Monday, February 10, 2014

Is Your School in a Bad Mood?

We have entered the time of year, when the “eternal optimism” we provide as leaders can begin to wane. We have the delightful Kansas winter to deal with, numerous activities to attend, or in some cases reschedule due to “road conditions’. Indoor recess becomes the norm not the exception and leaders soon have a true understanding of the term “stir crazy”. To add complexity to our profession this is also the time when some factions of the legislature or public accuse public educators of not doing an effective job with students.

These are the times when we have to reflect on our actions as a leader and how they impact the “mood” of our schools. In reading a recent article in Educational Leadership, Moran & Moran compared an organization's morale to a mood. They went on to define that moods are a result of intense feelings or situations. There are some insights to be learned here, think about the “intense” events that make up a “normal” day in the lives of our students and staff, now compound that by the implementation of new curriculum, evaluation systems, and likely a technology initiative or two. It is no wonder our “mood” is suffering.

The reality is that being a teacher and/or educational leader is hard work, and when the intense feelings or situations begin to mount against us we begin to feel overwhelmed or discouraged with our situation. Adding the sum total of the complexities and relationships across the organization, the mood can become less than ideal. When we conduct leadership training we spend a great deal of time discussing how to create a purposeful community, where everyone is united and focused on a common mission and vision. That mission helps us determine how, and why we do the work. McREL’s Balanced Leadership often refers to “outcomes that matter to all” and “agreed upon processes”. This uniting process starts with leaders looking in the mirror and seeing an honest reflection. Do we find ourselves using our leadership skills to help our stakeholders see the bigger picture, and are we helping them connect their daily work to our overarching purpose? As leaders we often get lost in the implementation of change X and forget to see the bigger picture, and forget that any change is really a changing of people’s behaviors. Changing people’s behaviors is not a linear process or even a step-by-step process. Changing behavior more closely resembles an IEP, where each person needs different supports and solutions. If their needs are not being met, they will ultimately impact the organization’s mood. So as a leader ask this simple question, how am I impacting the mood of my organization?

The following are some key points to keep in mind as we begin to address the broad needs of our staff as they go about their daily work:
  • Understand that you set the tone as the leader; your words and more importantly your deeds portray your sense of calm, and direction, or stress, and disarray. 

  • Communication is a two-part activity, speaking and listening. Take a minute and truly listen to what your staff is saying, then tailor your response to resonate with their current set of needs. 

  • Continue to paint the picture. Humans are very visual, and when people can “see” the plan, or feel the end results, they can begin to understand how to align their work to get there. 

  • We all like to succeed from time to time. Think about ways as a leader that you can support individuals so that they may experience success within their day, or with the change they are trying to figure out. 

We often tell boards how much we value and appreciate their service and commitment to public education. As an educational leader, never pass up an opportunity to remind your staff how much you value their commitment to the most important profession….education. Nothing impacts moods or morale more than finding value in serving kids.