You have just received word that you have gotten the principal’s position that you have been pursuing. You have apprenticed as a vice-principal for five years, and you have done all of the “heavy lifting”. You start tomorrow. What is the first thing that you should do? My recommendation is that you go on a listening tour. Find out what your team is thinking about (Harvard Business Review-Management Tip of the Day, 6/1/17).
There should be no hidden agenda when you go out on this tour. The purpose of this tour is to listen to people. Engage them in conversation and truly hear them. Try to find out what is on each person’s mind and how he /she sees themselves as part of this school. Try to ascertain how they see themselves as part of the pursuit of the vision and mission of the district. Many times, the individuals in the “trenches” do not see themselves as part of the vision. If this is so, one of your first tasks becomes clear. You must be able to get all of those involved to see themselves as part of the strategic plan and how what they do every day contributes to the attainment of this plan.
When you go out on this tour, it is important that you listen more than you talk. You are doing this to find out about the people on your team. There will be other times for you to do the talking. Begin to process what you hear. It is not essential that you respond to each idea that you hear. Your response, if needed, may require time for you to think clearly. Many times, I have dug myself into a hole which was difficult to climb out of because I blurted out a response. Your credibility will take a hit if you are quick to answer and then have to go back and correct yourself. Your team will forgive a few “do-overs”, but when they become the norm, people will stop listening to you and believing what you say.
Truly listening to people is hard work. At times, you may feel uneasy. It can be like the deadly silence you perceive when you are providing adequate wait time for a student to answer. Force yourself to use good active listening skills and keep quiet.
People need to be seen, and they need to be heard. They will feel their worth when you acknowledge them (Rockwell, 2017). I have seen administrators walk down a quiet hallway, pass a colleague, and look away without even saying hello. What does that type of action communicate to the person that you are trying to lead? However, your acknowledgement must be genuine and sincere. I recall a leader that I worked with who would always say something nice about the tie I was wearing. The first several times, I was impressed and walked away feeling good about myself. But after a while, it became old and fake. It became a joke behind his back. Do not let yourself become that joke.
It is important to ask people questions and to ask the right follow up questions when given the opportunity. Work to gain insights from the people that you lead (Naseer, 2017). These people are out there doing the job. Most likely they will know more than you about how to do their jobs. This is especially true with your experienced personnel.
I am sure that you have your “First 100 Day Plan” in place. This is a calendar of activities that you wish to accomplish in your first 100 days in your new position. We have talked extensively about the need to listen. The listening tour should be your first activity. However, I wish to extend this and share some important points from an article that I recently read. I think it nicely summarizes what I have been talking about. Once again, a list is in order. Dan Rockwell in his blog calls this list “Three Leadership Commitments That Cost Little and Payoff Big”.
- Commit to see and be seen. Look for things to praise. Say thank you three times before lunch.
- Commit to listening.
- Look at people
- Don’t interrupt
- Ask two questions before making one statement
- Count out six seconds when somebody stops talking before responding.
- Commit to celebrations. Look to praise, praise, and praise (Rockwell, 2017).
I truly believe if you follow the guidelines presented here you will be off to a good start. What else is in your “First 100 Day Plan”? I will get into more of that in upcoming articles. Good luck as you begin your new journey.
Rockwell, D. (2017). How Leaders Change People by Simply Seeing Them. Retrieved from http://www.leadershipfreak.blog/2017/06/05/how-leaders-change-people-by-simply-seeing-them/
Rockwell, D. (2017). Three Leadership Commitments That Cost Little but Payoff Big. http://www.leadershipfreak.blog/2017/06/011/three-leadership-commitments-that-cost-little-but-payoff-big
Naseer, T. (2017). How Failure Taught Me to Become a Better Listener. Feed @tanveernaseer.com