3 Important Questions for Leaders to Ask

I recently finished The Culture Playbook by Daniel Coyle. It was a practical, easy read with many takeaways that I’ve already started implementing for this school year.

Every year, I send a survey to the people I support and supervise in my role. The questions are intended to help me better care for each of them as individuals. Some of the questions are simply about their walk-up songs, birthday, favorite breakfast treat. Other questions feel more substantial such as, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

I added some questions this year to gather feedback on how I might better support them. Often, we are getting in people’s way or making the work harder without realizing it.

In The Culture Playbook, Coyle talks about how difficult it can be for people to give feedback and even the question, “How can I support you?” can be challenging for people to answer. This is particularly true if the person asking holds a position of authority. He suggests asking three more specific questions that open the door to meaningful feedback and dialogue. As with all things, psychological safety must be in place in order for people to share honestly. I added these questions to my survey this school year. Now before I share the questions, let me just say. I don’t like surveys. I find them impersonal and often inauthentic. However, while some people are more inclined to share in-person, there are others who prefer to share their feedback in writing. I don’t think it has to be an either/or. I think it can be both.

  • What is one thing you would like for me to start doing that would help you be successful this school year?
  • What is one thing you would like for me to continue doing that makes your job easier, better, or more enjoyable?
  • What is one thing you would like for me to stop doing? (I left off the “that makes your job harder” part because it’s implied, and I thought they would be more inclined to answer if I left that off. No one wants to feel like a jerk.

The responses I’ve received so far have been incredibly insightful. Below are a couple of responses that inspire me! Because while I know this is important feedback for me, it also reveals a lot about the hearts and minds of the people with whom I work. And the hearts and minds of educators are so good. Pay attention. You will see just how inspiring the educators you work with can be.

Start Doing

Help me figure out how to get teachers to see their value and impact on kids.

Do whatever you believe will help the new principal be comfortable and successful. That will put me/us in a position to be successful.

Continue Doing

Remembering that working with teachers is very important and that time should be protected as much as possible (from an instructional coach)

Keep talking to us and leading us and modeling what important conversations look like.

You frequently jump in with “positive add-ons” to whatever you are involved in. At meetings, you contribute articles, engaging activities, refreshing drinks, etc. We are still working, but you often “make work light.” Keep that up, please.

Honestly, just continue being you… The way you’re fair, honest, direct but friendly, open and caring.

Stop Doing

They don’t have any feedback for me. Yet. I don’t think this is a sign that I’m getting it all right. I think it’s a sign that I’ve only been in my job for a year, so with time, more feedback will come. If you want to hear more about what I should stop doing, you could easily ask my husband of 11 years. I’m confident he could provide a list!

We spend a lot of time talking about what we are going to do, but we need to spend just as much time if not more talking about what are no longer going to do. To make space for good work. We can’t do it all, and we cannot do it all with the same gusto. Everything cannot be worthy of 110% of our effort and attention.

I hope to get better at the “stop doing” list, and I hope to become better at empowering others to do the same.

I also hope to use the feedback that I’ve received to support others in the ways they want to be supported. It’s less about what we (as the supporters) think great support looks like, and it’s more about how the work actually feels to those we are supporting.

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