Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

The Principal Coaching Clinic #30

Have you kept your promises?

Answer:  Doubtful!

I am sure you remember, like it was only yesterday, your interview for your current leadership position. I want you to really think about this question.  Have you kept the promises that you made in that interview?

In the interview, we tend to say anything that we think our future employers want to hear to help us land that job. That is human nature.  We make promises and very likely exaggerate our accomplishments.  So, now I am calling your bluff.  What have you accomplished?

I know that I promised as part of my I interview work hard, have a good attitude, be a team player and to operate with integrity and honesty.  I think I accomplished all of these.

However, somehow along my journey, I got sidetracked from accomplishing my vision and some of my lofty goals and expectations that I expressed in my interview. Recently, I was going through my personal archives and I found some of my literature that I prepared for that interview and in this area, I tended to fall a bit short. In part, I basically forgot.  I lost track of my promises.  Please do not mourn for my career, I think I had a good career and accomplished quite a bit.  But I never hit some of those notes from my interview.

Let’s face it.  Life happens.  The day to day grind happens.  Over time, those promises dim.  I am asking each one of you, no matter where you are in your career, to stop and pause to reflect to see if you kept or are on the road to keeping those promises.  I think that this is an excellent activity and will give you a good barometer of where you are headed or where you have been.  This pause may also give you a chance to re-direct. I ask each principal to sit with your most recent employees to gauge where he or she is at in his or her first year.  I am sure it is still fresh in everyone’s memory.  Work your through your staff and see how successful each person has been. I predict that the conversations will be both engaging and enlightening.

I can vividly recall asking each prospective science teacher in the interview about starting an environmental club and doing some great things on our property with our students. Our students were hungry for this direction. Each person hired promised that this job was for them.  I cannot recall ever seeing that club. Shame on each person for making that promise and shame on me for not holding each person accountable.

Likewise, what do you do with your yearly goals and objectives?  Are they meaningful?  Are they legitimate? Or are they merely softballs that are easily attained with little work on your part?  If they are the latter, you are losing a huge opportunity to make an impact.

Your vision and your goals must drive you.  If you lose track of these goals or if they are blurred, what good are they?  You know the answer to that one.  They are not worth the paper that they are written on.

I challenge you, to re-think how you operate and make a difference.  A difference for yourself and a difference for your staff and students.


Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

The Principal Coaching Clinic #29

Have you ever been embarrassed by your boss?

Answer:  Of course, you have!

If this has never happened to you, you are the lucky one.  It has happened to me and sadly, as a young leader, I must confess that at times I may have behaved this way.  Fortunately for me, and for those that I worked with, I was a quick learner and curbed my destructive behavior.

No one likes to be embarrassed.  But what do you do when your boss publicly embarrasses you?

There is a consensus of opinion that you do not confront this person publicly.  Do not get into this public argument.  I have made this mistake and can ensure you that when this happens, everyone loses.  So, when you experience this public onslaught, my recommendation to you is to just sit back and take it.  Do your best not to show how upset you are.  Try to keep your body language neutral, practice some active listening skills, try not to cry and try your hardest to stay on task.  I consider myself a fairly strong and “macho” type of individual and I must share that I have been almost brought to tears in my career by that bully.  Believe me, wanting to cry is a gender-neutral response.

Always try to remember that the bully is the one that does not know how to deal with their perceived power.  He or she is the one that lacks respect.  He or she is the one that is insecure and is the one trying to prove something.  Remember that power does corrupt and some folks just cannot deal with any perceived power that he or she possesses.

After the embarrassing event, let everyone cool down, but do not wait too long.  This bully needs to be confronted.  Respectfully ask this person for a private meeting.  Of course, it takes courage and of course it can make matters worse and ultimately, it could cost you your job. But ask yourself this question, do I want to exist this way? 

So how can you prevent future negative experiences?  Both of you need to answer that question.  Make it clear to that individual that you welcome his or her criticism and feedback because you know that it will make you better.  However, this feedback and criticism can’t be delivered publicly.

