You will have many opportunities to get excited, stressed, and even angry as a school leader. Through experiences, you will learn how to deal with each situation. You will learn how to pull this part of that experience and that part of that experience to help guide you through the current situation.
This experience is something that can’t be taught or read about, but you can be prepared for mentally. The experience will help you solve the “problem” in the most efficient manner keeping as many people happy with the outcome as possible. You can talk with a mentor or colleague to get an opinion on how to deal with something, but they can’t teach you how to feel about the situation.
So there is no short-cut or “hack” to experience, but there is a short-cut to how you feel in the moment. This short-cut is making sure to expect the worst, be ready for whatever might come at you. Realize and accept that you are often times the last person there to deal with the “issue” that has come up. Keep in mind that most of these “problems” are not because of you or your leadership, but need your leadership to be solved. All that being said, make sure to remain calm. Urgency might be really important, but you can still remain calm.
To remain calm, might look like a pause, maybe a “give me a second”. Allow yourself to hear the whole situation or hear the person out that has come to you. If time permits ask a bunch of follow-up questions. Get a clear picture of what is going on. In my experience, just having these thoughtful conversations has created a solution to the problem or issue.
As a young admin, I was able to stay calm, but, I rushed to solve the problem to move on to the next problem. I may have “looked” hurried or put off the perception that I was overwhelmed because of the speed at which I wanted to help.
As I am getting older and gaining more experience I am learning to stop and “think” about the problem when able and ask questions to get to the heart of the problem.
Through it all, even in my younger years, I have been able to keep my face calm most of the time. This is important, it instills confidence in those around you. I now have a few go to lines to make sure my initial response to staff, students, parents, or whomever keeps me grounded in calmness:
“That seems to be really unfortunate”
“Ok, how can I help with this?”
“Ok, what are we going to do about this?”
And my new favorite that I am trying out:
“This seems like a dynamic situation” I just think the word dynamic is perfect for describing a possible difficult situation.
Find your saying, practice your face, ask questions, take a moment if you can, and move forward. Remember, often through the conversation the solution comes out.