Blog: Redmond's Rules
Two Heads are Better Than OnePosted by Mike Redmond on 2/18/2020 8:00:00 AM
Redmond's Rule #9: Two Heads are Better Than One
This rule could have been named, ‘the smartest person in the room is the room’. This expression and the title for this blog post both share my affinity that results are almost always better when a group works together in strong collaborative fashion. Such efforts usually lead to far better results than an individual working alone.
As a society, we have created the illusion that many of the greatest thinkers and scientists in our history did their work in isolation. Almost always, this story line is untrue. The scientists typically built on the previous work of other scientists and they worked in teams through processes full of trial and error to arrive at conclusions that were continued improvements of lines of thought and reason that had been previously established.
Part of the reason for great success when working collaboratively is that it allows for analysis from different perspectives. When looking for solutions to challenges, it is easy for an individual to get ‘locked in’ to a specific lane of thinking, or in other words only see the challenge through a specific paradigm. Having others involved in the process allows for analysis from a variety of perspectives which is often to the key to unlocking the path to a successful outcome.
Another key element of working collaboratively is that it allows for much in the way of critical feedback. From my perspective, critical feedback is an essential part of high quality decision-making. When working collaboratively it is incredibly important to develop trust and to make sure all members of the team are not only invited to give critical feedback, but are encouraged, or even required to give such feedback.
One of my favorite books of all time, Groupthink by Irving Janis, illustrates the failures of group decision-making when those in the room don’t have the freedom to challenge the ideas of everyone in the room, especially those with formal leadership roles and positional power. As leaders, we have to develop the kind of teams where great ideas can come from anyone on the team. We also need to welcome and appreciate those who are willing to share perspectives that are different from the mainstream of the group.
The ideas I’ve shared in the previous paragraphs may sound straightforward, and may even sound simple. In reality, to do them well takes a great deal of hard work applied consistently over time to develop strong collaborative teams that become skilled in decision-making. The following African proverb captures the sentiment of this reality very well, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Hustle Mistakes Are EncouragedPosted by Superintendent Mike Redmond on 1/19/2020
Redmond’s Rule #5: Hustle mistakes are encouraged.
One of the biggest roadblocks to getting better at something is being too worried about making mistakes. Or being too worried about looking foolish by trying to do something new and failing miserably, possibly embarrassing one’s self in the process.
Get over it.
You’re never going to be perfect, but to become skilled at something, you have to get moving, you have to take some risks, and you have to do things differently than you’ve done them previously. And when you get moving, when you take risks, and when you do new things, you will make mistakes. You will sometimes fail. You will get bumped and bruised along the way. When you are growing and improving, the mistakes and failures along the way are not blemishes on some sort of permanent record, they are the ‘scars of success’. I dare you to show me an example of a person who is exceptionally accomplished at anything who doesn’t carry with them some ‘scars of success’. They simply don’t exist. Making mistakes and suffering some bumps and bruises along the way is part of the process of growing, getting better, and becoming successful.
I also like the axiom that states that if you fall while moving you will still be making progress. I share this axiom because I think it counters a malady that appears to have become more prominent in our society. That malady is persons sharing criticism while ‘sitting on the sidelines’. For some reason persons sharing such sideline feedback seem to think they are actually doing something. I find it much easier to accept and hold in high regard the ‘hustle mistakes’ from those that are in the arena actually doing something than it is to find any value coming from those that aren’t involved. Teddy Roosevelt captured this sentiment very well:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I spent a fair amount of my life coaching sports. I spent thirteen years as a high school varsity boys basketball coach, and fourteen years as a high school varsity girls soccer coach. I also coached different levels of various school sports, club sports, lots of camps, and quite a few of my own children’s youth sports teams. I share this because one of the things I learned from this experience is that if the members on my team were going to perform to their maximum potential, they needed to have real trust and support from their coach, the kind of trust and support that understands ‘hustle mistakes’ are a necessary ingredient for attaining excellence in performance. It was my goal in this setting to create the kind of environment where the expectation was that if you were hustling, giving your absolute best effort, and trying to do things the correct way, mistakes were unavoidable. We could live with the mistakes. It was also understood that such mistakes typically diminish over time.
