Adaptability Project, Day Five

Week One of the Adaptability Project Group’s three-week summer seminar is in the books. Most of this week was spent doing research for the proposals that we’ll be pitching in our own version of Shark Tank next Thursday, but today was a little different. My team met for about 40 minutes with our CFO first thing this morning to show him our progress on our “technology renaissance” proposal; after that, the rest of the day wasn’t about our proposals at all.

Our HOS and CFO brought in David Lacey of the Hirshorn Company to lead a class in management skills. In addition to the members of the Adaptability Group, everyone at George School who manages people was invited to attend. Although many of the teachers on the Adaptability Group are just faculty members who don’t have “direct reports,” the project was originally conceived by our HOS as a way to cultivate leadership in mid-career teachers. The project shed that identity as Nancy developed the concept, but it still retains an element of that idea in the composition of the group. In fact, two members of the group will be department heads for the first time next year, and I’m stepping into a full-time administrative position next year (albeit one without a supervisory role).

Lacey was a matter-of-fact presenter, and he encouraged Q&A and discussion. He is working with a number of other schools, so he was able to tailor the message of his rather for-profit-y, corporate management seminar for our hierarchically flat, consensus-based, idiosyncratic school culture. Honestly, I think we all felt that we need more of this kind of training, and even though it is a bit like medicine that you have to hold your nose and swallow, it is good for you in the long run. Even though I don’t manage direct-reports, I’ll be reporting to a new interim Dean of Students next year, and Lacey’s material got me thinking about what that supervisor-supervisee relationship should optimally look like. And which box in Lacey’s four-quadrant matrix do I want to fit into: star, go-to performer, delinquent, or “not a fit”? As part of his services to GS, Lacey is making himself available to our people this year if they need coaching on how to deal with a difficult management situation. The extra attention paid to how we evaluate people could be a boon to the school, and that isn’t because we have a lot of personnel problems. High performing people yearn for meaningful feedback delivered in a timely way, so everyone can benefit from more professionally carried-out evaluations.

After lunch, our CFO (my friend, Michael — I regret all of this avoidance of people’s names) was asked to present to just the members of the Adaptability Group on our technology budget and where that money goes. I think the plan was for this to take about one hour and then we would get down to our group work. Instead, we kept getting sidetracked into an excellent and far-ranging conversation that took two hours. A lot of the topics that were discussed in the morning were on our minds, such as managing Millennials, our non-hierarchical decision-making process, and coping with change. We did ultimately learn about all of the ways in which technology has expanded to play a larger and larger role in the school over time. For example, once upon a time telephones were not something our IT department had to think about; now all those phones are devices connected to the network. Since my team’s proposal next week is all about technology, this discussion was very useful. On the other hand, my team is comprised of four faculty members who are pretty techy in the first place.

As we shift from Week One to Week Two, we still have a lot of unfinished work. Week One was supposed to be the R+D week, but I think all of the teams need to use Monday and maybe Tuesday of next week to finish their research. Week Two is supposed to be about developing the presentations that we’ll give to the “sharks” next Thursday, and I foresee a late night coming my way on Wednesday. Nancy is going to give us the rubric for our presentations on Monday, and I understand that we are going to have something like 30-40 minutes for our presentation. On Shark Tank they are, what, two minutes long? So these aren’t elevator pitches, they are fully developed presentations that might include supplementary handouts, 50+ slides, carefully choreographed hand-offs among the members of our team, etc. I might even need to put on a suit!

Have a great weekend everyone, and happy Fathers Day to all of the dads out there. Look for me on #satchat on Saturday morning at 7:30am.

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