A good leader has to tell the story. Not in the sense of “controlling the information” or brainwashing the minions, but a good leader has to reinforce the mission by sharing the good news. This can be challenging if you feel assaulted by bad news, poor performance, or factors beyond your control. But you have to find the good news. If you can’t, no one will.
For example, when people ask you, “How’s it going?” you need to find the positive. No one wants to hear about disciplinary problems, sick teachers, problem parents, or a hole in your budget. They want to hear about the great field trip, the excitement in pre-K–they want to hear your story. They want to hear that you still find hope and can see the good.
As a principal, my approach has evolved from sharing good news to synthesizing the information. Here’s the evolution:
Step 1: Shine the spotlight on the good news. It’s important to recognize the good work being done; it’s important to recognize the people responsible. This does wonders for morale. Give volunteers the red carpet treatment, sure, but why not treat employees like volunteers? I know, people fear singling out one employee will lead to favoritism. But if you make a commitment to recognize all good things,the spotlight will become contagious. In a school, you’ll see the attitude of recognition spread to classrooms as teachers will begin recognizing students.
Step 2: Record the gratitude. Are you sharing this in your newsletters? Through social media? Every week in my newsletter, I have a section entitled “The Good News” where I single out students, teachers, and volunteers for their good work. Our Facebook page is filled with shout outs to generous volunteers and exceptional teachers.
Step 3: Craft the story. Don’t rely on others to tell your story. Make a video. We found a hungry up-and-coming videographer who made us a quality 3 minute promotional video for $500. And we have gone back to him. We’ve struggled to get media coverage to help tell our story. And we’ve succeeded at times. Video isn’t the only option, of course. But all marketing efforts must be directed toward the purpose of sharing your story.
Step 4: Curate the results. If a new parent was researching new schools, what would they learn about your school? Have you curated Steps 1-3? Yes, word of mouth is the strongest marketing but every year we get a few new parents who discovered us on the web. My attitude was to direct people to our Facebook page where I have been posting positive news about our school as well as articles supporting bilingual education, Catholic schools, and our network of Two-Way Immersion Schools and to our website where there is a record of past weekly newsletters. But I have changed and have developed pages which collect the proper articles. We can’t expect parents to be patient enough to check through all older posts. Check them out!
My hope is that these pages will help tell our story to prospective parents as well as to our current community. By practicing these techniques, I have become a more optimistic leader and I’m better able to tell our story.