Let’s begin with a short quiz for school principals and senior leaders.
Listed below are 12 statements or questions. Give yourself a point for every statement you have thought or said to yourself over the past month (paraphrases are acceptable):
If you gave yourself 12 points, then you probably don’t have time to read this article (although you really need to!). I suspect many school principals and leaders would be able to score around 8 out 12 with little difficulty. However, that is NOT a badge of honour like the one shown in the photo above – it is a problem that needs to be fixed.
Quickly! Before burnout solves the problem for you.
Having a daily schedule with no blank space IS worn like a badge of honour by far too many school leaders. It is not good for the leader, and it is not good for the school. Not having time to attend to bodily functions, to respond to e-mails, and most importantly of all, to relate meaningfully to staff, students, and even your own family, is almost certainly not the plan you had in mind when you applied for a principalship.
Having been the Principal of five schools myself, I look back and completely understand the pressures upon every school leader. They are insidious and unrelenting.
School Principals have a huge number of often competing constituencies that all demand time and attention – the board, parents, teachers, non-teaching staff, alumni, the wider community, government authorities, contractors, the press and media, volunteers, donors, potential donors – and of course their own family. I have never met a School Principal anywhere in the world who has been able to put hand on heart and declare that their own family never had to make any sacrifices to support their work – which doesn’t make it acceptable, of course.
Astute boards understand the vast range and ongoing stress of these pressures and do whatever they can to protect the Principal from excessive demands, providing ‘space’ for renewal and support in any possible way. Nonetheless, there are limits to the extent that a Board can (or is likely to) say “go home and do less work”.
A complicating factor is that most good Principals have a strong disposition to give, and give, and to keep on giving, because they see their vocation as one of servant leadership. Therein lies the tension.
It has been said by many people – Principals are often their own worst enemy when it comes to looking after their personal welfare. No less true but said less frequently is the claim that most constituents in a school have no idea how hard and sacrificially their Principal is working because so much of the Principal’s work is done away from their direct vision or the public eye.
The good news is that School Principals have considerable power to improve their time management. Although not every strategy will work for every Principal, some possibilities include the following:
Let me finish with a challenge to every school leader who has read through to the end of this article. Consciously try to improve your time management using the six points above, plus anything else that might work for you. Work through those strategies for six months. Then re-take the 12-point quiz at the start of the article and compare the difference. I would love to receive your feedback on the changes you experience.
- Dr Stephen Codrington
We offer support for school leaders and board members (including Board Chairs) through mentoring and critical friendships. We also support boards and school Principals through our senior management reviews, middle management appraisals and board performance reviews.
Further information on these and many other facets of best practice in school leadership and governance is provided in the book “Optimal School Governance", which can be ordered directly through Pronins.
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