You got your new leadership job. Now what? What can you do on day one to maximize your success in your new position? You have been a successful teacher who enjoyed a reputation of being friendly, warm and collegial. Now, as an entry-level administrator (assistant principal, chairperson, coordinator, dean), you are expected to deal effectively with teachers who in some cases may be more experienced than you and who may be resistant to your leadership, and parents who are dissatisfied with how their child has been treated in the past, and more senior administrators who assign you many 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 the 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, (3) get the staff’s “buy in” to your decisions and leadership style, (4) earn respect. 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. Seek out their honest feedback and advice from staff. Listen, sort out and act 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 views to yourself.
8. Avoid going out drinking with the staff after school. Alcohol tends to loosen inhibitions and can lead to inappropriate behavior and speech. Alcohol and leaderships do not mix.
9. Do not offer your opinions or take sides in district and/or school politics.
10. Do due diligence regarding important problems that you encounter by walking around them 360 degrees and seeing the issue from every perspective before deciding.
11. Don’t be reluctant to ask for help or seeking advice.
12. Keep a reflective journal in order to process and reflect upon your thoughts and actions.