Written by Andy Jordan, Ed.S. School Administrator- 8-23-20
It’s the first Monday of the month, which means there’s a faculty meeting after school. As the principal, you have a laundry list of items to discuss with members of your staff.
After preparing a PowerPoint with all of the pertinent data points and central administration directives you know that when you look out into the auditorium you will see some polite participants watching attentively from the front row, English teachers frantically grading a stack of papers, and football coaches impatiently looking at the clock waiting to get out on the field to meet with their players.
Unengaging faculty meetings are as ubiquitous as students with backpacks. Usually held after a long day, meetings are more like mile marker 25 in a marathon; tests of endurance and patience and not of inspiration and empowerment.
Teachers dread them.
If you want to improve your staff meetings, improve the relationship between the administration and staff and focus on the most important job of a leader; building trust. According to Andy Jordan Principal one way to do this is to have fun with the staff and students by doing fun announcements over the intercom.
Build Trust with the Faculty
Clinton W. McLemore’s book Inspiring Trust: Strategies for Effective Leadership establishes trust as the essential component of leadership. McLemore describes ten attributes leaders must possess in order to build trust with colleagues.
Establishing trust, McLemore asserts, takes time and practice. Learning and practicing the necessary skills associated with “intellect, stability, conscientiousness, friendliness, and assertiveness” builds trust with employees and creates a leader who others want to follow.
McLemore also details the importance of a leader’s interpersonal effectiveness when engaging followers and inspiring trust. A leader with all ten attributes will build trust and cultivate commitment within the organization.
Once leaders establish trust, they can begin to rethink improving their staff meetings because they will have cultivated commitment amongst their teachers thereby improving morale.
Trust the Faculty
According to Principal Andy Jordan it is not enough for administrators to earn the trust of teachers and staff, but to trust those in their charge as well. Let’s face it, teachers are overeducated and underpaid. They have entered into their vocation with the desire to help others. They know what they’re doing, so trust them to do it. They are to be respected and valued and should be led and not managed. They are caring professionals, not unruly students.
Trust Builds Functional Teams
According to Patrick Lencioni in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, a lack of trust creates fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results. This lack of trust leads to low morale. Low morale equates to, “get me out of this faculty meeting.”
Engaging staff meetings rely on engaged participants. Teams that enjoy trust have lively debates, are more committed, and hold each other accountable.
As a part of building trust with teachers, respect their time. One of the most valuable commodities for teachers is time. There is not enough of it and it is the reason why teachers will use every second of a faculty meeting to grade papers. They are not trying to be rude, only productive. One strategy that Principal Andy Jordan recommends is to have a timekeeper in your meetings to keep the group on task and on time.
It is important to use face to face meetings for sharing, improving, and transforming and not for laundry lists of directives that can be communicated via email, private social media groups, department heads, or recorded videos. Andy Jordan school principal believes staff meetings are a big waste of time so don’t waste your staff’s time with stuff that could be handled through an email. Only have staff meetings for the important topics that need to be addressed by the group.
Leaders must build effective teams through building relationships and cultivating a culture of trust. Those who ignore this most basic leadership task will not improve staff meetings by handing out candy, or certificates for professional development completion. Just as teachers must build relationships and trust with students to be successful in the classroom, so do principals with their teachers to be successful in the schoolhouse