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The M & M’s of Good Leadership

During those infamous staff meetings that were mentioned in a previous post (see “Information without Relations is just Yadda, Yadda, Yadda”) there was a monthly agenda item to assess how we were doing.  We drew our questions from our grant contract’s goals and objectives.  One of those questions was, “How many people were served this month?”

Now, that is not a bad question—especially if you are working with a resistant population.  Getting them into the door and into seats is an important step, and it should be monitored. We can’t stop there.  We need to measure what happens once we get them into those seats.  Are they learning? Is there an increase in their skill level, whether it is reading, writing, math, or any other content area?

What you measure, is what works!

Here is the simple truth— it is the actions and strategies we define and monitor that are successful.  It is not complicated and it is not even hard to implement. It just calls for preparation and consistent follow-through.  Neither of these is especially exciting, but they are essential.



Measuring and Monitoring—M & M

Like anything else, when we take the time to break a task down into small steps, the task becomes clearer for leaders, and then it becomes easier and clearer for leaders to share with their staff. This is part of the preparation referenced above and will make the monitoring and measuring of strategies/behaviors effective. A good way to approach M & M is to think about monitoring and measuring the same way you ask your teachers to approach formative assessments.  They should be done regularly and used to guide future actions.

Leaders need to work on guidelines both for themselves (you always want to be able to give clear and consistent answers) and for their staff--what you don’t want to happen is a staff person saying to you after the first month or even week, “I thought you meant something else when you said that.”  A little upfront work, and preparation, pays off in big dividends. They need to be addressed before you begin the implementation process and they need to be clearly presented to your staff beforehand, so everyone starts off on the same page. Encourage questions and input. It will only make the process more effective.

Three M & M Guidelines

Identify specifically the skill or behavior you want to monitor and measure

  • Ask why!
  • Does this skill or behavior address a real need of the staff?
  • Does it support the change you are trying to implement?

What will you measure?

  • What does it look like?
  • What do you want to see when you walk into the classroom?
  • What should the teacher be looking to see when they are teaching?
  • What should the student be doing?
  • What is the outcome you are looking for?

How will you monitor and what data will you collect?

  • Monitoring needs to be embedded in the leader’s daily routine. Set time aside in your schedule every day to visit classrooms, grade level meetings, etc. These are not only opportunities to observe, but also to provide direction, feedback and reinforcement—and, of course, build relationships.
  • Create a form (these days you can do that using Google Docs or something similar and access it from your smart phone or your tablet) using the answers from the section above. For example, if the strategy you are implementing is classroom management you might have a form that lists physical set up of room, classroom rules posted, student recognition system, etc. You can also ask your staff to participate in the data collection (they can use the same form and it allows them a voice. It is also interesting to compare your observations with theirs and discuss similarities and differences)
  • Involve students in the data collection process by having them fill out a survey.  Just like with your staff it is important that the process and what you are trying to accomplish is clearly defined and explained.
  • Give FEEDBACK!  There are at least two reasons for monitoring. Check on your progress to an identified objective or goal AND provide guidance to your staff to help them reach that objective.
  • Set benchmarks and celebrate when they are reached.  Recognize staff work and achievement.  Celebrating “small” achievements along the way is just as important, if not more important as reaching the goal.


People need to be developed-both leaders and staff.  The development process is a thoughtful process and calls for preparation, implementation and feedback.  All of the process needs to be monitored and measures (M & M).  Such a process affects not only people, but the system in which they are working.  Changing (improving) both people and the system are essential to success.

Here is a quote from Michael Fullan’s book, “The Principal”:

“Countries that have a strong teaching profession and legions of great teachers—such as Singapore, Finland, or Canada-did not achieve that state by using the crude method of reward and punishment.  Instead, they established a ‘developmental’ approach to making teachers more effective: the developed leaders, such as principals who could help teachers work together in a focused way to use diagnostic student data linked to the improvement of instruction in order to get better results; they operate in transparent ways so that people can learn from one another; they monitor progress and intervene when necessary. In short, they create high performance expectation and cultures.” 

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