Friday, August 23, 2013

Email & Diminishing Returns

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of time...."

This is how I am starting to feel about email these days.  

While I see the need for email, I am starting to realized that for many of us, we need to stop and ask ourselves if the law of diminishing returns is alive and well.   I am becoming convinced that email  is reducing productivity for administrators and getting in the way of the transformative work in education

This following video clip is a great example of how not to use email:

Nonetheless, the practical side of me knows that we cannot totally eliminate email from our lives.   There are some legitimate and productive uses for it.

At an upcoming meeting of principals I will be leading a conversation regarding email etiquette (here is the link to the Slides).

The following is a listing of basic email etiquette points that will form the basis of our conversation:

Train your staff.
Make sure your staff is trained in e-mail/social media communications – don't assume they know what they're doing, and what is considered professional. Set up e-mail standards that everyone at the school should abide by.

Seek balance but respond in a timely fashion. 
Balance is important. There are times when you need to unplug. Instant responses are not necessary. Nonetheless, you should respond within a day or two

No diatribes.  Keep messages brief and to the point & Be clear in your subject line.
We live in a time of information abundance – you might even call it “data smog”. Some folks receive hundreds of e-mails a day. Nothing is more frustrating than wading through an e-mail message that is twice as long as necessary. Also, it is essential that your subject line gets to the point.

Only discuss public matters. Be careful with confidential information
When emailing or using social media I picture myself speaking to an auditorium full of parents. Extremely sensitive and confidential information should be dealt with privately – face to face or via the phone. Ask yourself if the topic being discussed is something you'd write on school letterhead or post on a bulletin board for all to see before clicking "send."

Don't "e-mail angry” or overuse exclamation points.  Use CAPITAL LETTERS sparingly.
E-mailing with bad news, expressing anger, reprimanding someone, disparaging other people in e-mails is inappropriate.  E-mail/social media correspondence can last forever. Also, USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS LOOKS AS IF YOU'RE SHOUTING. Using all lowercase letters looks lazy. 

Don't clutter other peoples Inboxes.  Use the (BCC) blind copy and (CC) carbon copy appropriately.

Don't use BCC to keep others from seeing who you copied.  It can be unethical.  Instead you should you should directly CC anyone receiving a copy. You should use BCC, however, when sending to a large distribution list, so recipients won't have to see a huge list of names. Be cautious with your use of CC; overuse simply clutters in-boxes. Copy only people who are directly involved. Do not reply to an email if your CC’d. Only the person directly email should respond.

Beware of the "reply all."
Do not hit "reply all" unless every member on the e-mail chain needs to know. You want to make sure that you are not sending everyone on a list your answer—whether they needed to know or not.

Remember, your e-mail/digital communications are a reflection of you.

Also keep in mind that as professionals we must always maintain personal and professional boundaries when communicating digitally with staff and students. All staff should be familiar with personal and professional boundary standards.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Two Year Journey Begins...

Tomorrow, my two year secondment as an Associate Superintendent for the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese officially begins

I'm both excited and unsettled

What unnerves me....

I am unnerved to leave the comforts of being a high school principal. I like comfort. And yet to grow, perhaps I need a little "discomfort".

I am unnerved to leave behind a highly functioning and active learning community.

Over the years, I have noticed that everyone involved education has an opinion about the "the central office" - from policy decisions, HR issues, programs, funding models - it seems that everyone has a "better way". And of course, there are those that will look to "blame" the central office for those complex and "unsolvable" problems. Working in the central office, I wonder how I will respond to these stereotypes?

It unnerves me that some folks may expect a quick and easy answer to their issue if they call on me. Chances are, I may not have an answer immediately. Chances are my suggestions may be wrong. There will be a promise, however, to assist and support the person work through the issue.

With this new role, some may expect a certain perfection or "getting it right, 100% of the time" from me. I am not perfect nor am I an "expert". I consider myself an active learner. I am a firm believer in the growth mindset. I am successful when I am vulnerable and honest with my myself and those around me regarding my shortcomings, challenges and gifts.

While I am excited about thinking and problem solving from "35,000 feet", I am more unnerved about losing touch with day to day student life. I am worried about losing the daily interactions with students. As a principal, my daily conversations with students kept me focused on what truly mattered in the school. 
To be effective in this new role, I need to manage the tension between system thinking and student thinking

What excites me....

I'm excited to work with some amazing people both in the central office and throughout our school system. 

The opportunity to think and problem solve at a macro level. Viewing issues and challenges from "35,000 feet" will be new and exhilarating

I'm excited to be able to more easily connect and dialogue with fabulous professionals across our school system. I look forward to leveraging those connections and amplifying the best practices happening across the our school system. 

I feel privileged to have the opportunity to have those connections and amplifications create meaningful collaboration and dialogue.

Tomorrow morning marks the beginning of an exciting and unnerving two year learning journey. I look forward to bringing all of you along....