It was the game where you, the doctor, were responsible for removing health issues like the charlie horse, spare ribs and the butterflies. The most fun was removing the anklebone from the knee bone. You all remember getting buzzed before you could remove the infection. Wouldn’t it be great if life really gave you a buzzer before you stepped on the land mine?

My last 12 months has been filled with leadership landmines. One of the critical elements in learning how to lead is avoiding the landmines, building the map through the battlefield and making it to the destination with all limbs in place. After reflecting on the last 12 months I realized that I need to raise my awareness. This will take more than just putting new batteries in my buzzer, I am going to need a better map through the battlefield.  

Here are some land mines I stepped on that I must avoid this year.  

Poor staffing decisions: If you have read anything I have written in the past, and bless you for doing so, there is a gap between what we do and what we know. It is called the knowledge gap. The land mine that is poor staffing decisions is a landmine that blows off multiple limbs throughout the year. We have assisted multiple schools hire their principal, assistant principals and teachers. We always have a process which includes initial screening interviews, strategic projects, on the spot demonstration of skills, thorough supervisory reference calls and multiple meetings and time on campus with stakeholders. I can tell you each time I have had the unfortunate task of termination or non-renewal I skipped one or more of these steps. Typically because I “thought” I needed someone to fill the position when the right thing to do was slow down and focus on the best decision for the culture…not my to do list. You must have a clear plan for who you need and specifically what they will be responsible for before you begin the hiring process.

Lack of Orientation: This landmine has been beating me down for years. I guarantee all of you have a dynamite orientation plan for all staff members at the start of the school year. Question, what happens when the new employee misses those critical days? Who do you rely on them to orient them to the culture and level of expectations you lost sleep over mapping out? Have you stepped on the landmine of expecting the staff member leaving the organization to “train” the new hire. Come on…raise your hand. I would but a landmine blew it completely off. You all know how this goes – the work doesn’t stop just because there are new staff in the building. The new teacher starts, you introduce them to a few people, some students. All they can think about is how their students are going to react to their opening lesson and the office manager badgers them to get their personnel information and W-2 filled out. Leadership expert John Maxwell taught me, if you are not preparing on the front, you will be repairing on the back end. I spent too many summer days cleaning the classrooms of poorly oriented and developed team members. Your people are your most valuable resource (professional capital). Treat them like it!

Employee Development: Anyone who has worked with me know I tend to only attempt to develop others through examples, empowerment and resources. I honestly can say I am not sure how else to do it…but one thing I know for sure, this model only works for a small percentage of people. The consequences to any organization that does not have an ongoing employee development plan that is intentional, actionable for all levels of learners and personalized are detrimental. If you assume, like I tend to do, that everyone is as driven and hungry to learn like you are (why else would you be reading this otherwise), those members of the team will only rise to the level of their training. They will not see challenges as opportunities to overcome, they will see them as obstacles, barriers and excuses to revert back to the only way they know to solve the problem…poorly. Even more important is if you do not have an employee development plan that is challenging, opportunistic and getting results the individuals who crave learning experiences will leave you and all you will be left with are the underachievers who are untrained. Sorry, it is true. Whether you lead this professional development or you bring in an outside resource be sure of this one law I broke many times: You cannot lead anyone to a place you have never been. So do NOT pretend to be an expert. Your thinking and skills are probably not too much higher than those you are training. They will see through your attempts and again, revert back to what they know.

Timely Communication: They say that every time you triple the size of your staff your level of communication and systems need to increase by 10! Especially when you avoid communication because of fear of conflict, hurting someone or getting your own feelings hurt. They call these “crucial conversations” and there is a series of books of how to teach you (Fierce Conversations, Crucial Conversations, Thanks for the Feedback). I read them all but the human factor in me always wins. I honestly cannot recall a time where I had a timely crucial conversation. I have had dozens of crucial conversations, but never when time was paramount. This law I have broken so often, it is a miracle I have any credibility left.  When you don’t have the conversation at the right time, the conversation never gets easier and the consequences are always worse. You have no right to complain about something you have allowed, so if you do not want to allow it, address it.

Keeping Score: Just today I read a passage about false guilt and how troubling it is on the soul. It has taken me decades to learn this law. Those who do things for others for the sake of acknowledgement or paybacks live a very lonely life. The solution for one is not the solution for all. When you keep score you will never win. No one will ever, in your mind, repay you so stop expecting it. The range of people who will lose limbs when this landmine is triggered ranges from the staff you hire, the family and friends you help and the children you raise. Do it because someone did it for you. Do it because you should be grateful for the role you are currently in. Remember, charisma gets you through the door, character keeps you in the room.

This blog was written by Dr. Thomas Miller. If you found it helpful to you please share it with a colleague. You can learn more about Dr. Miller and his organization, Leaders Building Leaders, by visiting the web site



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