When I was an administrator at a school and I had concerns about a direct report’s performance, I looked for past notes and documentation regarding observations, conversations, and other feedback. I found nothing. This was a person that had many complaints from all different constituents in the school over many years and yet there was nothing in writing. This could mean that someone might not have received clear and timely feedback about their performance and at the very least if they did, there was no follow-up to clarify goals and expectations. This does not serve anyone well: the person struggling in the job, the supervisor, and ultimately if you are in a school, the students. Documentation is a form of feedback. It leads to clarity and direct communication. There are likely few surprises when you document in a timely and clear manner.
Recently while holding a pose in yoga class, the teacher mentioned that you should feel challenged without strain. I wondered about these two words. I used to think a challenge had to come with strain. There was no other option. How do you separate the two? Can you separate these ideas? The practice of yoga and meditation has helped me to discover that yes in fact you can separate challenge and strain.
Challenge and strain are two different things that sometimes co-exist. Challenge is defined as something new and difficult that requires great effort by Meriam Webster’s dictionary. Strain is defined as stretching to maximum extension and tautness, to injure by overuse, misuse, or excessive pressure.
Growing up in an immigrant family, I was taught that challenge and strain were inextricably connected. If something was difficult and arduous then it was worthwhile.
Have you considered an improvement plan for an employee? Improvement Plans set a path to potential growth. This is the time of year that independent schools consider whether to offer contracts for employees to return. For high-performing employees, these decisions are quick and easy. For employees that are underperformers, and who have shown consistent signs of underperforming, it might be time to consider an Improvement Plan. An Improvement Plan, sometimes called a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan), makes clear what the person needs to work on in order to stay in their position at the school. It clarifies expectations, spells out goals and timelines, and has an emphasis on growth and support.
It’s essential that the employee understands they have an opportunity to improve. Avoid making employees feel like they’re being laid off, rather, emphasize their opportunity for growth.
“No matter how effective your organization’s recruitment tactics are, there’s never a guarantee an employee will live up to expectations – even if they seem to be the perfect cultural fit.
You’ll know you’re on the right track, however, if you see a diverse, unified, and happy set of employees who are motivated to help achieve business objectives.”
-Megan McNeill, The Pros and Cons of Hiring for Cultural Fit
Both Can Be True
Are you looking for the right fit candidate for your institution or for the right growth candidate? Often times in hiring groups, I would hear members discuss a candidate and make comments such as:
‘That person would fit right in with our team.’
‘This candidate is a great fit for our institution.’
‘This candidate can slide right into our group so easily.
A well-formed question can tell a lot about a candidate. “Asking good questions is the path to insightful learning,” wrote Adrian Gonzalez. One of the often overlooked items in a hiring process is the questions we ask candidates. Hiring season is fast approaching in schools. It’s time to prepare. Questions can tell us a lot about a candidate. If you ask the right questions, you can learn a lot about a candidate. Your questions also reveal a lot about your institution. Questions are just one very important data-gathering point of the hiring process.
Steps to forming questions:
- Be grounded in your school’s mission and strategic vision. Keep it at the forefront of your mind while forming your questions. Form questions that will grow your community.
- Think about what qualities, skills, and understandings you are looking for in a candidate.
- Create questions that will uncover or gather data around these qualities, skills, and understandings.
Yamada shows us how to view a problem as an opportunity. His main character is a child with a problem that keeps growing as he keeps worrying about it and even ignoring it. Until he decides to take a different approach. Yamada writes:
When I got face-to-face with it (the problem), I discovered something. My problem wasn’t what I thought it was. I discovered it had something beautiful inside. My problem held an opportunity! It was an opportunity to learn and grow. To be brave. To do something.Kobi Yamada
When I am faced with a complex problem, I think about it constantly. The issue will fill my every thought in waking hours and I may even dream about it. This type of rumination can feel like it’s overtaking my mind.
Building trust is an intentional practice. Building trust is an essential practice of an effective leader. You need to create a plan to accomplish this ongoing task of building, earning, and gaining trust with individuals and with groups in your community. It’s never too late to start!
Consider some of these actionable items:
- Meet one on one with all your direct reports. This can be an annual goal meeting or it can be a non-agenda meetup that is time for your direct report to share who they are. Everyone should get the same opportunity in your team.
- Follow through when you say you will. If you say you will do something, do it. This is a huge trust builder. Alternatively, if you say you will do something and you don’t, it is a huge trust breaker.
Are you experiencing stress? Why should you care? It may mean that something or someone you care about is involved. According to Dan Harris in the Ten Percent Happier Stress Better Meditation Challenge Series, stress can be a signal that something matters to you. Professor Modupe Akinola of Columbia University suggests that when you realize you are stressed try to find out why you care. She calls this a ‘reappraisal’ of the stress and states that one way to NOT feel as much stress is to figure out the underlying reason why you care. Rather than focusing on the cause of the stress, focus on why you care about what’s causing the stress.
Here are some steps they suggest from the Ten Percent Happier Stress Better Challenge:
- Tune in to your feeling of stress: Know when your body feels stressed, be aware of when it is happening, and notice.
Do you have summer regrets? Now that summer is coming to a close, do you have regrets about the things you didn’t do for yourself, with your family, or for work? Many of us go into summer with big plans of family time, road trips, books to read, and tasks to accomplish around the home. As summer comes to a close, I am realizing that I did not hang all those pictures, get that hole in my jacket repaired, or start writing in that gratitude journal. Should those items now become regrets? Or should I reflect and reshape them to become goals for right now? Who said that just because summer is over on the calendar we can’t still work towards our aspirations? According to Daniel Pink in his book The Power of Regret, the feeling of regret can be used in effective and powerful ways.
Recently, I was reminded that asking for help shows strength. We just got a new puppy! It was a spontaneous decision.
We already have a three-year-old dog and we were about to move across the country in two weeks. Now 9 weeks in, I can barely make it down the street with both dogs. There is a lot of ankle biting, barking, and general chaos on the sidewalk. I am not sure our new neighbors are eager to meet our family. So after much thought, we decided to engage the support of an expert trainer and walker as well as sign up for puppy kindergarten classes. Now, we are taking a few steps forward each day. Of course, there are plenty of ankle-biting moments still today and in our near future. Just this morning, I was exhausted after walking a few blocks.
At first, I thought outsourcing and paying for help was a sign that I couldn’t do something I should be able to do myself.