Delegation (Part 3) the DANGERS

Delegation (Part 3) the DANGERS

There are many benefits to delegation; however, there are dangers as well. One of the greatest is that of not understanding the difference between delegation and abdication. Delegation must always involve accountability that ensures the faculty or staff member provides reports on milestones of progress to their supervisor – and receives meaningful feedback at the same time. Effective delegation means continued engagement by the school leader. Delegation does not mean that the leader washes his or her hands of responsibility. The opposite is true.

Even though a task or responsibility has been delegated, the school leader is still ultimately responsible. Trusted school leaders understand this. It is similar to a football coach. The players may be delegated with carrying out, and perhaps even choosing, a certain play – but if the play does not go well, the coach is ultimately responsible. Barry Silverstein shares this insightful understanding of the significant difference between delegation and abdication:

You can’t just drop a project on someone’s desk and hope he or she will figure it out — that would be abdicating your responsibility as a manager. Instead, a good manager first gives thought to which tasks are appropriate to delegate to which employees and then diligently follows up to be sure each task has been successfully completed. An effective manager explains the why of the task and establishes goals, due dates, and criteria to measure success. But a manager should not detail the how. It is the employee’s responsibility to take ownership of the job and determine the best way to get it done.[1]

Effective delegation means the school leader knows his or her people and provides support structures for their success. This in turn builds trust in the supervisor.

Another potential danger is not meeting critical deadlines. For example, international schools identify curriculum needs far in advance to place material orders. It can take six to ten months for materials to arrive due to shipping and customs delays. One year, we placed our order in March and did not receive the shipment until June of the following year. It is certainly appropriate to delegate the bulk of the annual curriculum ordering process to a Principal, a Curriculum Coordinator, or a Purchasing Agent; but if there is no monitoring of the task or if clear deadlines are not provided, it can result in a near crisis state for the school. Thus, when there are critical deadlines there must be constant monitoring.

The leader must also clearly identify thresholds. Threshold Delegation is defined as delegation in which “the agent can make any decision below a threshold.”[2] Limits of decision-making authority must be clearly set and then fully supported. When a decision is made below the pre-determined threshold, and then is not publicly supported by the leader, breaks trust. The practice of delegation only supports the building of trust, when the leader authentically values and supports those they supervise – even when they disagree.

Regardless of the potential dangers that may arise from delegation, valuing, empowering, and extending trust to others results in a greater level of trusted leadership.


©2016 Toby A. Travis

Delegation (Part 1) – the NEED

Delegation (Part 2) – the WHAT

[1] Silverstein, Best Practices, 174-180, Kindle.

[2] Ricardo Alonso and Niko Matouschek, “Relational delegation,” The RAND Journal of Economics 38, no. 4 (2007): 1070-1089.

Increase Student Achievement by Affirming Teachers

Increase Student Achievement by Affirming Teachers

Trusted school leaders elevate student learning and growth through the affirmation of teachers. In other words, trusted instructional supervisors keep a vigilant focus on the continual and constant quality improvement of their teachers’ instructional practices – celebrating successes and acknowledging areas for improvement. This is accomplished, in part, by ensuring there is accountability for classroom performance and teacher effectiveness. That accountability is maintained through transparent classrooms and instructional practices. Trusted leaders, who demonstrate a connection with their staff, are frequently in their teacher’s classrooms. They frequently review and affirm lesson plans, student work, assessments, rubrics, and even the teacher’s gradebook.

Often the characteristics equated with making connections between school leaders and stakeholders are warm and fuzzy emotional attributes. Yet, we know that trusted and competent school leaders are data-driven in their work, being intentional to triangulate the data they use, for example, to evaluate teachers.[1] Thus, trusted leaders diligently document teacher meetings, observations, student and parent conversations, examples of teacher and student work, etc. –then utilize data to evaluate professional performance and provide guidance for improvement.[2] However, all of those same data sources are excellent opportunities for providing affirmation – celebrating successes and acknowledging areas for improvement. In fact, that is the best use and purpose for collecting the data – intentionally building meaningful and helpful connections with stakeholders and especially with teachers.

One often overlooked dimension of the evaluation process is consistently identifying areas to celebrate. Far too often evaluations are conducted primarily to identify weaknesses. When this takes place, it can be at the expense of missing opportunities to build up, encourage, motivate, and engage the school community through identifying and celebrating areas of success.

The current emphasis on test results as the single most important indicator of a school’s effectiveness heightens the need for students, administrators, and staff to feel the pride that accompanies winning. Carrying out program evaluations can help meet this need since their ultimate aim is to determine how school outcomes can be improved. Even for those schools considered exemplary, assessing programs has the potential for taking student performance to still higher levels.[3]

One of the school leader’s most vital roles is providing support and assistance to their teachers as needed. Today’s teachers face greater demands than ever before. Affirming leaders have an understanding ear for their teachers’ frustrations. Their office is a safe and inviting place for teachers to share their burdens, challenges, failures, and successes. They are problem-solvers and resource providers. They are champions for their teachers. They not only challenge and prod others on to further excellence, but are quick to defend them; providing public praise and dealing with problems in private. They are the trusted school leader.


©2016 Toby A. Travis

[1] Seyyed Ali Ostovar Namaghi, “A Data-Driven Conceptualization of Teacher Evaluation,” Qualitative Report 15, no. 6 (2010): 1504-1522.

[2] Melissa Tuytens and Geert Devos, “How to activate teachers through teacher evaluation?” School Effectiveness and School Improvement 25, no. 4 (2014): 509-530.

[3] Ibid., 233, Kindle.


Building Trust by Keeping Circles Small

Building Trust by Keeping Circles Small

Whether internal communications address Board concerns, faculty and staff issues, or students, the first rule-of-thumb in building trusted leadership is to keep sensitive communications limited to the smallest circle possible.

