The problem with avoiding important work in schools

 sand head stand

In a job interview some years back I faced a really good and important question: What aspects of your job do you dislike? My answer went on to explain that there are numerous things about our jobs that we dislike but avoiding them or giving them to someone else is not the answer. Leaders can often be misled in the belief that, owing to their importance in the hierarchy of things, they can pick and choose the work that they do in schools. Such leaders can be seen delegating what they consider to be less important and / or less glamorous tasks to others, or avoiding them altogether. Delegation is crucial in supporting the work of a leader, but a leader’s role is also to give assurances that delegated task will be performed to the highest level possible. Therefore, delegation must not be seen as a way to avoid important work.

There are huge pitfalls with work avoidance such as:

  • School leaders not understanding key aspects associated with the operation of their school.
  • School leaders not being able to plan effectively because they are unaware of future directions in certain elements of education.
  • When things go wrong in key areas of the school that leaders are not across, they are unable to provide answers and the subsequent investigation process is reactionary and unnecessarily time consuming.
  • Cynicism developing from staff who see the leader talking the talk but not walking the walk. This has a huge impact in creating toxic school cultures.
  • School leaders not giving enough direction, time, concern and support to certain facets of a school’s operations that they wonder why they do not get the results they want.

Of course, school leaders cannot be involved in every single detail of what goes on in a school, but they need to have the following to ensure that the school operates effectively, efficiently and most importantly successfully:

  • Strategies in place for ensuring that everyone clearly understands what they are trying to achieve.
  • Measures to guarantee that progress is monitored
  • The ability to have open and honest conversations with individuals and teams when things are going well and when things need to change or improve
  • A guarantee to provide support through adequately training or upskilling staff to make sure they can do what is being asked of them.
  • The willingness to help out at times and shoulder some of the burden in doing less desirable tasks in order to effect the necessary change.

The last point is possibly the most important, leaders want to be trusted and employees want to know that there leaders will be there for them and, at times, stand alongside them in the trenches, understanding the daily challenges that they face, supporting them on their journey to get better at serving their students. After all, we want the same thing, a successful school with great staff and students who strive to do their very best with the talents at their disposal.

photo credit: Learning Futures Festival 2010 via photopin cc

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