Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Decisions, Intuition, and Recognition

Part 2 of 4

Here I continue my thoughts on leadership essentials for the Principalship.

4. Be Clear in the Valley of Decision
The key aspect of decision making is to be clear upfront what type of decision you are going to make. Her's what I mean. There are basically four ways to make a decision.

Command - (My personal favorite) It's just like it sounds. Ladies and gentlemen, we don't have a choice, this year we need to teach reading. Any questions?
Consultative- I need your input before I make the call, however once I've received input from everyone that needs to be consulted, I will make the final decision
Consensus - This is the toughest. Here we need to come to substantial agreement before we decide. This means that everyone needs to support the decision even if they don't agree with it. This can only be achieved after (sometimes) lengthy and healthy debate. The reason folks can support something they don't agree with is that they know they had a fair chance to speak their mind and make their voice heard.
Convenience - It doesn't really matter, so let's just take a vote or let Fred decide.

I could say a lot more about decision making, but here's the bottom line. These different methods are each appropriate in different circumstances. What is most important from the leader is to be specific and clear about the one you are using for any given decision. The best way to spoil your momentum on an initiative is to lead people to believe that you are using consensus when you're actually using consultation, for example. Oops! Not that this has every happened to me!

5. Intuition is sometimes better than a mountain of data
Of course, we all like to pride ourselves these days on making decision based solely on the data and nothing but the data. One of the drawbacks of this approach is that decisions sometimes don't happen because one might not feel that there is enough pertinent data. Here's where I vote for intuition. Sometimes a poor decision is better than no decision at all. You want to avoid the paralysis by analysis factor and move forward. So, even if you make the wrong decision, now you can move forward knowing one more direction that won't work. I call that learning.

6. Recognize Effort and Achievement Creatively and Frequently

One of the tings I miss most about teaching is contributing to the development of students, but now I have embraced my role as the teacher of teachers. I get a kick out of helping teachers improve their craft. I think this is done by providing clear expectations for classroom practice, heaping on the training and modeling, and most importantly, recognizing both effort and achievement. Three books that have given me some good support on this journey are Building Teams, Building People by Tom Harvey, If you Don't Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students, and Whale Done! The Power of Positive Relationships by Kenneth Blanchard. I mentioned two things that I feel deserve recognition and let me elaborate.

1) Effort - Effort needs to be recognized, especially when things don't go right. This is another name for learning. If we want teachers to try something new and innovative, we need to toot their horn even when the attempt blows up in their face. Teachers who try out something new are deserving of praise and recognition.

2) Achievement - Of course, this can be tricky with teachers for some reason. The culture of school teachers tends to want to downplay achievement. Sometimes the achieving teacher would rather remain in the background. Therefore, you've got to be careful and sensitive to the honored one, but on the other hand, I think we need to change that culture by pushing the envelope a little. Some teachers are more effective than others and their excellence and productivity should be recognized, lauded, and emulated!

One final point on recognition is that I pride myself on recognizing teachers, but the bottom line is that I still don't do it enough. I know there are still teachers who don't feel recognized on my campus, so I will keep up the crusade to fill their bucket every chance I get. Speaking of filling buckets, this book seems like a good reminder of those benefits. I'll have to add that to my reading list.


Junie B. said...

I would like to think that intuition and data go together. Even those of us who are data driven know that there are little people attached to those numbers/scores that always need to be considered first. The numbers are only part of the picture.

danw said...

Junie B,

Michael Fullan wrote a book called Breakthrough that emphasizes personalization and precision. I think these two terms perfectly balance the need to know the student and know the curriculum. You are one of several teachers at our school that do that as well as anyone I've ever had the privilege of working alongside.