Making Tough Decisions

Leadership involves making decisions, many of which are unpopular.  School leaders face an enormous amount of decisions every day and many are made without much time for reflection.  School culture is shaped in part by the sum of these decisions.  Many leaders have no problem being decisive and others wish to get input prior to every decision.  What is needed is a framework for making quick decisions while remaining consistent with our values.

The beginning of my career in school leadership was difficult.  I quickly learned that I would never make everyone happy as hard as I tried.  I also felt the need to answer every question immediately even when I wasn’t sure what to do.  Eventually I learned that it is perfectly acceptable to say “let me sleep on that” or I’m not sure…let me get back to you”.  These simple phrases helped me take the time to ponder difficult decisions and not feel rushed. Still, I realized that many decisions remained complex and I was unsure even with additional time to think.

I remember approaching a mentor with my frustration in one of our coaching sessions.  He encouraged me to prioritize every decision in the same framework to help me wade through the daily noise that could distract from my focus.  He suggested the following framework which I still utilize:

  • What’s best for kids?
  • What’s best for programs?
  • What’s best for adults?

This framework ensures that my students are always the first stakeholders I consider when judgingthe impact of a decision.  Next, I consider the impact on programs that directly impact students.  Lastly, I consider the impact on adults.  These are not always mutually exclusive as many decisions can have a positive impact on all three groups.  Additionally, I do not mean to imply that considering adults is unimportant.  I hope you consider developing a similar framework for making decisions to ensure that you are consistent and thoughtful in the process.


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