As I looked over the menu one morning at a local restaurant and started thinking out loud about what I was going to order, I mentioned that I thought I would have sausage with my eggs instead of bacon. My friend said, “I thought you liked bacon.” When discussing a recent basketball game, I said that I was hoping “Team A” would win. The response by the person I was talking with said, “I didn’t know you disliked “Team B”. When trout fishing, I stated that I was going to fish in the deep hole by the bridge. My fishing buddy said, “I thought you liked fishing by the waterfall.” When I said that when I buy my next truck it would be white, everyone in the group said they were surprised that I didn’t like black trucks any more, since that is what I currently owned.
When did it happen that just because we choose one thing, it means that we dislike the other? We make many decisions every day. Every time we choose one thing it means we didn’t choose the others. It doesn’t mean we hate them, it just means that right now, in this situation, the decision we made seemed like the best option. Or it is what we want. Or it is the best fit. Or it will be the most helpful.
As a former school administrator, I often made decisions that would affect others. I can remember the time many years ago when we were dealing with significant budget reductions and it was going to require making decisions as to how we were going to save money. The first thing I did, and what I always tried to do, was identify my highest priority. In schools that was easy. My top priority was always the kids. Then it was the staff and the parents. Priorities were not books or buses or desks or computers or athletic uniforms. Those were things. The priorities were the people.
But just because I made a decision in one direction does not mean I didn’t care about the other possibilities. It seems that in today’s world; on the internet and other social media outlets, or on television or in the print media, everyone is taking sides. Everything is black or white. We either like or we hate, there is no middle ground. In your professional career or your personal life I challenge you to find that middle ground. In most cases, that’s where you need to be. Compromise is important, in fact it is often essential.
We may have decided to reduce a bus route to save money, but it was not because we didn’t care about the safety of kids and it didn’t mean we couldn’t find other ways to keep kids safe. So we put together a plan for increased police activity in areas more students might be walking to school. The community completed a grant for more sidewalks. Crosswalks with flashing lights were installed at high traffic areas. Other bus routes were redirected so they could actually pick up many of the students that lost their bus when the route was cut. By the time we were done with our plan, the students were just as safe, if not safer, then before.
Good leadership considers others. Everyone’s opinion matters. There is room for compromise, and there is more than one way “to keep kids safe”. It doesn’t mean everyone gets exactly what they want, it just means that if we are willing to try we can make decisions that help us reach our goals, that keep us focused on the right priorities, and do so in a way that everyone can understand and be ok that we likely achieved a successful outcome with little or no negative effect anywhere else.