Senior leaders could do more of their work in public
One of the principles we try to follow at Teach First is for senior leaders to do more of their work in public, particularly the work they do together. It is part of our commitment to transparency.
The role of senior leaders is often obscure to the rest of an organisation, which can lead them to wonder what they are really for. In reality, when they are doing their job well, they are making difficult decisions, thinking of the big picture, sharing resources and knitting together the different strands of work. This is vital and demanding.
We don’t want leaders boasting about how important they are or lecturing others on their workload; everybody works hard. So the simplest approach is to make more of this work visible.
This involves happily having colleagues attend senior team meetings – and debating honestly and passionately in front of them. It means occasionally conducting appropriate one-to-ones in the shared space. It means double acts at staff meetings and on calls, so people can get a sense of our interactions. We share our objectives and goals; we share our thinking, our planning scenarios and we are pretty honest about our dilemmas and uncertainties.
Clearly there are limits. We don’t discuss personnel and personal matters in public. There are (relatively few) areas of commercial sensitivity. We try not to give criticism in public. And there are some debates that are so speculative that they would merely set hares racing.
The most important benefit is increased trust and confidence in the senior team. It reassures people that what you see is what you get – no secret plans or surprises. Another important advantage is that it provides a form of coaching and mentoring – people get to see what senior leaders do and how they do it. It also promotes a sense of unity – colleagues can see senior leaders getting on together, supporting each other and even enjoying each other’s company. People are all too ready to see rivalries and politics even at the best of times.
People don’t always see us at our best. They aren’t always comforted and protected. We are really bad at secrets. But I think the effect is overall positive.