Many of you are probably familiar with the TV show “Undercover Boss.” It is a television franchise series created by Stephen Lambert and produced in many countries. It originated in 2009 in England. The show’s format features the experiences of senior executives working undercover in their own companies to investigate how their firms really work and to identify how they can be improved, as well as to reward hard-working employees. (Thanks, Wikipedia).
The same theme can be seen in fairy tales-where the king or queen wants to leave their ivory tower and visit the people. There is usually a transformation that takes place as these leaders learn about the challenges facing their people and attempt to fix the problem.
Here is my take away—leaders need to be out and about, not stationary in their office. Sitting in the office you often will only see or hear about the issues people bring you. Getting out you see what is happening firsthand. Getting out allow you also to connect with those people that don’t speak out or come to your office.
Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!
Relationship building is one of the most effective strategies for leading people in general, and especially leading people through change. Relationship building is a proactive process. This means walking around your school, talking to staff and students, not to correct but to connect.
I stay in touch with a good deal of teachers and former students. They range in age from 25 to 50. The one common memory they have is of my “walks” throughout the day in and around the building. Teacher share that it gave them real time access to someone who had the power to make decisions—and by having the opportunity to talk to me, they shared in the power. Students share the same kind of thoughts—they could approach me informally outside of my office. They also knew during class or lunch or a free time outside I would be walking around. This helped them monitor their behavior. My presence, just my walking around, reminded them of our program’s expectations.
I can’t get out of my office
Many administrators say they want to get out of their office, they just can’t. There is always someone waiting to see them, or a problem that needs to be addressed, etc. There isn’t enough time!
In “Assembly Required” Lezotte shares that it is not time that is the problem; it is value choice. We choose to spend our time on what we value or what is most comfortable or familiar. Change just doesn’t happen!
If we want different results, change has to happen. Change is incremental. Change should be modeled. Change needs to begin with ourselves. If we place value on getting out into the school, then we will find the time.
Here is how one principal did it. He made the choice to set aside 2 hours in the day to visit classrooms and walk around the room. Once he made that choice, all subsequent decisions made had to support the decision to set aside those two hours.
This time was sacrosanct. His office was told people that called or came looking for him that he could not be interrupted during this time—he was in the classrooms. People were redirected to someone else or an appointment was made for a future time.
The results were fewer problems needing to be sent to the office and increase student achievement!
Lawrence Lezotte writes, ““…the system in place is ideally suited to producing the results the school is currently getting…” If we want to change those results, we need to change the system. Change is about choice.