Skip to main content

Join the Community

or Close

Search

Leadership Lessons Learned from Bridezillas

So I have a bit of a confession to make: I’m addicted to reality television. While I can’t quote a “Seinfeld” episode or a Monty Python movie to save my life — and while I’ve never seen “Caddyshack,” “Airplane” or half the “Star Wars” trilogies — I have spent hundreds of hours watching “Ax Men,” “Swamp People,” “Flying Wild Alaska,” “Pawn Stars,” “Deadliest Catch,” “Dance Moms,” “Say Yes to the Dress” and “Ice Road Truckers.”

A part of me knows that should be embarrassing to admit. And a part of me knows that I should be spending the spare hours I have every day tapping into the cognitive surplus that surrounds me. Just imagine how brilliant I’d be if I traded in an hour on the couch watching reruns of “Cake Boss” on Netflix for an hour on the couch watching Sal Khan’s tutorials or wrestling with big ideas in Twitter.

#instagenius

But before you judge me, know that I really do learn a lot about school leadership every time I turn on the tube. Take last night, for example: I tuned into “Bridezillas Season 9″ — the story of Tasha and Jeff on Netflix.

Like most of those on “Bridezillas,” Tasha was a nightmare. She wasn’t sure she was interested in her 40-year-old fiance, and she pouted and screamed and begged when her father wasn’t ready to pony up more cash to feed her wedding dreams.

But she had big dreams when it came to her bridesmaids — which is why she decided to make them pink sashes to go with their wedding day gowns. Together with her boyfriend, she hit the fabric store and broke out the hot glue guns.

Before long, Tasha had a glittery disaster on her hands. Her simple pink sashes — which were beautiful on their own — were covered with ragged rows of fake rhinestones and glue gunk. And rather than recognizing that her plan just wasn’t going to work, she stubbornly pushed forward, burning fingers and cursing her fiance’s incompetence the entire way.

So what leadership lessons can we learn from Tasha and Jeff?

The best change agents recognize that complexity doesn’t always make a project better: Tasha’s initial goal for her project was to create a sash that made her bridesmaids feel special on her wedding day — and she’d done just that before ever breaking out the rhinestones. Instead of being satisfied with giving plain sashes, though, she bit off more than she could chew and ended up pointlessly wasting hours of effort before completely ruining her final product.

We do that in schools all the time, don’t we? Instead of identifying the core challenge that we’re trying to address and then embracing the simple solutions that are staring us in the face, we needlessly bedazzle every plan because we assume that the more complicated and nuanced our efforts are, the more effective they will be. The end results are just as ridiculous as Tasha’s sashes.

#allthatglitters

The best change agents know their own limitations: At one point in her late-night craft-fest, Tasha asked her mother for advice. Almost immediately, her mother picked up on Tasha’s mistake and suggested that she stick with plain sashes and skip the rhinestones. Like a true Bridezilla, Tasha pushed back saying, “Mama, if you would just understand my vision!”

Her mother’s reply was priceless: “Looks like you’ve got too much vision and no skills, Tasha.”

If you want to drive change in schools, you should listen to Tasha’s mama. The most successful leaders recognize that just because you can dream up something remarkable — a brilliant remediation period, a project-based learning experience, a new system for holding teachers accountable — doesn’t mean that your organization actually has the professional skill to make that dream become a reality. Sustainable change depends on having a realistic sense of what’s doable instead of a passionate commitment to what’s desirable.

#ditchtheimpossibledream

The best change agents fail early, revise and try again: The funniest thing about Tasha’s sash catastrophe is that it is painfully obvious to everyone that her plan isn’t going to work. Her fiance can’t figure out how to work a glue gun, her one-at-a-time approach to slapping on rhinestones is taking forever, and the first sash looks like a hot mess. Displaying a stubborn commitment to her core idea, however, Tasha refuses to quit even after it is clear that she isn’t going to succeed.

Spend any time studying innovators and you’ll discover that displaying a stubborn commitment to any idea — no matter how beautiful it seems — is a horrible idea.

Change depends on a willingness to fail early and fail often. Instead of sinking tons of organizational time and effort into one idea, leaders who identify mistakes in the preliminary stages of the project design process and then demonstrate a willingness to revise their initial thinking end up with multiple opportunities to succeed. As Jeremy Jackson — lead technologist at Method — explains in a Fast Company article, “The key understanding in adapting a design process to an iterative one is that failure must be expected and embraced. This process also creates opportunity to remedy those failures early on — and more efficiently.”

#embraceyourinnerF

Long story short: Change is about hitting home runs 50 feet at a time. Developing a successful plan is far better than having big dreams that are bound to fail.

 

This bit is also cross-posted over at Smartblog on Education, y'all.  Give 'em a look.  Great minds writing about great things all in one place and at one time.

#winning

________________________________

Related Radical Reads:

What Can the Principals of PLCs Learn from Hand Washing?

Changing Schools is a lot like Climbing Everest

Our Compulsive Obsession with the Impossible Sexy

 

 

5 Comments

Renee Moore commented on June 11, 2013 at 6:23pm:

School is a Reality Show (or should be)

I usually cringe when I hear people say things like "school should prepare kids for the real world." I don't know about where you teach, but it doesn't get any more real than what goes on in around the schools where I work. But that's another post...

Love the lessons from reality shows. Your points make perfect sense. Setting high expectations is wonderful, but to be truly effective as leaders, we have to know where the limits are for us and for those working with us.

Not a Bridezilla watcher, but I am a Swamp People people fan. Imagine the applications.....

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on June 13, 2013 at 6:43pm:

My Challenge to You!

Oh Renee...

I'd LOVE to see you write a "Leadership Lessons Learned from Swamp People" post!  

You know that Ann thinks my television viewing habits leave much to be desired, right?  She'd laugh out loud to see another reality-themed post from us!

#gottadoit

Bill

 

Ann Byrd commented on June 15, 2013 at 1:20pm:

Fascinatingly disturbed or disturbingly fascinated?!?

Now Bill...of course I read this blog and was greatly amused. Anytime you can disucss pink sashes, glue guns, and glitter, I think you should jump at the chance. I can see this reality theme taking off. In all seriousnness, the analogy of Bridezillas to leadership is unsettlingly accurate. I DID enjoy this blog very much. Just don't encourage your colleagues too strongly. You know I think we have enough realtiy without more of it on TV! ;-) 

Renee, don't let Bill talk you into anything!

#stayingsane

Brianna Crowley commented on June 16, 2013 at 10:27pm:

I respectfully disagree!

I think Renee should write a companion piece for this with a great analogy/take-away from Swamp People! Of course my support of this is strongly influenced by my morbid fascination with this unlikely connection from Bill and the delight in imagining that more like this can take place. 

I too will confess to having a sometimes unhealthy draw to reality TV. My husband loves to repeat the story about him coming home in our first year of marraige and asking what I was watching--to which I sheepishly replied Wife Swap which earned me a dramatic eye-roll and embarrassing outing to our friend groups. But now that I think about it, I think Wife Swap definitely has something to offer along the lines of education and/or educational leadership...uh oh, we may have a third!

#cantstopagreatthing

Philip Cummings commented on June 25, 2013 at 1:54pm:

Not nearly as useless as originally thought

I'm glad to know that your addiction isn't nearly as useless as I originally thought. :) Great points and insight, Bill.

Join the Conversation!

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Subscribe to Blogs by Bill Ferriter

Stay Informed

Sign up to receive the latest news and events through email!

Sign Up