Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Messages We Send

Leadership can be about what we say, but it is also about the culture we create through our actions. Think about the people who are leaders in your school or work setting. What do they do (or not do) that cultivates the culture of your group?

In my new leadership role, I've been thinking a lot about the messages my actions send.

I might be working on Saturday morning at 6am, but do I expect others to?

I really got this tip from a principal - when employees receive emails from their boss all evening or weekend, it puts out a subtle message or expectation that they should be working at all times. That is certainly not what I want to communicate! One of my peers said that she often starts an email with, "We all have different work habits, and this is my best time to get work done, but I don't expect you to be working at this time..." My favorite solution is Boomerang - I can write the emails whenever I want, and schedule them to send at a more reasonable hour :-).

As the one with the "title", it's up to me to set others at ease.

I was having a conversation with a first-year teacher, and they asked, "Can I call you Aubrey?" It didn't even occur to me that my teachers - who are adults - would wonder if it is okay to be on a first-name basis, yet I remember having similar thoughts when I began my career! This made me realize that people are looking to take their cues from me - I can actually make interactions more comfortable by introducing myself first, asking them to sit at this table, and just setting the tone so others aren't worried about things like, "Does it matter which side of the table I sit on?"

When a weekend event ends, do I stay to help clean up or leave?

Cleaning up isn't in my job description, and it's not exactly an expectation. But what does it communicate if I let others do the dirty work while I go enjoy my weekend? This is servant leadership at its finest - and if I want to be a servant leader, I need to show it.

If I see a teacher doing something awesome, do I share it?

One of the great things about my role is that I have a bigger megaphone. I can amplify others' voices and work. But if I never share the great work that happens, it doesn't matter how big my megaphone is - it still won't get out there! I have been trying to take the time to pause my busy day and snap/tweet that picture or write that email to a principal or other district leaders (whoever makes sense) about the amazing things our teachers & students are doing! It's not always easy...this is never an urgent task, and it can often go to the back burner...but we don't do enough celebrating or positive sharing in education.


Okay, this is a sore subject for many people, because it is just so hard to keep up! I attended a session about team-building with many people from our district office (who work in operations), and the thing that I kept hearing about building trust & teams was that people wanted follow-up, and quickly. They mentioned how much more they trusted someone who responded to emails right away as opposed to someone who took a few days to get a response from. Now, I would never advocate for being on your email all of the time, but this was eye-opening to me and actually made me prioritize emails a little higher on my to-do list. If that's a big factor in my coworkers' feeling like they are on a strong team, how could I not prioritize it?

I'm sure there are a million more ways our actions speak louder than words, but these are a few situations I have encountered in my first two weeks! Do you have any tips about what you wish leaders would or wouldn't do? Leave them in the comments!


  1. Wow Aubrey, you've touched on so many seemingly small, but oh so important actions to take as a leader! I had the same problem as you with sending the wrong message if I sent e-mails on weekends (even though I always wrote, "please ignore this till Monday") Now our teachers communicate more with Whatsapp so I again faced the problem of sending messages on the weekend. I discovered an app called Skedit and now I can schedule my Whatsapp messages as well. Thanks for the heads up on the importance of responding quickly to e-mail - still a huge weakness for me! This is a great reminder to make it a priority. Thank you!

    1. Good tip on Skedit - we don't use Whatsapp much here, but I'm sure that it is just a matter of time! I don't think any of us are great at staying on top of our email at all times, but it was a good reminder to me to make the time for it, too!