Rabbi Jonathan Sacks discusses just what has been on my mind in the chapter Toledot: The Price of Silence in Lessons in Leadership. He states,
“Life is relationship. And human relationships only exist because we can speak. That is why any leader, from a parent to CEO-must set as his or her task good, strong, honest open communication.”
How seriously do you take the role of communication in the overall success of your school? Is it one of the areas of pride you talk about to prospective families? Is keen communication an integral part of your school culture?
As a head of school I knew that timely responsiveness was key, yet I have been hearing just how crucial solid communication is, not only in day-to-day operations, but in building relationships with students, in teacher morale and in retention of families. As Prizmah’s Director of School Advocacy, I spend a lot of time talking with school leaders and other stakeholders, and the message is consistent. Communication matters.
A few anecdotes:
- At one school the leadership talked about the new reality of responsible behavior being overshadowed by the convenience (and misguided idea of safety) of Uber. How did he know this? By talking with his students. In allowing for open communication between adults and emerging adults, conversations may be had that help guide our students on better paths. When a student can speak to a faculty or staff member, they feel safe and cared for and establish trust.
- An admissions director shared with me the importance of faculty understanding the role they play in a parent’s decisions to remain in a school; when communication about their child is deemed faulty, that does not give confidence in the school. Parents want, need and deserve timely, honest and respectful communication. It that is not received, it is often one reason to look for another school.
- Faculty feel the same way, and poor systems result in low morale. Recently I had a discussion with a principal who had a teacher who felt she had not been adequately prepared for a parent conference. This teacher made some errors in judgement at the meeting which resulted in an upset parent. With proper communication this could have been avoided.
When will we put communication on our list for full staff development? Role play those difficult conversations; praise those members of your team who shine in this area; help those who don’t. Your school, your community and your culture will be better off when you do.