It's the last day of 2019. What did you learn this year? What went as planned? What didn't? What do you expect for 2020?
No one knows everything about the future, but I can tell you, without the aid of magic glasses, a few things that I guarantee you will encounter in the year ahead.
Reliable School Growth predictions for 2020:
You will face a crisis.
It could be a teacher arrested, the death of a student, the death of an employee, expulsion of a group of students, a communicable disease, firing a teacher mid-year, a lawsuit, etc., etc. (Actually, all of the above disasters happened to one school in the same 12 month period!)
You WILL face a crisis in 2020. It will be legitimate and it will impact you personally. Will you react in emotional panic or will you respond with courage and preparation? The crisis cannot be predicted, but you can make leadership decisions that minimize dysfunction and distraction from your mission and goals.
You will create self-inflicted pain because of miscommunication or poor communication.
We all do it--saying or writing words that are misunderstood or perhaps are said in the emotion of the moment and causing severe unintended consequences. It may be in a letter to parents or in comments at a faculty meeting, but it will happen. Damage control from miscommunication is exhausting, especially within the fragile ecosystem of school relationships where the tendency is to assume the worst.
Creating and following a communication protocol and plan can provide some insurance against the risks and pain of lost relationships. Seeking external feedback on key messages from experts who understand the complexities of school leadership can also give you important perspective and guidance.
You will be tempted to make decisions out of fear.
In the first 90 days of 2020 you will make critical decisions that will determine your success and quality of life in the 2020-21 school year. Those decisions will primarily be about personnel.
Will you communicate clear expectations and create a culture of real accountability? Or will you make decisions out of fear, rehiring people who are not fully aligned with your mission, culture, and strategies and who poison your faculty culture?
Getting R.A.D. (radically against dysfunction) requires facing your fears and leading with discipline. The stakeholders of your school are counting on you to make these difficult decisions. Lead with Courage!
You will add new board members, new employees, and new families.
Will you purposefully add new people to your culture, or will they have to find their own way?
Onboarding is a vastly underdeveloped process in educational institutions that contributes directly to dysfunction. This requires genuine commitment to building the attitudes and habits that are required to sustain your culture. Great schools are the result of disciplined leaders who don't compromise when it comes to adding people to the organization.
You will have the opportunity to hear critical feedback.
Employees, students, parents, board leaders, and others will seek to give you data from their perspective this year. Your leadership will rise and fall based on your ability to listen and learn. Feedback—both the act of delivering it and receiving it—is critical to advancing your organizational intelligence and effectiveness.
Academic arrogance is profoundly present in every school, limiting the ability of the administration to humbly face the facts and make adjustments. No matter how extreme the situation, we always have the choice, as a reflection of our emotional intelligence and love for people, to embrace the messenger and value the feedback.
We pray that 2020 is a remarkable year for you and your school. Thank you for your commitment to more effective school leadership and building the future for so many lives. May your plans be blessed.