Educational Equity Newsletter – April 23, 2020
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Delegate Effectively Through Uncertain Times
Many leaders are in week three or four of leading their organizations through this pandemic. We’re hearing from clients that the energy and motivation reserve they used to guide them through the early days has started to run out. Does that sound like you?
We’re here to help! Below are our best tips for building self-sustaining practices to support your work and systematize your day-to-day management so you can protect your mental and emotional bandwidth for the toughest parts of your job.
Commit to practices that help you build energy and resilience for the long-haul.
Even on the best days, leading your organization requires a lot of energy and mental capacity. You may find that this crisis is demanding even more of your personal and professional energy. That’s why it’s more important than ever that you build resilience by deciding on one to three practices to engage in to renew energy and manage stress, so that you can be as helpful as possible to your team and stakeholders. Calendar these practices and check in with yourself weekly on whether you’re following through.
Develop delegation habits to ensure consistent support for your team.
With so many demands on your time and attention, it’s easy to do a mediocre job at delegating projects right now—from poorly aligning on expectations, to disappearing rather than staying engaged, or even avoiding the debrief process in the spirit of knocking out more urgent work. Build in (or recommit to) these habits to help your people execute with excellence:
- Use the 5W’s to align on expectations before starting any new project. Communicate what success looks like with as much detail as possible: when the project is due, who else to involve and in what roles, why you’re doing it, and where they can go for resources. You can use our delegation worksheet to guide this conversation. Use a verbal or (brief!) written repeat-back to make sure you’re aligned.
- Delegate intentionally and equitably. Think carefully about which projects you assign to which staff members. Aim to align what you delegate with what staff have communicated they have bandwidth to do. Create space in every delegation conversation for your team member to speak up if they have concerns about the project, feel ill-equipped to get it done or to meet the deadline, or need additional support to be successful.
- When in doubt, ask. If you think you may have been unclear in the delegation, ask your team member, “what are you taking from this conversation?” If you’re not sure if the deadline is realistic, ask what they think. If you’re worried you’re not providing enough support, ask what else would be helpful from you.
- Schedule slices and debriefs. In your delegation conversation, be explicit about how you’ll stay engaged. Ask your team member to suggest (and ultimately schedule) the best times to check in, share slices and feedback, and debrief. Being clear about how you’ll stay engaged and getting their input on when would be most appropriate will help prevent your team member from feeling micromanaged.
Focus on your comparative advantage (and help others do the same).
With so much ambiguity everywhere, it may be tempting to take responsibility for all decisions that will impact students and families right now. This approach might have long-term impacts on how your people develop skills to manage through crisis and make higher-stakes decisions in the future. Instead of hoarding power, share it. Allow other leaders to own decisions closest to their role, while naming the guardrails or guiding principles to use to make choices you’ll stand behind. For example, you might say, “as a general rule, the priorities I want us to use when making program-facing decisions are first, impact on students and schools; second, budget feasibility; third, speed at which we can get it done.” As long as their decision will be a win for students and schools, is financially feasible, and can be done within the allotted time, you agree to back the decision—even if it wouldn’t be your first choice. This will free you up to focus on decisions in your comparative advantage, like how you’ll reopen your offices or scenario plan for 2021 budget implications of the pandemic.
We know this is a complex season to lead through and we’re so grateful you’re at the helm of your organization. By finding ways to sustain your leadership, systematize your management practices, and share decision-making responsibility, we hope you’ll be able to build the margin you’ll need to lead your organization through the rest of the school year.