Sunday, December 13, 2015

Leadership & Employee Engagement

The issues raised in this blog are not specifically motivated by the policies within my own school or within my district. I write about many topics that are often related to discussions with educators who do not work in my school district. This blog in no way is intended to reflect solely on any specific leaders or my place of employment. 

I am bucking a trend that reveals most teachers become less engaged after their first couple years in the classroom (Teacher Engagement Starts Low, Worsens With Time). More than ever, I am committed and fired up about teaching.   

My renewed passion is the result of my attempts to make sense of what is going on around me in regard to education policy. My career has been equal parts reward and challenge. I embrace the challenge. I am grateful for the reward. And I have a lot of ideas about how we can improve education.

Refusing to acknowledge problems makes improvement a matter of luck

For starters, why don't more schools districts provide yearly teacher engagement surveys in order to improve educational outcomes for children? 

When leaders engage the staff, they are 
putting students first
School leadership could determine if the school districts priorities are understood by the staff and identify obstacles to success. Most of my own criticism of leadership is not related to a lack of trust or confidence, it's usually because I do not understand the problem or I wish I had a voice in solutions.

Employee engagement feedback would help school leaders directly improve the quality of education by inviting teachers to give measurable feedback about issues that have an impact on student learning. It is a simple, inexpensive tool that could influence planning and communication strategy for school leaders - two areas school districts often come up short. Too many schools are mired in a bureaucratic stranglehold when it comes to improving the employee experience.

Effective school leaders welcome ideas that help them understand their staff better, especially when that feedback is used to encourage all hands on deck to row in the same direction. I cannot imagine an adept school leader scoffing at the opportunity to prioritize and address the concerns of the staff. When the important work of meeting student needs is at stake we should focus on working together without fear of consequences for speaking up and sharing ideas. Meaningful dialogue and identifying priorities that impact student growth is more likely to result from staff input than from a top-down leadership model based on compliance.

Improvement demands awareness

If the goals of the organization are understood, district leaders should have some way to identify why some buildings are succeeding in areas where others may be lacking. How do principals, instructional coaches and other administrators get a true sense of how engaged and committed staff members are to district goals when there is nothing formal in place allowing for teacher voices to be heard?

For some teachers, the reality is that we often feel isolated and wonder if our leaders care what's on our minds - collectively or individually. Employee engagement surveys can provide the entire education team a constructive avenue to work with a clear focus and gain the confidence of teachers. If teachers and school leaders are focused on the same challenges positive outcomes for students are more likely. We should dive into the messy process of meeting student needs together and that happens when we take the time to listen and share ideas.

Face to face conversations and trust are a necessary part of the equation too. In fact, those relationships and honest conversations are the most important aspect of school improvement. Getting to a starting point so we can assess and tackle our challenges is accomplished with regular employee engagement surveys. It just does not make much sense to me that we encourage teachers to take important risks to improve for the sake of student achievement and yet very few school districts take time to effectively survey staff about their levels of engagement. We should expect and support administrators in their mission to grow as leaders and foster a positive culture in our schools.

Twenty-first century learners demand a robust education that includes self-assessment, reflection and an emphasis on growth. We fail our students if we do not insist that teachers and school leaders engage in the same growth mindset. To effectively create a culture of learning for students, school leaders should accept the vulnerability that a growth mindset promotes and seek formal teacher feedback. Setting high expectations for students and helping children meet them requires feedback about the level of engagement of teachers.

Todays' political climate demands multiple 
skills of teachers and school leaders. The best 
seek feedback to improve. 
The same type of engagement survey is helpful for teachers to hear from students as well. I found great value in my first quarter survey of student engagement and it helped me see where I needed to improve. (In addition, I found weaknesses in the survey itself). Schools should actively seek engagement feedback from parents and community members. We are in the business of meeting student needs. School leaders should be elevating the voice of educators within their school communities in order to meet those needs.

Learn from the best

Just as we have master teachers serving as mentors, we need to give superintendents more tools to identify the unique leadership skills of building administrators. District leadership teams will be better able to meet students needs if they can identify the strengths and weaknesses of strategies and building personnel. Teachers and leaders, just like our students, feel more valued if their talent is recognized and their voice is valued.

Acknowledging our challenges and improving outcomes for students requires original thinking and new strategies. Employee engagement within our schools needs to be addressed. There's too much at stake to continue with top-down leadership models aimed at compliance rather than growth. We let our students down when we fail to seek feedback and recognize the strengths of teachers and school leaders.

DISCLAIMER: This blog includes ideas and topics serving as a composite of issues from various sources. The issues raised in this blog are not specifically or solely motivated by the policies within the author's own school district.


  1. As the years go on teachers are becoming more distant and independent from the school. They are expected to buy their own supplies for the students, Make their own lesson plans. Finally, some how make the lesson plan make sense for over the 100 unique individuals that they teach. Honestly, it's miracle work. We need teachers. Teachers make the future,students lead it. We should,as a society, ask them just to teach. To live and breath teaching; Change. However, teachers also have to add in their financial situation to teaching. That shouldn't be the case even if it's only a couple of dollars for an item.

  2. Thanks for chiming in Dalton. We need to keep our eye on the ball and do things that make sense and help students. I am offering one idea and I think it could have a pretty positive influence for schools at the local level. I really think we need to get valuable conversations started about how we can do a better job.

  3. Leadership and employee engagement, both are very crucial for every professional and business organizations. Professional are facing different types of problems in their professional life, just because of lack of leadership attitude and lack of engagement; therefore, we should learn some basic tips from here regarding how to develop leadership skills and involvement in different process.
    Leadership Coach