I had a great conversation with a friend of mine about how they felt under-appreciated and under-utilized in their work by their boss. When they asked me for suggestions on how to move their boss forward from their position, I decided to ask the following question on Twitter to see what other people would suggest:
Would love thoughts on this question…Was asked the following – You are an educator and an administrator needs growth. How would you suggest to “lead up”? How do you help them get better even though they are “the boss”? Thoughts?
— George Couros (@gcouros) July 20, 2018
I am sure that there are TONS of suggestions that could have been made by educators who have done this very thing but may be much too nervous to share. The ideas that I am going to share from educators aren’t necessarily things they have done with THEIR bosses but are great ideas. Here are a few of my favourites:
1. Help them empower your strengths if they do not recognize it themselves.
“One of my strengths is ______. Could I have the opportunity to model it/take the lead next time we ______?”
— Matthew A Wigdahl (@MrWigdahl) July 20, 2018
A straightforward idea but powerful. The quickest way to a destination is often a straight line. As an administrator, I would often say to my staff, “I can’t solve a problem I don’t know exists.” Similar to teachers, administrators don’t go out of their way to do a lousy job so sometimes leading them to what you need is what works best.
2. Model in yourself what you seek in your leader.
We’re all leaders and we’re all responsible for school culture! Ts can lead up and lead out with positivity, leader mindset, and example. It’s easy to criticize a school leader. What’s hard is to look in the mirror and and say, “How can I improve and be a difference maker?”
— ?Sandy King? (@sandeeteach) July 20, 2018
To blame others for the inability to move forward might temporarily feel good, but it doesn’t make things better. By focusing on how you lead, might not move your boss forward, but I guarantee it will resonate with others on your staff.
3. Show value in your boss.
I’ve been in this situation before. It took investing long meetings starting with me mostly listening. Then, once we gained a relationship of trust and respect, I would “bounce ideas” off my admin purposefully to make him critically think about his own philosophy.
— Mandolyn Garcia-Ruiz (@MandolynG) July 20, 2018
Listening, asking for advice, and showing a true value in your leader might help to build their confidence in a role that is often isolating. The important thing here is being authentic and not simply asking to manipulate, but to recognize and value the strengths of your administrator, in the same way you would hope for them to do as well.
The above suggestions are fantastic, but I love this little reminder from Andy Cunningham that great leadership is great leadership, no matter your position:
Same way you would with anyone else. It doesn’t change because of the hierarchical structure. Energy, enthusiasm and initiative. Lead by example.
— Andy Cunningham (@cunningandy) July 20, 2018
So what if these things don’t work? Here is a blunt reality that I was reminded of:
A more pessimistic take: Quit.
My first principal was a bully, not open to change.
The union pulled her in and gave honest feedback.
She got a promotion in another district.
Bad behavior gets ignored or rewarded far too often.
— Andy Mitchell (@gadfly1974) July 20, 2018
I will be honest that one of the best things I did in my career was to leave a place. It wasn’t that I had a bad leader, but I needed a fresh start where I had the chance to rebuild myself as an educator and create a different path for myself. Obviously, this is not an option for all but sometimes we stick with things that we know don’t work because we are scared of the unknown, even when we know it is probably going to be so much better. Change is hard and sometimes a move can be the best thing for a career. You can’t control the path of others, but you have the ability to create your own journey. A fresh start can be the best thing for a career.
Thanks to an incredible group of educators that were willing to take the time to share their thoughts. I encourage you to look at the entire thread on Twitter.
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