You’ve got to listen to lead.

Niequist quote

The past 4 weeks have been challenging for me as a principal.

I was missing some signals from some of my staff members, signals that would have tipped me off that there was something that was bothering them.

I wasn’t able to respond to change the way I would like to and I ended up realizing this when it was too late. I asked around, “I’m sensing that people are upset”. It turned out from what I could piece together that a handful of people were, but I took it as a bigger sign that I needed to adjust.

So, I set up 26 hours worth of 30-minute appointment times where people could come and talk with me. I had no agenda other than to listen. Most people just wanted to run an idea or two past me. A couple of others wanted to share what was bothering them about things that had been going on in the building.

The result was a strange mix of exhaustion and elation. I work with incredibly smart people, and these conversations reaffirmed that. I was exhausted from hearing all of these great ideas and then thinking about how they might benefit the students in our building. But this was the source of my elation as well.

I was elated because listening allowed me to lead. I felt more in tune with what is going on in the building and, best of all, I was able to connect with the people I care about and who I serve.

My biggest takeaway was that this dip in our culture was all on me, but I wasn’t going to stop me from engaging with others to find solutions. It wasn’t going to stop me from caring and I chose not to blame, complain or defend my actions and chose instead to work on ways to communicate better. I drew strength from my family, my faith, and from reminding myself of my core values that kids come first even if it upsets the adults. I had to keep my ego in check when I heard about some of the things a couple of folks were saying or even a nickname a group had given me. I chose to do the same thing I do for the kids I serve who need extra assistance and asked, “What’s really going on here?”.

Teachers and administrators face this same challenge throughout the school year – The challenge of having our culture eroded by leadership missteps, negativity or misunderstanding. It is up to each of us to reflect when this happens, to choose to listen, and to make our decisions based on how we can keep our culture growing strong.

Have a GREAT week! Here’s the ADE Staff Update.

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