Leaders Embrace Diverse Backgrounds

I’ve been working with organizations in all sectors for over ten years, helping them develop leaders who motivate and teams who love working together. However, it took a few years for some skeptical high-level leaders and large corporations to take me seriously. Why?

Because I had no background working in a corporate environment. My degrees are in music education, and my first career was as a band teacher.

Not everyone was skeptical, though.

Some companies embraced my different way of thinking, which is what successful leaders do; they hire and promote people with a variety of backgrounds.

This shouldn’t happen willy-nilly, of course. My background was in leadership, albeit with kids, so I had several transferable skills. Sometimes, though, one had to look hard and maybe sideways to see them.

Yet, in those early years, I maintained that the best practices in band program administration were congruent to the best practices in managing and developing employees.

The prototype detailed in The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber matched the model of an effective, student-leader-empowered, music program:

  1. Provide consistent value to customers (students), employees (staff and student leaders), suppliers (parents), and lenders (school district curriculum and administration).
  2. Results must be attainable by people with the skill level they already have.
  3. The company (program) must stand out as a place of impeccable order and structure.
  4. All work must be defined in operations manuals. (Clear standards of “how we do things around here.”)
  5. Events must unfold in a predictable and orderly way.
  6. Employees (students) must utilize a uniform color, dress, and facilities code.
  7. A commitment to continuous improvement and development.

The business world and the school world are not the same, of course.

One difference is that, unlike businesses, there is no profit motive in public schools. School personnel strive to do great work for many reasons, but none of those reasons are to deliver financial return to shareholders.

Even so, there are teachers (and activity coaches, specifically) who study and incorporate best practices in business. They do this from an organizational standpoint and from a team-building/customer service/human relations standpoint.

Additionally, there are business leaders who approach their people as if they were volunteers (like band students) who could–and would–walk away if they didn’t think their time and energy were well-spent.

If we go back to Blanchard’s basic three tenets:

  1. Be the employer of choice. (Do students want to produce for the teacher or coach?)
  2. Be the provider of choice. (Is the activity worth all the time and effort?)
  3. Be the investment of choice. (Do the public and the administration believe that the class deserves support and funding?)

One way to implement this strategy is to embrace some of the diverse and transferable skills all people can offer. No one on the Group Dynamic team followed a straight-line, “traditional” path to the position they hold now. And they do great work.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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