Five Traits of Principals Who Communicate Effectively

Communication and the Principal.

As we continue to examine what areas distinguish the successful principals from the struggling ones, communication is near the top of the list.  Nearly everyone who accepts a principalship has good intentions, wants to do a good job, and has previously been successful professionally.  That alone doesn’t guarantee success.

Communicating effectively can be a great pathway to success as a principal.  On the other hand, principals who struggle with communication find the job more difficult than it ought to be. If you get the reputation that you are hard to communicate with or do a poor job of sharing information, it’s difficult to overcome that perception. If others perceive you as a good communicator, however, they develop added confidence to what you say (unless you prove them wrong).

Principals would do well to work at becoming better communicators.   Most everyone thinks they are a good communicator, however, so progress can be stalled by an inaccurate self-appraisal.  One way to measure up and to build a plan for improvement is to consider what the best communicators do.  To that end, let’s look at five traits of principals who communicate effectively. 

Five Traits of Principals Who Communicate Effectively

1.  Listens to Understand:  When you are the leader, everyone wants a minute of your time.  The most effective leaders really listen to others (rather than formulate your response while they’re talking).  More than that, you go beyond the question or concern to the reason behind it.  When you listen to understand, you are interacting with your people; the you listen to reply you are merely responding to them.  It’s the subtleties that make the difference between struggling and successful leaders.

2.  Values and Respects Others: You may have 150 conversations during the course of work hours but to those who speak with you, it might be their most important conversation of the day.  Their time with you might be the subject of dinner conversation at home or the first thing they share with their significant other. The most effective leader embraces the role and makes interactions with faculty, staff, students, and parents important.  This is an inside-out action; you have to first value and respect others in a genuine way to be able to communicate with them as such.  They will know from your tone, your level of attention, and how you speak with them.  And, if they believe you value and respect them they will be more likely to join you on your school’s journey to success.

3.  Speaks Well, Not Ill of Others:  Speaking negatively of others is an invitation for your team to do the same.  If you, however are caught speaking well about other people, it shows that you notice and that you care. 

4.  Communicates Clearly and Concisely:  The leader can often have the burden of knowing too much.  All of the things that we are asked to initiate at our schools are complicated and voluminous.  We do well when we filter all of the things we know into bite-size portions that our teachers can swallow.  The most effective leaders also proofread and have others read their work for clarity.  It ALWAYS makes sense in your head; will it make the same sense in someone else’s?

5.  Shares Information in a Timely and Appropriate Manner:  Teachers don’t like surprises unless they are chocolate covered.  Keep information flowing in a timely way.  When we get information distributed timely and effectively, it helps our team grow confidence in our leadership.  When we are getting important things out at the last minute all the time, our teachers begin to wonder about our ability to steer the ship.  Little things get to be big things.


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This is part of a series of Eight Reasons Why Principals Are Successful… Or Struggle.  It began on January 30. Please check back over the posts beginning then to see the series in entirety.  Thank you! Mark

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