How can I support my people now?
This is one of the most common questions I have heard from principals and superintendents during the course of this school year. Food is always something that brings a smile to people’s faces, but they need a lot more support than can be provided by a donut or piece of fruit. Being present to lend a hand with a difficult behavior issue, having their back in a conversation with a difficult parent, or simply taking over so they can hit the restroom are always appreciated.Every situation is different, let’s begin with that point of clarification. Not every solution fits the need for every employee or leader. But, a few commonalities that are worth the investment of your time and energies follows:
- Make time to listen, 1 0n 1: Recently, I interviewed Dr. Jared Smith for the Leaning into Leadership Podcast, coming soon as episode 14. In my conversation with Jared, we both talked about the importance of listening. Not simply listening to respond but rather to hear, understand, and to empathize. But, Dr. Smith took it a step further. And it was brilliant. He is very intentional with giving every employee the opportunity to be heard. So much so that he schedules a meeting with every single employee so that they have 1-on-1 time with the superintendent. He will ask the same questions but here is where Jared takes it to another level. When a trend begins to emerge, he and his leadership team will take action on that trend. It is one thing to listen, another to take action. Make sure you check out the episode with Dr. Smith for more.
- Be understanding with their time: Time was by far and away the most common request I would receive from staffulty through my leadership career. I really never wanted staff to put in excessive time working outside of contract time, knowing that many still will. But when it comes to the demands we put on people’s time, being cognizant now is so important. But what does it really mean to be understanding with people’s time? Consider the meetings you call. Are they productive and a positive use of time, or could some of what is shared be done via email or a short video (yes, short videos are so helpful)? Are you able to provide some open time on your professional development days? In my conversation with Dr. Jared Smith, he shared how this was a common concern, so he met with his board and they added more early-release time to give teachers back some of the time lost for covering classes and subbing for their peers.
- Double down on the narrative: If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know I talk a lot about controlling the narrative and telling our stories. Now is the time to double down!! Sing the praises of your staff every time you get the chance. Maybe start a blog or write a weekly article in your local newspaper. Our teachers are getting beat up on at every turn and they need you to have their backs. I know you do, no questions asked, but pushing even more on the positives your staff bring every day to kids can serve as a reminder to others just how important and dedicated to serving the community your staff is.
This is a very important time in school leadership. We are all worried about the high levels of turnover with leaders, shortage of teacher candidates to fill vacancies, and many educators simply are leaving the profession. There is, again, no perfect answer of how you best support your people. I do think these three are very important and worth the time invested by a leader to support their people.
Have a #RoadtoAwesome week