This blog was revised to appear in the November 2017 edition of the AASA Administrator Journal. Feel free to check out the column in The Administrator.
It’s the beginning of a new school year in my district; we work on a modified year-round calendar. Many leaders have already hit the ground running, filling up their calendars, facilitating professional development, planning activities, and preparing for our students’ arrival. Today’s advice in the Time Management for Leaders Series is all about slowing down!
A new school year brings leaders the opportunity to build or strengthen relationships with individual staff members (and students!). While I am a big advocate for maintaining an organized calendar for efficiency sake, now is the time to step away from your office and lead by walking around.
As an assistant principal and a principal, I made a point to visit each teacher’s classroom during the opening set-up days before students returned. While these visits took me out of the office and away from the non-stop stream of emails and phone calls I received, they were a powerful way for me to build new relationships or renew past relationships with each staff member. Not only could I check in with people about their summer and their family, but I was able to see how their room set-up was going (very important in an elementary setting!), and I could offer my support physically, emotionally, or professionally. These short little personal visits told a story about my staff members as individuals and as members of our learning community.
My Superintendent is a great example of this throughout the year. She will pop in to various department offices just to say hi and greet staff members. In a district with over 40,000 students, you can imagine how many staff members we have, and she makes each one feel like she knows them personally (and for many, she does!).
My advice to new leaders is:
- make time to build relationships with new staff members (or all staff, if YOU are the new one!).
- strengthen past or current relationships by checking in; don’t assume that one positive interaction last year is enough to maintain a good working relationship this year.
- lead by walking around – make time to visit individual classrooms, departments, and other settings where your staff members work.
- make time for this relationship-building by adding it to your calendar and prioritizing this work!
The time you invest in relationships leads to deeper trust, which can enhance your team, school or system’s culture.
What other advice would you offer leaders with regards to building or strengthening relationships at the beginning of a new school year?
Time Management for Leaders Series