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Lessons From The Headmaster

You don’t only find management teachings in the predictable places.  The Head of my daughter’s school is a great leader, and she’s already taught me something about management this year.  She doesn’t come across as a manager, she comes across as a teacher.  But I’m not fooled.  Ronni McCaffrey has a thing or two that she could teach about managing a company. 

When school started recently, I noticed that in our first parent-teacher gathering, she was right beside the door, she shook my hand, and she greeted me by name.  Then, although I would have engaged her in conversation, and although she was very sociable with me, she moved on to the next person, and she gave that parent her complete attention before she moved on to the next.  I noticed faculty and staff doing the same thing—people who would normally have been off together in a group, for the most part. 

During the meeting, her faculty and staff stood at the front of the room beside her.  She introduced them, and they each announced their email address.  She told us if we tried to reach them and didn’t get a response, we should let her know. 

On the first day of school, it was the same thing.  In past years, the Head of School would mingle with parents during the first hour.  I always tried to shake hands and say hello, but it often wasn’t possible, because the same parents seemed to always be gathered closely around, monopolizing those few moments when all of us wished we could say hello and make a face-to-face connection.  This year, our Head of School stood by the gate.  She shook my hand and my daughter’s.  She gave a cheery wish for a good year to my daughter, and she called her by her name.  She gave me a warm hug and welcome, too, then she moved on to the next family.  When the greetings were over, she mingled, but she did it actively, so that nobody dominated her time. 

I went back to the office and I thought about our staff meetings.  Here is how they usually go: the management team arrives late (me, last of all), because we wouldn’t want to waste our time waiting for everyone to gather.  Then I go to the front of the room and talk about whatever is on our agenda.  The instant the meeting is over, I bolt for the door, to get back to my more important work, and so does my management team. 

We changed it this week.  We adopted the Ronni McCaffrey management approach to community gatherings.  We went to the meeting room early.  We all greeted employees as they walked in.  We tried our best to get names right (note to self: we MUST get a company face book posted so I have a hope here!).  My management team stood beside me while I spoke.  We were the last to leave. 

It felt a lot more like it should have felt—like we were there because it was important, and because we wanted to be part of this company, not off on our own.  I met new people, and I got to spend a few minutes with some I already knew.  It felt important, and it felt great to connect with people, not just give a talk. 

Plagiarism is bad, but copying great ideas is good, as long as you give credit.  Something tells me Ronni has a lot more great management techniques, and I intend to copy them and give her full credit.  I know great leadership when I see it!