The last two posts by Seth Godin struck a chord, insofar as independent schools are concerned. I highly recommend his blog, if you're looking to follow musings from a marketing perspective. There's no one better than Seth Godin (in my opinion) to point out what is working and what's not working, but also to show us that discomfort may just be the way to break-out growth.
In "The Hierarchy of Success" (posted 9/14/09), he identifies six steps leading to successful implementation of an idea or project, pointing out that the sixth step is excecution, which is where most of us actually spend most of our time: "We spend all our time on execution. Use this word instead of that one. This web host. That color. This material or that frequency of mailing. Big news: No one ever succeeded because of execution tactics learned from a Dummies book." (He is very direct, which is one of the reasons I like him so much).
Attitude and approach are the top two steps in his list, and, as he says, almost no one spends time thinking about these two steps, which he considers to be the most important. They lead to important questions about why we do what we do. He then introduces six questions we ought to be asking ourselves on a regular basis. I submit them here, suggesting that trustees and administrative teams ought to be asking them as a matter of course:
- How do you deal with failure?
- When will you quit?
- How do you treat competitors?
- What personality are you looking for in the people you hire?
- What's it like to work for you? Why? Is that a deliberate choice?
- What sort of decisions do you make when no one is looking?
His post from this morning, "The Problem With Non", deals exclusively with non-profits and what they do...or don't do. He lauds those folks who work for non-profits (think: independent schools) because they have decided to follow this line of work in order to make change (i.e. "make a difference"). Then he points out the greatest irony of all: "The problem facing your group, ironically, is the resistance to the very thing you are setting out to do. Non-profits, in my experience, abhor change."
Don't believe him? He cites an experience of meeting with two famous non-profits to discuss permission marketing and online fundraising. What happened? "After about forty five minutes, the meetings devolved into endless lists of why any change at all in the way things were was absolutely impossible. Everyone looked to the president of the group for leadership, and when he didn't say anything, they dissembled, stalled and evaded. Every barrier was insurmountable, every element of the status quo was cast in stone. The president of the group was (he thought) helpless."
Given all the recent upheaval, independent school leaders are going to have to move their schools away from the paralysis of fear of the unknown and jump in the waters, taking some smartly-calculated risks. Otherwise we will fail. It's pretty simple.
What we do as schools needs to be tremendously important...important enough that we have people banging on our doors, asking to help us. As Seth says, "if you don't have a ton of volunteers happy to help you, then you're not working on something important enough."
As schools, in this environment, we should be "change" first, and "non" second, and not the other way around!