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Let’s Break the Rules: Top Takeaways from the 2018 NBOA Annual Meeting

By Jeffrey Shields posted 03-13-2018 08:46 AM


CEO Notebook |

We must start breaking rules to make sure that our schools stand out as exceptional among a growing list of options.

jeff shields at annual meeting
Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
NBOA President and CEO

I’m still charged up from last week’s NBOA Annual Meeting in Nashville. Sincere thanks to the more than 1,360 of you who attended as well as to the members of the Annual Meeting Program Advisory Committee and our speakers, exhibitors and sponsors. Besides the record attendance, the Gaylord Opryland offered an ideal setting for the networking and collegiality that have become hallmarks of every NBOA Annual Meeting and the business officer community for 20 years.

Our theme, “In Tune with Excellence,” aligned beautifully with the insights and diversity of thought provided by an all-star line-up of general session speakers. Josh Linkner helped us get “in tune with innovation,” Diana Nyad got us “in tune with perseverance” and Yong Zhao got us “in tune with the future of student-centered education.” Here are three of their nuggets of wisdom that have had me thinking since I returned to Washington.

josh linkner
Entrepreneur Josh Linkner

1. Josh Linkner, entrepreneur and author of "Disciplined Dreaming," reminded everyone of the dangers of complacency, asking “What would happen if we broke the rules instead of following them?” Simply put, we must start breaking rules to make sure that our schools and programs meet the needs of our current and future families and stand out as exceptional among a growing list of options. One of his most vivid examples included the way a local community responded to the potential closing of their public library. Instead of protesting, they promoted a “book burning party,” an outrageous idea that so enraged local citizens that it galvanized them to save the library by overwhelming demand. (Here’s a quick video overview of how this approach unfolded.)

diana nyad
Distance Swimmer Diana Nyad

2. Diana Nyad, whose triumphs include a record-breaking (and life-threatening) swim at age 64 from Cuba to Key West, underscored the importance of pursuing our work to the absolute best of our ability. It’s hard to truly understand where someone like her gets her relentless will and fortitude, but part of my peek into what makes her tick was captured in this quote: “Every day, do it until you can’t do it a fingernail better.” It is easy to lose sight of the larger goal when pursuing something that feels unattainable, and Nyad reminded us that being a leader means having the patience and tenacity to achieve a larger purpose against all odds.

3. Yong Zhao, world-renowned educator and author of "Reach for Greatness," noted that the rise of smart machines makes it critical that independent schools educate children at the individualized level — and abandon the standard “sausage-making” model of 20th-century learning. He pointed out that airline seats, which are designed to meet the needs of the average airline passenger (average height, average weight, average age), are in fact not comfortable for anyone. “If it fits everybody, it doesn’t fit anybody,” said Dr. Zhao. We, as independent schools, must do better for our students.

Some people believe that getting at least one thoughtful or actionable idea from a conference makes the time and money spent worthwhile. I believe that everyone who joined us last week in Nashville will attest that they got so much more, only beginning with these three remarkable speakers. I hope to see even more of you next year when we “Ride the Waves of Change” next March 3-6, in San Diego at the 2019 NBOA Annual Meeting.

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Follow NBOA President and CEO Jeff Shields @shieldsNBOA.
From Net Assets NOW, March 13, 2018. Read past issues of CEO Notebook.


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