Byron's Babbles

The Place You Want To Go Exists!

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Simon Sinek, Why? by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 1, 2021

“The place you want to go exists, you just have to find it.” I loved this line in Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead. I believe this to be true. Sometimes, however, we need to identify where it is we want to go. We can do this through goals or just appreciating where we are. As I wrote this post I was in the air on my way to Tampa, Florida. From there I’ll be driving down to Punta Gorda. I will be working with teachers from Charlotte County Public Schools tomorrow. Doing professional development for teachers is something I want to do, so I have to go find the places that need my services. So, the line I quoted from the novel is holding true – the place I want to go exists.

Today, one of the places I want to go is the beach. There are lots of places to go so I will pick one. Then I need to take my walk and enjoy the place I am, not second guessing if another spot a couple of miles farther would be better. I must realize I have found the place I wanted to go and appreciate it. We would be well served to take this approach in many areas of our lives. Back in July of 2016 Simon Sinek tweeted, “A movement exists when people are inspired to move. To start a movement a leader must offer a vision, a direction of a place we want to go.” Many times we choose places to go, not because they are easy to get to, but because they are hard. Keep looking because the place you want to go really does exist.

Less “Why” and More “How To”

IMG_6531Recently, I was sitting in on some teacher professional development sessions and I looked over at a teacher’s notes and saw that he had written, “I need less ‘why’, and more ‘how to”. This really struck me because I had just interrupted an earlier session to see how many really thought they would be able to jump right in and do the task being trained on – some thought they could, but many wanted to try it and then have someone ready to help them. Having spent most of my career in the classroom I knew it was thing to have been shown how to do something, and then actually doing it when there were 30+ young scholars staring you in the face.

After seeing this note, I began to think about whether we had become so enamored with always explaining the “why” that we were missing the mark on the “how”. Clearly in these trainings we were for at least one participant. This struck home with me because I believe in my own world I get a lot of “why”, and then there are very few who really understand the “how”. As you will find later in this post, we need both.

I told the teacher after the session that I had seen his note and was interested. He told me it was not being critical, but he needed more time on how to do some of the tasks than so much time on why. I told him this made total sense. Really, the why should be about the vision in a quick statement of the importance and not a dissertation, or what turns into a chance for the presenter to pontificate and gain self gratification. Many times, I have found, this is because the person presenting does not understand how to do the task very well themselves.

The more I thought about this, I realized we have become very “into” talking about the “why” of everything. I get it! I really do, but because of all the writing about the “why” I believe we are forgetting to develop the “how” to the same extent. Even though the title of Simon Sinek’s great book Start With Why focuses on the “why,” he still told us that there must be those doing the “how.” For example, without Roy Disney, Walt Disney’s vision would never have been carried out. Thinking about all this brought to mind one of my favorite parts of L. David Marquet’s great book Turn The Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. Marquet explained to us in the book that when practicing intent-based leadership, where everyone is a leader, we must provide the needed technical training or it will be chaos. Genius, right! I might know “why” I need to put a fire out on a submarine, but if I don’t know “how” it becomes a bigger problem. So I might add to Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, “Finish With How”.

Think about it from a school perspective; if I spend an hour telling you how important taking accurate attendance is each period for high school students and why each period will be analyzed and rolled into the daily attendance, but then don’t spend the majority of the time making sure you understand the management program (technology) and how to use it, I have failed you. Also, we would need to make sure you understand the best practices of taking proper attendance at the beginning of the period and then updating for individual circumstances that happen during the period. I believe you get the idea, but it has become to easy and “cool” to just spend time on the “why” because that is the latest buzz phrase – “gotta tell them the why.” I’m cool with that, but make sure I understand “how to” too!

How about you? Do you need less “why”, and more “how to”?