I was hired as the new principal in a small Christian school when both the pastor and principal were terminated due to an inability to work together.
What was left behind was a volunteer teacher who was retired from his career but needed some place to go each day as his wife didn’t want him hanging around the house.
This gentleman was loyal to my predecessor and was working behind the scenes to make things difficult for me. I was not aware of his disloyalty because it was all done in a clandestine way. When I assumed the position, there seemed to be a lack of structure – rules and procedures were let slip and a lot of flirtatious behaviour between this volunteer and the female teenage students were earning them passing grades. Upon review of the math tests, these same girls found they had at least 6 months of work to repeat.
The crisis came when, after school one day, I left the building, walked to my car and when I went to put the key in the ignition, I found my car key was missing from my key ring. After a thorough search for my keys, I discovered that our volunteer teacher had removed the key from its ring. He had it in his possession because he thought it belonged to my predecessor. To say I was angry would be an understatement.
My behaviour style is an Otter/Lion mix. Being an otter means I am optimistic, trusting, always hoping for the best and people oriented. My Leading From Your Strengths Assessment describes interactions as follows:
She has the ability to look at the whole problem; for example, thinking about relationships, being concerned about the feelings of others and focusing on the real impact of her decisions and actions. She is good at negotiating conflict between others.
In this case, I was able to see the whole problem – that is, if this was not resolved soon, I was going to lose control of the situation and things were going to escalate. So what did I do? My secondary behavioural style is that of a lion – an aggressive problem solver, who is task focused. Lions tend to be direct, clear and concise in their communication.
Was I going to be able to get this person on board or would he have to go overboard? I was attending a school conference for the next few days and then there was the weekend. I said very clearly in a manner that could not be misunderstood:
“I am gone for the next five days. Over that period of time, I want you to decide whether you are going to be on board with me and support me. If you cannot answer ‘yes’, then I do not want you to return on Monday. You will no longer work here in this school.”
What happened? He jumped overboard!
Next time I’ll relate a story of a leader who chose differently and how that worked for them.
Do you need some leadership coaching to get your team on board? Book an appointment with Karen!