As a principal your job is to help students to be more successful in life by giving them a great education. That’s a big detail and one that consumes massive hours of thought as well as application. The problem is you’re bombarded daily with requests about little things that only deter you from your mission and you can’t help but think to yourself, ‘Why can’t tehy see the big picture?’
Take heart, this is a fixable problem. It’s not that everyone else can’t see the big detail. It’s just that like most people they live in the little details. As a leader you must live in both worlds.
How do you do it?
1. Develop a shared purpose.
Every school must have only one purpose. You decide the purpose, but it must be adopted by everyone. No one lives outside this purpose. Post it in the classrooms, make it your email tagline, speak frequently about it during meetings, and use it to complete employee evaluations. When a person makes a request or suggestion don’t be afraid to ask, “How does this further our purpose?” People must be conditioned to think outward about the bigger picture and we can help them by having a clear, easy to understand, and noble purpose that all can share.
2. Script the critical moves.
Once you’ve created a shared purpose, develop routines, policies, and procedures to ensure the right thing is done at the right time by the right person. This is how you make sure that the little things don’t take precedence over the big things. “We will do this…followed by this…then this…and we will do it every day.” Script the critical moves. It’s what separates great leaders from good leaders.
3. Meet them in their world.
Show everyone that you care about their little details. Eat a bowl of Fruit Loops with the students. Help stack chairs with the custodians. Show up unannounced to the classrooms with a bucket of dry erasers and say, “I thought you might need some more.” You cannot simply tell those you serve that you care about their little details, you must show them. When you do, you’re telling them that they matter to you and people learn best by example. If you give them that example, they will be more willing to follow you to accomplish the big things.
4. Drive the Bus
Outcome is more important than activity. As a leader, you must keep your eyes on the outcome (the big picture). If you don’t, the urgent will crowd out the important and you’ll spend your days living the same day over and over again and never getting closer to accomplishing your purpose. Remember, what makes a leader successful is…accomplishment. You should be kind, compassionate, and nurturing but you must accomplish your task. Drive the bus.
Schools don’t fail because of a lack of leadership or talent; they fail because of a lack of application. Once you determine your purpose, script the critical moves, meet them in their world, and then drive the bus and you will be successful.