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Leadership Insights

District-Level Leaders: Measuring Engagement to Improve Leadership

By Terry Wilhelm May 27, 2014

Continuous leadership improvement is a critical part of providing the highest quality leadership at every school. District leaders must support, monitor, and evaluate school leaders. Read on to discover some effective tools and strategies to implement.

Tools that measure engagement

Many tools are available to measure engagement and improve school leaders. In addition to the Flippen 360 profile mentioned previously, the Gallup Q12 survey yields a slightly different kind of data about leaders. The Gallup Q12 consists of 12 questions that have been validated using precise psychometrics to produce data about the engagement level of the teams that work under each individual leader. As with all 360 instruments, the survey takers are anonymous, but in the Q12 they are identified as a member of their specific team, leader by leader.

Gallup research has shown that employee engagement is directly related to organizational effectiveness. Unengaged workers are simply a drain on the organization — doing the minimum and no more — while workers Gallup terms “actively disengaged” are a toxic liability.

The impact of disengaged team leaders

This is important, because district-level employees who are unengaged or actively disengaged create additional, sometimes invisible, barriers to schools’ getting the support they need to create the highest level learning for all students. If the district level-leaders who supervise them are simultaneously engaged in turf wars and maintaining silos, the schools and students will suffer the consequences.

The 12 questions fall into four categories:

  1. Basic needs: Two questions such as, “I know what is expected of me at work”
  2. Management support: Four questions such as, “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person”
  3. Teamwork: Four questions such as, “My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work”
  4. Growth: Two questions such as, “In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress”

Results followed by crucial conversations — and change

Sadly, in some organizations, top leaders make the decision to purchase a survey and reporting system like the Q12, but when the survey results come in, they fail to work with leaders whose teams are clearly suffering from poor leadership. Instead, in one organization I observed, leaders at all levels were simply given activities to do with their teams to help employees feel more engaged.

While the issues surfaced by a tool like Gallup Q12 might be slightly improved through morale-boosting activities, the investment of time, money, and human resources by this particular organization was largely wasted. Each leader, beginning with a district’s superintendent, must have the courage to work one-on-one with leaders who are clearly not skilled in creating engaged teams and employees.

Without these courageous conversations, engagement and organizational morale could decline further. If those who took the survey think that the commitment to improvement was simply lip service, schools and students may not get the high level of service and support they deserve. However, when a commitment to change is made and effective communication strategies are a place to start, positive action plans can be developed and executed.

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