Using Negative Tactics to Get Results in Education

Gordon Bethune and Pedro Garcia both have daunting tasks. Bethune has to improve Continental Airlines and Garcia has to improve a school system. There intentions are very similar in that they both want improvement and have a vision to implement. However, Garcia uses negative tactics to produce results while Bethune uses positive tactics to produce results. It reminds me of the argument I have made to the parents of my students. Instead of taking things away when they do “bad” things, it is better to reward them for doing the “good” things. As a coach of many sports I have found that positive reinforcement works better than negative feedback. In many ways I have enjoyed Bethune’s style and see many of his traits in me.

Garcia and Bethune have money problems. Where Bethune is attempting to keep Continental Airlines from going bankrupt, Garcia is trying to find more money from materials needed in his schools, such as textbooks and computers. In this fashion, the two are similar. They are similar in that they are running a business. Garcia’s business in non-profit, yet the rewards are seen in more ways than just the “almighty dollar”. When you educate children you educate the future, which is worth every penny spent. Bethune is trying to keep a for-profit organization from going out of business and ultimately placing thousands of people (parents) on unemployment.

Some of Garcia’s decisions have been to cut jobs. In fact, in a six-month period, Garcia eliminated 100 positions. He also placed a “hiring freeze” and reassigned educators and secretaries to other jobs, all on the school level. Garcia’s sole purpose is to find more money for materials and books. Additionally, Garcia shuffled many of the principals to other schools. Aside from encouraging retirement, Garcia has decided to place principals in positions where they will succeed. The stronger principals are being placed in the weakest schools. Garcia is very direct in his communication style. He knows his vision. He has sold his vision in other communities. He has had success with his vision. In many ways he enters a bad situation and makes instant shifts and changes to find the right fit for his vision to work. He approaches his task in a negative fashion. It is not to say that he is negative. It is to say that he looks at what is pulling the school system down and removes or fixes the situation. He finds the cancer and cuts it out of the organization.

Bethune is different than Garcia. Where Garcia looks at the bottom of the glass, Bethune looks at the top. For example, Bethune introduced a program for increasing the number of flights to reach their destinations “on-time”. The program rewarded employees $65 each if the “on-time” percentage improved. It reminded me of my class because if I run a competition in class where the reward is fifty cents, the kids will work independently, quietly, and diligently to get the reward. Fifty cents!

Bethune knew he had found an answer to his failing organization. He increased the reward system to $100 and challenged his employees to be the third or better airline for the year. It has made the Continental family work as a team. For the first time, in years, Continental was succeeding! As more problems aroused (baggage handling) Bethune would shift focus and his reward system. Day by day and part by part, the organization was finding the motivation to improve. Bethune burned the old employee manual and wrote his own.

Rewarding employees for good service works. Bethune proved that by giving the employees power and the ability to earn more money that the customers would also benefit. It is on the same lines of having a sales teamwork on commission. If you work in sales and you don’t do any work, you won’t get paid and you won’t put food on the table. Each member of Continental had a job to do. Bethune used his motivation through his payroll and found that dangling a carrot actually gets results.

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