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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Teachers reviewing Principals? Why how dare they!

The Scranton Times reported yesterday that a proposal by Scranton School District teachers to evaluate district principals has drawn the ire of at least one group.  According to the article, Attorney Frank J. Tunis Jr, representing the Scranton Association of Administrators and Supervisors said that...

"The last thing we're going to accept is to have the people we supervise evaluating us."

Having just gone through my own employer's performance evaluation process, I reacted to the article with a mix of amusement and disgust.

Now I've said many times on this blog that I have mixed feelings about labor unions, which makes me at least somewhat suspicious of the underlying intentions of the Scranton Federation of Teachers (SFT, which is the union representing district teachers) in this matter.  They have helped to create the adversarial relationship that exists within the professional ranks in the Scranton School District, so feigning shock at the sad state of teacher - administrator relations is silly (at best).  This noted though, I think that it's a GREAT IDEA for those who are supervised to provide feedback on their supervisors.  Furthermore, I'm of the opinion that this kind of feedback should be a formal part of the the performance evaluation of every leader, in just about every organization.

Why?  I think that performance feedback is a lot like chocolate:  a little is good, a lot is great.  What's more, feedback shouldn't just flow upward, it should also flow from the sides as well.  Think of the process as providing "360 degree  feedback": from the below (those who report to a leader) from the top (the person to whom the leader reports) and from the sides (peers that the leader interacts with on a regular basis).  A leader should be welcoming the perspective of others, especially those that rely on the leader for guidance and support.  This is in keeping with my perspective that leadership is, in fact, a form of service. What successful service provider doesn't solicit feedback from customers?

By the way, my 2012 performance appraisal included feedback from the person I supervise, just as every performance appraisal I've had going back 10+ years has included feedback from my direct reports.  I'm not just advocating upward feedback as part of some intellectual exercise...this is cooking that I, in fact, eat myself.  Have I agreed with all of the feedback I receive from my direct reports over the years?  Of course not.  Then again I've not agreed with all of the feedback I've received from the leaders I've reported to either.  Disagreeing is not the same as discounting though, and in fact most of the feedback I have received from direct reports has been very insightful.  What's more, the process of determining why you may disagree with a particular piece of feedback can be very educational.

In the end, the statement by Attorney Tunis sounds elitist, is shortsightedness and is in keeping with circa 1950 leadership theory.  Mark my words:  this whole mess will not end well.

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