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This tip may not sound remarkably inspiring, but I encourage you to think of the alternative: failing to take healthy risks that will improve our organizations. This week’s tip came to me from George Ellis, Chief Financial Officer of the Studer Group. In a strategy session for our organization, he recommended that we be open to failure, as it’s one inevitable consequence of innovation and risk-taking. His point was to avoid the paralysis that comes when we pursue perfection too far; when our fear of failure prevents us from acting at all. Instead, he advised, try, risk, attempt, explore, experiment — and learn from any failure that occurs.


I can think of a few examples of how “planning paralysis” sometimes occurs in our K12 school systems:

  • An endless strategic planning process that gets bogged down by fear of making difficult decisions to direct the future of the organization
  • A leader avoiding the challenging process of responding to an employee’s poor performance
  • A classroom teacher who learns a new instructional strategy but hesitates to implement it, worried that it won’t work with his students

As leaders, we must face the fear of failure and move forward. Let’s not let our desire for perfection — for never failing — prevent us from accomplishing great things for our students, employees, and communities. Go for it: fail fast.




MatarazzoMelissa is an Evidence-Based Leadership coach for Studer Education, located in Pensacola, FL. Previously, she served as the Executive Director for Achievement and Accountability in the Charleston County (SC) School District. She earned her Ed.D. through the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s (HGSE) Urban Superintendents Program, and received both a Masters in School Leadership and a Masters in Education Policy and Management from HGSE. Melissa has also served as a middle school principal in the Peabody (MA) Public Schools, and as an 8th grade teacher and assistant principal in the Derry (NH) Cooperative School District. Melissa has coached aspiring and novice leaders at KIPP Jacksonville, FL; supervised teacher interns at the College of Charleston, SC and instructed graduate students in administration at American International College in Springfield, MA. Follow Dr. Matarazzo on Twitter at @LrngLdr and follow Dr. M’s weekly post “Try This Tip” here.

Contact us for more information about our coaching for continuous leadership development and systems improvement. Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Follow us on Twitter at @StuderEducation and visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the sixth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.