Leading by Empowering: Back to School in 2022
Written by Dr. Jason Roseberry
Five Star Technology Solutions
Back to school is all about sleepless nights, nervous stomachs, and worrying about meeting new people – and the kids have a hard time with it as well. As a former teacher and administrator, those memories still come flooding back this time of year. What I remember most of all are the last second tasks that suddenly seemed urgent and resulted in loads of anxiety and late work hours. Have I updated the bus routes? Did the teachers get the latest info on the dress code changes? Have all of the devices been cleaned and prepped for usage? Are the devices even in the building? However, every year – no matter where we were on the to do list – the school year started and we found a way to make it work.
I learned a very important lesson my first year as a principal at Scottsburg Middle School. I had the good fortune to be mentored by one of the most amazing administrators in the state – Kristin Nass. The week before school started, she mentioned that she wanted a more visual way to explain the school’s updated dress code policy. She mentioned there was a new art teacher and I might want to check with her. I seized the opportunity to prove myself – and let her know that I would take it from there. Over the next couple of days, I drew sketches, mock-ups, and began exploring different types of materials that might best serve this purpose. Keep in mind that there were MANY other pressing tasks that were MUCH more important – especially for a first year administrator, but, in my anxiety and inexperience, this is the one I chose to cling to.
A person may say that my final work of art was breathtakingly beautiful and informative, but that person would be telling a horrible lie. The truth is that it was a mildly effective collection of poster board and construction paper that transmitted some basic information on our dress code. When Kristin saw the product, she was stunned, but kind. The moment of reckoning was when the new art teacher came by. She took a look and with a pity-soaked voice said, “I wish you would have let me know you were working on this. I would have been happy to help.”
And there it is – a lesson that was reinforced over the next few days as I struggled to make sense of bus schedules and answer basic questions about the student handbook. Even 14 years later, I remember the time that I should have delegated and trusted the expert instead of powering through on my own.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, the obvious question you should be asking now is – where can/should you delegate? What are those items on your to do list that you struggle to complete year after year? In her essay, “Are You Too Responsible?,” Dina Smith talks about how “…leaders can also inadvertently become overly responsible, taking ownership of others’ tasks, emotions, mistakes, and problems.” This often results in a dysfunctional cycle where leaders feel resentful and burned-out, while at the same time, unintentionally disempowering their employees by “reducing their confidence in their own abilities.” To top it all off, the negative emotions coming from the leader are “caught” by the employees and lower the overall morale of the organization.
The first day of school (the teacher’s New Year’s Day) is the perfect time to begin putting some new strategies into practice. What are the items on your to do list every year that only you should be handling? What are the tasks that could be completed more effectively by freeing up and empowering others?
Every leader in every school building brings different skill sets to their position, and that is where partnering with Five Star makes sense. Our solutions are flexible and can be applied strategically to offload work or mitigate risk where it matters most. We work with many technology directors who are capable of running the entire ship themselves, but there are only so many hours in a day. As a managed services partner, we can step in and take specific tasks off their to do lists to keep those leaders from feeling overwhelmed and burned-out. That same philosophy applies to professional development and data analytics tasks. At Five Star, we are dedicated to helping school leaders achieve their vision of excellence. If you are interested in finding out how we can partner to make your professional life easier, then do not hesitate to reach out. However, if you need help with a dress code visualization, then you might start with your art teacher.