Every leader knows that setting goals is an easier process than achieving them. If you are like most superintendents, you and your board probably ended the previous school year evaluating your district’s achievements, identifying opportunities for improvement, and setting measurable, obtainable goals for the coming year. 365 days should be enough time to achieve your annual goals, but how do you keep your faculty and staff focused on those priorities and working to accomplish them amidst all the other daily responsibilities and tasks that surround you all in a whirlwind of obligations and time requirements?
Goal alignment is the process of keeping your leadership team and administrative staff focused on, and working to achieve, the overarching goals you and your board set for your school district. It is a process that involves identifying the steps needed to reach a goal and clearing the path of obstacles so individual role players can do their part to help achieve team success. For you, as the team’s leader, the process involves keeping everyone focused and committed on individual and collective success. If you and your board have set goals for your district, but feel they have lost some priority among your staff (or even fallen slightly off your radar as well), then consider taking a goal alignment approach to recalibrate expectations and re-engage your school’s leaders so your collective team can recommit to those initiatives deemed most critical to district-wide improvement. You can begin the goal alignment process by following the five steps outlined below.
Step One: Bring School Leaders into the Goal Setting and Planning Process
According to a Towers Watson survey, 75 percent of change initiatives fail because only 68 percent of senior leaders understand the rationale behind the organization’s goals. Your principals and other key leadership staff will be more motivated to help further the district’s goals if they feel the initiatives are of importance and are ones they helped to define and establish. Merely telling your staff what the district’s goals are—and what they are expected to do to help achieve those goals—will not naturally elicit the same enthusiasm and determination possible compared to when leaders feel they have a voice in the planning process. By including your critical leaders in the goal-setting process, they will be more likely to take ownership of their role in its achievement and continually monitor their individual and their school’s collective progress throughout the year.
Step Two: Clearly Communicate the Vision and Mission
The next step is to engage and motivate the staff that supports your senior leadership team. Success will only be achievable if everyone is working toward the same end goal. To ensure every faculty and staff member is doing their part, they too must clearly understand the district’s priorities and their rationale. Do not solely rely on your leadership team to share your district’s goals and process improvement plan with their teams. As the change leader, the essential communications should come from your office.
Ask yourself if you clearly communicated to all departments what the district’s overarching goal is for the school year. If not, make it a point to describe the purpose of the initiative and why it is so important. Remember, however, that announcing your goals is not enough. Asking for input and ideas from your leadership team is paramount in increasing motivation and engagement.
Step Three: Ensure Individual Development Plans Include Personal Goals that Support the Overarching Goal
It will take a group effort to achieve a district-wide goal, and every member of your schools’ leadership teams will need to play a part, but they will need your guidance in understanding the impact they can make, and what they need to do to help your district to be successful. When developing individual annual development plans for your school leaders, ensure they have at least one specific and measurable goal that helps support your district-wide priorities. For example, if your district intends to focus on fostering greater collaboration and communication with parents, ask your principals to develop a regular outreach strategy to parents that is appropriate based on the ages of their students. Check in on your principals’ progress on a monthly basis.
Step Four: Ensure Proper Goal Tracking Tools are in Place for Constant Visibility
You will not be able to discern if you are making collective progress toward your goal without shared visibility. School administrations that find the greatest success with goal alignment are those that utilize digital solutions to document, track, and monitor progress not just toward your overarching goal, but the specific tactics that your schools and their leaders have committed to pursuing to advance prioritized initiatives. Implement a tool, like SuperEval, that documents and tracks goals and helps districts collaborate in order to stay goal-aligned. The tool should also allow you, as the district’s leader and ultimate goal champion, to make necessary adjustments to areas of progress.
Step Five: Enable Key Leader Success
As the superintendent of your district, you and your board serve as the leading agent and champion of change. That means more than documenting goals, setting individual responsibilities, and monitoring their process. It means enabling your principals and other key leaders to be successful. Plan for monthly check-ins with your key leaders where you can individually inquire how their achievement plans are progressing. If an individual leader is not making progress, ask them what roadblocks they are experiencing and help them break down the barriers that exist so they can be successful. By demonstrating your support of your staff, fostering open dialogue about challenges and obstacles, and enabling their success, individual leaders will remain more focused, committed, and confident that they can play their part in the district’s improvement.
Remember that your district will not be able to achieve its goals overnight. Goal achievement is a long-term process that requires collaboration, commitment, monitoring, adjusting, and further recommitment. By ensuring your key leaders are part of the goal-setting process, that they understand how they can impact success, that you support them in their efforts, and that they have access to transparency and success measurement tools, you will be best positioned to create a successful and repeatable annual goal-setting process for the betterment of your teachers and your students.
Align Your Leadership Team’s Goals with SuperEval
SuperEval is much more than an online evaluation tool. The web-based system promotes healthy leadership teams by ensuring that everyone is working together toward the same objectives. SuperEval is evidence based and allows you to collect, communicate, and submit critical data to support your own evaluation and the evaluations of your staff. SuperEval helps to create a goal-aligned district where you can ensure everyone is remaining committed to doing their part toward district-wide success.
Dr. Hank Stopinski, Superintendent of Schools in Royalton-Hartland Central School recently said, “The tool has exceeded expectations to date. I have used it with my leadership team to set goals and guide our quarterly reviews.”