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Why or Why Not?

Simon Sinek, in his rightfully acclaimed book, Start with Why suggests, unsurprisingly, that organizations (and individuals) should start with their why before initiating a major project, a business or any major endeavor. He persuasively argues that understanding the motivation behind a project is more likely to provide momentum and a larger purpose for the work.

Those of us who are in the school business can articulate our why. With minor variations, we do this work because we want to prepare the next generation to live happy, fulfilled and productive lives. (Go ahead, look at your mission statement--you can distill it to what I just said.)

Almost all schools I know meet regularly with a leadership team. (They have different names depending on the school--Admin Team, A Team, Cabinet; however they all have similar functions.) The teams tend to be composed of the leaders of each area of the school--academic, finance, admissions, and development. Some add technology, sports and/or boarding. These teams tend to meet either weekly or biweekly and they discuss large issues affecting the school.

And generally--come on be honest--the meetings are more dreaded than anticipated. While much information is shared at the meeting and some debate is had, most often the meetings accomplish very little.

Part of the reason for the lack of engagement is that the Leadership Team does not understand its why. Is the team designed to share information so everyone is in the know? Or is it supposed to present potential solutions to issues that arise? Or is it supposed to implement plans to make the school better? Or is it designed so that the leaders of the school see each other occasionally?

Leadership team meetings would have more focus if every member of the team understood the why of the team. It is a worthwhile exercise to ask every member of the team to write down their understanding of the team's why and then come to a conclusion of the rationale for the team. If the rationale is not compelling, it is time to rethink the team and its mission.

If a team does not understand its why, it cannot be expected to achieve at a high level.


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