Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Leading like a quarterback

So, it's happened to me more than once.  I've been compared to Brett Favre, hall of fame quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.  Most recently it happened last week by some friends on Voxer and my brother.  I don't always see the resemblance but apparently others do.  Here are a couple of pictures for comparison.  The one on the left is me in November, growing a beard for men's cancer awareness.  The one on the right is Brett Favre taken by Kirby Lee of USA TODAY Sports.
After hearing from my Voxer friends and my brother, a blog post came to mind- How is being a Principal like being the quarterback of a football team?  Here are my thoughts.

Putting players in the right positions.
Some would argue that the coaches put the players in the right positions.  I would disagree.  If you've ever watched a really good quarterback, they know where everyone should be.  The quarterbacks are the ones who make sure the linemen, receivers, and running backs are in the best place for a successful play.
Principals serve the same role.  We need to make sure that teachers, support staff, and students are all in the right places, able to work together to learn with and from each other.  A strong team of teachers, in the right place with the right people, can make all the difference in the world.

Looking over the defense.
Once the play is called, it's time for the quarterback to check out the defense.  The play may call for a run but the defense has stacked the line so that's not going to work.  The play may call for a pass but the defense has one on one coverage on each receiver with help over the top so that's not going to work.  But sometimes the play fits the coverage and then it's "Game on"!
Principals need to look over the "defense", too.  It might be time to have a "No Office Day", but a student or teacher concern takes over the day.  It might be time for a drill, but the weather isn't cooperating.  There might be an assembly planned but the performance group doesn't show up (Yes, this happened to our school once.) so you need to go to plan B.  But most of the time, the play call matches up with the defense and it's time for learning.

Executing the right play.
The play has been called and now it's time for proper execution.  If all of the players do their jobs, including the quarterback, the chances for success are pretty high.  The defense may make the execution a little more difficult, but as many would say, the offense has the upper hand because they know where they are going and the defense players needs to react to the offense players.  Even when the play is executed correctly, things can go wrong so the quarterback needs to make adjustments for the next time the play is called.
Principals need to make sure to execute the right "plays", too.  The teachers, support staff, and students all must do their part.  If they do, the success of the class period or school day is almost certain.  But even when the right "play" is called, there may be a need for adjustments by the principal, the teachers, the support staff, or the students.

The play has been called.  The quarterback looks over the defense.  The play is set, and then the defense adjusts.  That's when a quarterback must call an audible.  Brett Favre was a master at this, but it took some time to get to his level.  It's the reason Packers fans never gave up on a game whether the Packers were way ahead or way behind.  We just wanted to see what Brett would do next.
Principals have to call audibles sometimes, too.  My hope is when we do call an audible, it's for the kids and not for the adults.  Creating a before or after school club for kids who have an interest in something is a great example.  It might be for the environment, for coding, or to get some homework help.  Call the audible and find a way to support it and fund it.  The kids will thank you.  

Hail Mary.
For quarterbacks and teams, this is their last chance.  It's either amazing or disappointing.  Enough said.
For principals, a Hail Mary could be a staff meeting to rebuild trust or put a rumor to rest.  It could be a family meeting with a student and a teacher.  It could be a meeting with a teacher about performance and ways to improve.  Whatever the case might be, it could be a last chance to make a difference and hopefully it is amazing.

The team gets the win.  The quarterback gets the loss.
If you're a good quarterback, you might take the credit for the win and put the blame on others for the loss.  If you're a great quarterback, the team gets the credit and you take the blame for the loss.  I have never met Brett Favre in person, but I am positive that he feels that all of his wins were because of the team that surrounded him and nearly all of the losses were because of something he either did or didn't do.
Principals feel the same way.  The reason any school is good, or is considered a winner, isn't because of the principal.  It's because of the staff, students, and families that a school is good.  Principals need to get all of the pieces in place, work on the climate and culture, listen, and make a decision that they know is in the best interest of kids.  The people in the school get the credit for the success of the students.  On the other hand, if something isn't going well, it's the principal who should take responsibility for the problem.  If she or he then works with their team, positive changes can be made to get the school back on track.

I'm very fortunate to work in a great school district and a great school.  The reason we are great is because we are a team.  We are the BEST school, with BEST standing for Believe, Encourage, Share, and Trust.  We believe this about one another and strive to be better every day.

I'll end with a personal story of my "famous" looks.  I was in a bowling alley in Wisconsin when Brett Favre was still playing.  I am not a good bowler and was wondering why this person was taking pictures of me bowling.  The only thing they would learn from my bowling is what not to do.  After a few minutes, they walked closer to me and I asked them why they were taking pictures.  Until I spoke, they honestly thought I was Brett Favre.  Although I am not Brett Favre, I do look a bit like him, and I hope those I learn with think I'm a pretty good quarterback for our school.