Byron's Babbles

Yellow Flag Leadership Strategies

Posted in Coaching, Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on June 24, 2014
Be A Leadership Lifeguard

Be A Leadership Lifeguard

This past weekend as I was re-reading Leverage Leadership I was struck by the analogy used of yellow flags used on beaches. The section of the book was, “Early Warnings, Yellow Flag Strategies.” As we know, a yellow flag means the potential for rip currents or danger exists. Well, as you know, I love the beach and I have always noticed that very rarely is there a green flag flying. The green flag signifies calm seas and no threats.

This is rarely ever true with oceans, or our classrooms and schools. There is always the threat for riptides or something to go astray. In the ocean if caught in a riptide it is very specific what you do. Riptides (properly called rip currents because they are not actually a tide), are long, narrow channels of water which move from shore to sea and can take you with them as they go. 80% of all water rescues are because of riptides and claim over 100 victims per year.

If you get caught in a riptide, here’s what you do: Don’t panic. You will feel like you are getting swept out to a deserted island, but most riptides go away in 50-100 feet. Don’t swim against the rip. No one is strong enough to swim against the riptide and this exhaustion is what causes most deaths. Swim parallel to the shore. You want to swim perpendicular to the rip current. In 20-100 feet you will be out of the current and you can swim at an angle away from it towards the shore.

Similarly, strategies should be employed when teachers are continuing to struggle, and the standard observation and feedback cycle needs additional structure. Author of Leverage Leadership, Paul Bambrick-Santoyo points to the following as “Yellow Flag” strategies: provide simpler instructions and techniques (bite-sized, as John Wooden would have called them), give face to face feedback more often (face to face makes the difference), plan an immediate post feedback observation, arrange for peer observing, and choose interruptions of the person you are coaching with care. Desire alone will not help you improve a struggling teacher (or team member in any industry/organization). You need effective systems and approaches that can be put in place immediately for teachers (or team members) who need them.

Really, when you think about it, these “Yellow Flag” strategies can be applied to any field; not just education. As leaders we must always be watching (awareness) for those where our feedback/coaching just isn’t helping or they just need extra help. Think about the last time you were trying to swim out of the figurative rip current! Let’s all try to be better leadership lifeguards!

One Response

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  1. Jenna Inns said, on June 24, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    I love the analogy of a supervisor or leader as a “guard”… someone there to help coach and protect a valuable employee to make them the BEST they can be. So when giving feedback, make sure your people know how much they are valued and the feedback is there to “guard” their position / make them even more desirable as a company asset & NOT to tear them down or criticize…cause fear etc. Bright spots people!


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