“Morning meeting time to build relationships? When they’re already asking us to teach more content than students can master? What a joke,” the middle school math teacher told me. Content and relationships do seem like competing priorities, don’t they? After…
Have you noticed there’s a Women in Leadership Conference in November ? In New Orleans? Are you thinking, "Why an event just for women? Isn’t ‘cross-pollination’ between genders a better way to improve the lives of children?” If you’re a female…
I’ve been writing about how effort and perseverance without capacity and readiness simply aren’t enough. (Check out my past posts on grit and effort.) They’re all interdependent. Ignore either side and you simply won’t get where you want to go.…
In a previous post, I wrote about “satisficing”—putting in just the right amount of effort. Whether you’re hearing, “These employees simply need to do more with less” or “We need to teach students to have grit”, the implication is that…
I was only about a half-mile into my run when my legs began whispering, Wouldn’t this be a great day for a walk? But I persevered, finishing my regular loop around the park and back home. As I ran, this…
Only on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise does saying, ‘Make it so,' make it so. That's one of my favorite responses to leaders who say, "My team simply has to do more with less--our vision is too important to…
Recently I stumbled on a blog that told only half the truth about school leadership. I’m not going to link to it—it wasn’t a bad blog, but when we over-focus on some aspects of leadership we ignore equally important responsibilities that end up undermining what we were trying to accomplish in the first place. Let me show you what I mean.
- Of course leaders need to be visionary, but not at the expense of reality checks. There are limits to time, dollars, the cognitive load involved in juggling various initiatives, and to energy available for different efforts.
- Of course leaders need to be flexible, but not at the expense of planning. In fact, great leaders build checkpoints into plans to ensure they are remembering to evaluate whether the plan needs to change!
- Of course leaders need to communicate, but they also need to listen. The latter is so uncommon in school leaders that a principal who is also Native American told me his new staff didn’t believe him when he said at the start of his first year, “My goal is to listen and learn from you this year—what is working, what the students need, what you need. Then we’ll plan our strategies together.” His staff accused him of hidden agendas, sure he had his big initiatives waiting in the wings like every other principal they’d worked for.
- Of course leaders need to use their strengths, but they also need to manage related weaknesses so they don’t undermine their own good works.
- Of course leaders need to give clear-cut directives and make decisions, yet allowing room for individual pathways to the same goals and for creativity is essential for innovation.
Earlier this week in just 60 seconds of perusing my news digest app, I counted over a half dozen articles promising quick, essential cures for leadership woes. “The Six Traits…” “Five Things Every Leader…” “Seven Secrets of…” You know the blogs. The headlines capture reader attention and the content generally provides some truth. But not the whole truth, for at least four reasons:
“I have to hold their hands.” “They need constant supervision.” “They don’t think!” “They aren’t creative.” Have you heard leaders and managers pass these kinds of judgments on employee abilities?
Frequently, as I conduct employee focus groups or review 360 results, leaders who make these kinds of statements receive the following kinds of comments: “What a micromanager!” “Constant meetings and checklists and interference keep us from our work.” “We’re treated like children!”
“But I tried giving more autonomy and it was a disaster,” many leaders say. Frequently, they provided autonomy without clarity of goals or the benefit of wisdom learned from the past. There’s a happy medium of structure AND autonomy, a polarity that leads to results AND happy employees!
“Get the resisters on board–that’s why we’re bringing you in” is what I often hear from leaders when change processes aren’t going smoothly. In most cases, though, a few simple yet profound changes in leadership attitudes and practices are what is really needed. Here are three mind shifts I’ve seen in effective leaders:
1. Instead of Leading, Think Leading and Listening
As a school leader I know stepped into a new principalship, he told the staff, “I’ll be spending this first year listening, watching and dialoguing with you to understand the strengths and needs of this particular community of learners.”
No one believed him.