Monday, January 12, 2015

Learning about Leading

When I reflected on 2014 and try to ignore the big events (inducting new staff, welcoming our first student cohort, trialing our curriculum models, opening our school, setting up student council, navigating parent concerns, a school show, outdoor ed camp, big project exhibitions, strategic planning, prizegiving etc) and focus on my own journey as a leader I soon realised that I have never received so much feedback about my own performance as a leader.

We did 2 major surveys of staff at the end of Term 1 and 2 to try to gauge how the crew of the build-it-while-we-fly-it plane were coping. Obviously we got some awesomely positive feedback, but just as obviously we got feedback that was critical of how people were being led. I am proud of how we responded to the feedback. If the skin had been less thick I could have wallowed in self-pity but the strength of our SLT meant that was not an option.

As well, I conducted two surveys of parents and students to explore the nature of their experience of our school. While these were overwhelmingly positive there was also some critical feedback;feedback which, if not kept in perspective, could easily reawaken any tendency to exhibit impostor syndrome.

During the last term I held 30 minute 1-on-1 hui with all teaching staff. The questions we went through (which were provided to them in advance) were:

  • what made you the proudest in 2014?
  • what was your biggest frustration in 2014?
  • what would make next year even better for you?
  • other issues?
Listening to the responses to the first question was great!

Early on in that process I soon realised that most of the frustrations people experienced pointed towards leadership and that most of the things that would make next year even better were also down to leadership.

As well, we have had several researchers operate in our school which has included interviewing staff and students. Sometimes I have been given a general debrief of the sorts of issues discussed and so this formed further feedback for me.

And, of course, I participated in a formal appraisal process in relation to my performance which also provided useful feedback to me. One of the aspects of my appraisal was focused on my own personal inquiry on how might I achieve the balance of being Warm and Demanding: something to which I aspired because it gives me a structure in which to focus on growing a growth mindset and developing true distributed leadership.

On a 5 point scale I was rated as '4' for being Warm, '3.7' for being Demanding and was rated '4' for overall Warm and Demanding. At one level, I should be really pleased with such high ratings and I am. However, when drilling down through the comments people were invited to make I have received enough feedback to continue with this inquiry in 2015 (I suspect aspiring to being Warm and Demanding is a life-time challenge for any school leader).

So a summary of my reflections on 2014:

  • the balance between Warm and Demanding is a tightrope
  • what is seen as Warm by one person is seen differently by another
  • what is seen as Demanding by one person is seen differently by another
  • 'leadership' is never nailed and requires continual learning and unlearning
  • leadership is a team sport
  • the tightrope is a great (and only) place to be
What about 2015:

  • I'm going to try to stay on the Warm and Demanding tightrope - there's plenty of room up here and the view s great


Allan Robinson said...

Great reflection Maurie. Your 6 point summary of leadership is vert well put.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this reflection, Maurie. It's always good to see leaders who are continually seeking to learn and better themselves and see it as an essential part of the job. I imagine your staff appreciate your transparency also.

Love the point you make ... " 'leadership' is never nailed and requires continual learning and unlearning "