Turn the Ship Around

This is the fourth post in a four-part series around our Sticky Core Values. This blog is co-written by Jordan Greene, currently a Taylor Mill Leader and 5th grade teacher, Holly Roth, currently a Taylor Mill Leader and special education teacher, Kelly Savicki currently a Taylor Mill Leader and Counselor, and Melody Stacy, currently a Taylor Mill Leader and Principal at Taylor Mill Elementary.


The USS Santa Fe was the worst performing submarine in the US Naval fleet and Captain David Marquet (author of Turn the Ship Around) had just been assigned to command it. Because the current captain had unexpectedly quit, Marquet did not have the luxury of the typical year-long research to which most leadership positions were privy. He had only a few weeks to prepare to lead this nuclear submarine, plagued by high turnover, low morale, and poor performance reviews, which he knew little about. 

Marquet not only felt the leader-follower model and hierarchy the military espouses left people feeling marginalized, he also knew this approach would never bring the culture of excellence he envisioned to reality. His true realization occurred one day, just a short time after becoming captain, he gave an order during a drill that was literally impossible to carry out. Not only was it blatantly obvious that this was an order that could not be executed, but the direction made its way down the chain of command. Officers later admitted they had passed along the order even though they knew it was wrong. 

From this point forward, Marquet resolved to build a culture that not only treated each and every crew member aboard his ship as a leader but expected it. He knew that if the USS Santa Fe was to achieve excellence, he would need to build competency and clarity and then give control rather than take control. The USS Santa Fe soon took a dramatic turn and became the highest performing ship in the Navy. Even after Marquet’s departure, it continued to win awards and promote more officers than any other submarine. 

At Taylor Mill, we value a leader-leader culture by expecting each staff member, no matter the title, to be a leader. We know that leaders own their actions and thoughts while making valuable contributions to our school. We are not passive bystanders or followers. We are Taylor Mill Leaders.


Jordan’s Story – Turn the Ship Around is my favorite sticky core value – possibly even my favorite part about our school (besides the kids of course!) Flashback to my first year at Taylor Mill Elementary: Melody had just shared the story behind Turn the Ship Around one morning at an M@M (our morning huddle), early on in the school year. The story itself was extraordinary – just by changing the mindset of a naval crew and shaking up the norm of hierarchy, the US Santa Fe had gone from worst performing to an award-winning, model ship. After sharing that story, Melody spoke belief to the group and reminded us of her expectations for our leader-leader culture. Needless to say, I left that M@M feeling valued, energized, and truly part of a growing team. Welcome to where you belong, Jordan. 

Fast forward to year three at TME where I get to experience this leader-leader culture daily. Every TM Leader is unique in their own way; seek out the greatness from those around you. Need meaningful tech tools to increase student engagement and rigor? Head down the hall to Katelyn Callahan, 4th grade teacher and TM Leader. Struggling to connect with a student or need guidance on running your morning meeting? Reach out to Kelly Savicki, our school counselor and TM Leader, who is always willing to bounce ideas around or model morning meetings in your classroom. Want to try student-led conferences this fall? Ask for guidance from two primary TM Leaders, Jill Steenken and Christa Pike, who have seen great success with this practice. This ‘Turn the Ship Around’ mentality also promotes self-reflection. Is there something happening in my classroom that would benefit other geniuses in the building? Personally, this question has pushed me outside of my comfort zone on several occasions. I have lead a PD session on Whole Brain Teaching during our in-house mini ed-camp, I co-moderated my first twitter chat with THE fabulous Allie Clements, I am drawn to join specific committees because that’s where my passion is, and I have contributed my thoughts through blog posts that tell our TM story. It is on a weekly basis that I am reminded of my strengths and inspired to share them. 

There is a strong sense of accountability when you work within a leader-leader culture. It means that we are expected to contribute and share our individual strengths, we are all trusted, and our input is valued. Why Turn the Ship Around? Because it is what is best for our kids. 

Holly’s Story – The foundational thinking of leader-leader culture examined in Turn the Ship Around! by L. David Marquet is an idea that I had never observed truly in action. The idea of leader-leader culture was just that, it was simply an idea, a story from a book, or a lofty notion that I would never get to experience. Many organizational cultures, whether it is a business or a school run on the archaic model of one leader and many followers. Therefore, if the boss asks you to do something, you do it, no questions asked. Leader-follower culture is a blind faith pyramid design that has become ingrained into the mindset of employees across many platforms. Leader-leader culture, by default is bold and fresh. The culture allows all employees to buy into the organization and feel valued. 

From a professional perspective, I taught at a school for 12 years where leader-follower was present. From the minute I clocked in with my swipe card, I was under the direction of the principal. I did not have an opinion and my voice was never heard. The environment, unfortunately, led to high employee dissatisfaction and turnover that continues to this day. Arriving at Taylor Mill with leader-leader culture was like a breath of fresh air and a kick to the gut at the same time. The culture is a sticky core value that truly permeates every aspect of the school. 

Taylor Mill leader-leader culture is a breath of fresh air because it truly is rare. Ask anyone who works what model their organization operations are based on and they probably fall into the leader-follower category. I cannot name one family member, friend, or neighbor who works in a leader-leader culture. Leaders feel like they belong and their input is important. Moreover, leaders take time to collaborate and learn from one another. The level of teamwork at Taylor Mill lays a strong connection where you rely on one another. The connections made directly impact that level of trust that exists. There is an unprecedented level of trust in each Taylor Mill leader that every action taking place is what is best for the students.   

Our leader-leader culture is also a kick in the gut because you realize how long you spent working in an unhealthy culture that never really valued you. While that realization is both, quite frankly depressing and frustrating, you do not want to get caught in the vicious cycle of “what if.” Simply stated, you cannot dwell on what was but rather focus on what is. The culture pushes you to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You try something new, like writing a blog. I have been in the classroom for 15 years and never once was I asked to contribute on a blog. Why? I was in a school that operated on leader-follower culture where my words did not matter. However, at Taylor Mill, my words do matter. At Taylor Mill, I feel valued. At Taylor Mill, I am a leader. 

Kelly’s Story – I love the story, Turn the Ship Around, mostly because I love the positive, feel-good ending. However, when I reflect on this story from the perspective of it being one of our sticky core values it becomes even more valuable to me. I think most people that work in our school could easily say that we have a positive culture. We enjoy each other and we always have fun, especially with the kids. This definitely makes it easy to come to school each day. What makes Taylor Mill incredible is the value each team member holds. That comes partly from being sought out and respected for your strengths, which is an amazing feeling. Each individual at our school has a strength to share with others that is pivotal in growing our kiddos and culture but also the trust we have in one another helps us feel safe in putting ourselves out there. That doesn’t come easily or happen overnight. That comes when leadership sees your potential and encourages you to lead, that comes from seeing other leaders take risks on a regular basis, that comes from having many opportunities to lead, and most importantly that comes from showing appreciation to one another for our contributions. With all of this core value in place at Taylor Mill, we are each leading each and every day, together as many individuals with strengths we respect and depend on to continue to move us forward on our path to greatness. 


What does our core belief, Turn the Ship Around, mean to you? How would you add to this story? We’d love to connect! Share your thoughts or reflections and tweet and tag us (@TME_tigers, @MrsGreene_TME, @HollyRoth2017, @savicki_kelly, @me1odystacy) or feel free to start a conversation by commenting below.

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