Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Leadership Is Doing The Right Thing...Even When It Is Unpopular

Many corporate cultures reward productivity. Once you cost the company more money than you are bringing in…you are fired, re-organized, laid off and/ just gone. This sounds simple and is taking place daily in our Corporate America. Public school education is not one of those cultures. This culture rewards consecutive contracts (longevity) and loyalty (no insubordination). Few teachers are fired each year due to the difficulty of proving incompetence. Teachers who are fired, especially after a few years on the job, are usually blatantly incompetent, insubordinate or morally bankrupt.

It becomes difficult to remove an employee when a culture rewards longevity. What would you do if you were in a leadership position, had an incompetent employee and were told that it was ill advised to pursue firing that employee?

Leadership calls for doing the right thing….even when it is unpopular.

I once had a teacher who had been a very good teacher but she became very ineffectual and the children were losing opportunities to learn. I was told by my boss that I would not be able to fire her in less than two years due to what could be seen as potential litigation problem. I developed a 24 month timeline to deal with the problem.

An enormous amount of time was devoted to dealing with this one problem. It would be easy for a leader to say that it took too much time to devote to one problem when so many others needed attention. However, this one problem affected many children and could not be allowed to happen in the business. The following was the 24 month prescription to correct the problem:

• Weekly classroom observations were made
• Weekly notes outlining strengths and weaknesses of during the observation were made along with suggestions to address the weaknesses
• Bi-monthly conversations were held discussing any points of interest
• A follow up email with a requested read message returned was sent to the teach covering the points discussed and suggested during the meetings
• Additional formal evaluations were conducted as permitted by the Master Contract.

The teacher had repeatedly stated that she was not going to retire. She did decide through our meetings and our discussions that I was against her. She felt all of the negative reports were my fault, not hers. However, she turned in her school keys and resigned in March of the second school year. There is not enough time to discuss the shock this sent through the culture. It may have been an unpopular action, but it was the right thing to do.

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