Sunday, January 26, 2014

Week 20: The Art of Delegation #SAVMP

This week in SAVMP we are considering the importance of delegating tasks to succeeding as an administrator and insuring that our schools thrive. This topic resonates on several levels, the first of which is mere survival. Two weeks into my term as Interim Principal, people ask me how I am getting along. At the end of my first week I was thrilled to remember I had managed to get to the gym three times! At the end of the second week I was struck by how spatially constrained I was by the demands of my new responsibilities. Before, I was observing classes in all three divisions across all of the campus. I tended to meet people in their classrooms and offices, now people come to find me. Instead of working with teachers as people working on the craft of teaching, I find myself talking with upper school teachers about upper school students and upper school department chairs about course offerings and staff needs. One significant and anticipated shift has been in the time speaking with parents. Hearing their concerns, celebrating with them their children's achievements, and solving problems with them has become the  prime focus of my work. Some of this last work should never be delegated -- it properly belongs to the principal.

I have survived this first stretch because I have delegated . . . .and trusted. The only way to step in mid-year is to rely on the staff in place and ask lots of questions. My favorites right now are "what do you need from me," "what does the principal typically do," and "how might you handle this?"  I know my team as colleagues but the specific tasks they perform, the projects they carry forward, the processes they administer are all new to me. My predecessor, Eric Mayer, worked hard to leave me with a strong team. He told me to trust them and I do.

Given the scope of the exciting and energizing work we (the high school) have before us the rest of the year, delegation is the only way forward. Part of delegation includes rethinking how the work gets done and trusting colleagues to do it. In decisions affecting the entire division, our faculty prefers to work as a committee of the whole and yet, over the next several months we have to divide into teams. These teams will each be responsible for a piece of the work, the rest of the faculty will have to trust that the recommendations and plans brought forward are what we will do and not concepts to be de-constructed and then re-structured by the committee of the whole. With four teams meeting at the same time, I can only be in one place at a time. I have to trust that the clerks (in a Quaker school a clerk is the team leader/committee chair) of the teams will carry out the charges/tasks before them with all the creativity and thoughtfulness I know they each possess. This is a different sort of delegation. It requires a trust among colleagues and an openness to the leadership of others.

Because schools have relatively flat structures identifying authentic leadership opportunities becomes critical to developing teacher leaders. Delegation at Westtown works because over the past decade we built a culture of collaboration and have developed more and more avenues for teachers to assume leadership roles as committee clerks, as mentors, as peer coaches. In all of these situations I enjoy the opportunities to listen to these leaders, ask questions, help remove road blocks when I can, redirect when necessary and always support. It brings me great personal satisfaction to see in action the younger men and women who have grown and are growing into leaders within our school.

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