Promoting critical conversations is an area that seems very delicate yet extremely important to keep creativity, innovation, and growth alive in a school. Personally, it is an area that I know I have to grow in.
Being on the other side of administration for 20 years, I appreciated leaders that would listen to my concerns. I wanted to have a voice in our school that helped cultivate the culture we had created and I felt that most of my leaders let me do this. Were all of our conversations ones of agreement? No – sometimes we had to agree to disagree, but there was still a mutual respect.
So how do I, now as a leader, continue to promote this in our school? LISTEN! I need to make myself available and approachable so that staff feel comfortable having these conversations. Relationships and trust needs to be developed. I need to ask important questions to create conversations. Then, I need to listen to what people have to say.
I will need to accept the feedback I receive and then respond to it. This will be a tough area for me, I am a “people pleaser” and will need to learn to not see this as a personal attack. I will need to remind myself how I appreciated the ability of my earlier leaders to accept my comments. These conversations will create reflection that should then guide the course we follow. This could mean completely changing a program, a goal, a strategy, or a way of doing business. But, then, I need to make sure to get out and listen to what people have to say again. It should be a cyclical process.
Having critical conversations can be very delicate. Sometimes emotions get tied into conversations and people react in a more negative way. Feedback is immensely important to a school’s growth, but it needs to be given in a respectful way. Leaders need to be able to model this. If emotions are too high, conversations may need to be postponed to a later time, but they should never be dropped.
The only way to keep a school moving forward is to have these critical conversations. Teachers need a voice. No one wants to work in a place that uses a top down approach. I know I sure didn’t.