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Board-Savvy Superintendent                            Page 10

 

Creating Performance Goals

That Matter   

BY MICHAEL T. ADAMSON

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A superintendent of a large school system was meeting with his board of education to discuss his evaluation process. Part of that process was identifying personal and professional goals for the next year. This was not a discussion the superintendent was eager to have, and his annoyance was obvious.

The superintendent began by stating that because of his current level of responsibility, the number of changes imposed by the state and the recent administrative cuts in his district, he did not see how he would be able to devote sufficient time and effort required to pursue individual goals in the coming year, at least not without adversely affecting his performance in more important areas. Still, if the board insisted he identify a couple of goals, it would be to improve communication with the board and community relations.

No one questioned the importance of either goal because both of them are often popular target areas for public criticism. However, that was the problem — they were politically correct on the surface, but, as presented without an understanding of why they were chosen or a preliminary action plan, they were hollow expressions, begrudgingly offered.

Yet the worst part was the superintendent’s statement that any personal-goal activity likely would result in his underperformance in other areas of responsibility. Essentially board members were told they must determine what was most important — personal goals or current job performance. 

Joint Pursuit
Not long after I heard about this scenario, another superintendent asked me to facilitate a personal goal-setting process for the next evaluation cycle. When asked what personal goals he was prepared to offer the board for its discussion and consideration for adoption, his response was, “Anything they (the board) want me to. I work for them!”

As in the first example, this superintendent clearly did not appreciate the value of professional goals, but in this instance, the superintendent did not even offer a suggestion for the board’s endorsement or discussion. This “you tell me” approach is dangerous to adopt. Challenging board members to assign goals solely from their perspective can backfire.

The philosophy behind personal and professional goals is the commitment to continuous improvement, and that commitment necessitates adopting substantive personal and professional goals. It is about modeling the expectation the school district has of other staff positions, not for the sake of the example alone, but because without intentional personal improvement and professional challenges, performance languishes.

While developing professional goals often is a joint activity between a superintendent and board, the savvy superintendent best understands how the alignment of specific goal pursuits affects his or her foreseeable administrative responsibilities. That understanding is vital to the board for balancing both the number and type of personal goals. Likewise, the savvy superintendent understands that professional goals should never detract from primary responsibilities, but should always be representative of pursuits that will complement his or her performance.

Proving Merit
When developing personal, professional goals, consider these questions: (1) What are my weaknesses? (2) What are my interests? (3) What training is available to assist me? (4) How do my personal and professional goals align with my current responsibilities? Then, with an understanding of these items, how would I prioritize my list?

Ultimately, it is not the number of goals but the quality and ability to pursue areas of performance that are complementary to your responsibilities as a superintendent. Establishing meaningful, substantive goals is reflective of personal character and the determination to consistently prove and increase your value to public education leadership and the district you serve.

In addition, coming to the planning table with realistic professional goals inspires trust and credibility in an area where school boards often struggle. Not only are goals an excellent means of communicating accountability, they also mirror the best of administrative practices.


Michael Adamson is director of board services with the Indiana School Boards Association in Indianapolis, Ind. E-mail: madamson@isbaind.org

 

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