ADCD: A Plague to School Leadership
The pain is real. ADCD is a plague to school leadership. One crisis gets resolved and then another pops up, so our plan for the day gets wrecked and we end up playing "Whack-a-Mole" trying to stay slightly ahead of the game.
But that's no way to lead educators.
Our influence is too important to allow ourselves to burnout on a constant barrage of "emergencies." Here are a few options to consider for overcoming ADCD and staying focused on what matters most.
As educators, we face circumstances that often seem overwhelming, but we know that leadership and growth happen only through courageous vision and perseverance through hard times and hard things.
That's why we refuse to cower to the disparagement and dysfunction that relentlessly seek to distract and discourage us.
Managing through a pandemic is hard.
Conflict over masks and mandates is hard.
Making wise decisions while also maintaining vital relationships is hard.
Educating children and parents is hard.
Growing the emotional intelligence of faculty and families is hard.
But we're called to do the hard things because our influence is multigenerational—even eternal. Navigating the constant barrage of issues and distractions requires mastering the disciplines of effective school leadership.
Here are three ways to overcome ADCD.
#1: Author the Living Curriculum
We often hear administrators lamenting the limited hours in the day and the ever-expanding to-do list. In our experience, the problem is seldom time--after all, we all get the same amount.
What is perceived as a time problem is usually a people problem. Without a disciplined team that gets it, wants it, and has the ability to do it, the administrator wastes more time on damage control and compensating for underperforming personnel.
Lone Rangers fail at school leadership. Instead of independent heroes, we need leaders who are adept at authoring the living curriculum--recruiting, hiring, and mentoring highly effective educators. The ability to un-hire ineffective people is also critical to authentic excellence and leadership integrity.
* Always be recruiting talent, with as much or more of the energy and commitment that is invested in student recruiting.
* Sustain relentless selectivity, recruiting for attitude, devotion to mission, and alignment with values and strategies.
* Set clear and aspirational expectations combined with a consistent and equitable process for accountability and evaluation.
Become world class at loving and enabling talented educators!
#2: Become More Essential Yet Less Involved
It's human nature to hang on to tasks that appear to make us busy and perhaps feel needed, but we have to make the transition from doing to leading.
That requires letting go of the less complicated and less important activities so that we can primarily focus on the hard decisions and the relational ecosystem.
It can feel weird, but elevating your effectiveness requires becoming more essential yet less involved in day-to-day execution.
In a recent bi-weekly leadership team executive coaching session we celebrated with the administrators their increasing ability to stay out of the weeds. One division head reflected on how hard it was not to engage in some less important situations because it seems like it's easier to just fix it rather than mentor your people through the process and trust their decision making.
But the freedom it gives along with the leadership culture this creates is worth the initial discomfort. So they are now holding each other accountable to delegating tasks and decisions along with the necessary authority to do it.
That's a good reason to celebrate!
#3: Master the Discipline of Communication
This is the most dangerous area of over-confidence among educators, underestimating the full range of skills, habits, and methods required to master the discipline of communication.
As my good friend, Tom Hood, has taught me, communication is far beyond information sharing. Our communication skills contribute to the motivation and engagement of faculty and students, and are critical to navigating the multi-faceted relationships within a school community.
The single biggest problem in communication
is the illusion that it has taken place.
—George Bernard Shaw
The process of mastering any discipline is a long and continuous journey. Like the best athletes and artists, education leaders must invest many hours and endure exhausting practice if we are to truly hone our craft.
As we progress in the stages of mastery, humility starts to elevate and confidence wanes because we realize how much more there is yet to learn. Utilizing resources of feedback is crucial to progress, including guidance from a coach/mentor who can accelerate the learning curve and adjust our perceived level of competence.
In other words, we all need help getting past the ever-present confirmation bias that limits accurate assessment and wise adjustment--especially when it comes to become a communication master.