Being an educational leader is much like managing a classroom. It requires planning, preparation and monitoring. With that being said, I truly believe and have learned that a big part of leading a school is being an effective communicator. I often think and reflect about my practices as communicator and ask myself three things:
- Are the messages that I’m communicating and sending in alignment with the vision I have for my school?
- Are my messages clear and focused on what truly matters?
- Are the things that I say and do enhancing the wellbeing of others?
School leaders have so much on their plate daily and it is so easy to get distracted. Don’t get me wrong, some actions in school do require immediate attention and is our duty and responsibility to attend to those first. But many others are just simple distractions that get in the way of real growth and improvement.
As a school principal, I’ve learned the importance for reframing and refocusing my mindset to bring my attention back towards the actions and tasks that will transform a school community for the better. It is not easy, but it is worth it. I’ve learned that for meaningful and transformational change, it’s important to be strategic and intentional on how I spend my time, and how to consistently communicate what truly matters. I’ve come to understand that doing this has the potential of bringing alignment in everyone in the organization thus reducing those distractions that drain us from the valuable energy needed for school improvement.
Here’s my top four go-to strategies to be a better communicator in a school setting:
1. Be Positive
Never underestimate the power of positive interactions. These can multiply to create momentum and a strong school culture. Being positive and enthusiastic helps reduce our fears. Having positive interactions will promote pride and engagement. When we are fully engaged with the vision, mission and goals of our school, then we are more likely to see commitment and ownership. Both are great indicators of a school culture that is focused on improvement.
2. Be mindful of hidden messages
When communicating with others, always try to maintain an awareness of the messages you’re sending by your actions, word choice, attentiveness, body language, and energy. As a school principal, I never had bad intentions when communicating with others. However, I wasn’t always effective due to these mistakes. I soon realized that I can have good intentions or I can be an effective communicator. Remembering that the messages we send aren’t always what is received can help us improve our awareness and be intentionally present as we interact with others.
3. When giving feedback, focus on people’s strengths
Providing meaningful and authentic feedback is key to improvement. A way to do this is by affirming people’s choices by sharing their practice with others. With their permission of course. This sends a powerful message of recognition. A more direct way is taking the time to simply acknowledge people’s success. Both of these practices are a way to confirm and communicate that what they are doing is working and they are doing well. Focusing on people’s strengths provides the positive reinforcement to continue the promotion of practices that truly matter.
4. Explain and clarify people’s roles
When we understand our role within the organization or within an specific project, we are more likely to make a strong contribution. This gives us a sense of ownership and pride leading towards commitment. Knowing that our practices are impacting others positively, improves our experiences and helps us stay connected with our teams and with the organization. Ensuring people understand their role is key in improving their experiences and their well-being.
More importantly than all of these tips, we as leaders must continue to expand our understanding that communicating vision & expectations does not guarantee our trustworthiness. We must continue to work and improve being reliable, being consistent and being transparent. These three practices are huge levers in effective communication that promote and improve our trustworthiness to lead school improvement.