Seth Godin’s recent blog post, “Your soft skills inventory”, is a timely one for me. Godin’s take in this post is that the annual review is basically a waste of time:
“It’s not particularly useful for employee or boss, it’s stressful and it doesn’t happen often enough to make much of an impact.”
Instead, Godin suggests reflecting on a set of questions that, if answered truthfully, will likely lead to a better review and will also help you set goals to improve.
Over the last three years, I’ve created a mid-year feedback as a principal for my staff to use to give me feedback. The results have been mixed. I’m not saying I didn’t like the feedback. For those who participated, it was helpful overall. But not everyone participated or took me up on the chance to meet to give me feedback and it made me wonder if I was truly capturing what I needed to.
So I’m trying something else instead. I have thought about and responded to the questions Godin lists in his post. It is my attempt to lead a self-reflection exercise that I think will help me and others get better.
So, here is my mid-year review…
What am I better at?
I’m budgeting my time better, resulting in more of a balance between work and life. I’ve said no to things or events that would have taken me away from seeing my kids at their sporting event or school activity.
I also feel like I’m better at managing my emotions in the heat of the moment. It’s hard because I want to be helpful, decisive, and lead when someone is in need of help or direction. But I can’t make everyone’s priority my priority. When I don’t take action right away, I’ve got a reason and it’s probably something more pressing than the issue someone else is bringing to me. I’ve had to get used to letting people down, and that’s hard. But if I am putting kids first, that’s going to happen.
Have I asked a difficult question lately?
Yes. Many times recently. I’ve asked questions about district policies and decisions. I’ve asked staff members to “help me understand” when I thought they weren’t acting in the best interest of students.
It’s a fine balance and timing is everything. My experience with asking questions so far has helped me understand that most people I direct my question towards gets defensive and take it as I am taking a stand when really I’m just seeking clarity. This makes me wonder how often I am doing the same.
Do people trust me more than they did?
I think so. My hesitation tells me that I still need to stay focused on building trust. The teachers I work with seem more willing to ask questions, pitch ideas, and seek clarity from me. There were times in years past when it seemed most staff members were speculating and/or grumbling instead of just talking with me.
Is my list of insightful, useful and frightening stats about my work, my budgets and my challenges complete? And have I shared it with someone I trust?
I work hard to gather information, data and other stats on student achievement and progress and I put it out there for others to see and think about. How can we help children learn and grow if we aren’t looking at data and honestly reflecting and asking questions to get better?
Who have I developed?
This I’ll keep private, but I hope those who I have worked with closely or those who I’ve had to have tough conversations with feel like they have been supported. Developing others isn’t just about mentoring a person or two. For me, it’s about creating a work culture where everyone has opportunities to make decisions that influence the direction of where we are going. Building that culture has been the most time consuming aspect of my position, but it has also been the most rewarding.
Have I had any significant failures (learning opportunities) lately, and what have I learned?
I have failed at keeping my focus on maintaining the ties between us and Darby Creek. We have sort of returned to our silos to execute the vision we built together. This continues to be a huge opportunity that can lead us to re-imagining the elementary experience.
What predictions have I made that have come to pass? Am I better at seeing what’s going to happen next?
I’ve gotten better at not having knee-jerk reactions to new policies or crises. I’ve learned that most of the time, the urgency of these things is overinflated. I’ve also learned that part of my job is to shield my teachers from things that others think is urgent because the urgency is usually overinflated. I feel like this helps my teachers and staff stay focused on what’s important and in their control.
Am I more likely to be leading or following?
Leading. I’m pretty opinionated when it comes to this work. It’s the teacher in me. I never liked being told what to do and I lead with that in mind. I’ll follow if I agree it’s best for kids. Otherwise, I’m on a mission.
I’m feeling pretty good about my progress growing in this role. However, I have so much more work to do. Building trust, communication, and being brave continue to be things I think about when I reflect.
I hope you take the time to think about these questions too.
Have a great week! Here’s the Staff Update!