"The head administrator is leaving"
That's the kind of difficult news that every school has to share at some point. The culture of the school is inevitably impacted by such an announcement--enrollment may suffer as a result and faculty confidence will likely be shaken.
What's the best way to communicate such a message? Fall back into damage control mode or use this as an opportunity to build engagement?
The pattern for most schools is to send out an email blast to everyone with such an announcement and hope for the best, but you have the option to use some wisdom and to think through some of these questions:
- “What’s the best communication plan?”
- “Should we send out a mass email or letter?”
- “What are the most effective talking points?”
- “When should we use personal meetings, social media, email, etc.?”
- “How should we communicate throughout the search process?”
In these situations the FUD’s rear their ugly heads: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt dominate the feelings and conversations of the faculty and families. The FUD's are the enemies of growth and engagement, undermining purposeful leadership and degrading organizational health.
With every change in the leadership, the faculty and families at every school ask:
“How will this impact me?”
“What’s wrong with the school board? Why don’t they get it?”
“Who will be our next leader? What changes will be made?”
“How long is it going to take to find someone?”
“Will we be able to stop all the changes for some stability?”
The energy and engagement of your Grapevine (or interpersonal networks throughout the school community) depends on the frequency and flow of information that has been shared over the last several month. If communication has been lacking, any difficulty messages shared at this point will likely face significant scrutiny and require repeated defense.
To help manage difficult communications (such as leadership or teacher changes) in a manner that builds trust, consider taking the following steps:
- Convene the school board and administration to craft a communication protocol and plan
- Begin monthly Leadership Coaching for the administration to develop trustworthy communication habits
- Carefully manage the execution of the communication plan, responding to questions and issues proactively
- Start an Enrollment Audit to identify opportunities for improvement and growth
- Host a Leadership Retreat for board development and planning
Taking these important steps will help prepare your school for a new phase of leadership and growth.
When faced with the responsibility to share a difficult announcement, avoid the temptation to just do "damage control" and instead turn the situation into an opportunity to grow. Using our Laws of the Grapevine methodology, you can learn how to share difficult news in a manner that builds trust and engagement.