The Gift of Simplicity

Vol. 11 No. 4


During the holiday season, there is great focus on gift-giving—often accompanied by the adage, “It’s the thought that counts.” Taking this as our theme, we wanted to share a few thoughts about one of the best gifts you can give your school community—the gift of simplicity.

Knowing Who You Really Are

While helping a Management Team implement a faculty evaluation and growth system recently, the team got stuck on the question of “What are our expectations of faculty?” During the course of discussion, it became apparent that the school had never before said “out loud” who they really were.

In their type of pedagogy, there are at least two different streams of thought. This school’s approach was actually a blending of both streams—but they had never articulated this clearly before. Once they decided to tell everyone that “we take a blended approach,” the skills and behaviors that they needed from faculty became very clear and easy to communicate.

Bottom line: Once they could put “who we are” into one simple sentence, everything they needed employees to know flowed naturally from there.

Counting Your Expectations With One Hand, Not an Abacus

We recently worked with another school that had done an excellent job of gaining a wide range of input regarding the characteristics that defined teaching excellence at their school. They put a great deal of careful thought and study into the matter, integrating their mission, educational traditions, and current best practices into a comprehensive list of characteristics and behaviors. The only problem was, it was too comprehensive.

The list of characteristics that they came up with covered seven pages … which, we believe, is at least six pages more than is helpful. Being comprehensive is great—but reducing things to their essence is way more powerful and useful. Not many of us can keep seven pages of objectives in mind at the same time—but everyone can keep five key points at the top of our mind. Our recommendation is to go back to the committee members that created the list and ask them to keep whittling away to get it to its essence. It’s not an editing exercise as much as it is a reflective exercise—i.e., “how do teachers bring our mission to life … in 5 points or less.” Once these are defined, the school can easily alter its hiring, evaluation, growth, and pay programs to encourage the behaviors that it is seeking.

Clarity and Simplicity

If your school can communicate who you are and what behaviors support who you are in the most simple, clear, and impactful way, you’ll be gracing your faculty, staff, and students with the most powerful of gifts … clarity and simplicity!

Additional ISM resources of interest
ISM Monthly Update for Human Resources Vol. 10 No. 4 Holiday Gifts: A Policy Question?
Private School News Vol. 8 No. 12 Holiday Parties: Risks and Pitfalls
Private School News Vol. 11 No. 7 Celebrating the Holidays on Campus

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