In response to the 7/18/2010 post, “Advice for the First Year Principal,” a reader who was browsing the LYS Blog archives writes:

I disagree with #3. I work at a school for a new principal with whom I have a good working relationship (This is possibly due to the nature of my position). Our teaching staff has been losing morale and we have likewise been losing staff. Good staff. Now, the changes the principal wants to bring about are becoming more difficult to achieve because we are constantly starting over with new teachers. Student performance has also suffered from lack of continuity. And, the teachers we are keeping are less motivated and less trusting of the principal so student performance is slipping. Morale leads morale and solid relationships are worth building early on.

SC Response There is gold in the archives. First to refresh everyone’s memory, from the original post…

3. Don’t worry about morale. Don’t even get in this fight. You’re new and you represent change. New and change is the perfect recipe for a dip in morale. Instead focus on student performance, especially short-term measures. As the staff sees student performance improve, their morale will bounce back. Tattoo this to your bicep, “Performance Leads Morale!”

First I need to do some vocabulary work.  The definition of morale: Unit cohesion in the face of adversity.  If people are jumping ship at the onset on adversity, you don’t have a sudden problem with morale.  You didn’t have a measurable level of morale to begin with.

Second, you are misguided.  The equation is, and only is, Performance Leads Morale.  The question every leader should ask is, “How do you build morale?”

Here is the short answer:

1. Instill a belief in the mission of the organization.

2. Instill confidence in the plan that will be used that will position the organization to accomplish the mission.

3. Instill confidence that the training, tools and support provided to staff will position them to have a high probability of executing the plan.

4. Instill confidence in the quality of leadership.

5. Lead by example, with sterling integrity, confidence, competence and high visibility.

Notice there is nothing in this answer that is directly correlated to making sure that people are happy.  

Happiness isn’t what gets a person to leap into the breech.  It is high morale.

As for relationships, I won’t say they are not important, because appropriate, professional relationships are critical. However, most people in education confuse professional relationships with personal relationships, and the two are not the same and one does not begat the other.  In fact, in most cases, they should be mutually exclusive.

As for people leaving, in most cases, this is a false indicator.  The typical campus will experience between 13% to 23% staff attrition every year.  It is a natural occurrence. With a change in leadership, you can expect a 5% to 10% increase in this attrition rate.  Again, this is a natural occurrence.  But now everyone is more sensitive when people leave, so every exit is attributed to the change in leadership.

None of this is to presented to defend your new principal.  I don’t know him or her and I have no background information on your campus.  But from a clinical standpoint, the information you have shared is not enough for me to make any kind of objective assessment.

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