Thursday, August 14, 2014

Use Talking Points to Keep the Complicated Simple

I've been struggling to make sense of all the state and federal mandates thrown my district's way. I help lead a small system of three schools and 1,400 students so accountability is left to a small team of principals, supervisors, and central office administrators.

Early failures as an inexperienced leader taught me that complicating already complicated issues didn't help anyone. In fact, I did more harm than good and wasted others' time and energy. I've taken to simplifying matters now. It should not be seen as coincidence that some of our greatest leaders in business (Steve Jobs comes to mind) and the military (Eisenhower) rose to success by whittling down the complex to the simple.

Michael Korda recognizes Dwight Eisenhower's rise to Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in his work IKE: An American Hero:
One of IKE's greatest strengths as a senior officer [was] his ability to produce a simpler solution than anybody else's to a difficult problem.
I help my leadership team communicate simple solutions by having them repeat a mantra each year (what I refer to as no more than three "talking points"). I fashion the mantra out of what I know will be our core needs for a given school year. The talking points keep the mishmash of mandates and new initiatives simple so the problems with which the whole school community must confront are tackled slowly, surely, and simply.

This post is part of my "Leadership Lessons From American Presidents" series.

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