I firmly believe our educators need the same type of loving and trusting support from their supervisors and administrators, the kind that understands that it is complex and challenging work to serve each and every student in such a way that each student will reach her/his fullest potential. The kind of support that encourages educators to innovate, apply the best learning research in their classrooms, and mess up once and while in the process. It really is the only way to excellence in student learning.
Mike Redmond is the Superintendent of Shakopee Public Schools and author of Redmond’s Rules. Each blog post provides deeper meaning and more clarity to each of the 15 rules that make up Redmond’s Rules. To read recent posts, visit: shakopee.k12.mn.us/Page/9725
Treat others as you would like to be treated (Golden Rule). Or better yet, treat others as they would like to be treated (Platinum Rule).Posted by Superintendent Mike Redmond on 12/5/2019
Redmond's Rule #8: Treat others as you would like to be treated (Golden Rule). Or better yet, treat others as they would like to be treated (Platinum Rule).
The Golden Rule is great. I love the Golden Rule. The point of this blog post is not meant to be detrimental in any way to the tremendous value found in the Golden Rule. The thought behind this post is that the Platinum Rule builds upon the foundation of the Golden Rule, going one step further for even better results.
It’s unclear who, exactly, coined the expression Platinum Rule- treating others as they would like to be treated. I had not heard of the Platinum Rule until just a few years ago. The first time I heard the expression was when it was used by one of my college professors in my doctoral program. Upon hearing this expression, I was struck by both the simplicity of the words, and by the power of their meaning.
To me, the Platinum Rule is the building block for strong relationships and for serving others. It is strongly related to the skill of listening well as a means of understanding that I elaborated on in Rule #7. The Platinum Rule is all about empathy, understanding, and shifting perspective. If you’re going to be great in serving others, it’s imperative to really get to know those you’re expected to serve.
In the world of education, I think we can be ‘pretty good’ by attempting to serve everyone well. If our goal is excellence, and truly about helping each and every student become the most successful version of herself/himself, we need to go further. We need to know and really understand the motivations, passions, dreams, challenges, and desires of each individual student. Without this deeper understanding, we simply cannot reach the ultimate level of service that comes from treating others as they would like to be treated. We simply cannot assume that another’s version of success or happiness aligns precisely with our own definition.
To develop a deeper understanding of what it takes to treat another as they would like to be treated takes time and purposeful interaction. There has to be two-way communication in order to learn what really motivates another person. To be successful using the Platinum Rule a meaningful relationship has to be developed. There is research showing the correlation between relationships, and components of relations, with improved student learning. I strongly believe successfully employing the Platinum Rule leads to stronger relationships and improved student learning.
Listen. You have two ears and one mouth, use them in this proportion.Posted by Superintendent Mike Redmond on 11/11/2019 2:00:00 PM
Redmond's Rules #7: Listen. You have two ears and one mouth, use them in this proportion.
When we think of leadership, without giving it a lot of thought, many of us tend to think of powerful speakers. Certainly, having terrific speaking skills is an asset for a leader. And, certainly, great speeches have motivated groups to accomplish great feats. Think General MacArthur, Winston Churchill, Herb Books, and Knute Rockne here.
As powerful as speaking can be, I would argue that most often the more important skill for a leader is listening. It is listening that helps a leader truly understand a situation. I would even venture to say there was very likely a great deal in the way of listening and understanding before speakers shared the kinds of speeches we now consider most famous.
It’s interesting that in our society we typically don’t give much credence to the importance of listening and understanding when it comes to being an effective leader. I think that’s too bad, because it’s tough to impossible to be a great leader without being an effective listener. Without listening and deeply understanding a situation, it’s tough to be decisive. Without listening to others, it’s more challenging to get ‘everyone on board’ and headed in the same direction.
