Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Managing For Success

The other day one of my veteran teachers came to my office to tell me that she had decided to retire.  This was a bittersweet moment for me as I highly valued her commitment to the students of New Milford High School and knew I would have a huge void to fill, but was happy to see that she was at peace with her decision.  During our conversation she told me how much she appreciated that fact that I never once micromanaged her, which promoted creativity in the classroom.  Her comment literally made my week as I stive to avoid micromanagement of both my teachers and administrators.
It has been over a week since my teacher told me this and I still find myself reflecting on not only my leadership style, but that of other educational leaders as well.  In my opinion many leaders feel pressured as a result of high-stakes testing and micromanage as a means to ensure that curriculum and instruction are solely focused on preparing students to succeed on these assessments.  Others gravitate towards this leadership style because they are either unwilling or don't know how to give up control.  Then there are those who want to have their hands in everything so that when an initiative or idea succeeds they can take credit for it.

Regardless of the reasons, excessive micromanagement in education tends to have a negative impact on school culture.  It builds resentment, squashes creativity, lowers moral, and tends to place educators on a path to surviving rather than innovating (see Consequences of Micromanagement).  Micromanagement should be avoided as much as possible (Avoiding Micromanagement).  Leaders should think about managing through collaboration, consensus, flexibility, and modeling in order to attain desirable changes that benefit students.  With my administrative team I find myself challenging them to make decisions on their own and give them the autonomy to do so.

Is my style perfect?  Not in the least bit.  Will I still have to roll up my sleeves from time to time and make directives?  Of course, but making directive after directive is no way to lead in the 21st Century in my opinion.  One can still have their hands in a school initiative without smothering the collective group through micromanagement tactics.  A shared leadership model where all voices are respected seems to have a positive impact as everyone feels part of the change process.

I am always analyzing my actions and trying to get better.  Inherent in this quest is exhibiting confidence in the decisions of my staff, celebrating their ideas, respecting their opinions, and trusting the variety of ways in which they choose to teach the curriculum and grow as professionals.  With the proper support, guidance, and oversight I am confident that I am on the right path to managing for success, but there is always room for improvement.

13 comments:

  1. Well said. Treat our staffs as professionals and help insure that they can have freedom to excel in their positions and not be fearful of maintaining their positions.

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  2. The best leaders are often the best learners. Your self-examination is at the heart of your leadership excellence. We're asking students to improve, it makes sense that everybody attempting to serve them do the same! Good job, sir.

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  3. Well said, Eric. It was always my practice to lead with a "shared leadership model where all voices are respected...to have a positive impact as everyone feels part of the change process." Interestingly enough, as a principal working in large schools in California,I encountered many staff who would tell me "Just tell us what to do...it's SO much easier." This is where the real work began for me. Guiding them through leadership teams to be confident in their potential to lead with fresh ideas and perspective. All the best to you as you continue to be a reflective leader!

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  4. Awesome article. I wish that you had been my administrator. You are setting an amazing example at your school and hope that you continue to do so. The fact that a veteran teacher came in to tell you what a great job you are doing is a testiment to that.

    And you're absolutely right, micromanaging does kill creativity and passion in the classroom, especially when that micromanaging is an attempt to get students to do well on tests. Teachers all across this country are doing amazing jobs and giving them the ability to "teach" they way that they teach best benefits them, their students, their administrators and their community.

    Keep up the good work Eric!

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  5. I so enjoy this article - thanks Eric! I've experienced and have been mentored by many different leaders - on all sides of the spectrum. The ones that micromanage instill a sort of "fear" into the culture; it feels like someone is always watching you to see if you're not doing something "right". However, I've seen administrators who swing the other way too - totally hands off so that teachers can guide themselves, thinking this will instill confidence. Instead, the teachers flounder and feel unsupported because there is no real leadership. Balance is key!

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  6. Perfect advice for an aspiring administrator. You have describes what I envision to become!

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  7. Eric - You are describing the difference between leadership of people, which most teachers want from their admins and management which is taking care of things and something most teachers learn to resent.

    There is a place for both, but schools today need more leadership than they do management.

    Thank you for showing leadership.

    Harold

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  8. Balance IS key. Surrounding yourself with good people and modeling "smart risk-taking"and the power of learning from "mistakes" are good practices for teachers, principals, AND superintendents. Persistence and problem-solving are 21st Century Skills that can not be practiced if there is micro-managing or if there is a culture that never allows for "mistakes" to be handled as part of the learning process. I hope to look for ways to allow teachers to practice the "Google 20%" creativity/innovation time... and then keep accountability in place with real audiences--colleagues.

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  9. Nice tips.Thanks for your efforts.It will very helpful for students.Thanks for sharing

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  10. Terrific post, Eric...thanks for so clearly identifying the difference between management and leadership. Your staff is very, very lucky to have such a thoughtful leader at the helm!

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  11. Micro-management is indicative of someone who either doesn't trust his employees or has an ego problem. The best way to create an organization that is self-reliant and healthy is to create an environment of respect and trust. People will not want to fail you if they know you respect them and have a similar vision.

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  12. Tracey.amend@adams12.orgApril 23, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    I very much enjoyed your timely post. As an elementary principal of a large school, I am also continually reflecting on my practice. I feel like a key word you used was 'excessive' as the definition of micromanage may be different if you ask one person or grade level in my building. I would bet most would say that I do not practice in this manner; but I would also venture to say there are a few individuals who would disagree. These are teachers who, while I don't believe they get up and come to school thinking, "Gee, I'm not going to do a good job today", also believe they already know everything there is to know about their profession. And because of this, they would probably say I am micromanaging because I am pushing them to collaborate, to look at data to drive instruction, to participate in book study groups to update their practices in teaching reading because goodness knows, something just might have changed over the past 10 years.
    That's my struggle right now...the balance there...the tight and loose of it all. I feel like I've come a long way in 4 short years from grade levels that never collaborated to where we are now (common planning and looking at student data) but we still have a long way to go. And so do I...I am my biggest critic.

    Thanks again for your excellent blog and tweets.
    T

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