As I write this blog I am thinking to myself “what do I need to do to help ensure our school has a great year”? That is a big question with many possible answers. I actually reflected upon that question all summer and I finally recognized it all starts with supporting others. Great schools exist because of great teachers and support staff. It all starts and comes back to people. That is the most important resource for school leaders as they can develop, nurture and support their own people. This is true every year and this year it is even more a top priority for leaders as the teacher and staff shortage is real. Educators are tired, stressed and worried about many things that make their work of being a success for kids a true challenge. School leaders must place a priority on supporting their staff. Below are key areas that use a relational and culture building lense to help leaders move their staff forward in a positive direction so continual growth and success occurs. I believe that the single greatest indicator about the health of a school is the quality of the relationships of the people within it. As Simon Sinek shares, “Leadership isn’t about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” Leaders must recognize the importance of taking care of their staff and here are some key areas that will provide this focus. I share 4 themes and then some strategies for each theme that can be utilized in any school setting to help support others.
Enlarge the heart
- Interact with staff – It is a true challenge to find the time to get around to every staff member daily. I have learned that it is not the quantity of interactions with staff members that create the relationship but rather the quality of those interactions. Leaders must be present in each conversation (ex. do not look at the clock) and keep your eyes and attention on that person. It’s important to be a great listener and see the topic from their perspective.
- Develop Trust – We develop trust over time through small behaviors such as the fist bump to a teacher who tried something new, a high five when they experience success and a pat on the back when they need support. When there is trust, staff are more likely to feel cared for and will then come to leaders for support when needed.
- Be Visible at school events, carlines, lunches and get into classrooms. Staff value leaders who they see in action.
- Show and tell staff how you value them – Send handwritten notes or postcards to staff. In addition, have students make videos about staff impact and share back with staff.
Empower Others to Act
- Involve Staff – It is important to focus not on “changing someone” to fit a certain desired culture but focusing on the “growth” of the staff member. In other words, how can you maximize their strengths and “what skills they do have” to help your building. When people feel like they are being given a chance to contribute, they will be more confident. We must find ways to develop confidence in our staff as “Confidence” is the most powerful thing a principal can give a teacher and a teacher can give a student
- Examples of how to empower staff include:
- Staff led PD sessions
- Staff led parent events
- Feedback loops with staff
- Genius Hour for staff PD
- School developed goals
- Staff Personal Growth Plan
Inspire a shared Vision
- It is essential for leaders to keep the focus simple and “laser like” for their staff so there is a clear understanding of the purpose of the work. We must communicate our vision through stories, emotions and create engagement around the priorities.
- Develop collective efficacy by creating strong teams. Keep in mind that “1 person cannot make a team, but 1 person can break a team”. A strong team will help each other stay focused on the right work and be there to help each other when they need it.
- Examples of collective efficacy that supports a schools purpose
- Staff led home visits to new families
- Staff led parent book study
- Staff created videos for families
Model the change
- Leaders set the tone as we are like the thermostat, not the thermometer. Leaders must Model the behaviors that we want in the building. Lead with positivity, grace and flexibility. Modeling is often the “tipping point” towards positive change. Leaders achieve vulnerability through active listening, sharing their mistakes and embracing discomfort.
Every school year has challenges and this year is unlike no other due to so many external factors and staffing shortages. How leaders maximize positive momentum for their staff is through consistency and a focus on supporting others. This will allow you to focus on spending the right efforts towards the important work of leading others. Leaders need to show gratitude towards staff for being in this most challenging profession, focus on positive relationships, share your excitement about the opportunities we have to help others, be authentic in your leadership style and always have a teachable (learner) mindset. I encourage you to reflect upon how you can make your school year great and what methods will you use to support others. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “It starts with supporting others” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org