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McMullan webBy Ann McMullan,

In the fall of 2013 I retired from my position as Executive Director of Education Technology for Klein ISD near Houston, Texas to move to Los Angeles, California with my family. Klein ISD was an early adopter of technology tools for learning, beginning in the late 90’s. Today Klein ISD – with over 50,000 students –remains at the forefront of innovative teaching and learning to meet the needs of all students.

As I transitioned from leading a school district team in Texas to becoming an independent education consultant based in Los Angeles California, I discovered that the questions I was asked most often revolved around leadership: “How do you navigate the change process in a large organization?” “How do you empower teachers and administrators to move forward?” With those types of questions in mind, in the fall of 2016 I co-authored Life Lessons in Leadership: The Way of the Wallaby. The goal of this book is to provide leaders of all ages (“For Leaders Ages 8 to 88”) and occupations with memorable strategies for leading people and processes, especially when it comes to navigating change.

The book has five short chapters that include a lesson and a brief whimsical story to illustrate each leadership skill. Over the course of the next five months we will address each one of those lessons within the context of the work that ed tech vendors need to do in your role as leaders of innovation and change agents. This month we begin with Chapter 1.


There is no more important skill for any leader than the ability to truly listen. To truly comprehend the needs, concerns and challenges of your school clients you must first listen to them. Initially it is critical to listen for understanding, rather than listening solely to give an immediate reply. It is only through active listening that you can come to understand whether your product is the appropriate fit for your client. It is better to walk away from a potential sale that is a poor fit – and give up the immediate rewards – than to sell a product that is a total mismatch for the needs of the school customer. Equally bad judgement is selling your product to clients who are not prepared to successfully implement your brand. The bad news that is often widely publicized when things go wrong with educational technology is harmful not only to the vendor and the school or district, but also to the broader school transformation process as well. Listening well and then taking the appropriate follow up actions goes a long way to assuring success for you and your clients.

Thank you for your leadership….and thanks for listening!

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