New leadership is brimming with ideas and goals (I am no different) but often fail to identify the desires, needs, and parameters of the very people their ideas will affect.
I owe a big thank you to Kevin Riley
for sharing his idea for new leaders to arrange a Change In Leadership Conference prior to beginning their new roles. Kevin’s comments were first noticed on this Leader Talk post
back in July. I was so impressed with his suggestion, I contacted him via email, called him from my office a few days later, and then forged ahead with a plan to arrange for my own Change In Leadership Conference. (Note: Due to time constraints and other pressures, I had to revamp Kevin’s tried and true plan that he left on the Leader Talk post. Regardless, it worked!)
The premise of my conference was to establish the tone and culture of collaboration while also providing me with clear and concise information about my faculty’s values, wants, and concerns. This aim was met by asking the partcipants to answer four very crucial and essential questions.
- What are we good at doing?
- What is non-negotiable, regardless of who is in leadership?
- What can we improve upon?
- What advice do you have for the new principal?
In late July I contacted and met with Dr. Louis Centolanza, one of my most trusted advisors and a mentor. He agreed to facilitate the conference and work with the faculty I invited to participate. The decision to select faculty members for participation was not easy. I selected members from each department and chose faculty members who represented the various levels of experience. 25 faculty members were invited, and 17 were able to attend.
You should know that one of the components of a Change In Leadership Conference is that the new principal be divorced from the proceedings (short of arranging the details). I was not part of the three-hour conference until the very end; I was invited into the room after all had been discussed and documented. This is done to prevent the faculty from feeling intimidated and allows for a free-flow of ideas and discussion.
In the end, I was very pleased to hear the ideas, desires, and needs of the faculty. My promise to them was that I would document their answers to the questions, share it with the entire faculty, and use these answers to guide us (both faculty and administration) as we collectively and passionately pursue the mission, our vision, and our goals.
I recommend that all new principals and leaders use this approach when entering a new building or assuming a new role in a system. This type of activity would also apply to Supervisors; instead if discussing building issues, discuss departmental issues. In fact, the model of the Change In Leadership Conference will be applied to my Professional Councils within my building.