I read a post just this morning from a principal who spent only 10 minutes in their office on a given day. They didn’t answer emails, they didn’t return calls – rather, they were in the classrooms, halls, at activities, etc. Reactions to the post were all on the theme of “that is leadership!!” Far too often we, as leaders, allow ourselves to become chained to the desk. As a principal, and as a superintendent for that matter, if I didn’t begin the day out and about I would never get out of my office. Yet, there are still so many principals who feel they are best served leading from the office. I present to you today FIVE reasons you must be visible. There are probably many more, but here is my unscientific list, based solely on my years of experience and coaching support.
- Access – I had an assistant superintendent who would start the day in our building at least twice per month. Our district had 13 schools, and he nearly never began the day at the district office. I asked him once why he did that. His response will never be forgotten. In his words, “if I am going to be a leader, I have to be with the people I lead. This is not just my principals and AP’s, but the teachers, paras, custodians, and so on.” He stressed to me that by doing this, he was ensuring everyone had access to him for any questions, concerns, or just simply to visit and building a relationship with him. Access is HUGE.
- Reinforce what you’re looking for – one of the most powerful ways to shift culture is to 1) be clear what you wish to see; and 2) reinforce it when you see it. You can’t reinforce the positive things in your schools and in the culture of the organization if you can’t see it. Get out of the office, open your eyes, and celebrate greatness.
- Relationships – maybe a bit redundant, but you can’t build relationships if you aren’t available. My high school, where I was principal, had benches everywhere. I spent a lot of time on those benches visiting and getting to know my kids, community, and staff.
- Step count – c’mon, I can’t make them all about student outcomes and staff satisfaction. Here is a great way to meet your step goal each day. On days I was stuck in the office, I rarely broke 10,000 steps. When I was out and about, 20K here we come! This is another was to help you on your wellness goals. Maybe walk outside and watch a PE class or two. Go to a JV soccer game. Tennis is always fun to attend. Get those steps in!!
- Part of the crew, part of the ship – yes, this does come from Pirates of the Caribbean. People follow people who are with them, in the thick of it with them. If you want to be an instructional leader you have to be in the classrooms. Get into classes, give feedback, ask good questions, learn alongside your team. You can’t lead from the desk!
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