School leaders lead by example.

Cultivate a learning and feedback culture

School leaders can create a learning and feedback culture by-
  • encouraging and model a culture of continual improvement.
  • establishing staff expectations about effectively addressing difficult issues
  • promoting the use of a common language and approach for addressing difficult issues and giving/receiving feedback.

The role of a school leader can be challenging.

Prepare for difficult conversations

Leaders can prepare to have a difficult conversation by-
  • initiating a conversation. Communicate with the other person regarding the nature of the meeting, for example ‘I’d like to talk with you about...’ and invite them to do some preparation of their own to support the discussion.
  • selecting an appropriate time and place. Mutually agree on a time and place where all parties can feel talk comfortably to talk, will not be without being interrupted, and have sufficient time to have the discussion.
  • keeping a positive mindset. Remember the conversation is not a personal attack, but an opportunity for growth.
  • considering if a support person should witness the conversation, and if so, ask this question or make this known prior to the meeting
  • using a script, to prepare and rehearse the conversation.

School leaders can engage effectively in a two-way conversation if they are open-minded and listen actively.

Engage in the difficult conversation

Leaders can engage in a difficult conversation if they are prepared. Some points to keep in mind for this are-

  • Keep the conversation professional by focusing on behaviour and facts.
  • Be specific and clear. Use examples.
  • Speak in a calm manner.
  • Use ‘I’ statements, for example ‘I sense that...’, ‘I feel that...’
  • Acknowledge the other person's feelings and view of the situation.
  • Actively listen to the other person without judging.
  • Ensure you understand what the other person has said. Repeat back what the other person has said and check with them if you have heard it correctly.
  • Accept some responsibility if appropriate: for example, ‘Maybe I didn’t make my expectations clear at the beginning, I apologise.’
  • Come up with a solution together. If the other person doesn’t have solutions, propose a solution and ask for their thoughts. Offer support
  • Clarify the takeaway message
  • If appropriate and needed, agree on a review date to follow up. Consider if is it appropriate to formalise next steps, goals, commitments, and timeframes?

All difficult conversations should be documented and followed up if required.

Following up after a difficult conversation

What are some follow-up steps after having a difficult conversation?
  • You may decide to document the discussion, including date, time, those in attendance.
  • It may be necessary to document any key agreements and share with the other person
  • Follow up the meeting as agreed upon.
  • Monitor the situation.

Develop yourself, develop others.

Continue practice and development

School leaders should share their knowledge and experiences with others. Some suggestions are-
  • Continue to share strategies, practice conversational skills, and seek collegial support where helpful to develop your skillset further.
  • Take part in ongoing professional development to further refine and expand your skillset.
  • Actively support and model development of self to others.
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