Leadership

Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

Op-ed #23

Do you go by the book?

Fact:

Do you even know the book???

I am willing to bet that when you saw the question of the day, you thought about following the rules.  You know, the letter of the law.  Although that is a great topic that we will cover in a future post, today’s article is about whether you, as the principal, superintendent or leader of an organization, know or better still understand the policies and practices of your organization.

My experience tells me that every school district is governed by some sort of board approved policies.  It is the board’s job to set these policies and it is your job as an administrator to implement them. Years ago, these policies, I am sure, sat in some binder in a vault, closet or library of your school in addition to your town’s public library. These are public documents.  In all likelihood, these polices sat dust covered and undisturbed until some new community watchdog appeared or some disgruntled employee or parent needed them to pursue some sort of grievance against the school district or some individual that was employed by the district.

The same could be said of your teacher and association /union contracts.  Once people, on both sides of the negotiating table settled on the financial elements of the contract, these contracts found their way to the hidden shelves to keep the board /district policies company. 

Instead of guiding the administration in running the district, policies and contracts sat buried on the previously mentioned dust covered shelves.  Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, depending on who you are and your point of view, these policies and contracts are now at everyone’s fingertips on the district’s website or on some other electronic medium.  Yet, these policies for the most part remain unread.

And I haven’t even mentioned school law.  School law remains a dynamic and ever-changing factor in running a school and yet I would hazard a guess that most principals have not looked at school law since they completed their graduate study years, if not decades ago.  A lot has changed.  Laws, including subtle nuances of the law can change rapidly and it is up to the school leader to stay on top of these changes.

So, you might ask, what is your point here?  Or perhaps who cares?  It is very simple.  Sitting in the principal’s or superintendent’s chair is difficult enough.  This difficulty is compounded if you do not remain current in your school law, district policies and employee contracts.  You will quickly learn this lesson when you screw something up because of your ignorance of law, polices and contracts.  And believe me when I tell you this, in all likelihood, your screw-up will be public and highly embarrassing.  And also, depending upon the seriousness, of your mistake and the amount of political capital that you have earned and accrued, your mistake could prove personally costly.  Mistakes here can cost you your job, your career, your reputation and perhaps even your freedom.

I implore you not to wait for that mistake to occur.  On a frequent and regular basis, it is in your best interest to study and to know the essence of your board’s policies and employee contracts.  Of course, I make an assumption that you will make it a point to stay on top of the law.

I encourage you and your administrative team to review policies and contracts at least twice a year.  This will also provide you the opportunity to be that teacher again and hone your instructional skills with your very own best practice toolkit as you teach your fellow administrators and staff. Every question that you may have about running your school will be answered either in the law, school policies or employee contracts. 

And once you understand that, you can spend your time cultivating your relationships and building a healthy and positive school culture (see last week’s post about the three Rs).

So, as you prepare for the start of the new school year, think about your policies.  I am sure that you will be part of crafting new policies as we begin to return to school during this time of crisis.  And never forget, once you understand all of the aforementioned documents, follow what it written in them.

The job you save may be your own!

Leadership

Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

Op-ed #22

What are your three Rs?

Fact:

RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS AND RELATIONSHIPS

As I was preparing for this week’s post, I could not help myself from focusing on that television commercial selling life insurance.  The company asks the consumer to think about the three Ps when buying life insurance.  After a brief moment the celebrity hawking this insurance reveals that the three Ps are Price, Price and Price.  I want you to think about my three Rs in the same way.  In schools, in businesses, and organizations it has to be about Relationships, Relationships and Relationships.

I had some great responses from my lead up question this week including words such as responsibility, reliability, reality, readiness and rest.  Yes, rest.  That is one R (rest), that I am sure most leaders forget about.  I know I did. These are all great Rs.  Important Rs.

I appreciate everyone’s interest and responses but for me to have success as a leader, it all comes down to one’s ability to cultivate and maintain relationships.  Just like rest, I know that as a leader, I sometimes missed the importance of relationships.  I thought I could survive on my work ethic and innate leadership skills.  I thought my old coaching skills would always be there to save the day.

But as I continue to ponder this point, I think any success that I did have as a coach or principal and superintendent of schools ultimately came back to my ability to interact with my “players.”  Let’s face it, most coaches, or principals know all of the same content, in one way or the other.  The leaders that are successful get “it” about the importance of relationships.  And as I peel back the layers of my coaching success, it really was all about my ability to build relationships.

I deeply cared for my players both on and off of the field. They knew this.  I listened to them.  I trusted them and in turn they trusted me.  I was honest.  Sometimes to the point of perhaps being too cold in my honesty.  My players knew that no one was going to work any harder than me at my craft.  When they saw this effort, it was easier for them to do the same thing.  When we won, I attempted to shine the light on the players and coaches and when we lost, I would willingly shoulder the blame or responsibility.  I tried to always put the team ahead of every individual, yet recognized the importance of the individual as part of the team.  And yes, I could make the hard call and remove any individual from the team that acted otherwise (put himself ahead of the team).  And finally, I believe that I was able to walk with a player with my arm around his shoulder and figuratively kick him in the butt at the same time.  Once, I could successfully do this, I knew that we were on our way to a win. 

