You got your new administrative job. Now what? What can you do beginning on day one to maximize your success in your new position and, quite often, your new school and/or district? You have been a successful teacher whose reputation is to be friendly, warm and collegial. Now, as an entry-level administrator (assistant principal, chairperson, coordinator, dean), you are expected to deal effectively with teachers who are more experienced than you and who may be resistant to your leadership, and parents who are dissatisfied with how their child has been treated, and more senior administrators who assign you some of the most demanding responsibilities (student discipline, lunchroom and bus supervision, parent complaints, and scheduling).

You may be a new principal who has successfully served as an assistant principal. As an assistant principal, you essentially had only one constituent to satisfy, and that was your principal. Now, you are faced with satisfying multiple constituencies, which include the faculty, the student body, parent groups (PTA, athletic booster, music boosters, and special education parents), Central Office administrators, and various unions.

Let’s start with my assumption that the failure of administrators is primarily rooted in the individual’s inability to (1) form relationships, (2) solve problems by developing and implementing workable solutions, and (3) get the staff’s “buy in” to your decisions and leadership style. Therefore, here are my suggestions as to how you can be a successful first year administrator:

  1. Conduct one-on-one get acquainted meetings with all faculty members and leaders of each constituent group. Ask, “What in your opinion are the greatest strengths and greatest needs of the school?”
  2. Make yourself visible and accessible to all members of the school-community. This means get out of your office and into the classrooms and corridors, and interact with attendees at school events.
  3. Demonstrate that you respect the school culture and the past practices of those who have preceded you.
  4. Create a circle of staff and parents and seek out their honest feedback and advice. Listen and take action based on the feedback.
  5. Communicate realistic and fair expectations with clarity.
  6. Recruit effective staff members whenever possible who will strengthen your team. This includes secretaries, custodians, and aides.
  7. Keep your personal, political and religious opinions to yourself.
  8. Avoid going out drinking with the staff after school. Alcohol and leaderships do not mix.
  9. Stay out of district and/or school politics.

10. Do due diligence regarding every issue that comes to you by walking around it 360 degrees and seeing the issue from every perspective before making a decision.


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