Big ideas are so exciting. Most leaders I know are ideas people. We love the fresh start full of possibility. We delight in the possible outcomes. Our minds roil as we immediately move into logistics, almost assuming it is a forgone deal. Not everyone is so apt to jump on new ideas quickly, but I sure see it a lot.

Sometimes this quick momentum is good. Often, it leads to complications…which can lead to upset parents and staff. The biggest reason they get upset? When you start moving forward with an idea, you start making promises. When the idea falls through, the promises are broken.

As leaders, we must exude integrity. It is the only way to build solid, long-term trust in the organization. Our actions and words as leaders set the tone for everything. When we break our promises, we erode our integrity. We diminish the collective trust in the organization.

Be quick to acknowledge good ideas and slow to make big promises.

Start with a smaller promise instead. “That is a really good idea and I think it could work. I promise to put it on the agenda for the next leadership team meeting so that we can discuss it in more detail there. Thanks so much!”

Another reason I have noticed leaders making promises is to end a hard conversation. Just promise them the thing they want to get them off of your back. Have you done this? It almost always results in two things (1) a flexing/breaking of official school policies or protocols (2) more work for you. It isn’t an advisable leadership strategy.

Be firm and stand your ground when it comes to following policy.

Point to existing policies as a reason why you can’t immediately meet the other person’s demands. (In my experience, these situations often involve parents wanting flexible policies.) Acknowledge their concerns and give them a firm date by which they will have heard back from you on the subject.  

I once worked with a leader who made lots of promises she didn’t keep. Sometimes it was because she was excited about an idea. Sometimes it was because she wanted to get out of an uncomfortable conversation and not feel like a bad guy. Always, it was deeply disappointing and frustrating when the promise wasn’t realized. Frequently, I walked away feeling as though she had lied to me. 

Often, she made promises to parents and staff that broke official policy. It was visible to the rest of the community and it made people feel angry, especially if they were later held to a policy they didn’t like. It felt unfair and it was.

As the years went on, my trust in her completely eroded. I did a silent internal eye roll every time she promised something. I stopped believing it was possible for the school to operate well and I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. Lack of follow through on promises was a primary reason for my loss of faith in the organization, as well as many other employees.

You are the model of integrity for your school. Take that role to heart and contemplate how closely everyone is watching you. Life under the microscope can feel exhausting, but it is also an opportunity to step into your best self.

As a leader in your school, people look to you as a face of the organization. When your actions are misaligned with your integrity, the waves ripple through the school. Keeping your promises is a good way to build a reputation as a leader who is trustworthy.

One of the best strategies for staying aligned with your integrity is to seek out accountability. That is one of the ways that I serve school leaders through one on one coaching. We set realistic goals based on your unique circumstances and I check in with you and keep you accountable. This is authentic support for school leaders ready for serious professional growth.

Interested? Coaching starts in August and runs through the first semester. Learn more and reserve your seat here:

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