"We're an innovative school where teachers and families love to connect. They constantly tell us how excited they are about our curriculum and commitment to excellence. but we just aren't growing. We need help!"
The call came in a few months ago while we were preparing to teach a Servant Leadership workshop at the SAIS Summer Institute. Frustrated by lackluster results, the administrators on the phone were eager to figure out the root causes and find a path forward.
So we scheduled a time to visit their campus and begin collecting information. The tour featured active classrooms with a disciplined use of processes and systems to track instruction and student progress. Throughout the entire PK-12 program it appeared they were implementing some of latest research and best practices to achieve better results.
But it wasn't working.
Enrollment was stagnant over the last few years and they appeared to be lacking energy and engagement in the day-to-day interactions with the faculty.
Increased competition in the area was also raising the stakes. It was getting harder to differentiate from other schools and create a distinctive brand.
The development of a Strategic Growth Plan requires the collection of accurate data and a willingness to face the brutal facts. Our contribution is to minimize the inevitable confirmation bias to make sure they have an accurate assessment of where the organization is now and how it got to this point.
When looking for solutions to grow, most school leaders want to look externally. What is our competition doing? How can we market the program better?
But we've found that the biggest problems are almost always internal, especially a lack of shared vision and trusting relationships.
After collecting feedback from their faculty, families, and other stakeholders, it became clear that the most significant challenges for this school were also internal. Teachers and staff expressed a high level of frustration:
"The Administration keeps adding new programs without any conversation. Every faculty meeting just adds more work instead of improving what we're already doing."
"Teacher morale is really low. We're overwhelmed and exhausted."
"We don't understand job roles and responsibilities, nor do we know what's really expected of us."
Dysfunctional leadership is the number one cause of school failure. Excellence takes work! Disciplined leadership is needed not "sexy" programs.
The administrators of this school were frankly startled by this feedback but they also owned it (which isn't always the case). Rather than dismissing the data, they chose to reflect on and renew their culture and leadership habits.
It's time for you to get R.A.D.: Radically Against Dysfunction!
The signs of organizational dysfunction are pronounced:
- Minimal Trust & Engagement
- Poor Communication Habits
- Persistent Conflict
- Gossip & Dissension
- Small Group Alliances (a.k.a, silos)
- Erratic Accountability
- Systemic Frustration
These killers to faculty culture limit your growth and steal your joy. That's why we work so hard to help education leaders at all levels identify and address the root causes. We need a core of humility in our schools that is radically willing to see the truth and build stronger relationships.
Are you ready to get R.A.D.?
The good news is that the leaders of the school that called decided to get R.A.D. They've already made adjustments in their communication and relational habits to build engagement. They listen more, are more vulnerable in their messaging, and foster honest dialogue.
We're confident that they are on the right track to achieving their growth goals and restoring the joy of learning that should be present on every campus.