The Professional Learning Community (PLC) work of Richard and Rebecca DuFour speaks to building the kind of culture that supports the important and impactful work of adult learning and ultimately, our endgame, student success. Specifically, they address the kind of leadership that some may think of as an either/or choice – either building a culture that is loose (bottom-up leadership) or one that is tight (top-down leadership.)
This type of thinking that forces a choice between loose or tight can quickly get a leader caught in what DuFour calls “the tyranny of OR.” Building a culture of excellence rejects this force of mediocrity and embraces “The Genius of AND,” realizing that, as a team, we can be committed to both loose AND tight, as long we are willing to have the kind of conversations that build clarity and commitment.
Because “The Genius of AND” is one of our Sticky Core Values, this idea of embracing the paradox has been woven into the fabric of our culture. And while we are used to visiting this story as a way to communicate, make decisions, and create clarity around situations, we recently saw the need to revisit one iteration of this story in particular.
I found myself sitting in our conference room with the eyes of our PLC Task Group members looking back at me, several questions lingering the air. “What are we supposed to do when the content takes a little longer? Or wait, what about when our students move more quickly than we anticipated?” “Does our Tuesday agenda have to stay or can we flip-flop it with Thursday?” “What about the goal of 80% at 80%, is that for every assessment?”
I let the questions flow and, after a bit of reflection, it was obvious that we needed to hash out these ideas as a group. I reminded them that all of this work was a result of this exact task group and while I would offer my thoughts, it was ultimately this group that would decide the answers and how we would move forward.
I drew a basic line on the whiteboard and labeled one side with “Loose” and the other side with “Tight.” Then I asked, “What is the work we are committed to accomplishing in our PLCs? Where does each piece of that work fall on this balance?” The discussion began immediately and, as they were clarifying each piece, I recorded the ideas. After a small chunk of time, maybe twenty minutes, the task group seemed content with where we had arrived.
Culminating the meeting with the questions “Are we confident in this loose/tight balance? Are we each committed to what we have here on the board? Are you committed enough to lead this work?,” each member agreed to the responsibility of leading their teams and understood the impact of their leadership on both our school culture and the achievement and growth of our students. Clearly, a role not to be taken lightly.
This powerful reminder was about both the importance of communication and balancing the loose and tight aspects of our work. While we know how imperative it is to front-load communication when we are beginning an initiative, several months or years in, we can sometimes forget how essential it is to continue those discussions. Not only does clarity precede competence, clarity continues to build competence and breed commitment.
How do you ensure that your team has an effective balance between what is loose and what is tight? How do you build clarity and commitment around these? Together we are brilliant, so I’d love to connect! Tweet and tag me (@me1odystacy) or feel free to start a conversation by commenting below.