Leaders require an enormous number of qualities in order to be successful, but confidence has always struck me as essential. Confidence allows for many things, but one that I always admire is the ability to communicate directly and succinctly, saying what needs to be said absent any fear of repercussion.
The principal of my daughter’s school sent an email to parents early on during this pandemic that impressed me a great deal. It establishes clear expectations in an exceedingly direct way that is polite, specific, and unwavering.
“I make very clear to the staff that their families and well-being come first. Many of your children’s teachers are also wonderful parents and caregivers to family members. They too are adjusting with their families. The general expectation is that your teachers will respond to inquiries within 24 work day hours. Please remember the importance of maintaining a collaborative spirit by being mindful of appropriate email/messaging etiquette; if there is a concern or you would like to relay sensitive information, please request a phone call.”
His message is clear:
“These are unprecedented and difficult times for all of us. Teachers, included. We understand that the closing of the school has placed an enormous burden upon you, but teachers are suffering through similar burdens. They need to care for loved ones, too. Some of our teachers may be sick. Their loved ones may be sick. Some of them might be dying. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t demand instantaneous gratification. Don’t say stupid things that you will regret later or are too stupid to ever regret. Think before you hit the send button. Behave with decency, empathy, and kindness. We are all in this together.”
He didn’t use those words, of course, but I think his email is a master class in how a confident, direct approach to communication can make a tough message exceedingly clear and unwavering without sounding rude or dismissive.
I love this email.
I would never consider leaving my school. I’ve been teaching there for 22 years and love everything about it, including my principal. But if the school were ever destroyed by an untimely asteroid strike or my principal retired and was replaced with a lowlife scumbag, I would absolutely and aggressively seek to work for my daughter’s principal.
He’s been earning my respect ever since I met him last year, but this email sealed the deal for me.