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Leadershift (Guest Post)

 

June 5, 2014

The following is guest post by William McCoy, School District Superintendent and Tech Start-Up Founder. I think you’ll find that he is raising an interesting and important topic around our multiple roles as leaders. You may be a leader in two or more different companies, like William, or you may need to shift from being a workplace leader to a family leader at the end of your day. It can be tough to juggle dual roles, and is increasingly common. Take it away William!

I am a big fan of books on Leadership. Good To Great, by Jim Collins, is a staple on my bookshelf that I have revisited again and again. The Wizard and the Warrior: Leading with Passion and Power by Bolman and Deal provided me profound insight as a new leader. Most recently, The Multiplier Effect by Wiseman, Allen and Foster has captured my attention and imagination.

What you need to know about me is that I live a dual life that requires very different leadership styles, and daily I force this internal paradigm shift. I am a School District Superintendent in rural Northern California, and I am also the Founder of three different tech start-up projects (Zippy Campus, All Clear and Talking Paints). Those of you in either job probably realize the inherently different roles required to be effective at either of these positions.

As a School District Superintendent, my job requires diplomacy, soft skills, fiscal acumen, and I report to a Board of Trustees. I have about three hundred employees and 2100 students that depend upon me to provide resources, support and safety. On a daily basis I may interact with staff, public officials, union representatives and, if I am lucky, students. The position is replete with rules, regulations, contracts, plans, and policies. But it is also incredibly rewarding, and the best possible service that I can imagine myself providing to our community. Educating children is in my soul, and helping more students has always been my goal.

As Founder of a Start-up, it’s just me. (Especially when chasing Angel Investors, Venture Capitalists, potential Partners, and ultimately customers). From what I have found, there are no rules, regulations, or policies to follow when starting a business. There isn’t a blueprint for success, and if there is, some rich son of a gun is hiding it. It is a chaotic, digital frenzy where the only way to jump in is to simply begin.

So different are these worlds that it often takes my conscious effort to shift between the two. Of course, I try to keep my start-up business away from my public service as a Superintendent. Even though the original concept for the start-up was hatched by simply trying to help my Principals break free from their desks more often. I created apps that could help them collect, compile, and analyze data more quickly and efficiently, thus allowing them more time to do be instructional leaders in classrooms. When I decided to try and make a go of it as a business, I had to stop pushing the idea with my own Principals because I didn’t want there to be the perception of using their work for my own gain. I don’t even really market to my colleagues in the county because I don’t want to strain our working relationship.

So I leave my job as Superintendent behind each night and go home to pursue these other ventures. Ventures where I have to be bold, creative, LinkedIn, Tweeted, and dual platform friendly. I am the designer, builder, creator, marketer, promoter, funder, boss and workhorse. If it doesn’t work, I have to fix it and if I don’t fix it, it simply doesn’t work. Game over.

So trying to rectify these two worlds into a single paradigm is fantastically impossible at this point. As a Superintendent, “getting the right people on the bus” makes sense. As a Founder, the bus has one occupant and he is doing his best Fred Flintstone impression trying to get the stone wheels to turn and go somewhere.

I once heard a speaker say something to the effect of “great leaders inspire people to follow them. If you don’t have followers, you are just a guy on a walk.” As a Superintendent, I am fortunate to have co-workers and colleagues that believe in providing an outstanding education for all students as our ultimate goal. We pursue that together each day. As a Founder, I am a guy on a walk until I knock on the right door, make the right connection, convince the right person, or sell the right organ to get these projects funded. It is lonely, frustrating, invigorating, freeing, and scary all at once.

So if you know of a book that I can add to my bookshelf that can help me navigate these very different waters, I would love to hear about it. I have searched for random titles hoping to find a hit, but I guess the following titles haven’t been written yet:

Diplomat by Day and Strategic Creative When You Should Be Sleeping

Bite Your Tongue and Kick Some Butt

So maybe what needs to be done is an analysis of the new types of leadership that are developing in this era of entrepreneurship. Maybe we need to take a look at the dual roles and inherent conflicts created by everyone trying to manage more and more interests at the speed of Facebook posts. It would be fascinating to learn about the dual roles many of us play in the world. Maybe I could write it…

Okay that’s just a bad idea. Another task, another leadership requirement, and another “leadershift” is not really what I am looking for in this adventure. Two roles, three start-ups, and a district full of students is plenty for now.

