Sunday, July 29, 2012

Scattergun Management in Education

I would have thought that a 'Scattergun' management style was confined to the business world. However, my experiences in several educational settings have shown this not to be so. So why in the education sector, do key members of educational management feel the need to introduce business structures? After all, schools, although many might be run as businesses, are still vastly different to businesses. And whilst most workplaces appear to have moved away from a Scattergun Management style, it seems to be creeping even more into education, along with other unsuccessful business strategies! Is this because we have business management groups providing training to educational leaders, instead of successful educational leaders providing the training? In other words, is a business style really appropriate in an educational setting?

So, Scattergun Management can be used both in a negative and a positive sense. As a management style, perhaps it is seen as an easy way out for educational leaders and one with less personal conflict. Educational leaders don't have to personally face conflict with individual staff members. Instead, they can be seen to be offering praise to the whole team, rather than just a few, and maybe even walk away with the sense that all staff members are being treated equally. Or can they 'subtly' get the message across to poor performers under the guise of an address pitched at the team?

However, I believe that what frequently occurs is that staff members become confused or offended and a general vibe of discontent is created. This can occur whether Scattergun Management is being used in a positive way, to target staff members with praise or a negative way to criticise!

Let me give some examples.

Example 1 (praise)
A couple of hard-working and dedicated members of staff are always being proactive by contacting parents to discuss positive aspects of student performance and behaviour, thus building really positive staff-parent relationships within the school. At the next staff meeting, all staff members are praised by the principal for having done so. These members of staff, fully aware that a couple of staff members don't even pull their weight, let alone build positive relationships with the parents, become quite resentful that credit is being given where it has not been earned. It's not that they do what they do for recognition, but they resent the perception that underperforming staff members are doing a good job.

Example 2 (criticism)
A couple of staff members have not been arriving to class on time, have not been consistently following through with consequences for unacceptable student behaviour and have been dealing unprofessionally with parents. At a staff meeting, all staff are addressed and informed that the attitude of staff and the way in which staff have performed their duties over the last few weeks have been appalling and that all staff members, at all levels, must 'lift their game'. The result of this treatment is that staff members who have been diligent in their duties walk away confused and resentful, feeling like children who have been admonished, but not knowing what for! Staff members begin to question if they have done something wrong, wondering what it is.

The way I see it, the solution for educational leadership/management is fairly simple. If I do a good job, tell me what it is that I am doing well.  If the whole team is doing a great job, then also praise the team, being specific about what is being praised. If I need to improve or 'lift my game', then take me quietly to one side and talk to me about it. Give me some assistance and some guidelines, and the opportunity to change, all with the benefit of your leadership and experience. If the entire team (every single person) needs to improve, then why don't we sit together as a team and look at ways (together), to improve!
Within education, we have some talented leaders. Rather than consult business leaders from outside for leadership and management strategies, let's make use of the first hand experiences and knowledge of our own talent. What do you think?

photo credit: alexkess via photo pin cc

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