As a young administrator (25 years ago) I believed it was important to make changes as fast as possible. My reasoning was simple. The Board hired me to make improvements and improvements were going to be made. My only concern was for the students we served. It was clear to me that if a teacher did not want to change then students were not their priority. With experience I learned that my style was counterproductive to effective leadership. In fact, it was dictatorial and not how a professional should work with other professionals. With time I learned that working with people is a much more effective way to lead. As I grew my philosophy also grew. Today the following are some of the beliefs that I carry with me as an administrator.
I believe everyone working in an organization is important and has an important role to play in the overall success of the school and the students we serve. Everyone’s role is vital and needed to help ensure student’s success. The custodians need to keep the building clean, security is needed so students are safe, the food service need to provide healthy meals and so on and on. I realize that we all have different roles and responsibilities in an organization but no one person is greater than the whole. The responsibilities may vary according to the position but all are vital.
- Work life balance
I am a firm believer than no one should work 24/7. This is what I tell employees during my initial meeting and try to model that balance for everyone. I tell people you need to find ways to work smarter not harder or longer. Along with working smarter everyone needs regular exercise such as running, weightlifting, tennis but more recently, as I get older, I find yoga and meditation are very effective.
- Sense of purpose
Everyone needs to feel that their work is important. They need to believe that their contributions further the mission and vision of the workplace. If they do not there will be no work satisfaction, loyalty or drive to perform at high levels. This means as a leader my role is to help foster that sense of purpose for every employee. This sense of purpose is true for everyone in the organization. I have often said by the time a student reaches their classroom they have contact with secretaries, food service, guards, custodians, classroom aides and others who can have either a positive or negative impact on their day and ultimately their development and success. Everyone needs to believe that their role will make a difference.
Employees need to know that they will not be criticized for innovation, creativity, or initiative. This is fostered by giving employees the responsibility to do their job without micromanaging them. Yes, they need to be evaluated but not told how to do their job. I have found that when you hire good people and let them do their job, with guidance, they rise to a much higher level of performance than even they thought were achievable.
- Opportunities for professional growth
Professionals want their skills to grow and develop. They may want to present at a workshop, take additional classes, attend conferences or lead an initiative at the school but the bottom line is they want to grow in their profession. As a leader I need to make sure they have the opportunity to grow and develop. When I use the word “professional” I mean every employee at the school. We are all professionals.
These are some of my core beliefs and like I often say the “hills that I would die on”. As you read this, reflect on the hills that are important to you. What hill would you be willing to die on? Thanks for reading.