Crafting a Culture of Honesty

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Crafting a Culture of Honesty - Principal Perspectives #8

 –  Julie MacDonald  – 

  Wife. Mom. Sister. Daughter. K12 Co-Principal. OULA obsessed. Passionate educator. Road-trip lover. MSU Spartan Fanatic. Lifelong learner. Apple Teacher. Seesaw Ambassador.

Craft a Culture of Honesty

Principal Perspectives #8, February 26, 2019

With teacher strikes, low compensation, and other strains on the teaching profession, school leaders have an obligation to lift up and praise teachers who bring their best for students day-in and day-out. And we have an obligation to support and encourage our staff and our teams.

That said, some of the biggest mistakes occur when we fail to be honest. It’s not about avoiding dishonesty, it’s about honesty. Avoiding dishonesty is easy. Crafting a culture of honesty – that’s the real challenge.

Let’s take a look at four ideas from Principal Julie MacDonald as she shares insights into crafting a culture of honesty.

Listen to Learn, Not Respond

The Principal Perspective

Get to know colleagues and staff at a personal level. Build trust by listening to learn, not just respond.  – Julie MacDonald

The first step to crafting of a culture of honesty is trust.

Without trust, honesty will result in toxicity, hurt feelings, confusion, and all sorts of other detrimental side effects. Honesty is only as valuable as the trust it’s built on.

The build trust, consider these tips:

  • Lead with questions and use listening to learn.
  • Have frequent “personal” chats to get to know the humans, not just the staff.
  • Stay personable by staying visible.
  • Listen, listen, listen. You’ll be amazed at what you hear.

People Want to Be Better

The Principal Perspective

​I failed when I was afraid to give truthful and constructive feedback because I thought I would hurt feelings. People want to be better – I always have to remember that. – Julie MacDonald

Here’s the scary part, but it’s okay to be honest it’s necessary to be honest. People want constructive feedback. They don’t want:

  • Uncertain expectations.
  • Unknown judgments.
  • Hoops to jump through.
  • Harassment or gotchas.

Constructive feedback is important, and people want it! When you lay the foundation by listening to learn it makes giving feedback easier.

If you really want to make it easy to give feedback, just ask.

“I really liked what I saw in your room today. The students were so engaged and excited about the topic. Can I offer one piece of constructive feedback?”

It’s hard to hurt feelings when you ask to give the feedback. Go one step further and state, “It’s okay to say no. I know you’re passionate about what you do, and I don’t want to be critical.”

This is what a culture of honesty is about – being honest about feedback, about growth, and about respecting each other.

Feedback is a mirror - the key is that it's honest and we receive what it shows us.

What is a Culture of Honesty?

The Principal Perspective

When teachers and students find success from techniques and feedback shared by coaches. [When] collaboration abounds within the school. Everyone helping each other and pushing each other to be better shows the coach what they’re doing is making an impact. – Julie MacDonald

It’s all about impact. Helping each other to learn, to succeed, to be better. It’s about coaching, feedback, and success. For the teachers, the leaders, and the students.

It’s a community of learners. Creating this community is what instructional leadership is about.

What is a Culture of Honesty?

The Principal Perspective

​I learned that “you don’t know what you don’t know”, and most people, when they know better, do better. I learned not to be afraid of hurting feelings w/suggestions, but to be gracious and provide constructive feedback in a way that makes everyone find success. – Julie MacDonald

Feedback is a mirror. Most of the time we like what we see. Some of the time we see things we need to change. And ever so often we see something that we didn’t know was there!

Be bold and brave enough to give constructive feedback. Be generous and gracious in your honesty. Your staff, your students, and you will be better for it!

Connect with Julie MacDonald on Twitter @booleymac20

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