How important is loyalty among your faculty and families? Critical, right? Then it just makes sense to invest the time and resources to deepen and strengthen those relationships.
One of the best at building loyalty with clients was Harvey McKay, author of the book, How to Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. He developed a precise system for collecting information that helped him truly know his clients at a deeper level, and he used this data to engage them in meaningful conversation, to acknowledge special events and milestones, and to express genuine care.
As a school leader, intentionally cultivating three deep relationships with your employees and families will give you a distinct advantage in achieving school growth. The reason that you want three is to build roots rather than just connections. Healthy roots are emotionally embedded and provide needed value, versus functional connections that are more surface and transactional. One relationship can become fragile or even disconnected, but three provides "backup" so time is available to restore damaged feelings.
What could you do this year to build broader and more meaningful relationships with your teachers? What should you know about your students and their families? What communication strategies can you use to foster more active engagement and trust?
Here are 5 ways to increase loyalty and enrollment.
Grow the Grapevine
Word-of-mouth marketing is your greatest marketing asset and a healthy, energized grapevine is the best path to success. The wise leader understands the value and behaviors of the grapevine, or the human networks throughout the organization. People have an innate need for stories, brag points, experiences, successes, and failures. When you know how to leverage communication Sequence, Frequence, and Flow, you have the tools to grow the grapevine to maximize trust and loyalty.
It's important to appreciate the levels of influence and common practices of key leaders in your network. A person's degree of influence across the grapevine is not necessarily indicated by his/her position. A member of the school board, for example, may actually have less impact than a particular teacher or coach.
Developing a strategic and consistent method for communication and relationship building is a sustainable advantage--one that is more likely to produce the desired level of enrollment and fundraising growth. (For more information, visit The Laws of the Grapevine)
Champion the Culture
What is the ideal school culture for maximum faculty and student growth? It's one where individual strengths and unique genius are highly valued. Trust and collaboration are natural and commonplace. Faculty and staff make each other better in their passionate contribution to the mission--the motivating meaning for which the school clearly stands.
Organizations with highly engaged personnel outperform their competitors—by over 50% in employee retention, by nearly 90% in client satisfaction, and are four times more likely to grow. Culture is someone's job (particularly the chief administrator's) and it's everyone's job. Fight for and protect your school culture to create the best conditions for motivation and top performance.
Hire Well & Fire Well
Building a high quality team across all Four Domains of School Design™--Governance, Operations, Administrators, and Learning--is the only way to achieve a sustainably high quality school. Hiring well means building an effective process for attracting, recruiting, selecting, and onboarding people who will meet or exceed your strong expectations for performance. The "war for talent" is one that you must win in order to give your students the best chance to achieve their dreams.
To be the best, utilize a disciplined process for coaching and developing every employee. Giving them clear expectations, perhaps with a performance rubric, will increase focus and clarity. With common language and goals established, you have a framework within which to magnify the strengths of your people and their individual and collective contributions to your growth plans. This also gives you the ability to replace underperforming people in a timely manner--a critical leadership capability.
How will you know when your school has achieved excellence? When you have Raving Fans among your employees and families who are thrilled by their experience. It's absolutely vital that everyone in your schools commits to a singular strategy: Delight them every day in every way.
When your school's vision is aligned with what they need and want, the next step is to deliver a little bit more. Surprise them with how your team goes the extra mile. This doesn't mean compromising on your standards and expectations, but rather listening more intently, anticipating and preparing for potential issues and problems, and looking for opportunities to create delightful situations and experiences.
Board members, donors, and parents are increasingly expecting you to improve faster and more effectively. Long-term, deliberate strategic planning is more useful in times of predictable, static periods. In dynamic times like these, however, when so many factors in the school world are changing so quickly, shorter cycles of planning, learning, and adjusting are required.
Flexibility is a sign of intelligence, which means your much smarter when you are able to adapt faster to the real and emerging needs of your students and parents. Using shorter cycles (e.g., 90-days) of planning and measuring provides a clearer return-on-investment (ROI) and protects against over-investing in projects that don't add value. If you want to keep the attention of donors and entrepreneurial board leaders in such a period of rapid change, innovation planning and execution is imperative. (See the School Growth Innovation Lab)