Keeping the circle small also supports Clarity.

If the Board is operating under a Policy Governance model, then all communication to faculty and staff is subject to policy guidelines; typically directing all communication through the Head of School.[1]

Faculty and staff issues should always be addressed only with those involved in the concern. Moreover, student issues should be limited to communication between the individual student, parents, and teacher unless the situation requires specialized assistance such as the school counselor, chaplain, psychologist, or the teacher’s direct supervisor.

If school leaders are not diligent in containing these types of conversations to the smallest circles possible, the result is frequently rumors and misinformation spreading throughout the broader community, resulting in diminished levels of trust.

So, today’s tip on trusted school leadership?  Keep the circles small!

[1] See “The Policy Governance Model,”, accessed 3 July 2016,

School Leadership Tip: Email is for Information – NOT Grievances

School Leadership Tip: Email is for Information – NOT Grievances

Negative electronic communications destroy trust.

Many schools have experienced the very destructive effects of angry emails, though sent with the intention of privacy; see wider distribution – creating a wave of disruption within the school and without. Many individuals will state in an email, in very strong language, words and expressions they would rarely utter face-to-face. The impersonal quality of email often empowers individuals to unleash inappropriate language and harsh tones.

Additionally, emails can be misinterpreted. Much genuine communication takes place apart from the actual words on the screen or page.

All of this has led me to permit the use of email on my campus only for sharing information, not frustrations. At the beginning of each school year, faculty, staff, students and parents are reminded that they may not submit a problem or grievance via email. If they do so, the only response they will receive, if any, is to set up an appointment to discuss their concern in person.

Through this practice, I have not only witnessed the temperament and morale of the faculty and staff members improve but community relations as well.

Strictly utilizing email or chat for information-only keeps communications clear – and guards against misinterpretations. Additionally, when stakeholders know school leaders value face-to-face conversations, and will not abide gossip or inappropriate conversations via email or social media – trust in their leadership and the professionalism of the school staff, develops to a greater degree.


Adding “Contributing Author” to My Resume

Adding “Contributing Author” to My Resume

I am very pleased to announce that I am now a contributing author for “Montessori View” – published by ETC Montessori. I will also be providing future training seminars for ETC continuing education events.

Check out these links and stay tuned for future editorials and articles appearing in their online publication.


A Conference for School Leaders

A Conference for School Leaders

Are you a school leader? If so, I hope that you will join me in September for this year’s PAIDEIA INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE in Panama. It’s going to be a great weekend!

Trusted School Leader Blog

I am honored to announce that I will be one of the speakers for this year’s PAIDEIA INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE for school leaders in Panama City, Panama.  Check out the lineup of international and independent school leaders with whom I’ll be sharing the conference stage:

  • Steve Robinson, Chief Strategy Officer, Three W International
  • D. Bruce Lockerbie, Founder & CEO, PAIDEIA, Inc.
  • David Wells, Director, Alliance Academy International
  • Estuardo Salazar, Continental Director, ACSI Latin America
  • and more!

pool-areaConference Venue: InterContinental Miramar Hotel, Panama City, Panama

The venue for this year’s conference is the amazing InterContinental Miramar, located right on the coast of Panama City.

If you are a school leader, I encourage you to join me for this incredible event.

For more information on the conference and on PAIDEIA GLOBAL (the sponsor of the conference) visit:

Hope to see many of you there! – Toby A. Travis

View original post

The Value of the Non-Verbal

The Value of the Non-Verbal

Trusted school leaders not only demonstrate clarity through what they say and write (i.e. their content), but in how they say it (i.e. non-verbal elements).

Research has shown that there is typically a loss of 40-60% of meaning in the transmission of messages between the sender and the receiver.[1] “Clear communication is difficult for another reason. Some studies suggest that over ninety percent of the meaning we derive comes from nonverbal cues that one person gives to another. That means only ten percent of communication is based on words we say!”[2] The vast majority of conflicts within an organization are based on a lack of clear communication.[3] The nonverbal elements of communication must always be considered – especially when attempting to motivate faculty members toward change.

Principals can tell teachers during a faculty meeting that they need to work on incorporating more technology into their teaching and experience the teachers leaving that meeting either saying, “My principal doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I don’t care what she says anymore,” or, “Wow, my principal has given me some real food for thought today. I need to think carefully about the points she made.” The deciding factor is how we, as instructional leaders, present our constructive criticism to the teacher.[4]

The old adage, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it that matters” is fundamental to effective communication. Corporal expressions (i.e. body language), the setting in which the communication is given (i.e. the environment), the means by which the information is given (i.e. the methodology) are the elements that can make or break both the type of reception, and the type of response, to whatever leaders are attempting to communicate.

The emotional elements of communication are the elements that people remember most. Although there are strategies to address this reality, studies show that a very large portion of the content of any course is quickly forgotten.[5] What is primarily retained in the memory of the recipient are the non-verbal and emotional elements. Therefore, trusted leaders are mindful that the medium (i.e. the method and the way they communicate), largely is the message.


[1] “The Communication Process,” The Importance of Effective Communication, accessed 5 July 2012,

[2] Horsager, The Trust Edge, 848-850, Kindle.

[3] Allen Allnoch, “Clarity, communication reduce corporate conflict,” IIE Solutions30, no. 2 (1998): 8.

[4] Shelly Arneson, Communicate & Motivate: The School Leader’s Guide to Effective Communication (New York: Taylor and Francis, 2011), 134-135, Kindle.

[5] Robert V. Lindsey, Jeffery D. Shroyer, Harold Pashler, and Michael C. Mozer, “Improving students’ long-term knowledge retention through personalized review,” Psychological Science 25, no. 3 (2014): 639-647.