Tough Conversations

cc photo by J. Delp

Speak the truth, even when your voice shakes.  – Author Unknown

A quick confession: I am a “people-pleaser,” and it has, at times, hurt my school. I want my students, my parents, my teachers, and my administrative team to be happy — all of the time. This might seem like a noble cause, but it is neither reasonable, or in the best interest of our school community. Civility, respect and humility are all essential skills for a leader, but there are certainly times that addressing issues will leave someone disgruntled. 

Perhaps one of the most challenging responsibilities of leadership is having the courage to have difficult conversations — to address poor behaviors, stand-up for a teacher (or a student, a staff member, a parent), or challenge the status quo. I was reminded of this during Jimmy Casas‘ opening session at The Model School’s Conference when he asked, “What would you do differently if you were not afraid?” How would you go about addressing the “average” in your school.

For me, the answer to these questions lies in having the courage, the timing, and the tact to have tough conversations that are in the best interest of our school community.  As I listened to our staff members in attendance at the conference discuss “the average” at our school that could be moved to excellence, I realized that addressing several of these issues effectively would require me to lead challenging discussions. In order to move us to excellence I need to have the courage to step up and do what is right for our students, teachers, and community — even when that means making decisions or having discussions that run the risk of ruffling feathers.

In my time as an administrator, I have had many of these conversations, and I have rarely regretted them, but that does not mean I find them easy — or enjoyable. In fact they are often extremely draining and cause me a great deal of stress. I don’t enjoy conflict, I want others to enjoy school and their work — I want people to be happy.  But, I also understand the importance of seeing the big picture, making decisions, and taking action for the greater good. I could be wrong, but I think I have established the level of trust with my staff needed to speak directly to areas of concern (with a gracious tone) and keep people “in the boat” with me.

So, even though I am sometimes afraid, I am going to challenge myself to humbly take on tough conversations that will benefit our school community.

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