I thinks it’s a sign of my growing older that I get asked from time to time by aspiring educational leaders what I think is the one most important thing they can do to become exceptional leaders. My answer is, quite simply, to learn to listen well. Listening well is a skill, one that I continue to work on every day. Listening well is not a physical act. That’s hearing. Listening well is not the all too common practice of thinking about what one is going to say in response to what someone else is sharing, while the other person is doing the talking. Listening well is listening to understand. To truly and deeply understand. It involves using the art of asking clarifying questions. It also involves seeking non-verbal cues and being attentive to the ‘message within the message’. Just like other skills, to listen well takes effort and lots of practice.
One final thought. I’ve never heard anyone criticize someone else for listening too much.
If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything (Mark Twain)Posted by Superintendent Mike Redmond on 10/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
Redmond's Rules #6: If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything (Mark Twain)
As a child, the idea that who you are is much more important than what you are was firmly imprinted on my brain. Thank you Mom and Dad, and others. This simple precept has been an enduring core value in my life. This idea places high value on being trustworthy, honest, and truthful. If one’s actions are truthful over and over again, over an extended period of time, one will develop genuine trusting relationships filled with respect. I would argue that such relationships are the key components of real happiness and terrific markers of a life well lived.
The quote, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything” has been attributed to Mark Twain. However, it is unlikely he said these exact words. It is more likely that he, and others at roughly the same time, used expressions that were similar in nature to the quote attributed to Twain. I think the follow up to the quote attributed to Twain is equally important. Lying takes more effort and brainpower than does telling the truth.
There are several other quotes I like that demonstrate the power and importance of being truthful:
- “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” (Henry David Thoreau)
- “Between whom there is hearty truth, there is love.” (Henry David Thoreau)
- “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” (George Orwell)
- To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night.” (Yoda)
- “Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.” (Elvis Presley)
- “The fact that a great many people believe something is no guarantee of its truth.” (W. Somerset Maugham)
- “If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both.” (Horace Mann)
- “Stop hanging out with people that tell you what you want to hear. Hang out with people who tell you the truth.” (Eric Thomas)
The last quote from motivational speaker Eric Thomas reminds of the key point being made in the classic book Groupthink by Irving Janis. The book highlighted the grave mistakes made by leaders when those around them were not free to speak up and offer critical feedback. As an educational leader, I want those around me to speak up and share their own thoughts and critical feedback. I strongly believe this is an important element in high quality decision-making, clarity, and building a foundation of trust.
If You Have Too Many ‘Top’ Priorities, You Really Have NonePosted by Superintendent Mike Redmond on 8/5/2019 9:00:00 AM
Redmond's Rules #4: If you have too many ‘top’ priorities, you really have none. Focus on a few things and do them really well.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the saying, if you want to get something done you should ask a busy person. This is because persons who are busy know how to get things done. I think this is true, especially if the busy person knows how to prioritize. I would argue those who are able to prioritize and focus on just a few priorities at one time are far more productive than those who aren’t so good at prioritizing and are attempting to focus on way too many things at one time.
In the world of education, we are incredibly susceptible to trying to do way too many things at one time. I think this problem comes from a good place. In education we want to do everything we can for every student, and we want to do it right away. We want to have maximum productivity, and we want to have it immediately, if not sooner. Unfortunately, what often happens is that instead of working on a couple, or possibly as many as 3-5 top priorities over a period of time, we try to tackle 10-12, or more, ‘priorities’ all at once. This almost always ends up with very poor results. If we’re trying to implement 10-12 new things in a compressed period of time, there is very little chance we will be able to successfully implement even one of these ‘priorities’. It takes time, effort, and most importantly, dedicated focus and thoughtful marshalling of resources to deeply implement a single educational strategy or practice to the point it will become permanent and part of the ‘way we do things’.
