Saturday, July 20, 2013

Leaders Must Fill In the Blanks for Those They Lead

As busy as educational leaders are in the 21st century, providing feedback to faculty and staff may end up falling down on the list of priorities in the midst of putting out fires daily. This may be especially true regarding faculty and staff who consistently perform well. It would be easy for a leader to think, "She's doing great, so I don't really need to touch base with her this week," or, "He's fine for now so I'll check in with him if things take a downward turn."

This practice presents at least a few potential pitfalls for faculty. When faculty hear nothing from leadership regarding their performance, or when blanks are left by leaders to be filled in by those they lead, faculty may assume something entirely different than what leadership intended by the silence. A solid teacher very easily may fill in the blanks with negative feedback. Conversely, a sub-par teacher may assume that all is well and fill in the blanks with positive feedback. Others simply may wonder why the communication has ceased. "Is everything OK between us?" he or she might wonder. If leadership does not fill in the blanks for faculty and staff with the appropriate information, the blanks will get filled one way or the other. If this miscommunication happens, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of leadership.

For some time I've tended to manage some of my faculty in the following manner: no news is good news. In other words, if you don't hear from me for a while, keep doing what you're doing. My goal always has been to hire professionals then get out of their way as much as possible except to offer support when needed. For high school faculty in particular, this has seemed to be a good plan and largely has been appreciated by those I lead. As I've been reflecting this summer, however, I've decided I need to adjust my strategy some. Looking ahead to next year and beyond, I will be filling in the blanks regularly for every member of my team so there can be no question about my perception of their performance.

What blanks have you left empty just waiting to be filled in by others? What are the odds your team members will fill in those blanks with feedback that matches yours? It's probably time to fill in your blanks.

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