So, I knew that if this old coach was able to successfully translate these coaching skills to the principal’s office, I could then hope for some success.  I think it did not always work out that way because during the course of your day, when you are focusing on so many things, you tend to lose track of the important things.  And for any school leader, that important thing is the ability to build and sustain relationships with an entirely diverse set of people and roles.  Pause for a second and see the set of relationships that a principal or superintendent must build to win.  Namely:  students, teachers, parents, administrators, secretaries, paraprofessionals, counselors, custodians, safety officers, business leaders, the community at large, boards of education, union / association leaders and local politicos.  Write the names of all of these groups on a piece of paper and start building your “spider web” of relationships.  When all of the lines start crisscrossing all over the place you begin to get a real feel of the importance and difficulty of building relationships.

We went through a period in time in schools where we would set aside a part of each day for some DEAR time (Drop Everything and Read). I challenge each leader to incorporate some DEAR time into his or her day.  But this time I want DEAR to mean DROP EVERYTHING AND REALTIONSHIP.  (Yes, I know that I am taking some license with the language here but I think I make my point.)

IT IS ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS.    Never forget it!

Some identified personal skills to help build relationships:   honesty, ability to listen, trust, caring for the team member as an individual, unsurpassed work ethic, ability to give credit to team members and show gratitude, the ability to instill self-discipline.

What can you add to this?

Leadership

Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

Op-ed #22

What are your three Rs?

Fact:

RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS AND RELATIONSHIPS

As I was preparing for this week’s post, I could not help myself from focusing on that television commercial selling life insurance.  The company asks the consumer to think about the three Ps when buying life insurance.  After a brief moment the celebrity hawking this insurance reveals that the three Ps are Price, Price and Price.  I want you to think about my three Rs in the same way.  In schools, in businesses, and organizations it has to be about Relationships, Relationships and Relationships.

I had some great responses to my lead up question this week including words such as responsibility, reliability, reality, readiness and rest.  Yes, rest.  That is one R (rest), that I am sure most leaders forget about.  I know I did. These are all great Rs.  Important Rs.

I appreciate everyone’s interest and responses but for me to have success as a leader, it all comes down to one’s ability to cultivate and maintain relationships.  Just like rest, I know that as a leader, I sometimes missed the importance of relationships.  I thought I could survive on my work ethic and innate leadership skills.  I thought my old coaching skills would always be there to save the day.

But as I continue to ponder this point, I think any success that I did have as a coach or principal and superintendent of schools ultimately came back to my ability to interact with my “players.”  Let’s face it, most coaches, or principals know all of the same content, in one way or the other.  The leaders that are successful get “it” about the importance of relationships.  And as I peel back the layers of my coaching success, it really was all about my ability to build relationships.

I deeply cared for my players both on and off of the field. They knew this.  I listened to them.  I trusted them and in turn they trusted me.  I was honest.  Sometimes to the point of perhaps being too cold in my honesty.  My players knew that no one was going to work any harder than me at my craft.  When they saw this effort, it was easier for them to do the same thing.  When we won, I attempted to shine the light on the players and coaches and when we lost, I would willingly shoulder the blame or responsibility.  I tried to always put the team ahead of every individual, yet recognized the importance of the individual as part of the team.  And yes, I could make the hard call and remove any individual from the team that acted otherwise (put himself ahead of the team).  And finally, I believe that I was able to walk with a player with my arm around his shoulder and figuratively kick him in the butt at the same time.  Once, I could successfully do this, I knew that we were on our way to a win. 

So, I knew that if this old coach was able to successfully translate these coaching skills to the principal’s office, I could then hope for some success.  I think it did not always work out that way because during the course of your day, when you are focusing on so many things, you tend to lose track of the important things.  And for any school leader, that important thing is the ability to build and sustain relationships with an entirely diverse set of people and roles.  Pause for a second and see the set of relationships that a principal or superintendent must build to win.  Namely:  students, teachers, parents, administrators, secretaries, paraprofessionals, counselors, custodians, safety officers, business leaders, the community at large, boards of education, union / association leaders and local politicos.  Write the names of all of these groups on a piece of paper and start building your “spider web” of relationships.  When all of the lines start crisscrossing all over the place you begin to get a real feel of the importance and difficulty of building relationships.

We went through a period in time in schools where we would set aside a part of each day for some DEAR time (Drop Everything and Read). I challenge each leader to incorporate some DEAR time into his or her day.  But this time I want DEAR to mean DROP EVERYTHING AND REALTIONSHIP.  (Yes, I know that I am taking some license with the language here but I think I make my point.)

IT IS ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS.    Never forget it!

Some identified personal skills to help build relationships:   honesty, ability to listen, trust, caring for the team member as an individual, unsurpassed work ethic, ability to give credit to team members and show gratitude, the ability to instill self-discipline.

What can you add to this?