It's been a busy two months! Packed yet awesome, my first 40 school days in a new school in a new position have been loaded with challenges that have humbled and/or empowered me and my ability to satisfy and juggle short term needs while moving forward with numerous long term visions and mandates.
The position is hard. Moving into full time school leadership is demanding; with the new job comes constant high stakes tests of my communication, organization, and time management skills. Scrutinizing my own practices constantly has become essential in developing necessary systems in place to manage my affairs well.
With that in mind I've identified 6 habits I've adopted that I have found works with the dual tasks of establishing oneself at a new school, and fulfilling everything that comes with school leadership.
- Call People Back - whether it's good, bad, or ugly I get back to everyone the day they contact me. I figure that if I am slow to get back to people I risk sending the message that I'm disorganized, unresponsive, or worse, in over my head. Whether its colleagues, parents, or students I get back to the folks who ask to speak to me promptly; It makes for better professional relationships, and for stronger professional brand. People may not be satisfied with the message they receive, but they will appreciate that it was delivered in a timely manner.
- Schedule Action Items - it's easy to forget to do things; even the simplest of tasks sometimes get lost during "one of those days." I schedule all my action items in the calendar on my phone / email; from walkthroughs to sending emails to checking the daily attendance I schedule it in my calendar. I'm juggling a lot of important initiatives, and nothing can fall through the cracks. It ensures that priorities and action items are addressed at the right times, and that I’m never in a position where I have to say I forgot or overlooked something that I needed to tackle.
- Save Everything - it’s easy to lose things. If I walk from the office to the cafeteria and back, then it’s safe to say that I’m coming back with some kind of note or sticky or something the equivalent thereof from a colleague or student about something or someone that I need to address. I scan all of my hand written notes, stickies, rogue pieces of paper, etc. into digital folders as soon as I receive it. Just today (October 8,) I utilized a handwritten note from September 9 that I took down during a side conversation with a student as part of an investigation. Had I left that handwritten note on my desk in a pile I reckon it would have been lost or misplaced weeks ago; by scanning and filing digitally I’m better able to utilize the conversations and dealings I have on a daily basis to execute my job more effectively at a time convenient to me.
- Organize Constantly - every day ends with personal organization. I take all my emails and put them in folders after I’ve addressed them; as mentioned above I scan all my handwritten notes into email and then shred the paper to keep my workstation clean and efficient. I schedule my action items for the next day. No matter how badly I want to head home or how drained I feel at the end of the day I take care of myself and organize for tomorrow. I may have 10 things going on, but at least I know where everything is!
- Have a Running Priority List - “To Do” lists don’t cut it; I have a “Priorities” list constantly going as new ideas, action items, and needs arise. There have been things on that priorities list since late August, because something always comes up that takes priority; I've learned quickly to accept that the work will never be finished, and that the most strategic and situationally important items are the ones that need to be met on a given day. Figuring out how to identify priority items is an ongoing focus of mine;certainly one of those intangible skills people rarely talk about in leaders is correctly identifying the right time to address initiatives.
- Go 1 on 1 - it's hard to be new in a big group and expect to lead; the best way to quickly establish yourself as a professional and a leader in the group is by purposefully engaging colleagues, students, and community members in one on one conversations. I try to schedule appointments, stop by classrooms, seek students out who were in a class walked through, or go to after school events; getting out of the group and into smaller settings was key in the first month or two. It's easier to make a big group impact when you've established your brand with individuals stakeholders.
Two months in and things are moving in the right direction, but we gotta just keep it going through the rest of the fall into winter. I need to keep identifying what works, what needs to be done, and when's the best timing for it; most importantly I need to make sure I remember it's more about the people I work with than any set of tasks assigned to me.