“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” Proverbs 15:1.
When you hear the word accountability, what do you think of? Does the mental image of a harassing drill sergeant quickly form in your mind? When conducted with gentle yet honest guidance, accountability can be highly productive in shaping and repositioning leadership and organizations.
In the past two issues of The Renewanation Review, we explored the power of assessment in understanding the current state of a Christian school and the critical role of strategic planning and deployment in developing a thorough plan of attack for reaching a stated mission. Assessment and planning are both crucial; however, execution is where the rubber meets the road and unfortunately where many leaders and school boards fail in their efforts to strengthen their Christian school.
Accountability coaching is a powerful method to ensure both solid execution and lasting change. As with most leadership roles, a Christian school headmaster can be a lonely one. Faculty and staff are expecting direction and support, parents and students are expecting guidance and solutions, and board members are evaluating your every move.
The Christian school leaders we’ve provided with accountability coaching have come to view our revitalization support team as their trusted advisors and advocates. They become dear friends, reaching out to us routinely to share their joys, frustrations, and challenges. We help them by:
Pulling their focus back on the important items that often get lost in the tyranny of the urgent
Sharing best practices and benchmarking information
Sequencing their improvement priorities to develop a connected path to the future
Ensuring appropriate resources are identified to be successful or rescoping their efforts as necessary
Most importantly, serving as their prayer partner
Ultimately, accountability coaching means ensuring execution. We desire the Christian schools we partner with to foster a goal-driven culture of accountability. Our Christian school leaders define the culture. If they are not held accountable, their team is also often not held accountable either. While school boards have this responsibility, board members rarely have a true understanding of the environment in their Christian schools nor clarity on the measurement data they should be monitoring to verify solid progress is being made. It is often said that you should only expect what you inspect.
Accountability coaches ask the tough questions, hold leadership to the commitments they’ve made as part of their strategic deployment plan, and praise the numerous wins they are blessed to experience along the journey. They also establish a methodology so that school boards can begin evaluating the key health indicators they should measure on an ongoing basis.
Throughout the implementation and accountability coaching phase, there are seven key principles to follow:
“Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.” This quote from Peter Drucker reminds us to take time first to ensure our leadership team is truly leading by setting a vision for the future, not just fine-tuning the processes and practices we already have in our current set of capabilities. If we’re doing things that get in the way of our strategic vision, either stop or change them. Don’t accept the response “we’ve always done it that way.”
“Don’t let perfect get in the way of better.” All too often we get caught in analysis paralysis or waiting for the perfect conditions before enacting change. Start making progress today even if the improvements are small. These quick wins help spark enthusiasm in your school and with your team.
“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” Helen Keller’s quote should remind every leader the critical nature of forming a solid leadership team. While leadership absolutely sets the tone, the leader must form a core leadership team to propagate the vision and culture throughout the organization. Jesus provided us with the perfect example of this principle by utilizing His mentorship of twelve men to change the course of history and spread the Gospel to all nations.
“In God we trust; everyone else bring data.” Every stakeholder in a Christian school can be an influencer. Unfortunately, many of those stakeholders, especially the loudest ones, are often driven by an emotional response to an isolated situation. Prayerfully consider the options as teams are working towards improvement, and use real data to help drive decision making.
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” During our improvement efforts, we cannot be focused on simply responding to crises, fixing problems, or creating short bursts of improvement. We must thoroughly train our teams on new processes and capabilities that are developed and clearly document them. When improvements are not systematized, their impact will not last, and sustainability will evade us.
“What gets measured gets done.” Measurement is critical in driving improvements and validating their impact. Visible, clear, and simple metrics will create both unity and synergy in the efforts of our team to reach our strategic priorities. The leadership team must consistently monitor and remind the organization on why these measurements are important and how they will positively impact the Christian school in the future.
“If not us, who? If not now, when?” President Reagan’s famous quote is one many Christian school leadership teams need to keep in mind as they execute their deployment plans. The daily, urgent issues and struggles we face tend to push us away from working on the more important strategic priorities that can help our Christian schools break through. Reaching these targets provide greater opportunities for our students to be more effectively equipped to defend their faith, know God more intimately, and win others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Consistently communicate the urgency of this mission to your team. God has placed us in these positions to accomplish His purposes. We dare not waste this opportunity.
Does your Christian school need support in reaching the next level and becoming a vibrant, thriving Christian school that glorifies God in all they do? We have developed an extremely affordable approach to supporting you, and we welcome the opportunity for our coaching team of seasoned professionals to engage with you soon.
For more information about the Renewanation Christian School Revitalization Program, please contact Ron Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ron Gordon is Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of Renewanation and brings strong education and executive experience to the cause. Ron holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering and an MBA from Virginia Tech. Ron’s wife, Tonya, is a trained and passionate educator. They have twin boys, Caleb and Jacob, and a daughter, Gracie.