Being an education leader is complicated and challenging. The politics are personal and multilayered. It can be the best and worst job in the world at the same time. But there is no role where an individual can have more influence over the future of a community, how it thinks about itself and its future.
Following are seven tips for the first 90 days, seven tips for the second 90 days, and seven things veteran leaders should do to advance personalized learning.
First 90 Days: Growth Mindset
- Make good first impressions–as many as possible. Meet as many people before and during the first 90 days as possible. Visit every school and classroom (if possible). If you want your students to have a growth mindset, you should model it in your first 90 day meetings–hard working, humble, and open minded.
- Assess your leadership team. Make any obvious changes as first steps toward building a high trust, high capacity team.
- Hone your personal narrative–where you come from, what you’re doing there, what animates you, what you value. You’ll have a hundred opportunities to share your story during your first 90 days.
- Open your political capital bank account and make initial deposits. Find and support parent groups and leaders. Join the chamber board. Begin building parent and business support. Make political capital deposits.
- Create transparency and candor about what’s working and what could be better, and do it online, in person and in writing. Invite people inside and outside the system to tell you the truth. Let the community experience you as a learner.
- Think hard about a couple symbolic acts that let the community know who you are and what you’re about–fix a problem, build a bridge, take a stand. This is your chance to begin building reliable hope.
- Remain open but signal a few priorities early. Address obvious inequities. Don’t wait to harvest low hanging fruit.
Second 90 Days: Agenda Setting
- Adopt or build on as much of the old stuff as possible. Continuity counts. Honor the traditions and practices that make sense. Effective leaders adapt their style to the context and maturity of the organization.
- Clarify roles and goals for staff members–particularly principals and support service departments. Tell them what you need from them. Let them know what they can expect from you. Make resources allocation and decision making crystal clear.
- Hold community conversations that yield temporary agreements that balance improvement and innovation.
- Communicate twice as much as you think you need to–and if you’re missing the empathy gene, find an internal partner that can preview your messaging.
- Find and leverage teacher leaders. Break your change strategy into projects. Use management of strategic projects to reward and test emerging leaders.
- Build a broad dashboard, measure what matters even if it’s hard. If you rely solely on test scores to measure progress, your community will too.
- During the inevitable barrage of criticism, remember it’s probably not about you, it’s about the job. Take care of your family, it’s harder on them than it is on you.