Book Review

Crunch Point: The 21 Secrets to Succeeding When It Matters Most

by Brian Tracy, American Management Association, New York, N.Y., 2007, 117 pp. with index, $17.95 softcover

Superintendents are well aware of the potential for a crisis to strike at any time without warning. Words uttered without thought by anyone associated with a school district can instigate a series of unfortunate events that can spin out of control. Unfettered public comments at a school board meeting, ignited by a board member’s reaction, can produce negative headlines. A good evaluation and contract renewal can be followed within months by calls for getting rid of the superintendent. These situations are all potential “crunch points.”

Some superintendents and their districts survive such incidents and flourish while others do not. Crunch Point: The 21 Secrets to Succeeding When It Matters Most reveals how to triumph through a strategy built on learning how to respond effectively or what is called “response-ability.”

While author Brian Tracy’s examples are unrelated to education, his advice can be easily translated for school leaders.

Nearly every page contains motivational words to the wise. “The key to performing at your best during the crunch times of your life is for you to focus single-mindedly on the solutions rather than the problem.”

Among the extremely relevant steps for educational leaders are these: Be confident in your abilities; Dare to go forward; unleash your creativity; and concentrate on priorities. The specific tactics add meat to Tracy’s strategic framework.

Some readers might discard the credence of the simple yet valuable ideas such as asking, “What can I, and only I, do that if done well will make a real difference?” Another important question he asks is: “What is the most valuable use of my time right now?” Tracy contends, “By focusing and concentrating on your highest priorities, you will be more productive and effective in helping yourself and your company out of the crisis.”

Superintendents know inevitably negative events occur. For those looking for a way to better handle the pressure, this book is a quick and enjoyable read, chock full of practical suggestions.

Reviewed by Art Stellar, superintendent, Taunton Public Schools, Taunton, Mass.