On Friday at the NAESP conference, I had the privilege of presenting with Ross Cooper on ways to sink or swim as an a new admin, and we basically talked about all of what I am about to share from today’s awesome administrators, Allyson Apsey (from Michigan) and Brad Currie (from Philly).
#askanadmin Q3:What is something you wished you knew as a first year administrator?
When I was a young naive principal, walking around feeling important, I wish I knew a couple very helpful tips. They are so simple conceptually yet so complicated to practice. Here are my top two tips for new principals.
Ready? Get a pen or pencil out and take a seat.
Here we go.
Number 1: You don’t have to be the all-knowing guru of the school.
You don’t have to have all the answers. Now, breathe a sigh of relief. In fact, you shouldn’t have all the answers. You’re number one job is to help your staff do their jobs to the best of their ability and to get better every day. You are not the all-knowing guru of the school. You are the person who makes people feel strong, positive, and that they can do anything.
So, do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know. I want to think about that one.” Or, “You are the expert here, tell me what you think.”
Don’t be afraid to pause, slow down, and invite others to do the same. Dream of possible solutions together. Feel empowered when the idea you implement is not yours.
Number Two: Avoid defensiveness. Figure out the why before you act.
Never, never act out of defensiveness. This can be a tough one for school leaders because often the skills that got you into your leadership position, like a high need for power, are coupled with a natural inclination to be defensive when challenged. Don’t. Do. It.
Let’s imagine you give a staff member a directive to do something and the staff members doesn’t do it. Yes, it could be plain old insubordination. However, it also could be a last minute decision the staff member made because of changing circumstances. Take the time to figure out the why behind the action. Relationships and trust can be severely damaged if you act defensively instead of thoughtfully.
Instead, encourage staff to think for themselves to do what is right for students. Walk alongside them as an encourager and guide. Deep breaths and counting to ten are your friend.
Simple, right? You got this! Enjoy every minute of your new challenges. Lean on veteran principals you trust for help along the way.
Moving from the classroom, where there was a little more control, to the school office , where you basically have no control over what walks through your door is a huge adjustment. At any given moment, an administrator needs to make a decision that could positively or negatively impact the person involved. With intensity comes tough decisions but at the end of the day it needs to be about what’s best for kids. Sometimes that’s a pat on the back, a phone call home, or a consequence. Establishing strong relationships and holding yourself and others accountable in a positive fashion, can help first year administrators appropriately handle the intensity of the job on a daily basis.
Do you have advice for a brand new admin?
Missed my other posts in this series?