So you’ve just changed roles from a teacher to a coach or a department head. Start the beginning of the year in the way that you want to be remembered. Do you want others to know that you care about them, that you value different perspectives, and that you are intentional about how the how the team uses collaboration time? Then, your words and your actions must show that. Think about the needs of your team, the needs of your organization, and how you can grow to meet their needs.
With so much to do, so many relationships to cultivate, and competition for time, when you have scheduled blocks, think about the best way to use those precious minutes while building and sustaining culture. This may mean that you gather some data about the difference between your intentions and what actually happens. For example, if you allocate ten minutes to discussing one large concern, or possibly ten minutes to air out stressors, while allocating 20 minutes to solutions — then stick to that. Keep a log. Share it. And, don’t be afraid to make changes. It’s much easier to implement this type of change at the beginning than in the middle of the year.
If your team has agreed upon norms (less than five), and one of them is to create a community that is driven by solutions, trust, and confidentiality, when someone operates outside of that norm, you must address it. Leaders are made through their interactions, not their intentions. If the team’s values and goals become your goals, then you are compelled to have tough conversations in public and in private. If one of the team’s shared norms is diminished, and you find that your team is sharing sensitive information, follow-up on it. Choose your words very carefully, and preface them with care. “We agreed that as a community we would support each other, find solutions together, and keep our conversations confidential in order to build trust. This was, and is, important, yet our actions show that we have compromised that. When we fail to uphold our values and team goals, we are working against each other and dividing the house we want to strengthen. Our individual goals must align with team goals if we are to grow in a positive direction.” Notice, that I did not say that every issue needs to be addressed. However, discerning between small issues or even concerns that can be handled later, compared to issues that can grow and dismantle years of work is essential.
As a leader, one of the most powerful things we can do is build a trusting yet challenging environment. Part of that is not only asking the team to be reflective, we must be vulnerable and reflect as well. Feedback can not be a one-way street, and whenever possible, problems must be met with solutions. As leaders, we must ask for feedback about how we are supporting our team. Find a way to ask; this can be a five-minute check-in in person, a low-tech half-sheet of paper, or a poll that does not require team members to sign in and leave an electronic trail. Those we work with, have to know that we care about them individually as well as the teams’ needs.
My point is that, leadership is as much about knowing your team and their needs as it is about knowing yourself. Communicating through care, consistency, and reliability while showing your best authentic self is a step in the right direction.
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