In recent years there has been a growing realisation within schools that there’s a direct correlation between a principal’s mindset and their performance. In fact, there is growing evidence to suggest that the development of a person’s mindset delivers more in terms of employee performance than qualifications, experience - and incentives.
Mindsets can be defined as ‘A way of thinking that determines a person’s behaviour, outlook and attitude’.
How your people think and feel will determine how they go about their work, how engaged they are and how committed they are to you, the organisation and their own goals.
Having conducted surveys, performance assessments, one-on-one interviews and long term case studies, it is clear that there are a set of triggers associated with sustained high performance at work, both for individuals and teams.
These triggers point to four management mindsets that are responsible for generating positive thoughts and beliefs in employees about the person who leads them, their manager.
1 The Emotional Intelligence Mindset
The principal who displays the emotionally intelligent mindset is a conscious role model. They understand that how they go about their work on a daily basis will significantly impact and influence the performance levels of their staff.
This principal consciously looks for cues and signals from their team through their actions, responses, body language and tone of voice. All of which provide critical information on how to manage each person more effectively. For some principals, this is second nature but for most, it is a choice they must actively make.
The first step in this journey is to teach your principal to be Self Aware. Self-awareness is about having a clear perception of your own personality, motivations, needs and beliefs. Only once your principals are self-aware can they start to more accurately understand the behaviour of others, which is key to raising performance levels.
2 The Connection Mindset
High-performing staff typically feel connected. This is achieved through the principal consciously connecting with their people on many levels. This mindset is often not achieved however, as principals may misunderstand the difference between communication and connection.
In simple terms, communication is sharing information, whereas connection is more about communicating in such a way that some sort of emotional bond is achieved. The two main areas of connection for a manager to aim for are:
-Connection to the school
An employee’s ability to connect with why they are doing the job and what the school is trying to achieve is far more motivating for them in the long run.
-Connection to the principal
The connection between principal and staff member will always come down to perceptions of fairness, trust, loyalty and the delivery of expectations. If a teacher believes that their principal is fair, consistent and cares, this will nearly always override other motivators such as money and working conditions.
3 The Growth Mindset
One of the roles of a principal is to coach, mentor and develop their staff to enhance their skills and knowledge. Many principals though, struggle to find the time or the correct method to do this.
But self-development is another prime motivator for today’s teachers. Finding ways to develop your staff can be as simple as getting high performing individuals to run sessions for their peers, running book clubs on relevant topics and teaching your managers the skills of effective coaching and mentoring.
4 The Performance Mindset
As a principal, accountability, focus and the performance of your team should be a top priority. This mindset will determine your team’s level of success as well as yours.
Having clarity about what needs to be achieved and a commitment to the tasks typically gets the job done. Managers with high levels of control (not to be mistaken for micro-management) usually have greater self-control and focus. They also stay composed and positive in testing situations, think clearly under pressure and can anticipate problems and potential bottlenecks.
When expectations are ambiguous, so too are the outcomes. An essential area to address to increase performance is to set or reset performance expectations with all staff.
Teach your principals how to have the expectations conversation with their team and watch the performance of your employees dramatically improve.
Anna-Lucia Mackay is an award-winning educator, speaker and writer in the fields of management and education and is the author of The Four Mindsets: How to Influence, Motivate and Lead High Performance Teams. (Wiley 2015)