Click here to learn more about William McCoy and his company.

Check out Kevin Kruse’s new book, Employee Engagement 2.0, and discover how leaders turn apathetic groups into emotionally committed teams.

Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author and serial entrepreneur. For insider tips and exclusive content, join his newsletter at kevinkruse.com.

William McCoy, Founder

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Pitching for Principals

Posted on April 23, 2014 by victorrivero

In search of a single set of utilities to truly help a school leader lead.

 

GUEST COLUMN | by William McCoy

 

CREDIT Joe Mabel CreativeCommonsAs time has passed, the job of school principal has shifted from one of Instructional Leader to Administrator. The mandates of the job have taken principals from their campuses and classrooms, to their desks. This is bad for instruction, for discipline, and for kids.

 

As a school superintendent, I have been watching this slow shift in the principal, and I have felt unable to help at a fundamental level. The necessities of the job, the job that I am asking principals to do, has become more about paper than people. There are work orders to be filled out, vehicles to be managed, parent/student/community surveys to be compiled, campus facility inspections to manage, and don’t forget about Instructional Leadership!

 

The field of education technology is beautifully vast, but I came up empty when seeking a single set of utilities that would help me.

 

So as I watch great principals grow distant from their primary objective, ensuring the education of children, it finally became untenable. Something had to change, and I couldn’t find the answers anywhere other than inside myself. I started to look at the pieces of the principal’s job that are a drain on their valuable time, and that keep them at a distance from classrooms and students. The only reasonable goal I could develop was to find a way to increase their efficiency (saving them time) and to get them out of their offices and back into classrooms.

 

I looked at the processes and procedures that our district has implemented that resulted in slowly eating away at the valuable day of a principal. Where were efficiencies to be found, and how could logic and technology overcome the “administrivia” in our district? I found several challenges, and took them on one by one.

 

My background is in Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology which provides me the constant lens of technology as a tool. It was through that lens that the answers began to come into focus. Let’s be clear, though I understand the capabilities of technology, I am not a programmer. I could not just sit down and write programs to solve the issues that I saw in my district. Instead, I had to seek out tools with the capability of being shaped into tools that would be useful for my principals.

 

The field of education technology is beautifully vast, but I came up empty when seeking a single set of utilities that would help me. Many offered similar ideas, but none of them were comprehensive enough to cover the territory that I was to conquer. The answer came not from the education field at all, but from the business and conference management world.

(I told you I did my research!)

 

I started approaching business companies with my idea, much of the time speaking of ideas and concepts that were somewhat foreign to the business industry. There are no Common Core standards in business, and I was often referring to ideas using the language of Education, and not that of Business. I had to become a salesman of my ideas to the business sector before I could see if the business sector could do anything about my struggling principals. It was incredibly frustrating.

 

The breakthrough came when I was able to start speaking with a businessman from New Zealand, Stephen Cohn. I had written an inquiry about a possible technology partnership with his company, Contact Software. Stephen is the CEO of the company, and he actually responded to my inquiry, and then he listened to what I had in mind. By then, I had attempted to explain my idea so many times to others that I was fairly good at providing the vision, and the way in which his company could partner to create my idea. It became not only an extended conversation across the Pacific, but across typical Business and Education fields. We both had a great deal of translation to do between our worlds, but the work is moving ahead.

 

Through our partnership together we have started to plot a mutually beneficial course. With his help, I have been able to create a suite of Utilities for schools called Zippy Campus. Zippy Campus provides the following supports to schools:

 

*A campus walk-through tool that encompasses best practices, professional teaching standards, and the Common Core.

 

*An incredibly fast emergency response system that allows administrators to send and receive status updates to staff via an app tailored to this purpose.

 

*A series of electronic surveys tailored to a variety of purposes (Title I, School Climate, Customer Service, and Bullying) that are taken via portable electronic devices and are compiled automatically for administrators, Site Councils, and School Boards.

 

*An app that quickly assists staff members in notifying custodians/maintenance crews of problems.

 

*A system that simplifies fleet management check-in and check-out procedures.

 

All of the pieces of Zippy Campus work on iOS and Android devices, which makes them accessible to most school districts that receive cell service. The prototype utilities are currently under development, and we are finalizing the pricing, marketing, and distribution channels for our efforts.

 

Stay tuned for something great!

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