Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Misstep Two-Step (#14inFeb #5)

I recently included the following in the Monday Memo for the staff at my school. In a future blog post, I will discuss how the informal principal survey at staff are completing fits into this picture. For now, suffice it to say that I have recently been made aware of some of my own missteps.

One of the toughest aspects of a small group of adults working together is how we deal with our inevitable missteps. Over time, good friends are able to say to one another something like, 'Hey, you messed up. Fix it.' Longtime co-workers often reach this stage without any planning or structure. What about other folks? What do we do when someone new to the community or someone who doesn't have the close relationships messes up? Do we have a structure in place for how to approach the person who missteps?

It is often easier to ignore the mistake, to 'sweep it under the rug,' to avoid confrontation and accept the unliked behavior. It's almost always scary to approach someone to discuss their actions, and sometimes the impact of the misstep is minor enough that, if ignored, the situation will right itself.
In more cases, ignoring the misstep leads to bigger problems quickly. People begin to resent, dislike, fear, or worse the person who missteps. The uncorrected/unchallenged missteps can lead to a difficult place to work or, more ominously, a place where kids can't learn.

It was clear from day one that the staff here cares tremendously for the children, the school, and each other. However, I know that some staff perceive missteps and do nothing about them. I know that other staff confront the person who missteps. I urge you all to screw up enough courage (or whatever emotion is needed) and confront the misstepper (hopefully in non-confrontational ways).

I should be clear at this point - the missteps that I have been thinking and writing about are mine. I make some mistakes. Sometimes, I recognize the problem quickly and can fix it. More often than not, without direct feedback, I do not realize there is a problem, and I do not fix it. During the in-service week, I asked you all to keep me honest - tell me when I misstep so that I can fix the problem. Some of you have come to me to tell me about my missteps. Most of you have not.

So, again, I ask that you challenge my missteps. For the good of the school, for the benefit of the students, for your own well being and mine, come speak to me when you have something on your mind.

So, what do you when you misstep? Is there a process in place among the staff at your school to deal with the inevitable? Are staff members comfortable coming to the principal or to each other to talk these things out?

image from Flickr user Andy.d CC

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