Over the summer 30 teachers across the state participated in our Teacher Leadership Consortium, an eight week program focused on teachers learning how to become a greater influence in their school. The teachers learned how to best lead their peers through communication and connecting with people, the foundations of coaching, lead effective meetings, listening, and how to deal with difficult people. During one of the sessions I asked them about what are some of the challenges they face in regards to their school culture and their principal. I pulled out these four common complaints the teachers had. Be sure you don’t break these!
1. Cancel key meetings: Let’s be clear here, not all teachers hate when meetings are cancelled. However, when a key meeting is scheduled (i.e. school improvement meetings, critical professional development sessions and 1:1 conferences) and cancelled, they gradually lose interest in being part of these critical teams moving forward. Especially if they have completed some independent work to prepare for the meeting. Teachers want to feel valued and appreciated. When you make a commitment you build hope, when you keep a commitment you build trust. Nothing is more important than having a chance to learn from your team.
2. Unattended professional development sessions: Teachers know that a principal’s job has many responsibilities. They also know which professional development sessions are critical to the school’s success and culture. When principals do not attend professional development sessions with their people, they lose credibility as a leader. Even worse is when they do attend, but then spend the entire time in their laptop or on their phone when the rest of the staff has a “no electronics” policy during meetings. I know you are going to end up staying late in the office as a result, but as a leader you must show your people you are willing to do anything they are required to do. People don’t do what people say, people do what people see. Recently I led a school culture building session for a staff of 30. I know the principal had a lot on her plate and would go in and out of the meeting. You could feel the energy and ideas change based on their attendance. By the end of the training the staff had created a wonderful “culture contract” that they would all sign and follow. The problem was, the leader of the culture wasn’t there to participate in the development. Therefore, despite the camaraderie during the development, the buy-in for implementation was not there..
3. Take credit for the team's work: One teacher told me about an incredible initiative, outdoor gardening curriculum, he and the grade level team put together for their school serving “at-risk” students. Each year the county has a spotlight opportunity per school. Instead of sending the team, this principal had them create a powerpoint for her to present. Being an effective leader is about putting those “in your charge” in the spotlight.
When something goes wrong, take the blame. When something goes well, praise your team. If you feel the need to validate with others whose in charge of your school you are not a leader, you are a manager and using your position to lead. Positional leadership is the lowest level of leadership and will not get you very far in your goals.
4. Micromanage: These were some interesting stories. Micromanaging principals who aim to empower their people tend to complete 80%-90% of the work. I remember as a kid my father would do this to me on his farm. Anything he asked me to do, for example getting the eggs from the chicken coop, he would come with me and get most of the eggs before turning it over to me. I know he thought he was modeling, but modeling to teach someone else does not require 80% of the work to be completed on your side. Otherwise I am just watching you do the work. A leader's best days will be when they figure out they do not required to do it all. They are responsible for everything, but must utilize the talents, skills and servant leadership qualities most of their people have.
If you aim to build credibility and solid ground with your teachers you must give them the opportunity to flourish in their roles and keep their long term goals in the forefront. Being a principal is a great deal of paperwork at times, but remember, if you aim to be an effective learning organization it starts with the people first, not the school’s compliance. Want to learn from the best principals in North Carolina, click here to learn more and join our School Leader Consortium
If you have teachers that aim to be more and do more at your school, I would like to invite them to participate in our next cohort of the Teacher Leadership Consortium. Another cohort will be kicking off in late September of 2019.
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