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Did You Make a Defensible Decision?

I’ve written a book about it.  I’ve given presentations about it.  I’ve made it a focus of my career to teach school transportation professionals how to make a legally defensible decision.  With all of that, however, I’m not sure I’ve distilled anyplace just what a legally defensible decision is.   Here’s what I don’t mean:  some decisions are poor decisions, but because of legal technicalities, or state governmental immunity statutes, or even poor lawyering on the part of the parent’s counsel, the school district will win.  In other words you have a legal defense, bDecisionut not because you did something right.

Instead, I mean a decision you can defend with a straight face because it made sense given all of the information you had at your disposal, or would have had if you’d exercised due diligence. . . . even if it didn’t turn out well.  You did the best you could under all the circumstances – because your best is still limited by the fact that you’re only human – but a student was hurt, or worse.

Here’s what a defensible decision looks like:

  • You had and used a process for making the decision
  • It’s the product of objective reasoning with a basis you can articulate
  • You can point to behavior that reasonably demonstrates your concern for the student involved
  • It complies with applicable law, regulation and your own policy
  • When there isn’t a big fat elephant in the room that betrays the fact that your decision could never work, or is directly contrary to anyone’s common sense, or flies in the face of the law.  Basically, it passes the “straight-faced” test:  you can convey it with a straight face.

 

 

Getting Past “If they only knew”

Recently I’ve been hearing phrases excuseslike “If they only knew how difficult” or “If they only knew how complicated”. Usually, the phrase is spoken in reference to some demand for service that someone is having trouble meeting and is used almost as an excuse for not being able to live up to expectations.

Typically, explaining how busy you are, how short staffed you are, or how complicated the task is, is perceived as an excuse. Modern customers don’t want to hear it. Barring some major “catastrophe” like a flu epidemic they don’t care that your organization didn’t hire enough people to get the job done. In their mind, that’s your problem and they’re not willing to make your problem their problem. There are almost always constraints or obstacles to performing any worthwhile task. Whether they are legal, political, procedural, fiscal, or even psychological, there are factors that make what would otherwise be a simple task, more difficult. Any dispatcher worth his or her salt can list at least 10 constraints off the top of their head. Read the rest of this entry

Tony, We’ll Miss You

When we were young and impressionable it used to be pretty easy to have heroes. Whether they were athletes, politicians, or even fictional “super-heroes” it was easy to focus on the great things they did. If they had flaws, they weren’t obvious. Members of the younger generations now have a much more difficult time finding heroes. These days it’s much harder to see people so positively because we know so much more – both good and bad – about them. Today, a president could not be confined to a wheelchair with more than 90% of the American public being unaware of it as was the case while FDR was president.

So it is with heartfelt sorrow that I reminisce about the great Tony Gwynn who had only one known vice – chewing tobacco (which ultimately led to his passing away from cancer). A few weeks ago, Mr. San Diego left us and we are all poorer for it. There are countless truly touching stories from a wide array of people whose lives were touched for the better by this baseball great. Bring a few tissues with you and browse the internet to see just how great he really was as a player, but more importantly, as a person.

I’ll just list a few of the traits that converted me to being a lifelong Tony Gwynn fan.

As a hitter there were none greater during his era. Even the best pitchers (Glavine, Maddox, Martinez) could not consistently get him out. He won 8 batting titles and batted above .300 for 19 years. As a fielder he also won 5 gold gloves. He even stole 56 bases one year. Despite all these accomplishments, nobody has ever heard about them from Tony. As I taught my children and the children I coached to be humble in success, there was no better role model than Tony, the greatest hitter of his era.

Due to his amazing success, Mr. Gwynn had numerous opportunities to move to other teams and make more money. Nevertheless, he turned down these offers and remained with the same team for 20 years. He also showed this same level of commitment in his charity work, family life, and preparation for baseball. Where a less committed person might ease off the hours and hours of studying to improve his performance, Tony kept up the hard work, recognizing that he might be the best in the game, but he could not be the best he could be if he eased off.

Tony Gwynn and Erica

Tony at a restaurant posing with 2 fans – one being my daughter Erica

Tony had a frequent and contagious laugh which seemed a perfect match for his generous nature. If there is anyone about whom it can be said “he enjoyed the journey” it was Tony Gwynn. Despite the pressure of professional baseball or coaching a top division college team or raising a family in these difficult times, Tony never took himself or the vicissitudes of life too seriously. He would always take the time to laughingly share a story with old or new friends. Even at the end of a long day he’d make sure that no young child, awed just to be in his presence, was left with an empty autograph pad or a frown on his face.

The closest I ever came to meeting Tony were the few times I had good seats at a Padre game. However, he significantly impacted my life by allowing my children and the kids I coached in both baseball and softball to have an untainted hero. Everybody in San Diego, even non-baseball fans, knew what it meant to “do it like Tony would.” It meant to give it your all, but to do so humbly, and to have fun along the way. A perfect role model for both young and old has left us – felled by that one and only vice.

A Graduation of a Different Sort

One of our school bus drivers, Mark, is celebrating receiving his Master’s degree after 14 years of college. Aside from marveling at his “sticktoitiveness” I was particularly struck by what he wrote in his graduation ceremony invitation. “Fourteen years ago I decided to go back to school and — only as an afterthought then —  to get a part time job driving a school bus.  Little did I know that becoming a school bus driver would be a bedrock of success for me!!” Read the rest of this entry

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

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

Starting with “Fine”

It may be telling that Pete often finds inspiration for blog posts in business articles and publications, and I’m often moved to write by something I read in less relevant sources.  I don’t know what that “tells,” in fact, but I’m sure it reveals something about us as bloggers. 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

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