Closing the Commitment Gap

Building consensus is the first step in making a group decision. Once the decision is made, it is necessary to have all of the disparate parts collaborate.

While your board is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of your school, your principal is responsible for the execution of your board’s plans and decisions. After the decision is made or the plan finalized, your principal must ensure that the disparate groups will collaborate and cooperate with each other.

It is generally easy for a principal to assure the collaboration and cooperation of the staff members. The principal is in a position to set priorities and allocate resources to align the activities of the different staff departments.

Working with a parochial school’s board is more of a challenge. They set the priorities and allocate resources. Therefore, it is harder for the principal to influence their decisions and motivate cooperation.

Even when a board decision is unanimous, there are various levels of enthusiasm. The board chair must be willing to keep the members’ focus, ensure the priorities remain constant to the extent possible, and help to ensure that the necessary resources are available. At times this means making hard choices and disappointing some members or stakeholders.

Part of the board chair’s role is to develop member consensus around decisions and recognize when support is waning. The board chair must also be aware of situations within the staff. Most of the time this can be achieved by asking the right questions of the principal and listening to what the principal is saying or omitting during a conversation. Meeting with the principal and other staff members concurrently can provide insights which will guide future board decisions and make execution easier for staff members.

The insights the board chair gains should never be used to direct or guide the principal’s decisions or actions. Any attempt to direct or guide the principal is micromanagement. In addition, it will reduce the information flow to the board, which will reduce the quality of future board decisions. The insights should be used to shape board discussions, inform future decisions, and improve the coordination and cooperation between the board and staff. When the insights produce those results, the board will notice an increase in information flowing to it and an improvement in staff efficiency and effectiveness. There will also be an increase in mission effectiveness, which leads to the increased sustainability of your school.

Next Step:

Ensure your school board chair properly understands the chair’s role after a decision is made or a plan is approved

Ensure your principal has the support, resources, and freedom to execute your board’s plans and decisions

Use the change in staff efficiency and effectiveness as an indicator of the level of cooperation, collaboration, and partnership between your board and staff

Many times the lack of cooperation, collaboration, and partnership can be traced to the definition of a few simple words. Having a common understanding between the staff and the board of words like ‘success’, ‘sustainability’, ‘outcomes’, and ‘results’ will help ensure better teamwork. It also helps to have goals and other expectations that are meaningful and quantifiably expressed.

It is easier to have everyone committed to a decision or plan if they understand it, believe in it, and understand what success means. It is the joint responsibility of the board chair and principal to ensure that everyone is fully committed.

Take It Further:

Ensure everyone is sufficiently involved in the decision-making and planning processes to have a sense of ownership

Ensure everyone understands why success will be personally beneficial to them

Make it easier to build consensus by making every discussion mission centric (centered on to something the board is already prepared to support)


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