Your people need a few things from you right now but they just don’t know how to tell you so I will do it for them.
The first thing they need from you is for you to communicate with them that you are not looking for perfection. As teachers and educators, we are always trying to do everything exactly right, and there is no playbook for this right now in terms of what we're doing, whether you're 100% virtual, you're hybrid, or you're making the transition between those two. Your people need from you is permission to make mistakes. We're all going to do this, we're all gonna make mistakes and they need to know that they have permission to do so. That's what we give our families and that's what must give each other. So, in these uncharted territories that we're in right now, it's really important for your people to feel supported by you and the way to do that is through communicating with them and letting them know you're not looking for perfection.
Kouzes and Posner’s work on leadership traits come to me again and again when I write about our vocation. They found that there are 4 qualities that people identify as the most important in those they admire and willingly follow; in order, they are honesty, forward-thinking, competence, and inspiration. So when you are communicating things to staff, especially around things like going back to school or building or these big issues be sure to remember those 4 qualities. Be honest. Be forward-thinking, tell them, “Hey listen we're going to make mistakes, I know this is going to happen because we're human beings, but we're going to fix them and we're going to move on”. People will feel your competence because you're identifying that if there is a mistake together you will find a way to fix them. This is also inspirational because if you tell people “It's okay to make mistakes. It's okay, don't worry about it. We’ve got this!” They're going to feel encouraged.
How you communicate is just as important, if not more important, as what you communicate. As the leader people are constantly looking at you to see how you act and react. If you are not coming across in a way that's supportive and positive, especially in the face of adversity, people will not have confidence and will be a bit off-center. We should always communicate any and all messages in a way that's very supportive and positive. So what our people need from us they need our positivity. They need your grace, they need us to be non-judgmental, and they need our partnership.
Let’s say one of your teachers Jeff, had a tough class and you happened to have a bird’s eye view of it. Jeff needs to know that you're not going to say, “Jeff, today did not go well in your classroom. What are you going to do about it.?” They need to hear, “Jeff, how is your day going.” When he shares he wasn’t happy with what happened in his classroom he needs you to say, “Yeah, it did feel a little bit off, why do you think that is, how can I help you, how can we work together so tomorrow you and your students have a better day?” We're in these positions to help people and compassion and empathy will get us there. We have risen to these levels because we have skills and we need to use those skills to help people. If something goes wrong, think to yourself, what could I have done differently as a leader to have set this up better?
If you are a leader of leaders, they need the same. If you are superintendent your principals need this, if you're the principal, the assistant principal, your guidance counselor, your administrative assistants, whoever it may be, everybody in your organization needs these things, please remember that and give generously! You are doing great work. Keep on keeping on!
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