As our district leadership team and principals have been working this spring and summer on planning for the coming school year and beyond, one of the things I’ve shared with them is my strong belief in focusing on a few things so we can do them well. Over time this will allow us to more deeply implement those initiatives that are most important and will be most impactful on student learning. Once these top priorities are well implemented, we will then move on to additional areas for improvement. This process sounds simple, but in practice it is extremely challenging. It takes a tremendous amount of sustained energy to really focus, and really dig in to making the necessary changes in systems and structures so that we can consistently produce better student learning results in the future.
Our Work is Always About Each Individual STUDENTPosted by Mike Redmond on 6/3/2019 9:00:00 AM
2. Our work is always about the STUDENTS
3. See #2. Or better yet, our work is always about each individual STUDENT
I get it, you read this one and go, “Well, duh.” But, not so fast. Sometimes we adults get caught up in the day-to-day buzz of activity and the flow of work that we occasionally, often without realizing it, shift the focus to ourselves, or shift the focus to task completion without regard for the meaning of the task. It’s actually part of human nature and quite easy to change to a self-oriented or task-only perspective without even really knowing it’s happening. I think because educators put so much of themselves into their work on behalf of students, and due to the incredible effort, emotion, passion, care, and concern that comes with this work, that we are especially prone to temporary, unrecognized slips in our focus. So, when I say Our work is always about the STUDENTS it’s primarily meant to be a gentle cautionary reminder for folks whose work is incredibly intertwined with student well-being to pause on occasion and check to make sure we’re still looking at things from the perspective of what’s best for students.
This concept is one of the reasons I’m such a big fan of employing more in the way of design thinking into the world of education. Design thinking requires envisioning a process, in our case student learning, through the eyes of the customers it is being designed to serve, in this case students. But, I digress…..
Rule #3 is about moving from a generalization, all students, to the specific, each student. It is certainly a positive action to care for all students. In fact, I would hope this is the feeling of every employee in our organization, and every member of our community, for that matter. My concern is that when we frame students in the plural sense, as in all students, we can sometimes miss significant variations between individual students within the group. From my perspective, that’s simply not good enough. For those of you really into all things math, it’s the idea that a representation of average or total can hid a lot in the way of disparity within the calculation. In some industries, especially those producing tangible goods, it’s normal to throw out some of the inputs due to flaws or imperfections. In education, our inputs are kids, my kids, our kids, and I want each child to grow as much as possible and develop to the greatest amount possible to become the best learner and person he/she can be. I see our job as fostering and supporting each student to chase dreams and realize her/his fullest potential. In our ‘industry’ of education and student learning we simply do not and cannot have anything resembling disposable inputs.
I guess this is as good of time as any to share one more piece of ‘soap box’ ideology. It is my deep belief that our nation’s public schools are the last and best bastion for a person in our amazing country to pursue the American dream. Education can, and does, unlock doors to incredible futures for even the most initially disadvantaged among us. This is a part of why I get up and go to work every day as an educator.
Faith and Family Come FirstPosted by Mike Redmond on 5/6/2019 9:00:00 AM
I’ve always been a bit confused about why when we educational leaders are in the ultimate people business, student learning, we often don’t seem to care about our employees, or team members, quite like I think we should. I’m a big believer in the notion that if members of our team are living healthy lives, committed to their preference in terms of spiritual grounding, and are part of loving relationships with friends and family, they will be better able to serve the needs of students. Rule number one, faith and family come first is my way of stating this in concise fashion.
In practice, this is my way of giving the dedicated, hard-working employee a nudge when there is a choice to be made between caring for a family member in a time of great need or coming to work. Care for the family member. It’s also my way of giving the same dedicated employee a nudge when there’s a choice to be made between attending a their own child’s concert, sporting event, or things of that nature versus staying at work a bit longer and getting another task completed. Go watch your kid perform.
Please don’t be confused by this rule. It’s in no way meant to be a cop out, or a lessening of expectations. I have high expectations for myself and those with whom I work. I don’t think there’s anything unique in these expectations. Every good educator I’ve ever known also has very high expectations and a strong work ethic. What I’m trying to do is make sure these incredibly dedicated team members maintain balance in their lives and are truly present for the people they care most about. Ultimately, this makes them even better employees who able to do even more in terms of serving our students.
