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Are Your Principals Developing Staff Talent?
Leadership Insights Updated January 13, 2015

PD for Principals: Are Your Principals Maximizing Staff Talent?

By Terry Wilhelm January 13, 2015
Are Your Principals Developing Staff Talent?

As a district leader, you have a sense of the leadership strength of each of your principals. District leaders must support principals in discovering ways to maximize staff talent and avoid roadblocks that can hinder campus success.

Recognizing staff talent

The ability to recognize, develop, and maximize the talents of classroom teachers and other staff members is one of the most important skills for a principal to have, and thus an important part of their professional development.

A principal cannot maintain high achievement or improve achievement alone. Without the talent and willingness of staff to step up and share leadership, even a strong school can begin to flounder.

Insecurity can be a principal’s worst enemy

Unfortunately, it is harder for some principals to share leadership than others. With the advent, in some districts, of contract renewal contingent on test scores, some may fear for their jobs if they begin to share leadership and then scores decline.

For principals who are less secure in their own leadership, roadblocks to sharing it include:

  • Being threatened by strong teacher-leaders or assistant principals
  • The need to maintain control of the visibility of highly capable staff members
  • Fear of being outshined by a subordinate in front of staff members or supervisors

In extreme cases, some principals may even select weaker and less talented staff members to mentor, because there is a smaller chance that they will feel upstaged or outdone.

While it requires some measure of personal confidence, security, and an absence of ego for a principal to share leadership, simply raising principals’ awareness of its potential value — the payoff in increased achievement and enhancement of school culture — can help many to begin to move in that direction.

Putting words into action

An easy way to begin providing this type of professional development for your principals is to ask them to assess their staff rosters — all teaching, classified, support, and administrative staff — and one by one, list their strengths. Since some classroom teachers are strong instructors with students but less skilled with colleagues outside the classroom, it is important to stress that for classroom teachers, this is a consideration of both.

These assessments can be a one-to-one conversation with a specific principal, and can also be done with the entire principal group during a principals’ meeting. For principals of large secondary schools, it will be useful to have them select a key department or two, such as English or mathematics. But support staff, classified staff, and assistant administrators should also be considered.

Discussion questions after a staff assessment

Once the principal has completed an assessment, key discussion questions will include:

  • Were there any surprises as you considered each individual?
  • What opportunities are you providing for each person to contribute to the work of the current initiatives of your school in his or her areas of strength?
  • What next steps can you take to increase these opportunities?

In my next post on this topic, I will discuss next steps for working with the insights gained from having a principal complete this informal assessment.

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