Understanding the dreamers and the traditionalists

Want to know the secret to better board relations and a positive district climate?

Draw a pig. That’s right — grab a blank sheet of paper and draw a pig.

That’s how Rob Delane, deputy executive director of the Ohio School Boards Association, began his entertaining and valuable Meet the Experts Session today titled “What Makes a Great Workplace: The Board’s Role in Ensuring a Positive School Climate.”

Finished with your pig? If you drew yours high on the page, it suggests you‘re a dreamer, a research study shows. If you drew it in the middle, you’re practical and like to see evidence before making a decision. And what if you drew yours near the bottom of the page? You look to the past, to tradition, for answers.

Board members draw all kinds of pigs, in every conceivable place on the page. “However, the person who drew their pig on the bottom of the page doesn’t understand the dreamer,” Delane said. “It’s just not in their thinking.”

The reverse is also true: The dreamer doesn’t understand the traditionalist.

And that brings us to Delane’s central point. If, in real estate, the buzz words are “location, location, location,” on a school board, within a school district, in the classroom, etc., they are “communication, communication, communication.”

Asked about the attributes of good communicators, Delane replied: “They care about people on an interpersonal level. They know about people. They know what makes them tick. They empathize.”

Here Delane emphasized that he’s not a Pollyanna. He knows how busy board members are. But how long does it take, he added, to sincerely ask an employee whose relative is in the hospital how he or she is doing, and to please call if there is anything you might do to help. Fifteen seconds?

To be sure, communication does take time. Earlier in his workshop, Delane asked board members how often they get together to discuss big picture issues facing their districts. Answers ranged from “twice a year,” to “quarterly” to “never.”

Delane uttered a “wow” when Eugene Peel, a board member for the Jessamine County (Ky.) Schools, said his board gets together monthly “just to look a different ideas, different t things that are coming up.”

“You need to get together far more often than you do,” Delane told the audience. “Your monthly board meeting is not enough.”

But what about the media, someone asked. Don’t you have to include the media when you hold these in-depth discussions or board retreats?

Then include the media, Delane said. It might even help. He recalled reading a newspaper headline after one such session by a school board that went something like this: “Board Practices What it Preaches, Practices Professional Development.”

For more information, go to the Ohio School Boards Association.

Lawrence Hardy|April 11th, 2010|Categories: Governance, NSBA Annual Conference 2010, School Board News, School Climate|

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