Monday, March 11, 2013

What Leaders Can Learn From Spike TV's Bar Rescue

Jon Taffer would make a pretty good principal. In the Spike TV reality series Bar Rescue, the bar expert takes failing bars and turns them around. How that might qualify him for a principal role requires looking closely at this great show and finding the very practical lessons that apply to any successful organization.

The problems facing each bar vary, of course, but the overarching problem in nearly all of the businesses is a failure of leadership.  At first, the owner usually refuses to take responsibility for bad practices, poorly trained managers and employees, or failing to meet the needs and wants of their clientele.  Of course, when no one takes responsibility, nothing ever gets better--especially if the lack of accountability starts at the top.

Does that sound much different than a school or classroom that's being run poorly? You can only fix problems when you agree to own them.

The show follows a procedure of collecting information, history and observations and then using that data to make improvements.  Taffer brings in experts to retrain staff, fix menus and improve the entire concept behind the bar.  He uses tons of research and science to get the owner and staff on board with changes and to show us, the viewer, why it works. 

The process of reflecting on relevant data is something every successful teacher and school leader does. Poor leaders can sometimes put on a good enough show to convince you they're seriously, objectively looking at what's right and wrong in their schools.

There's also some great examples of what not to do on the show.  Owners, managers and employees display the whole gamut of poor decisions, from laziness to ignorance.  Taffer himself does a lot of yelling and insulting that should never fly in any school or classroom.

Most importantly, there is always resistance to change--it doesn't matter that these places are failing and what they are doing is clearly not working, there's always someone fighting Taffer on making improvements.

We see all of these things in schools, and we must continually strive to do better.

There are many other shows like this on television, and they follow the same formula--Restaurant Impossible, Tattoo Rescue, and many other makeover shows.  If you watch a lot of them, like me, you see these same lessons come up almost without fail.  That's how you know it's something you can learn from as an educator.