By MARINA WATERS
Name: Matt Hixson
Education: Master’s degree
Title: Director of Schools
Company: Hawkins County
What do you do? I am the director of schools for Hawkins County.
What do you think are the keys to success?
I think the best leaders are those who lead by example, are open to feedback, and who consistently strive to not only improve themselves, but create avenues of success for those around them.
Name some of your key successes.
I have worked in several construction trades, managed a retail drug store, I have taught countless students in grades 2-12 and in graduate school, and I have had the chance to lead in multiple positions within education. Currently, I have the blessing of working alongside roughly 1,300 employees and over 6,300 students within Hawkins County.
Success goes well beyond positions or titles held. I count success as being able to do what you love and enjoy working alongside those working with you. Therefore, working in Hawkins County is a key success for me!
Who were your mentors?
My dad, my friends Chance Flint and Jason Baker, and my father-in-law, Ralph Petersen. All of these individuals exemplify godly character, strong work ethics, and the ability to use nearly all circumstances as learning opportunities, whether I was open to the lessons at the time or not! I currently work with Dr. Reba Bailey, who teaches me daily to be reflective, patient, and listen before speaking. My wife of 25 years is also a mentor and huge support to me, as she has shared this journey with me and has been the biggest encouragement I could ever need.
Can you name a turning point in your career?
I learned that taking pride in your work and enjoying the work itself are far more important than the financial awards one might earn in fields they truly do not enjoy. The turning point in my career came when I was working for a man I really looked up to in the retail industry. He said, “I will train you in retail and I will teach you what you need to know, but I expect you to leave and pursue your career at some point. I don’t want you to make retail your career. It is not for you, and I see you have gifts in other areas. Take what you can learn and leave this place.”
This was not a disparaging remark about retail. It was an honest statement ofment from an individual that cared more about my future success and happiness than he did about the company or securing a long-term employee for himself. About a year later, I become a store manager. He had the same talk with me. Needless to say, I took his advice and I left retail and went into education a year later.
Who are your family members?
My wife, Valerie; my daughter Madison; son Hunter; daughter Macyn; and twin sons Cooper and Parker.
What management books would you recommend?
I read a variety of short anecdotes and stories from those who have reached success in life. For example, I read the book about Magic and Larry, chronicling the battle between Magic Johnson of the Lakers, and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics back in the ’80s. I like learning general leadership skills and assessments from those who have achieved in all aspects of life. I have read John Wooden’s book of quotes, I have read “Trust Matters” by Megan Tschannen-Moran, “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, and our leadership team is currently reading “Districts that Succeed” by Karen Chenoweth. My favorite all-time collection of books is the Bible, which I try to read every morning.
Do you read any national business publications?
I read monthly publications from education publishers such as the AASA, ASCD, countless articles identified by staff, and research from superintendents throughout the country who are making a difference in their communities, especially those who are prioritizing career-technical education (CTE).
One piece of advice you would give an up-and-coming manager?
In any new position, be slow to react, quick to learn and listen. Lead by example, and don’t get defensive when others provide input. Exhibit genuine care for those working with you, and be visible. Every day is an interview day. You never know who is watching you!