One of the more challenging aspects of assuming a formal leadership role as a school administrator is how to address difficult issues with the faculty. This is even more difficult when the issue has the potential to create an “us (faculty) vs. them (administration)” mentality.
Avoiding a “confrontational” mentality is not the same as avoiding confrontation. Developing a “solution” mentality is critical to moving forward productively. Setting the right tone also develops the collegial environment necessary to inspire innovation and motivate others to be part of the solution rather than contributors to the problem.
So, we call a faculty meeting and need to address the issue. How can educational leaders introduce the issue with the best chance of creating a “solution” mentality rather than a “confrontational” mentality? Your choice of words and areas of emphasis will speak volumes about the atmosphere you create.
One thing to accept is that as the leader, you have a great deal of influence on the atmosphere surrounding a difficult issue. You will set the tone with what you address with the faculty and how you communicate that message. The leader does not have the luxury of divorcing herself from the emotional impact of the issue.
Second, remember your role. One of the most important functions of the administrator is to SUPPORT the faculty so they can do the good work they were hired to do. Recognize that with difficult initiatives, the message is that you are WITH them and your want to be part of the solution that is most effective without being most intrusive. It is also a positive step to explain how committed you are to making this positive change. This message must be accompanied by a description of HOW you are going to support the faculty’s efforts and WHAT you intend to do to make it successful.
Reinforce that the change or actions needed are for the benefit of the students and, therefore, a benefit to the faculty. When students are better served, the faculty is cast in a positive light.
In my mind, this is neither top-down nor bottom-up thinking. It is creating a collective solution creating engine. It is empowerment. It is investing in the TEAM.