3 Keys to Better Staff Accountability

As a school leader, you can’t be everywhere at the same time—as much as you’d like to be.

A capable cabinet and a strong support staff are as much a credit to the success of your school or district as you are, probably more.

But even the best team members make mistakes. As a leader, have you created a culture where you and the members of your staff hold each other accountable? Do you trust each other enough to admit when you’re wrong? And to do something about it.

You should.

Say a parent reaches out to your district about special accommodations for their child. A staff member fields the inquiry, but gets busy and neglects to respond. A week later, the parent calls you on the phone. You’ve dropped the ball one too many times, she says. Sorry, but the family has decided to leave and enroll in another school.

And you didn’t even know there was a problem? Ouch.

If you’re a superintendent or a principal, you can’t do everyone’s job, but you can create an environment where everyone is committed to the same mission.

Here’s a few ideas to help develop trust and accountability within your team.

Hire smart
The best way to build trust is also one of the toughest: Make the right hire.

Qualifications and expertise are important. You want every new hire to transition seamlessly into the job they were hired to do. But qualifications mean little by themselves.

During the hiring process, get a sense for how the candidate works with others. Do they value key qualities, such as customer service? Are they dedicated? What commitments are they prepared to make to ensure the little stuff gets done right.

Putting the right people in place up front allows you to set higher expectations down the road.

In the words of Steve Jobs: “I’ve learned over the years that, when you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things.”

Train and retrain
So you’ve got the perfect staff. That’s great. Now what? It’s time to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

A clear strategy is paramount. Make sure your staff understands your vision and the ways you want the district to operate. Emphasize your top priorities. Put a focus on community engagement. And set a high bar. Make everyone stretch just a little if you can.

But do your level best to set them up for success.

Create a strong orientation program, one that clearly defines your culture and schedule regular check-ins with staff, so they can ask questions, discuss issues, and keep you clued in to any potential issues or challenges on the horizon.

Get organized
Even the most talented team will drop the ball without good organization. Make sure everyone understands their role, what tasks they are responsible for, who they report to—and who reports to them, and what issues to cover.

This is especially critical when it comes to community engagement. The last thing you or your district needs is to let questions from parents, teachers, or students fall through the cracks.

Outline a clear system for receiving, researching, and answering inquiries from the public. This includes how comments are received, who should address them, and a clear deadline for how quickly you respond.

Every school district’s staff accountability is different—and is dependent to some extent on staff size and resources.

No matter your approach, defining clear roles and responsibilities will go a long way toward ensuring your district operates like the well-oiled machine you always knew it could be.

Do you have a system for making sure you and your staff are accountable to each other? Tell us in the comments.

Looking for a better way to track communications between your office, district team members, and your community? Here’s an easy way to do that.

Author: Todd Kominiak

Todd Kominiak is Managing Editor of TrustED.

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