What Matters Most?
As a leader, especially during this time, the importance of “what we do,” “how we do it,” and “why we do it” are critical questions to ask. We have asked them before, but how does it help us to answer the biggest question of all? What matters most?
“Mother Norman, I am so sorry for the loss of your husband.”
“Oh daughter, I know, let me introduce you to my son.”
Going to the visitation of one of my co-workers from my early years was just like going to a family reunion to see relatives you haven’t seen in a while, even though you may not live that far from each other. “Mother Norman, ” as I have called her for years, was the teacher who I looked up to as I learned to be a teacher. She was one of many who helped prepare me for my journey through education. Her brother would become our Superintendent. He hired me for my first teaching position and then in my first administrator position. So many great learning opportunities and training. Thank you, Mr. Tate.
I left the comforts of my hometown to travel a short distance to a larger school district up the road. My first year as principal was terrific. The staff, students, families, and everything felt just right for me.
“Mr. Denman wants to see you in his office.”
I can remember hearing those words coming from the phone and the echoes of the voices telling me all day of the sudden leaving of the middle school principal. My heart sunk to my stomach. I could not let anyone see my feelings.
As I arrived at the office, it was true; I needed to move to be the principal of the middle school. I left the building headed back to my school processing all that needed to be done when a call came asking me if I could return to talk to the Superintendent.
I entered Mrs. Mellen’s office, and she said, “ I am so sorry; I know I told you I would not move you, but I had no idea something like this would happen.”
I understand. Leaders have to make decisions based on what they believe is best. As part of this team and organization, I have to choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. A great deal of work has to be done. One thing I ask is to have permission to talk with my current staff first before they hear it from the news.
“I don’t think you can get that accomplished before the board meeting tonight.”
I can and I will, if I have permission. “I will check with the board president and a few others to get this approved.”
Thank you! Trust, my word, and helping to guide them through this transition is essential to me. It will provide a better transition for all of us.
Telling news you do not want to give
- Practicing solution-focused leadership provides a systematic approach to communicating any form of news you need to deliver.
- First, identify the problem the organization faced. Point out the importance of the time of the year and the needs of all involved.
- Then provide the possible solutions the organization could have selected from and weigh against outcomes. (In this situation, I was able to pull from the information I thought could be used. I had four years of positive middle school experience previously. Our team worked to secure a grant successfully to change the school to a middle school concept and turned it from failing to succeeding.)
- Decision made and moving forward. Clear communication of the decision made and how you support being part of the solution is stated. We all must do this to continue the great work we are doing. Provide the connection between them and the decision and the overall mission. (In this case, the school was a feeder school to the middle school I was moving to.)
- One last thing to remember!
- We do all of our work together in all of these buildings as one. Students and sometimes staff move around from time to time, but one thing remains the most important. What matters the most? We love what we do for those we do it for and those we do it with because, in the end, what matters the most is the relationships we build along the journey.
Permission was given to speak to the staff prior to the board meeting. My secretary, intern, and social worker called each staff member to get them to come to the building for a meeting. Those who could not come I spoke to personally on the phone.
- Practice solution-focused leadership
- Relationships matter
- Clear communication
- Remember the what, how, who and why to understand What matters most!