In partnership with Fierce in the Schools, the Learning Forward Blog will be publishing an exclusive article for our Fierce blog. Our guest writer is Stephanie Hirsh, the Executive Director of Learning Forward, Please visit the Learning Forward Blog, hosted by Education Week, to read more of their blog posts.
Like most education organizations, it's the end of our fiscal year and the time for us to conduct our staff evaluations. As part of this process, we evaluate each staff member’s adherence to Learning Forward’s staff agreements.
Our staff agreements were developed in a collaborative manner several years ago and are periodically reviewed to ensure that we remain comfortable with the expectations we hold for each other. Our staff agreements are key to ensuring a productive, effective, and safe working culture.
I often hear about “water cooler” talk from friends who work in other environments and wonder to what degree their concerns would be mitigated if their organizations adopted their own staff agreements that everyone was expected to adhere to.
We use our staff agreements in many ways. We ask prospective employees to review the agreements and to address those that would be most easy to follow and those that might present a problem. We build them into our mid-year self-reflections and end-of-year evaluations, where employees report on how well they performed according to our agreements.
They provide the basis for the feedback we give colleagues, supervisors, and direct reports.
Take a minute and read our staff agreements as well as some explanations for each and think about how you might answer that question:
Keep your commitments.
- If you know you are unable to keep a promise, renegotiate the promise before rather than after the deadline.
- An excuse, good or bad, does not equal a kept agreement. Be on time to meetings, phone calls, etc.
Take responsibility for your mistakes and fix your breakdowns.
- Figure out how the mistake occurred, assume responsibility, and determine the procedures that will prevent future breakdown.
- Avoid blame, and be forgiving to colleagues when they admit mistakes.
Speak to people rather than about them.
- Honor people who are not present, and do not say something about someone who is not present unless you intend to share it with them.
- Speaking directly to individuals means face-to-face or telephone, not email.
Be open to new ideas.
- Try to love any idea the first time you hear it.
- Use complaints as well as input as possibilities for finding ways to improve our efforts.
Trust the competency of your colleagues.
- Assume your colleagues are working as hard as you are, and that they are as thorough as you are with their areas of responsibilities.
- When problems are brought to your attention from a client, members, vendors, etc., respond with respect for your colleague’s decisions.
Celebrate contributions; demonstrate appreciation.
- Take time to show appreciation for what others do for you and for others.
- Say thank you frequently and genuinely.
Use email for communicating information.
- Avoid reading “tone” in email.
- Never write an email when you are angry.
In my own case I reported that I performed well in celebrating and appreciating my colleagues’ work. It is not only a staff agreement for me, but also a value I hold about life. Owning mistakes and making things right is also very high value I carry.
Probably like many of you, I work very hard to keep commitments. There are times when I get overwhelmed and miss the opportunity to renegotiate deadlines and then all I can do is own the mistake and recognize the potential impact the broken promise may have on my relationship with a colleague.It’s an area where I struggle and where I will focus this coming year.
I invite you to consider that among the staff agreements that you would find valuable in your own workplace.
Where might you find your next opportunity for growth?