A few minutes ago I was reminded yet again that the response “because I’m your Mother and I said so,” is not necessarily a favorite “why” response for those on the receiving end of the statement. Luckily, I wasn’t reminded of this because of any recent communication with my Mom! Instead, the reminder was from one of my colleagues and highlights more broadly the need to communicate “why” from a leader, employee, or learner perspective; consider:
I must say that explaining why something is needed is… exactly what I’m looking for in many situations.
The above statement is an example of how an individual on the receiving end of a message often engages with the individual who is communicating the message by thinking or questioning “why” or “what is the reality or the perspective” of the communicator. Below are a few examples of “why” communicated daily:
from a student sharing with parents, “Today was the greatest first day of school! From dancing on the gym floor with the seniors and staff at the assembly to every class! I’m not sure what the staff had for breakfast this morning, but everyone was so happy and energetic today!”
from an educator asking a student to, “Share with me the process you used to determine that was the best solution,” and
from a superintendent explaining the importance of training to colleagues, “Leader training is important to the success of the survey roll out process to ensure the process is uniform and consistent across departments and schools.”
More about effective leader communication from How to Lead (Pilcher and Largue) and Results That Last (Studer):
Communicate the “Why.” Leaders must create intentional and structured forms of communication so that all teachers/students are working toward common goals to achieve meaningful results. If a leader is not intentionally communicating, the employees will make up their own story or communicate information that may not be reflective of the leader’s intention or direction. Communicating the “why” helps individuals align and support a leader’s ideas and initiatives. To communicate the “why,” leaders must: (a) hold high/solid/low performer conversations with teachers; (b) hold 30- and 90-day meetings with new hires; and (c) round for outcomes on teachers and staff.
Close the Loop by Rounding. Rounding is one way for leaders to gather information so that they can handle issues or needs in a proactive rather than reactive way. It also helps establish genuine relationships with teachers. Leaders who round on teachers and teachers who round on students produce more efficient systems thereby increasing teacher skill development and increase student achievement, in addition to increasing satisfaction among all groups. That is, closing the loop through rounding creates high engagement and high satisfaction.
Use Key Words at Key Times. Key Words at Key Times helps leaders assure teachers that they will receive the attention they need to develop their skills and to be successful in what they do. How? Create and share a plan and detailed actions that the leader and teacher will take to become engaged in skill development. Be clear and provide expectations.
Sure, this post is about the importance of leaders effectively communicating and provides three tactics, including “communicate the ‘why,'” for doing so. Remember, however, that employees at all levels of the organization hold the key to successful communication when they begin with the “why.” And, when we hear “why” at all levels we know we’ve taken big steps on the path to lasting results.
Pilcher, J., and Largue, R. 2010. How to Lead Teachers to Become Great. Gulf Breeze, FL: Fire Starter Publishing.
Studer, Q. 2008. Results That Last. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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