Friday, August 05, 2016

If the leader sneezes...

I have been at my new job for exactly a month, as of today. What was a long and arduous journey of looking for a new school district as landed me in the right place at the right time. I am thrilled beyond words as to how things have turned out in my new position with my new district.

My journey began a little before I officially started when I was invited to attend the 2 day administrative retreat. While the term retreat might get some people excited, those of us who have attended administrative retreats in education before know the truth. Putting the day long meetings aside, the message, culture, and vision of the district and the leadership was evident from the first moments walking in the door. As I was the only really new person to the district (other people we familiar faces in new places), I kinda stood out as a fresh face in the crowd. Because of this, nearly everyone in the room came over to introduce him/herself, welcome me, and tell me that I will love it here. It was genuine. You could see it on peoples' faces how much they enjoyed the people, the schools, their colleagues, the district and the community. Many people expressed how they are alumni of the district, returning to give back to a place they hold so dear.

Then the meetings began and the superintendent started the day. She started with a simple, but powerful message: If the leader sneezes, the organization gets a cold. She went on to expand the idea we, as the learning leaders, must make sure that we are putting the correct message out to our stakeholders and colleagues, and must always try to remember where the other person is on their journey when they come into your path. She described how if a leaders is dealing with a real crisis or emergency, and we quickly dismiss a student, staff member, or parent who might be asking something "trivial" (at least in immediate comparison to the crisis), real damage has been done. Regardless of the amount of time afterward is spent trying to repair the damage, the scar has been created. This is evidence of the cold that the organization might receive.

When someone comes to you, as a leader, with a question, they are looking for validation, input, an opinion, or knowledge that they are being listened to and respected. Leaders maximize every opportunity to help their colleagues realize these events for if we ignore a teacher complaint, that complaint will become their truth.

Does this mean that every emergency must stop when asked a question? No, reality must prevail, but the question becomes who's reality? Perception of the other person is their reality. In these situations, even in the "need-to-know" situations, a leader can take the time to say "I do want to listen and hear what is going on. Unfortunately, I have an emergency I must attend to right now, but I will seek you out to provide whatever support and assistance I can." The key step is living up to seeking that person out in the end.

I want to thank my principal and superintendent for providing me this opportunity to be a part of this great organization. I will do my best to live up to the examples set before me in my first month. I look forward to continuing to grow and learn in this great organization that has a real vision and direction for the future.

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