Be Excellent On Purpose: Intentional Strategies for Impactful Leadership by Sanée Bell

4. Give Focused Feedback

  • Feedback is used to validate, refine, or correct. It is something you should do with intent and everyone you teach or supervise needs to get some. Sanée suggests you use a spreadsheet to keep track of who gets what kind of feedback. This will help you see who you may be missing. Be specific, and if you are giving corrective feedback tell the person what they are doing that has to stop and what has to replace it. Also, ask if there is anything you can do to help. Reinforce what is positive and suggest that they keep doing it or perhaps doing it more. If you have a current project or current instructional focus be sure to concentrate feedback on it. You also need to use the feedback you get from everyone to learn and grow. Check out Sheila Heen’s TED Talk How to Use Others’ Feedback to Learn and Grow.

5. Overcome Barriers to Teamwork

  • Conflict can be constructive or destructive and the responsibility for which way things go is largely on the shoulders of the leader(s). Active listening is vital and needs to be taught as many people are busy thinking of what they are going to say when they think they are “listening.” As you listen you need to try to understand what the other person is saying. Taking notes and paraphrasing what you heard can be helpful. It’s also vital for leaders to control their emotions. You need to process any rage you have before you start working with your team.
  • The first thing a group needs to do is identify the problem/issue(s) that they need to address. At first, you need to give everyone time to think and record their ideas. Consider using sticky notes. Submissions need to be anonymous to keep personalities out of the discussion. One person should read all of the ideas prior to discussions regarding the value of each. Leaders should let people know that disagreement is expected and accepted. As you work, be hard on the problem and easy on each other. Sanée advises that you review what you learned in kindergarten about how to behave and treat others. Ideally, people also have time to get to know each other on a personal and a professional level.

6. Be a Champion for Equity

  • The big idea here is that you give every child what that child needs. This is equity. Giving every child the same would be equality. You hear a lot of this in the news today. To do this you need to get to know each child. Home visits and neighborhood visits can help. You will probably see a privilege gap. For some students school is the only stability they know. Let the children know that their backgrounds don’t have to limit where they can go. Don’t refer to “those’ kids to describe poor or minority students. They are all my or our kids. (Doug: They are all God’s children.)
  • Meet students where they are and honor who they are. This implies a level of personal learning experiences. This allows you to challenge each student at their own level so you can have high and appropriate expectations for all. Work hard to understand the culture of each student and let that culture show up in the classroom. We all have biases so try to find yours and do something about them. They aren’t all bad. A bias towards hard work and caring can be good.

7. Lead Impactful Change

  • As a new leader you need to spend your first year researching your school before you start any systemic change. You need to understand the climate and the culture. Surveys can help as can asking questions. Be sure to ask non-threatening questions like 1. Tell me about your journey. 2. What are you most proud of? 3. What challenges do you currently have? 4. What areas need to be improved? 5. What advice would you give to someone wanting to implement change?
  • Make sure teachers understand that change involves no longer doing something they are comfortable with. It’s easy to revert back to old ways. Successful change happens when a new behavior becomes the new normal. Teachers also need to know that change is difficult, but it’s necessary for growth and pursuing excellence. There must be a clear articulation as to why the change is needed. You want them to own the change, not just buy-in, which may not last. As you work collaboratively on your plan, make sure it has goals, timelines, and measurements of success. Sanée also provides other resources on this topic that you should consider.
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