Leading Well: 5 Principles of Effective and Efficient Communication

Learn all about these principles in this week’s Imagine.Believe.Achieve podcast!

Principle 1:  Face to Face is Sacred Space.  Your staff is your greatest asset and how your staff spend their time is critical to your school’s success.   Their time to talk with you is limited and there are actions that can or should only be done face to face like Coaching, Collaborating, Learning and problem solving.  A good rule of thumb is information sharing from you should be limited when you are face to face. 

Principle 2: Just Because You Know it Then, Doesn’t Mean You Share Again. Reading email from your principal daily is not a good use of your teachers’ planning time.   100 percent of the “stuff” that your staff just “needs to know” should be in one email or less per week.  If the information is not important for them to learn immediately or if it’s not a concern they need hear to hear from you first before hearing it from someone else, find a place to record it and tell them about it later.

Principle 3:  Facebook’s for Tooting not Telling.   For schools, social media is great for tooting your horn.  Do this shamelessly.  If you don’t create the positive narrative and tell your story, they will create their own narratives and those might not be ones you agree with.   Don’t rely on social media to tell what’s going to happen.  Meet your community where they are.  Know your community.   When you choose a form that works with your community whether it’s a newsletter, calendar, email, one-call, publish it regularly so they your families will expect it. 

Conversations and meetings

Principle 4:  Solving may be Satisfying, but Supporting is Sustaining

Problem Solving for teachers may be incredibly gratifying, but you are just solving the problem sitting in front of you.  You aren’t really helping the teacher, you are helping get one isolated problem solved. Instead of empowering the teachers and building their skills, you are encouraging dependence on you. 

Cognitive Coaching Training form the Thinking Collaborative is a model of coaching that focus on supporting teachers by focusing on their thought processes as a way to improve learning and is not intended to change overt behaviors.  Essentially, the training teaches you skills for supporting teachers  in reflection, planning and thinking through their problems.

The Coach Approach to School Leadership by Kathy Perret, Shira Leibowitz, and Jessica Johnson supports the cognitive coaching model and is a great place to start. https://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/aboutcc   

In the training, we learned how to coach teachers through what they call a Problem Resolving Conversation.  There’s a whole lot to this, but anyone can benefit from two conversation skills that are taught in the training:  pausing and paraphrasing. 

There’s a whole lot more to this and I’ve have really oversimplified it, but the main thing is for you to reflect on the way you react when people come to you with problems and think about how can you use pausing, paraphrasing and questioning to help them solve their problem instead of offering solutions. This will support them in thinking through the problem so that they will build the skills to solve on their own.  

  1. Teacher vents their emotion
  2. You pause
  3. You succinctly paraphrase what they said, name their emotion and use because:

You’re __________________ because __________________________________. You may have to do a few rounds of this with the teacher until the teacher acknowledges that the paraphrase is accurate. 

  • Frame a possible desired state.  You would say… “And what you want is”. Once that is acknowledged, you would then say, “and you are looking for a way to make that happen. 
  • Then you start asking questions to help the teacher develop solutions. Questions like, When you’ve faced situation like this before, what worked?  What resources might you have?*

Click here for the printable sentence frame

*This is all from The Cognitive Coaching Training — To do this skillfully and learn so many more ways to coach, you really need the training.  It will transform the way you coach your teachers. 

Principle 5: Cut the Credibility Killers 

There are two phrases you need to cut from your speech. 

  1.  When I was…. You fill in the blank… in the classroom…an AP… a teacher… in the other district.  No one wants to hear that. You’ll just annoy people rather than build credibility If you want to build credibility, get in their classrooms and adopt an attitude of humbleness. Instead say, “it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the classroom.  I’d love to see you teach reading.”  Get in there and notice the strategic things they do that are awesome.  Show them you know what you are talking about by noticing how they show their skill and marvel at it.  Get as specific and detailed as you can. 
  • This is coming down from central office.  If you say that, you are modeling the exact behavior you don’t want to see from your teachers.  If you really don’t agree with something, but you have to implement it, shield your teachers as much as you can, do what you need to do, but just don’t share that “you’re just doing something” because you were told you had to. 

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