Saturday, November 22, 2014

Aspiring Administrators Group

As principals, one of our roles is to grow others.  We are to give people the tools needed to to succeed in their current role or get the next job, or inspire them to think outside the norm.  One of the ways in which I have started to give out tools is to create an Aspiring Administrator group.  This group features:

  • An open invitation to any and all meetings
  • A glimpse into the interviewing and hiring process for APs and Principals
  • Article studies within the meeting structure
  • Facilitation and staff development tools, tricks and tips
  • Inbox activities featuring topics and what-ifs related to discipline, handling of poor teachers, parent interaction, and more
  • An open invitation for our group members to request discussion topics of interest
I started the group last year and had two members from another campus join our group and our discussions.  I am excited to have started in on year two of this structure with additional members.  Our  conversations are rich, deep, and they inspire each other and me to try new things, look seriously at what-ifs, and help each other through internships and interviewing.

How are you inspiring those teachers in your building, some of whom are ready and some of whom don't know they're ready?  Try hosting a few meetings--You'll get just as much out of them as your participants.

Vulnerability & Silent Perspectives

As a principal group, we have been studying about vulnerability in our role as leaders.  I thought of several groups these past two months to whom I have shown vulnerability as I have opened up the campus to our parents and opened up my bag of tricks to my Aspiring Administrator group.

Chalk Talk
Opening yourself up to feedback from parent groups is always a risky, but extremely rewarding, move.  I recently hosted a Principal Coffee where I discussed the district and our campus vision and goals.  I was excited to get to speak with around thirty parents whom I have not necessarily seen around the campus.  I shared our vision which was compiled by parents, teachers and kids throughout the school year last year, and asked for feedback in a format called Chalk Talk.  

In this feedback-seeking method, parents/teachers/students are invited to give written, silent feedback on different ideas, themes, and areas in which you are seeking feedback.  If you want feedback about your campus communication, place the word on the butcher sheet and ask for feedback of any kind.  What you ask for is not only for people to write a comment on the paper, but to keep circulating and add affirmations, additional questions and new ideas on the sheet.  I love this method because you not only get one set of information, but you get to see how many agree, disagree and a few outside the box ideas as well.  

Silent Perspectives
Try the Chalk Talk method with a group, whether it be students, parents, teachers, or principals.  I've participated in several and it is very interesting to see what others place importance upon and what they value.  It gives the facilitator glimpses of different perspectives without starting a verbal complaint session.  It is a great way to ease into vulnerability.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Change: Know Your People and Plant Seeds

I have been learning about and experimenting with change as a principal for ten years.  What I have repeatedly found is not shocking:  people don't like it.  In fact, their face will fall and a white pallor will overcome them at the mention of a new ____ (insert term here).  It could be a program for them to win $10 a day for life, and there would still be a cautious, narrow-eyed stare.

Knowing your people is the first step to implementing change.  Which employees will barrage you with questions about logistics, which will cry, which will nod their head but fantasize about cutting your tires, which are excited about the new change but social conventions forbid them from showing excitement, which are confused by change, and which are going to dig their heels in and scowl.  When you can put your people into these and/or your own categories, you can tackle change individually BEFORE the change is rolled out.

What we'll focus on today is what I call planting seeds.  When you have a large or small change initiative to implement, whether beneficial, tough, or mandated, you need to pre-load and beta test the change elements.  Go to your "question barrage" people to ask their opinion and get feedback so you will have all of the questions hammered out when roll-out begins.  Go to your "excited, but reserved" group to talk about their perspective and the "what-ifs" and "it would be cool ifs" to give you ideas about next steps.  Talk with your "digging heels in" group to see their perception of the current state of affairs in the arena of the change--is it bad/good/crazy enough to warrant change--and how as a matriarch/patriarch of the campus or corporation they can they help define some of the change for their team or division.

Once you have planted the seeds, you will have enough pre-conversations to make the rest of the crowd look to those aforementioned groups for guidance as to how to react.  When your "question barrage" folks are less question-ey and your "digging in" group become the ones in the know about the change, the rest of the group seems to take a breath and you can move forward.

Knowing your people and planting seeds are part of your change arsenal.  Additional steps and insight will be discussed in upcoming posts.