Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Following A Leader

Leaders need feedback. That is the only way to understand the values, beliefs and assumptions (mental models) that drive what we do each day. We cannot see these mental models by ourselves because we are looking back at ourselves with the same mental models. Many of our mental models are dysfunctional. Feedback allows us to “see” our mental models clearly so that we can align our daily actions around our functional ones and control the dysfunctional ones. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to follow a leader for four hours and provide her feedback regarding what I saw. A grand thank you goes to Mary Wilson, the principal of Baverstock Oaks School in New Zealand and a great leader, for allowing me to share the feedback with all of you!

Observation Notes:
7:20am – Lab drops Mary and me off at school.
M. drops staff personal visioning portfolios into mail slots.
M. greets a Teacher and introduces her to me.
(Bill’s note: M. office REEKS of symbols of the Shared vision journey)
Dialogue notes on a white board
Shared vision and values displayed in conference room.
Copies of Educational Leadership lay on coffee table.
M. turns on quiet music in her office.
7:35am – M. begins puttering around her office – organizing and re-organizing.
(Bill’s note: M. has not been at school since last Wednesday) She asks me if I want to appear on the in-house television program with her at 9:00am.
M. walks her personal vision portfolio over to Genee’s (Deputy Principal) office. The two of them engage in light hearted banter about M. personal vision.
(Bill’s note: great trust and respect between M. and G. I wonder how this translates in her relationship with other LT members?)
7:38am – M. begins to look at the mail on her computer.
She files copies of her feedback on personal visions into staff files.
M. walks a copy of her personal weekly calendar into her PA’s office.
7:43am – M. sits back down at her computer.
M. continues to work on files and papers, makes a copy of a paper.
7:45am – (Bill’s note: M. displays high energy – there is much physical movement; almost rhythmic as she rolls around her office space in her chair.)
7:46am – M. almost bounces back into G. office.
7:49am – M. is filing, copying and checking her computer.
7:55pm – M. makes a phone call to a new teacher from the UK who will begin second term. “Have you renewed your paperwork?”
“We are on the same planet.”
“Well done. Well done.”
8:00am – M. moves into the front office.
She has a chat with the receptionist and her PA about disseminating newsletters.
M. to PA: How are you?
(Bill’s note: PA was out ill with a virus last week.)
PA response: “Top of the world.”
M. gives directions to the PA.
8:03am – Back in her office M. discusses her mate, Murray, school’s tragedy from last year.
M. describes all the lessons Murray taught during the tragedy.
(Bill’s note: M. is continuously engaged in her passion for continuous learning.) PA appears. M asks, “What are the big things on your plate today?”
She gives more directions to the PA – send letters to families of kids leaving school.
8:11am – M. does more work back at her computer.
8:15am – G. walks into M. office. A short discussion of events later in the week takes place.
G. announces, “I’m on duty.”
M. begins walking tour of the school.
M. greets everyone cheerfully.
M. greets most students by name.
Continuously, students seek M. out for greetings.
(Bill’s note: M. continuously checks the pulse of her staff; she pays attention to their
M. spots a boy who seems sullen. She works with him until she receives a positive greeting.
8:51am – Back in her office M. makes a quick phone call.
M. types at her computer.
8:55am – M. is still working at her computer.
Bill’s note: A sign of a healthy school: No one has “needed” M. this morning. Not once has
anyone interrupted her with a problem or request. And this is after she has been out of the
school for four days.)

9:00am – G. reports to M. that her daughter was in a minor traffic accident on the way to work.
The daily student television news show begins.
During the telecast M. presents the two books I gave the school and thanks the staff for
their personal visions with her.
M. leaves the telecast and student reporters are seeing questioning students around the
school, “What does it mean to be a Kiwi?”
Several staff sits in the staffroom watching the show.
Mike, a teacher, watches M. intently.
9:10am – M. walks the new books down to the media centre. She engages the media specialist in a conversation about her recent illness. M. challenges her to stay home until she is better.
9:15am – M. “putzs” in her office; checks the computer and makes copies.
9:16am – The receptionist comes in and asks, “Do you have time to see good work?”
Two girls come in to show M. a poetry book one had made and to read the poetry. One girl reads her poetry and M. gives both students “Principal Stickers.”Her conversations with the girls are of high quality and never include “talkingdown.”
9:23am – M. back on computer. She continues to catch up on e-mails.
9:37am – M. still at her desk and computer. She makes notes on “Post-its.”
9:39am – Board Chair, Chris, comes in for scheduled meeting. M. distributes agenda.
9:40am – M. discusses playground project, “Done and dusted, ready to go.”
M. discusses sand for sand pit.
M. articulates supporting observations for bids.
M. and C. discover that the numbers are better than expected.
C. makes suggestion about sand pit. M. makes note and says, “I will look into it.”
9:51am – M. describes two quotes for the new driveway.
M. says, “This will be headed out to Allen.
9:58am – A discussion ensues between the three of us about the obstacles of beauracracy and
How it often changes people.
C. shows a board member’s resignation letter to M. They discuss an appropriate response
to the letter.
M., “It got to the point where T. couldn’t work together.”
(Bill’s note: Never look back or resent negative behavior. Other’s behavior is not about you.
Don’t own it. It is neutral to you. Drop it and move on.)

10:15am – M. presents her personal goals for the year. A discussion of personal vision ensues.M. asks C., “When can you meet with my appraiser?” An agreement is reached.
10:23am – M. describes the Sisters School project. A discussion ensues.
M. shows C. the paper she has written for the project and reads it out loud. M. says that the confirmation of the project must be done in person.
10:31am – M. discusses BOT folders, “I want them to be just right. The folder sample has to be perfect.” M. states they should go out the Friday of week 1 in new term.
10:37am – Conversation ensues regarding improving future BOT meetings. C. feels meetings must become more productive and enjoyable.
10:40am – M. and C. discuss a multitude of community issues.
10:45am – Meeting ends.We move up to the staff room for morning tea. M. re-introduces me to staff.
(Bill’s note: A happy staff room!)
11:03am – We move into several classrooms to sit and watch for a couple of minutes.
(Bill’s note: M. shows great pride in the staff, children and school.) M. asks a teacher to share her personal vision journey to be the Reading Recovery

11:22am – back in her office M. shares her plans for the remainder of her day with the PA.She catches up on computer.
11:30am – Observation ends.

Bill’s feedback to Mary:

• You have developed an incredible symbols management program that dramatically tells the story of the school’s shared vision and core values. You articulated the designs you will be implementing to develop new symbols.
• You absolutely model and articulate what you espouse. You have helped every staff member have a personal vision. Every contact you made with a staff member paid attention to them and their visions. You have developed your own vision. This influences your staff to be engaged in continuous deep personal learning. This is impacting your instructional program powerfully. Every teacher wants to engage every child in the same deep learning experiences. This personal attention to know your staff and students has created a world class learning culture.
• I was struck by your physicality. Your kinetic energy is an asset as you lead. Your physical movements are so powerful they give you another “voice.” That movement influences others to action.
• Be careful about holding on to the negative aspects of the past. No good will come from it; you will only drain energy and time. Always sustain creative tension regarding the future.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! Reading this was like being back at Baverstock Oaks in 2006! A wonderful school, and a fantastic leader that has meant and means so much to us in Ås! Thank you - M & B! Kari