Come up with a plan to circumvent this behavior.  If this bullying occurs at a public meeting, maybe the two of you need a private pre-public meeting so you can both understand each other’s point of view before the public meeting.  Perhaps you can get on the same page.

Perhaps you need to provide this bully information prior to any meeting. Perhaps you need more frequent check-ins. This allows this bully to perhaps get a better understanding of the situation.  Of course, you must hope that the person takes the time to read any material. Attempt to make this person understand your point of view.  Explain your rationale relative to your recommendations or decisions.

At the end of the day, this is all about respect.  This must be a mutual respect that both of you cultivate.  As the one being bullied, try to understand why this person behaves the way he or she behaves.  This doesn’t make it right, but at least you will understand why this person enjoys making you feel insignificant. 

Although you may want to compartmentalize this person in your brain and ignore them, I can assure you that this is hard and probably will never alleviate the stress that this person may cause.  Yet I understand that you may feel trapped and you need to survive.  I get it.  I am empathic to your situation and I know it is easy for me to sit back and give all of this advice.  However, I have lived through your situation.

This bully might be nothing more than a petulant child who has always gotten his or her way by behaving in this manner. He or she has gone uncorrected for many years. He or she is getting some internal gratification from their own behavior.  If this is the case, you have several choices to think about.  Can you work to change this person?  Can you continue to be the recipient of his or her wrath? Can you wait this person out?  Can you survive this status quo? And finally, the most important question for your career and your own health, is this place for you?


Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

The Principal Coaching Clinic #28

Are you “beating the hustle” out of your team?

Answer:  Of course, you are!

This past week while I was reading a magazine and the aforementioned concept caught my attention.  The person in the article was referring to his pursuit of his MBA.  When he was completed, he felt as though the process “beat the hustle” out of him.  This caused me to reflect on my lengthy career in school leadership as both a principal and superintendent and I realized that I could very easily “beat the hustle” out of you.  And to all of my former teammates, I extend to you my apology.

You see for me, what you did was never enough.  I always wanted more.  I wanted more effort and more production.  I could both overtly and covertly push you.  And I could do incredible harm with just my body language.  I could speak volumes without ever opening my mouth. And at the end of the day, I would come up short in the gratitude department.  I “beat the hustle” out of myself so I was never asking any more from my team than I would ask of myself.  I was wrong to do it to you and wrong to do it to myself.

In the spirit of the approaching World Series, I finally understand why over the course of a very long season (for a playoff team, over 160 games), you cannot run out every ground ball, which is most likely an easy out, full speed.  Over the course of the year your body will be physically drained.  Likewise, a teacher cannot approach every class and every activity running full speed.  Over the course of the day, week, year and career, it will catch up to you and ultimately cut your career short.

I ask every leader now to take a moment to think about how you “beat the hustle” out of your team.  I will share two ways that I accomplished this task. Please always understand that “beating the hustle” out of you was never a conscious goal but my personality just let it happen.

I thought nothing of interrupting your class or schedule with needless minutia or giving you a last-minute change.  Let’s dig a bit deeper on this.  Namely:

  • I would never hesitate getting on that annoying public address system to make my job a bit easier.  Yes, there are times these interruptions cannot be avoided but I have come to find out that principals and their secretaries just love that microphone.  Maybe it is a source of power of some sort.  I am not sure but towards the end of my leadership career I banned the use of that contraption without it being an emergent situation.
  • I never hated making a last-minute change to your schedule and did not think twice about it.  I did not respect your time. I know I became very cavalier about this.  I would think that the change was no big deal and everyone would adjust.  Shame on me.  For example, I can recall forgetting a guest speaker coming in and my error would force an entire schedule change for the building.  The same would go for a change in the schedule for a school photographer, assembly program or class meeting.  Once again, I learned how much this behavior negatively impacts instruction and I got much better at this later in my career.

There is a moral here somewhere.  And for me it is simple.  The leader must understand how his or her behavior impacts the team and he or she must be the one to change and adjust personally or the “hustle” from the entire school will be gone.

Think about it.  We will continue our discussion on this topic next week and oh by the way, Go Yankees!!!