Elevate and Evaluate

As educational leaders, at all levels, evaluating people and their talents is an ongoing responsibility. Leaders will want to have multiple strategies in their skillset.  As the graphic below shows, a dashboard of options and the agility to use that dashboard can provide competence and confidence for leaders.

Diane Zimmerman and Bill Sommers used this graphic in their recent 2019 book, 9 Professional Conversations to Change Schools: A Dashboard of Options. One of the overarching goals is to increase collective efficacy.  See Hargreaves and O’Connor (2018) for more specific research.

Notice the left side (green to blue,) is dedicated to more reflective conversations.  About a third of the people that leaders work with possess the ability to reflect on their knowledge, skills, and application.  This results in making necessary adjustments and getting better.

The middle of the dashboard (blue to orange), identifies areas where data, feedback, and information will be required to demonstrate areas for improvement.  Remember, data is only data.  Humans bring meaning and understanding to the data.

On the right side (orange to red), are conversations that are not easy AND necessary.  Wil Felps, et.al. (2006) has found that one negative person can reduce productivity by up to 40 percent. When conflict exists, leaders must leverage it, manage it, or end it.

Educators know that when dealing with a disruptive student, they try to modify or correct the behavior prior to consequences.  Moving directly to consequences does not give the student the option to change AND, more importantly, the rest of the class may interpret the correction as mean, unfeeling, or just plain punitive.  When given an opportunity to change, it is the choice that is seen as fair.  Of course, when dealing with harmful behavior for the student or class, immediate action is required.

The same is true for the professionals in the school or business.  In any hearing for disciplinary action, the question will be asked, ‘what did you do to correct the behavior?’ Without a plan of correction and giving options to be better, the decision probably will not be in the leaders’ favor.  That is why having multiple options available is so important.

Let’s focus on the top of the arch of Stakeholder Centered Coaching.  This process, developed by Marshall Goldsmith. He got my professional attention with his book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” How many leaders believe that what they have in knowledge and skills are going to be enough for the future?  How many of you were ready for COVID?

True, some of the effective skills already in your skillset will be valuable as we navigate the future AND the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment will require continued learning for everyone.  See https://learningomnivores.com/rules/new-rule-choose-vuca/ for additional explanation.

Stakeholder Centered Coaching (SCC) has been used successfully in business for years.  Bill has been using this process for the past four years in education with similar results, around 95 percent improvement.  Central office leaders want that for building leaders.  Board of education members want that for central office and superintendents.

A short description of the SCC process follows:

  • getting feedback from direct reports the leader trusts
  • choosing one or two goals to improve
  • make those goals public
  • getting feedback from stakeholders as the coaching process continues
  • getting a final assessment from stakeholders at the end of the coaching

One supervisor recently said, “I want to know what you are doing on these Friday calls.  He seems happier on Friday.”  This is not easy AND is important work for leadership improvement.

Those who choose to enroll in this process will require a commitment to three things that have proven to be critical in successful coaching engagement.

  1. Courage – the commitment to hear and see information honestly. I call it a ruthless assessment of reality.
  2. Humility – the commitment to listen and learn. When I have tried to improve my leadership skills, I had to admit that I didn’t know something, or I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be.
  3. Discipline – the commitment to follow through on agreements. If there is no follow-through, how will you ever know if the idea or process will be effective?

Several articles have identified an increase in people leaving teaching and administration.  Elevated leadership skills will be needed everywhere to improve the teaching and learning environment and will require highly skilled leaders to

  • create AND hold the vision of learning. African Proverb:  Not Learning is Bad, Not Wanting to Learn is Worse.
  • help staff develop more repertoire for more students AND the agility to use what is needed for diverse learners. Those with the most flexibility have the most influence.
  • communicate to the community what schools can do AND how to collaborate in supporting young people for a life after high school. Internal and external communication is critical.
  • attract AND retain our best certified and non-certified staff. Create talent density with the staff and budget you have.
  • Continue to be a learner. French Proverb:  Children Need Models More Than Critics

Welcome to the challenges ahead.  These are not for the faint of heart.  To quote Angeles Arrien, “If your job is waking up the dead, GET UP, TODAY IS A WORKDAY



Felps, W., Mitchell, T., & Byington, E. (2006). How, When, and Why Bad Apples Spoil the Barrel: Negative Group Members and Dysfunctional Groups. Research in Organizational Behavior-RES ORGAN BEH. 27. 175-222. 10.1016/S0191-3085(06)27005-9

Goldsmith, M. (2007). What got you here won’t get you there.  New York: Hyperion

Hargreaves, Andy and O’Connor, Michael. (2018). Collaborative Professionalism. Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press.

Sommers, William and Zimmerman, Diane. (2019).  9 Professional Conversations to Change Schools.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press


Shift Happens. If you don't adopt New Rules, drop the "f" in Shift!