Thursday, July 6, 2017

Recruit/ Retain/ Support Highly Effective People: Retain Part 2

This is part two of the “Retain” portion of the “Recruit, Retain, Support” series for this blog.  You can find part one here:   In part two I’ll outline ideas 4-10.  Obviously, these aren’t the only ideas out there, and I believe there are probably more that are better.  From my practice, these are ideas I keep in the forefront of what I do, and hopefully you can take something useful from them.

For this post I am going to write entirely from the perspective of the Principalship, and actions that a principal can take (within their realm of control) to retain highly effective people.  First, notice I did not say "highly effective teachers."  They are the core of the building, and the deliverers of knowledge to our students, but in my building, they comprise about 150 of the 230 that work here.  If you are not paying attention to the custodial, clerical, support staff of your building and viewing them as being held to the idea of being highly effective, that is a problem.

Walk the talk.

4. Reinforce a service mindset with Clerical staff

When your teachers or parents come and tell you that a secretary was rude to them, listen.  Sometimes its a misconception or they did not get what they want, but if it is a situation where clerical staff was rude, you need to address it as swiftly as possible.  Let me be frank in saying that sometimes a parent complaint is simply because they were told something they did not want to hear, or they were mad about another issue and decided to take it out on your front office staff.  Neither of those are OK.  However, there will be times when the office staff is not on point, might be rude, off-putting, or not helpful to visitors.  These are not OK either.  I think it is important though to clearly express your expectations- what it looks like, sounds like, and how a ‘service mindset’ is to be conducted, and what benefit it has for the whole school.

Your front office is oftentimes the first and main experience the public has with your school.  Parents dropping off notes, asking questions, needing forms; the front office is the hub of communication.  I have found that almost every single clerk/ clerical staff I have encountered want to do a good job and take their job seriously- when they know they are supported, and how their role fits into the overall school.  Rightfully teachers are given the bulk of accolades for a successful school, but we must remember that the clerical staff is the machine that keeps the school running. 

How this relates directly to retention of highly effective folk- if your clerical staff have a service mindset, everyone’s job will be easier and more fulfilling.  When the bookkeeper is accessible, the front office clerk is warm, and the attendance clerk is receptive- the whole machine of the school runs more efficiently and effectively.  Retaining high quality clerical staff isn’t hard in my experience: support them, praise them, remove barriers to doing their job efficiently, and when they aren’t up to task work with them to correct it. 

5. Reinforce and expect a service mindset with Admin

The same is doubly so for admin in your building.  I have navigated situations where Assistant Principals have truly shown favoritism to staff, and that is a sticky place to be in.  You cannot tell anyone how you are working on correcting favoritism with the AP, but you can reassure staff that you are working on the situation.  Expect professionalism, reinforce accessibility and visibility, and correct a situation where an easy adult choice was made over a more difficult student centered choice.  For the most part, if you’ve done your homework in hiring the assistant principal, then you won’t have to navigate these situations.  One of the first qualities I look for is demonstrably examples of a service mindset.  Anyone can say they have it, but show me past experiences where it was manifested, and pick references that will speak to your ability to make it a hallmark of your practice.

If you want to retain high quality people then have APs and Counselors that get that at the core of their role is to support staff and students.  If you want to watch high quality folks get frustrated and look elsewhere, have self-centered admin around you.

6. Have a service mindset within yourself, and own up when you do not exhibit it.

Not really much to say here other than if you are not service oriented, if you don’t look at your role as being to support your staff; then you need to correct it or move on to a different field.  I have yet to see an effective school where the principal did not make this the core of their practice (hand in hand with honesty and transparency).

If you're pointing at the mission, there is a problem.

