Surviving The Competitive World of Accountability

Developing Individuals and School Organizations as Winners


Not everyone is born with the same level of competitive spirit. The world of accountability in education brings on a higher level of competitive awareness. Accountability, among other things, is about measuring the effectiveness of a school's curriculum and instructional program. When we measure we begin comparing, and when we begin comparing we become competitive. But rather than comparing individual to individual, competition is best managed as a team--whether by departments, as a school, or district wide. And while a little external competition never hurt anyone, the most productive competition is found within. 

Here are a few things a school or district can do to increase survival and competitiveness in the arena of educational accountability.

1.  Encourage Variability 

Sports Psychologist, JoAnn Dahlkoetter, Ph.D.,   On the characteristics of highly motivated athletes which include enthusiasm and drive, courage to succeed, internal motivation and self-direction, commitment to excellence, discipline, consistency, organization, being focused and relaxed, and ability to handle diversity:  "The people who develop these qualities and practice these skills regularly have the best chance of excelling in athletics as well as personally and professionally."

Naturalist, Charles Darwin   "Hence it is the most flourishing, or, as they may be called, the dominant species,- those which range widely, are the most diffused in their own country, and are the most numerous in individuals,- which oftenest produce well-marked varieties, or, as I consider them, incipient species."

and again,

"I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection."

Point   "Qualities" -- many, not just one. Value diversity, variety, and individual differences among staff members and faculty.  Employ a multi-disciplinarian approach to attaining success in the accountability arena such as the use of varied instructional strategies, a varied reward and celebration system, multiple methods for encouraging learning in both students and faculty, and an ongoing school-wide improvement process that employs multiple strategies to achieve higher performance. Having several strengths to draw from assures resilience and the ability to continue playing the game--especially when the moment of competition is at its steepest.    

2.  Build Endurance through Continuous Improvement 

Sports Psychologist, JoAnn Dahlkoetter, Ph.D.,  "Winning athletes know how to self-energize and work hard on a daily basis. Because they love what they do it is easier for them to maintain consistency in training and in competing. Regardless of personal problems, fatigue, or difficult circumstances, they can generate the optimal amount of excitement and energy to do their best."

Naturalist, Charles Darwin   "When many of the inhabitants of any area have become modified and improved, we can understand, on the principle of competition, and from the all-important relations of organism to organism in the struggle for life, that any form which did not become in some degree modified and improved, would be liable to extermination."

Point   Winning is sometimes simply a matter of wearing out the competition. Build endurance for survival over the long haul through ongoing and continuous increments of training and development in areas such as instruction, classroom management, teaming, and technology. And  since many school districts provide some degree of staff development, the key words here are ongoing and continuous. Think of it as endurance training. You don't stand a chance to win at competition through sporadic skill and performance training. The goal -- "to self-energize and work hard on a daily basis." 

3.  Remove the Negatives 

Sports Psychologist, JoAnn Dahlkoetter, Ph.D.,  "Donít replay the mistakes. You want to remove the memory of errors. If you see yourself doing something incorrectly, edit the film in your mind and replay it exactly as you wish it to happen. Imagine that youíre performance is equal to or better than your previous best."

Naturalist, Charles Darwin   "On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favorable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest."

and again . . .

"It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving or adding up all that are good . . ."

Point   Select out negative, damaging, or low performing thoughts, habits, beliefs, skills, and processes in individuals, teams, and/or the school through "daily and hourly scrutinizing." An evaluation process weeds through to the practices that best suit the needs of a given situation and helps rid a system of failing and outdated processes, and processes selected that may need revision. Fine-tune for high performance by focusing on quality actions, practices and strategies that support and reinforce a winning streak in employees.

4.  Create a Mental Warpath to Oncoming Obstacles

Sports Psychologist, JoAnn Dahlkoetter, Ph.D.,   "Top athletes know how to deal with difficult situations. Adversity builds character.  When elite athletes know the odds are against them they embrace the chance to explore the outer limits of their potential.  Rather than avoiding pressure they feel challenged by it. They are calm and relaxed under fire. Setbacks become an opportunity for learning; they open the way for deep personal growth."

Naturalist, Charles Darwin   ". . . the struggle will often be severe between beings remote in the scale of nature. The slightest advantage in certain individuals, at any age or during any season, over those with which they come into competition, or better adaptation in however slight a degree to the surrounding physical conditions, will, in the long run, turn the balance."

Point   Obstacles in life are a given, though survival of them is not. During periods of training and development targeted towards organizational and school goals, be sure to include periods of problem solving, critical thinking, and creative thinking skill development. Assure gaining the edge during competition and a greater chance of survival by developing mental toughness and "thinking" employees. On pressure -- "feel challenged by it."

Coming out a winner through harsh and challenging conditions demands time-tested strategies -- and strategies tested under demanding conditions. Whether you subscribe to the wisdom of Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection or follow the thoughts of sports psychologists, any leader can build employee strength in competition and create greater individual or organizational success. 


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