Blog Archives

Towards an Open Transportation Culture

When I train new supervisors and directors we always spend a fair share of time talking about how to create a successful culture where fresh, creative, and productive ideas flourish. Everybody wants to work in such an environment. Unfortunately, what I frequopen doorently hear at many of those same workshops is that these same managers / supervisors currently work in a setting that doesn’t in any way resemble such a successful culture.

In a prior blog Management – Einstein Style I discussed specific actions that leaders can take to help change their work environment. Now, several months later, after speaking with many school transportation professionals, I realize that what might be perceived of as a failure by an individual really demonstrates a weakness in the culture of the organization. Sure, a culture is built by individual actions but it is also built upon systems. That is, effective systems can bias the organization towards transparency or towards secrecy. If you’re in the pupil transportation business it would be beneficial to have processes that support openness. If you’re in the spy business perhaps you’d be better off with clandestine operations.

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The Guts to Really Be Fair, Firm, and Consistent

One of the workshop sessions I particularly enjoy teaching is a class for new supervisors/directors. Usually attendees are eager and even anxious to learn the “tips of the trade.” There are always some “veterans” attendees who are there to be reminded of why they do what they do. Then there is the occasional “wily” veteran who is really there to “catch” the presenter in a contradiction or error.

Early in a recent session we talked about choosing your battles. That is, an effective manager can’t do everything at once, or certainly can’t do it effectively. In fact, if the manager has his/her proverbial finger in every pie it can really hurt the operation.  It negatively impacts morale, staff development, and overall performance. Read the rest of this entry

The Guts to (Self)-Serve

The district is considering contracting-out services, and your position is on the line.  You have data – both hard and soft – demonstrating the negative side of such a move.  But wouldn’t presentation of your case just be an obvious attempt to look out for yourself?

There’s more talk about budget cuts, and the need to combine positions.  Personnel will, inevitably be, on the chopping block. This is the time to sing your own praises – and, in fact, you’re more versatile and adaptable than others in the department.  Although your self-interest meshes with the company’s interests, won’t you just look like an opportunist if you speak up?

Many of us engage in a year-round search for balance between wanting to be anonymous and wanting to be noticed, wanting to give and hoping to receive, wanting to appear humble and needing to represent your strengths in a forthright manner.  This drive for reconciliation of opposing emotions was at the foundation of my obsession yesterday about an article sent to me by my co-consultant with Education Compliance Group, good friend, and most respected HR professional Mark Hinson.  His cover email stated “Interesting article making the case for sexual harassment training in person.”  Mark had recognized an opportunity for us to publicize the valuable training and consultation services we offer via Education Compliance Group on employee-employee sexual harassment.

The December 9, 2013 article, by a respected consultant/ trainer in Mark’s region strongly implies that recent court opinions on a particular workplace sexual harassment case had blasted the use of a training video, shown to both employees and management alike, which provided “no opportunity for interactive dialog with a professional trainer.”  In fact, the case that triggered the article is nearly two years old.  While inferences could be drawn about the courts’ preferences for in-person training, the judicial opinions involved were far more vague about the necessity for specific training methods.

The article’s author knew a good publicity angle when she saw it.  I found it somewhat self-serving, but was – and am – absolutely ready to get on the bandwagon with a Legal Routes article about the value of our in-services about employee-to-employee sexual harassment.  You see, I have the guts to self-serve if it’s in my readers’ and colleagues’ best interests.  I’ll segue into discussion about my initial forays into using Skype and other methods to provide cost-effective front-row, interactive training to school transporters without my ever having to get on a plane. I believe completely in the absolute benefits an entity can gain by having customized training programs with an instructor at the site who can help personnel understand what the issues mean to them.  I soundly buy into in the comparative value of a “real” person, available to tailor training to the needs of a particular state, region, company, or district over a generic video product – let alone, one that may be stale or not directly relevant to the industry.

The question is not the value of the service available, but the motive of the person advocating use of the service. With mixed motives, should the potential to be seen as too obvious, too opportunistic water down my approach.

It’s a broader question, if you’ll follow me down the crossroads of my mind and tie these questions into the scenarios at the beginning of this blog. What if you have an idea that will benefit students but also show off your talents and strategies?  What if you see the value of creation of a new position that you’re just the person to fill?  Are you hesitant to advance your ideas – especially if you stand to gain from adoption?  How do you feel about shameless self-promotion. . . .if it would be good for your organization and its mission?

Well, I’m going to push ahead with my article.  I’m banking on Legal Routes subscribers focusing more on the points I’ll make about training concerns and less on the fact that I’m shamelessly marketing my company’s services.  I think it comes down to this: If the people you serve will be better off because you spoke up, then speak up.  What do you think?

Asking For Help

This is the third post in our series “The Guts of Leadership.”

General John Barry was the executive director for the investigation of the space shuttle Columbia disaster. He recently presented for NAPT’s Leading Every Day initiative. Among the many insights he offered about NASA’s mindset prior to the disaster was one which was particularly salient:  “Asking for help is a measure of strength – not weakness. “ Read the rest of this entry

Who Says Work Can’t Be Fun?

I recently had the pleasure of a lengthy flight delay at LaGuardia airport. Pleasure you say? How’s that possible? Nobody enjoys layovers. Well this particular extended stay at the food court was actually enjoyable. We staked out a spot near a recharging outlet and settled in for what threatened to be a long boring delay. Read the rest of this entry

Tips from a Leader

Pete and I are committed to passing on “tips” via this blog, even when those tips didn’t originate from our own experience.  I read an August 10, 2013 NY Times interview by Adam Bryant with Hugh Martin, CEO of Sensity Systems (and previously with Apple and 3DO), that inspired this post.  Here are some of the principles Martin relayed:

Communication is critical. – Martin has a weekly “no-holds-barred” meeting with his entire staff.  “We talk about anything that’s important and it’s a great opportunity to model behavior to every single person in the company.”  How often do you meet with your entire staff?  Do they get to generate at least some of the topics for discussion?  How have you communicated that they can speak honestly without fear of repercussion? Read the rest of this entry

Resistance to Change – An Unusual Slant

ChangeI have taught many workshop and conference sessions about facilitating change in organizations. In these classes we spend a great deal of time talking about why you need to be a change agent and how to go about succeeding in bringing about change. We review specific strategies for overcoming resistance to change. In fact, I was hired into my current job primarily because of my “expertise” in this particular area of management.

I’ve been working with several people on a project which promises to improve our transportation service for students with special needs. In addition to being right for kids, this new way to think about where students should be picked up and discharged is also right for budgets, and the communities in which these students live. I expected resistance because change is usually difficult and creating large scale change is even more challenging. Woodrow Wilson famously said “If you want to make an enemy, change something.”  I know this, so I expected – and prepared for – resistance.  Usually the opposition shows up as some variation of intentional misunderstanding, rumor generating, questioning the ability to achieve the promised results, fearing extra work, or plain denial. :  I anticipated – and I saw – instances of these and other tactics.  What I was not prepared for were the nay-sayers who objected simply because the suggested changes were progressive. Read the rest of this entry

Don’t “leave the porch light on”

When it comes to department, district or company policy, we tend to be on autopilot until some new technology, new national crisis, or new “hot button” issue jogs us into policy development.  Although hasty, “knee-jerk” reactions may not always be advisable for a whole host of reasons, there’s another reason to lay low and see if there’s another option to policy creation.  When we attack that new issue with new language we can draw unwanted attention and scrutiny from employee unions, the media, parents and others when we would have done better to “not leave the porch light on,” as one labor lawyer recently put it. Read the rest of this entry

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