What in the World are Redmond's Rules?Posted by Superintendent Mike Redmond on 4/8/2019 8:00:00 AM
And why are you blogging about them? That might be the next question……
From the beginning as an 18 year-old playground supervisor and basketball coach at the elementary school I attended to my current role as the superintendent of Shakopee Public Schools, my journey as an educator has taken a few turns and covered a significant distance. On this journey, I’ve come in contact with a wealth of wisdom. Sometimes this wisdom was gained through trial and error as a teacher, coach, or educational leader. Other times it was learned through lots of reading and research. Quite often it has come from observing and listening to other educators. Creating a list, now called Redmond’s Rules, was my way of sorting the key components of all this wisdom into something that might be useful in explaining what I value most in the world of education.
The Rules are also an attempt to encapsulate who I am as an educational leader and for me to go on the record in regards to what the guideposts will be for our team. I’m keenly aware that when one goes on the record that means it’s okay for other members of the team, in fact it’s expected, to call me out if my actions, or the actions of the team, don’t align with the Rules. Another important feature of sharing Redmond’s Rules is to help clarify what I value as it relates to the contributions of each of our team members.
1. Faith and family come first.
2. Our work is always about the STUDENTS.
3. See #2. Or better yet, our work is always about each individual STUDENT.
4. If you have too many 'top' priorities, you really have none. Focus on a few things and do them really well.
5. Hustle mistakes are encouraged.
6. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything (Mark Twain).
7. Listen. You have two ears and one mouth, use them in this proportion.
8. Treat others as you would like to be treated (Golden Rule). Or even better, treat others as they would like to be treated (Platinum Rule).
9. Two heads are better than one.
10. Healthy organizations have honest discussions.
11. Culture eats strategy for breakfast (Peter Drucker).
12. Play like a champion today.
13. Positive people who work the hardest always seem to have the most 'luck'.
14. We are preparing students for their future, not our past (Ian Jukes).
15. In education, nearly everything works, or has a positive correlation. Spend more time doing the things research shows work best (see John Hattie's research for details).
Every kid is MY KID.
I will be sharing a series of blog posts. Each of these blog posts will be my attempt to add detail and provide deeper meaning and more clarity to each of the fifteen rules that make up Redmond’s Rules. I will wrap up this current blog post by sharing some thoughts about the tagline that follows the fifteen rules: Every kid is my kid!
The phrase Every kid is my kid! is much more than a cliche or some form of positive edu-speak. The phrase starts with the idea that I want and expect the same for each and every child in our school district, which is exactly what I wanted for my two sons, Ryan and Reed. On one level this is pretty simple and straightforward. On other levels, the concept goes much deeper. It means as an educational leader I will advocate for those who may not have the advantages of having the ‘inside the education system’ voices that my kids did by having my wife Carol, a terrific teacher, and me in their lives. In other words, when I’m taking a look at a situation involving a student, I will make sure the perspective of a loving parent is part of the equation and helps guide the process and decision-making. Caring for a kid is one thing. Caring for each kid as though she/he is my own child is quite different.
I mentioned in the previous paragraph that my own sons had the advantage, although I’m sure to them it felt like a disadvantage at times, of having two parents who knew the ins and outs of school culture, and could help them navigate the system. As with any institution in any part of the world, a particular public school, all public schools in Minnesota, or the U.S. for that matter, there exists a particular culture. This culture is the way of doing things. The rules for how to navigate this culture successfully are often taken for granted by those who ‘live’ there, and difficult to find or interpret for those who aren’t familiar with the culture. So, when I use the phrase Every kid is my kid! it also means I have the expectation that we will help each child navigate our school culture. We will make as many of the rules explicit and as easy to understand as we can. We will ‘translate’, or bridge, when the culture is nuanced and challenging to explain. And, we will do everything in our power to make sure that each child feels welcome in our schools, and that the ‘way we do things’ will not inadvertently determine winners and losers in the system.