Diane founded the company 21 years ago with a passion for developing leaders, including administrative teams and boards of education.
She talks about the ways to bring in important stakeholders, how to communicate with the community and how to implement new strategic plans.
Laying the groundwork for the discussion, Carole notes that since schools weathered the financial challenges around the Great Recession they are finally able to turn their attention to some very real needs, such as strategic planning.
Comprehensive plans typically include a six-year strategy with a three-year refresh. Diane says the strategic planning process begins with understanding varying perspectives, and getting to know what leaders and community members would like to achieve.
“Part of being successful with strategic planning is having a very accurate sense of your current resources and capacity, and then building a plan from there,” Diane says.
She talks about her enjoyment of conducting external analysis with communities and parent focus groups. Leadership Excelleration, Inc., or LEI, is innovative in that it brings in subject matter experts from many different areas.
Carole asks what it’s like bringing community members into the process.
“They’re just so happy to be asked, and they tend to have some great ideas,” Diane says.
No two districts are alike, so strategic planning has to be dynamic and adaptable.
“We really just try to learn about the dynamics of the community and structure focus groups to represent the community,” Diane says.
LEI says it’s important to not leave anything to chance, so it provides monthly and quarterly updates to the community.
Diane talks about how to deal with the nature of changing leadership in school districts.
“I think the first thing to consider is your board of directors’ current status and their willingness to consider a new plan that may involve some innovative new strategies,” she says. “Sometimes you have a lot of new administrators at once—you may decide that’s perfect timing to create a plan to get momentum for the future.”
It also could mean that you need to focus on leadership stabilization and leadership continuity.
LEI works with districts to determine what is the best timing for planning.
Once all this is considered and there’s a beautiful document—now what?
“We have a process that we literally work with them to train their administrators,” Diane says. “This summer we even have an advanced coaching certification because it’s so vital that administrators become very strong performance and development coaches.”
LEI boasts a 90% implementation rate, but that doesn’t come without heavy lifting, including providing monthly updates on goals.
“I would say the greatest risk is not onboarding parents and community effectively,” Diane says. “And the greatest risk internally is not involving leadership and staff enough. Because buy-in to a plan is vital to its overall success, long-term. They need to be adequately engaged at the right time and the right ways to make sure that the district is then set up with momentum for success.”
How should school systems communicate about their strategic plan?
For communications leaders, consistency of messaging and outreach is key.
“Once they get confidence that it’s a quality plan, then they need to start to see it communicated consistently and effectively,” Diane says.
Before wrapping up the episode, Diane recommends listeners check out Harvard Business Review’s Mastering the Management System.
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