School leaders, regardless of the position held, take on a number of tasks at the same time, so many in fact that the ‘To Do’ list never ends. Leaders are constantly juggling tasks, which may include reacting to situations that have arisen, carrying out tasks to maintain effective function of the school/division/department, or leading and supporting the development and implementation of new initiatives to improve our schools.
As leaders are consumed in the tasks they do and the busier they become at certain times of the year, leaders can often lose sight of the need to communicate with their colleagues. When we find ourselves short on time owing to the number of tasks that need completing our communication can become rushed or non-existent in the eyes of our colleagues. At times, we may think that we are communicating but really we are not.
If we are serious of creating alignment in our schools with all staff ‘singing from the same song sheet’, or having ‘everyone on the same page’, it is vital that time is set aside for creating clarity in the work that we do. This includes making time for our colleagues to ask clarifying questions such as:
- What is the rationale for this decision?
- Why does the task need to be done this way?
- What are the next steps with this project?
Good leadership, however, is more than just making time for colleagues to ask pertinent questions, it is about having the emotional intelligence to consider answering the questions before they are asked. This places leaders in situations where they are more proactive than reactive in meeting the needs of others. Leaders may even bring up the questions that their colleagues may want to ask but may refrain from doing so, for fear of the inconvenience of asking. For colleagues to ask clarifying questions should not be viewed, by the leader, as a hindrance to getting things done, they should should be seen as an opportunity to consolidate understanding and grow stronger as a team.
Making the time for clarifying questions, or responding beforehand to questions that may arise, helps build further trust in the leader and in the team’s value; clearly establishing, through the maelstrom of different tasks, what it is that we are really doing around here.