How to Manage Expectations When You’re Out of the Office

Vol. 16 No. 8

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There are certain times when your duties as School Head will cause you to be out of the office or otherwise interfere with your regular routine. You may be hard at work cultivating donors for an upcoming major gifts campaign or creating a new strategic plan with your Business Office and Board.

You are the leader on campus. People turn to you for important policy and tactical decisions. If a project or commitment means you won’t be present for these types of interactions on a daily basis for a short period of time, setting the correct expectations is essential.

A change in routine can be disconcerting to your Leadership Team and faculty. They need to know what to expect and the appropriate process for handling situations when the School Head is handling other important tasks. Employ the following strategies to manage expectations.

Explain where you will be and what you will be doing. Be transparent with your Leadership Team about the project that you’ll be working on. Cover why this task is important to the school and the impact it will have on your time and presence on campus.

Let the Leadership Team know what will be expected of them. When you are not available, the Leadership Team should know what additional roles and responsibilities they will take on in your absence. Conversely, they should also be clear on what matters they will still need to bring to your attention, and how best to do that.

Let them know when you will be available. Do not fully isolate yourself. Schedule times when you will be available in your office and involved in campus activities. If you can respond to email during this time, communicate what makes sense for that medium, and what should wait until you return.

Share these new processes with the faculty. Teachers should also be made aware of the situation, and understand what members of the Leadership Team they should speak with when they have questions and concerns.

Be clear about how long you expect this situation to last. When the Leadership Team, faculty, and staff know that this situation is temporary, they’ll be better able to work in your absence.

Consistently provide updates. Keep the Leadership Team and faculty in the loop so everyone feels a sense of fulfillment upon the project’s completion.

Once things return to normal, make an effort to acknowledge those who went above and beyond to fill in for, adapt to, or support your temporary shift in your responsibilities. Recognize their roles in helping you achieve your goal.

A change in your routine should not be disruptive to the day-to-day operations of the school, its staff, and its primary function—educating students. By managing expectations with your Leadership Team, faculty, and staff, you will ease the transition during a specific event and ensure that everything continues to run smoothly.

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Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for School Heads Vol. 16 No. 1 Six Tips for Setting Your Leadership Team Up for Success
The Source for School Heads Vol. 10 No. 7 Characteristics (of Professional Excellence) Aren’t Just for Hiring

Additional Resources for ISM Members:
I&P Vol. 28 No. 15 The Role of the Academic Management Team
I&P Vol. 31 No. 2 Management and Leadership Training for Academic Administrators (Part One)
I&P Vol. 31 No. 4 Management and Leadership Training for Academic Administrators (Part Two)

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