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Educational leaders make hundreds of decisions a day. In the process of making those decisions a leader needs to gather facts, weigh pros and cons, evaluate potential liability and identify potential outcomes. As a result, the decision making process leans more toward the negative than the positive, and thus in the end I believe leaders say NO more than they say YES. Therefore, the most powerful word in leadership is … YES.

Educational leaders need to get out of the mind set of saying NO. It should not be the immediate response to suggestions or ideas put in front of us. This is especially true when we are presented with ideas from our staff. Within those ideas are the people that present them. These are our emerging school leaders and we need to encourage them, empower them, promote them!

I remember a staff meeting years ago when a former superintendent said to us in an administrative meeting that he wanted us to not use NO as our first answer and look for ways to say YES. Initially I said to myself this was obvious when we want to encourage, promote, or move forward, but it had a hidden message. That message was to internally evaluate every decision made and ask yourself why you were saying NO. To this day, I still internally evaluate.

So to help us encourage, promote and move forward here are several considerations for saying YES as a leader and, for educators, getting your school leader to say YES when you approach him/her with a suggestion:

For School Leaders:

  1. Look at the suggestion. What is its purpose? What is the desired outcome? How can this move learning, the school or district forward?
  2. Help the staff member with his/her idea by reframing it, identifying issues and collaborate to solve those issues.
  3. See yourself on the other side of the desk. At some point you were an emerging leader making a “pitch” to your principal or supervisor to improve learning, a subject or school. During that time a school leader helped you and this may be your opportunity to help an emerging leader take the next step towards a leadership position.
  4. Listen… listen… listen. As leaders this trait dulls over time.
  5. Internally evaluate your decision after you made it. If you said no, why did you say it? Could you have said yes or helped more to improve the suggestion to a point that you would have approved it? If you said yes, was there something about this proposal, suggestion or the manner in which it was presented that would benefit others to learn from when they propose an idea? If so, you may want to provide that information to your staff.

For those Making Suggestions to a School Leader:

  1. Have a clearly defined purpose and rationale for your idea.
  2. Develop a list of potential problems and have solutions to those problems before you meet with your school leader.
  3. Explain how this idea will improve something in the school, district or education.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your school leader.
  5. Ask lots of questions about how the idea can move forward.

Current school leaders have an obligation to help emerging school leaders gain the experiences necessary to be the next generation of educational leaders. This can be difficult when those emerging leaders are not given the opportunity to present, institute and grow ideas they are generating to improve their school environment. I encourage my fellow school leaders to work on saying YES more and NO less over this school year.