7. Celebrate, but do not buy them off

I have never been a fan of schools that do inauthentic, forced celebrations.  When it is inauthentic, staff make fun of it, it does not work, and you hate doing it.  I believe in celebrating people when they do something good, and the simplest and most effective way is public recognition of accomplishment and hard work.  When gratitude is real and expressed, that authentic recognition motivates many folks.  I think the trick here is making sure you are spreading the love, and looking for exceptionality in all your staff, not just a repeat few.  One thing we do that I think works well (but you would have to ask our staff) is weekly shout outs in our Monday report.  Authentic, staff member created shoutouts to each other.  No expectation they do it, but it takes off like wildfire.  I truly believe even the biggest introvert feels good when appreciated for their hard work by colleagues.

I also believe you should find ways to feed your staff.  Get donations, find local restaurants, PTSA, whatever, but feed your staff often and not just during teacher appreciation week.  Most teachers get a hectic 20 minute-ish lunch.  It is nice when they can eat something good. 

8. Hold poor performance accountable

Go read some Todd Whitaker on the differences in teachers your building.  One of the best authors out there on the subject.  What I’ve found is that if you let poor performance go without addressing it, not only are you not doing your job, but your top shelf people will then turn sour and look for other opportunities.  When you have the teacher who spends all their time showing YouTube videos and giving fluff assignments, the rock star in the class next door is wondering why that is OK when they are designing multifaceted PBL experiences for their students.  No one wants to be around negative people, or carry dead-weight.  If you have a glaring problem, address it.  I can wax poetically on this subject at length, but really, the big takeaway is simple: If you want to retain good people, get rid of the obvious low performers.  Your people will respect you for it.   

9. Find ways for folks to lead where they actually do something

Do not make up leadership roles.  This is one thing I really dislike in education, or any profession.  When we make up fluffy titles that have no real substance, it does not do any student any good.  When you give responsibility or leadership out, make sure it is worthwhile and has a purpose. 

Be ready to delegate real processes and responsibility to your blossoming leader.  Team leadership, Department Chairs, SBDM, ILT are the traditional routes but look to specific processes that someone can ‘own’.  You will have folks hungry for leadership in your building, so give them a chance to soar. 

Examples would include:
-         Obvious:
o   Team Leadership/ Department Chairs
o   Site Based Council Committee Chairs
o   Instructional Leadership Teams
o   Resource Teachers
o   Coaches
-         Not so Obvious:
o   Assistant Athletic Directors/ Game managers
o   Parent Night coordinators
o   Social Media guru
o   Sports Announcers
o   School photographer
o   Tech specialists
o   New Teacher Mentors
o   Bilingual Interpreter coordinator
o   Specific Initiative Head
o   Student Voice Leader
o   Social Chair
o   Event planning
o   Accreditation Teams
o   Community Liaisons
o   Outreach Specialists

The list can go on and on depending on your school.  The point being if you give someone leadership, make it real, make it have a purpose.  Staff who own processes in the building become possessive and feel a part of the whole school, outside of their main duties.  This is a good thing.

A little too touchy feely for me, but the sentiment is spot on.  Credit: Wittyfeed

10. Cultivate an expectation where new people sponsor or coach

I have found one of the quickest ways to have a staff divide is if all the veterans are doing all of the extra duty.  When we hire new teachers, we always ask, “What are you qualified and willing to coach or sponsor”.  Then we hold them to it on hire.  Staff that have been in the profession for 15+ years may be ready to let newer folks chase the late night ballgames.  I have found that the new teacher who is “Just too busy to coach right now” is often resented.  I have heard all the reasons why they cannot- working on degree, just got married, just had kids, and I understand those, but if they come into the profession in year one thinking it’s an 8-3 job, what will they be like in year ten? 

I do not believe that you should force that first year teacher to suddenly walk in and take on the responsibilities of being a head coach, or dumping the school newspaper on them.  I do believe they can do something even if it is helping out the math team.  I believe they MUST be paid to do this, as it gives a level of accountability to their work.  If not, too often I have seen the helper disappear when they realize their Friday night is booked up, and the veteran teacher who is running the team is now left in the lurch.  Get your new people to do something, students will see it and respect them more for being visible, and so will the rest of the staff.

End of part II of this section, more to come in the Support portion of “Recruit, Retain, and Support High Quality Staff”.


Love Affair with the Iron Part II