instructor called out boat VI for their continued poor performance, leaders need to emphasize high standards. This not only to improves the bottom 20% but more importantly, demonstrates the importance of performance to the middle 60%. Conversely, if the bottom 20% are not held to high standards, is the leader unknowingly allowing the middle 60% a reason to slide down into the bottom 20%? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.


Thanks for reading!

Erik Bentzel

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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