Neubauer Fellows focus on effective approaches to managing teams and talent at Spring Institute

Senior Fellows and members of the Neubauer Fellowship in Educational Leadership’s Cohort 7 continued their professional development at the Fellowship’s Spring Institute on April 20.

Attendees garnering valuable insight into practical and strategic leadership approaches to managing teams toward goal realization and concrete strategies for talent recruitment and management to ensure personnel are effective in their roles in driving student achievement and school culture.

Goal Actualization Through Effective Team Management

Raymond Fields, 2018 Fellow and Executive Director of Urban Teachers Philadelphia, facilitated Goal Actualization Through Effective Team Management. To manage teams in a way that yields better, more consistent movement toward an initiative, Fields identified a process consisting of four phases. Attendees identified an action plan that incorporates the four phases that is immediately implementable and focused on actualizing goals in the best interest of students.

Stage 1: Defining and Unpacking the Goal for Stakeholders.

“You have to first lead authentically,” said Fields. “Before we can start quantifying our impact, we have to understand the vision, what we aspire to do and who it’s in service to. … What is your vision? How are you getting people around it? How are you having people understand the purpose, the why, the reason – and with an equity lens?”

“This is equity work, this is work rooted in social justice,” noted Fields, incorporating the National Equity Project’s Shifting the Discourse work and identifying that productive discourse focuses on root causes and creates space for listening and valuing others’ experiences; in this way, there’s a collective ownership of the need for change and an authentic investment in the “why.”

Stage 2: Developing Leads and Lags Toward Goals.

“How are you having specific, routine, rhythmic actions that can predict how you are progressing toward the goal?” asked Fields. “How are you checking in with benchmarks?”

Fields identified leading indicators as a specific action that will lead to success and lagging indicators as the measurement of performance. For example, a leading indicator is daily phone calls to families of absent students; that specific action contributes to a lagging indicator of increased percentage of students meeting attendance goals.

Fields also noted that leading indicators will be different for different stakeholders: student actions will be different than teacher actions, and leader actions will be different than teacher actions, etc.

Stage 3: Establish Management Routines.

“How are you, as a leader, employing actions to ensure that you are supporting and holding the members of your team accountable?” posited Fields.

According to Fields, management routines should measure two facets: completion and impact. Leaders can identify management routines that support leading and lagging indicators.

Stage 4: Examining Impact and Adjusting Course.

“We know things do not work perfectly,” said Fields. “How are we forecasting and predicting the challenges and obstacles, and how do we adjust course?”

If the team is not meeting the goals (as signaled by the lagging indicators), then the leader needs to review the action plan and identify where adjustments can/should be made. Items for consideration include assessing the lead indicators for quality of impact and execution and identifying opportunities for cross-collaboration among other teams.

“I’m realizing more and more that I just hop into the technical aspects of issues,” said Tangela McClam, principal of Lewis C. Cassidy Academics Plus School and 2022 Fellow. “This session helped me to realize that there is a process that should start with the equity imperative. I am walking away with a to-do list that will make me more effective in managing my teams by providing clarity on what is expected.”

“This session was very impactful, and the leading and lagging indicators for how we develop school-wide goals was a game changer!” said Amanda Jones, principal of The Honorable Luis Muñoz Marín Elementary School, 2022 Fellow, and 2023 Lindback Award for Distinguished Principal Leadership winner. “It allowed me to identify realistic actions, aligned with school goals, and benchmark how the goals can be achieved over time.”

Principal as Chief Talent Officer

Sharifa Edwards, Founder of Persist Education Group, led the Competency-Based Hiring Process & Spring/Summer Onboarding session, the third part of the Principal as Chief Talent Officer learning arc. This throughline of professional development aligns to the educational talent management cycle, connecting the Fellows with their role in hiring and managing personnel in their schools.

“Talent management is not seasonal,” said Edwards. “An orchestrated and strategic yearlong focus on talent management—retention, recruitment, hiring, onboarding, development—is a cornerstone of a successful school and principal.”

“Great teachers and leaders are made, not born,” said Edwards. “You as principals are doing the making. You have to create the structures to relentlessly develop your talent.”

Acknowledging that educational leaders are facing challenges in the teacher pipeline, hiring policies, and more, Fellows honed in on, as Edwards noted, what is within their “immediate locus of control, so that we can act within the constraints that we have.”

With regard to hiring, Edwards identified the importance of having an effective selection model, with clearly identified institution’s values and vision. Name the specific competencies that are non-negotiable; it is also important to identify competencies that can be taught in the role. What are the indicators that a candidate has those competencies? How will you tease out that information within interviews? How will you assess these competencies in candidates?

Edwards also warned attendees about the “Unicorn Effect.” “You can miss out on great candidates while waiting for perfection,” said Edwards. “Act decisively when you encounter a candidate that meets your criteria.”

According to Edwards, identifying an effective selection model and hiring is only part of effective talent management. It’s important to maintain the connection to ensure the quality personnel you hired stay engaged with your school community.

Within the session, Fellows established their own selection models and cultivation plans, checked in with each other on what’s working in their planning, hiring, and onboarding practices, and supported each other in addressing challenges, sharing effective strategies and resources they’ve had success with.

“I am walking away with a to-do list that will make me more effective in hiring by becoming crystal clear on my non-negotiables,” said McClam.

“This excites me to shift my interviewing process to be more focused and driven,” said Leigh Vitvitsky, principal of George W. Sharswood Elementary School and 2022 Fellow.