Practice this problem solving approach often to ensure your absolute failure as a campus leader:
Once you are aware of a problem, quickly devise a solution and deliver a major policy change to your staff via email (or better yet over the PA system during lunch). Emphasize your authority with copious amounts of bolded and underlined text. Finally, include an implementation timeline that could only be met by those staff who were not planning on doing any active teaching that day and had been sitting directly in front of their computer waiting for your next edict to arrive in their inbox.
Or you could abandon that approach, which was probably modeled for you during your tenure as a staff member, and instead make an intentional effort to involve others in your solutions development process.
Making time to involve teacher and student leaders, and sometime parents, to collaboratively problem solve is an effective leadership practice. Yet most principals struggle when it comes to involving their staff and student leaders in this manner. A few reasons why this is difficult for many leaders:
- Decisions are made in response to real or imagined crises which seem to not allow any time for collaboration
- The leader thinks that they are showing decisive leadership by issuing commands and directives and do not want to appear weak or indecisive by involving others in plan formulation
- The leader develops an attachment to one particular solution as the only answer and suffers from tunnel vision or a “bunker mentality” that will not allow for consideration of a different choice
As a result many of the leader’s solutions to various problems are not complete, are never fully implemented, and create additional new problems while leaving the original issue still unsolved.
Some ideas on how to involve others:
- Share your idea and ask for input as you develop it from the various groups and people you regularly meet with
- Solicit feedback on a proposed solution before implementation (Very important)
- Over-communicate your solution and continuously share the process of its development
If you involve others correctly, when you present your solution to your staff it will feel more like a coronation rather than a presentation because:
- They will already know about the solution from previous meetings (formal and informal)
- They will be more likely to support the solution since their input was considered
- They will have already heard about the solution throughout the development process from you through other communications
Sometimes the urgency of a situation will not allow you to effectively use this process. But if that is the exception, rather than the routine practice, then your staff will be more willing to follow along with your individual decision.
Involving others in the collaborative decision-making process does not change the fact that for each problem there should be one defined final decision maker and that all others involved in the process are “influencers”. This decision maker actively seeks the counsel of all likely to be affected by the solution, but is not bound to choose some ineffective compromise plan that includes all the ideas of each. Solutions developed with involvement of your staff will be more likely to be understood, implemented, and sustained without direct oversight.