As we continue to explore the reasons why some principals are successful while others struggle, we’ve made it to Judgment, the fourth entry on the list (1. Preparation; 2. Communication 3. Leadership).
When you’re the principal, everyone is watching you. They listen to what you say, watch what you do, see what must be your priorities (by what you spend the most time doing) and they pay attention to decisions you make.
Your decision making– your judgment– has a lot to do with your success/struggle ratio. As the leader of the school, you make hundreds of decisions a day. Your judgment is a matter of interest to the others at the school (teachers, staff, parents, students) depending on how much it relates to them. If you begin to write a letter of concern whenever any of your teachers are tardy to school, the decision to do so will be of interest to all of your teachers, not just the tardy ones, because it has potential to affect them.
If you decide that you will no longer allow check outs at your school after lunch, your judgment will be measured by parents, staff, and others.
If you make a decision regarding consequences for a violation of the student code of conduct that others feel is too easy/too hard, your judgment will come into consideration.
You’re in charge. You can’t make everyone happy. Should you really worry about whether people are happy with the decisions you make?
It’s not about making people happy with your decisions, but it IS about people having confidence in your decision-making processes and ultimately your judgment. Let’s be perfectly honest about this– judgment is one of the “Big Three” things that everyone around you is using to assess you as the leader. They observe your judgment, your results, and your treatment of others. In summary, people are assessing your worth as the leader based on what you do, the manner in which you do it, and whether it works.
So, how do you have good judgment without taking Will Rogers’ path? (good judgment comes from experience, but experience of bad judgment)
Here’s a pathway to good judgment:
1.) Have a process for making decisions. Most of the “bad judgment” episodes that I encounter in the field are principals who didn’t go through a process of arriving at their decision. Your process should include a series of questions intended to distill the situation in a logical manner.
2.) Avoid haste; avoid emotion. Almost all of the instances I’ve seen with principals regarding the use of bad judgment involve a lack of patience and/or an abundance of emotion. Neither serve you well when making decisions.
3.) Listen and learn from other sources. If you make your mind up and then seek others to go along with you, this isn’t a decision-making process, but it’s a consensus-building event. They have their place in leadership, but if you truly are seeking assistance in decision making, listen objectively to trusted sources, gain missing data, and be as exhaustive in your search as you’re able given the context of being principal.
After going through your process, you’ll eventually need to make a decision, and in many cases it will not please everyone, but you will gain their confidence as the leader by listening, having a process, and sharing (as is applicable given the circumstance) why you’ve made the decision you’ve made. ~MW