Brave Questions: Building Stronger Relationships by Asking All the Right Questions

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In this case, our culture says it values humble attitudes, but our artifacts—our most popular instagrams, our celebrated CEOs, best-selling business book titles and subjects—undermine that ideal. In theory we love curiosity and questions, but we routinely elevate people who have or at least appear to have the answers. We put tasks and achievements before relationships, without recognizing the damage it does to our colleagues or families. In company culture, therefore, we may vocally praise the humble leader, without actually allowing him or her to behave humbly. But they may not know what other route would have led to a more open, natural, respectful dialogue.

There are some tactical approaches you can take to get there.

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And cultural programming can explain why. The wonderful spirit of the question is outside many known cultural scripts, as Schein calls them. If we are honestly looking for information, many of us know not to ask other types of questions that Schein identifies: leading questions, statements as questions, shaming questions, and rhetorical questions. So, too, will the body language. Sometimes just looking at someone expectantly, and waiting for them to start the conversation or offer a thought, will be enough to kick off a conversation.

Contact Us. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop. No one likes criticism. Still, hearing what you need to work on is one of the only ways you get better.

The question is, are you taking advantage of this resource? Are you asking for feedback from your staff? Maybe this is the year you take a deep breath and ask. Only two types of employees will take you up on this offer: Those who have a close relationship with you, and those who are very, very bold. You can do this by simply telling teachers to leave their names off their responses, or distribute the survey through a free online survey platform like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey. Push through it. You can handle this. This makes follow-up tricky.

Avoid trying to hunt down people who made specific comments: This will destroy the trust you built in the first place by establishing anonymity. Instead, look for patterns. Share your results with someone who knows you well and whom you trust — this could be a spouse or partner, another administrator, or even a teacher whose opinion you respect — and ask them to give you some honest feedback based on your results. Keep the focus on you and how you can better serve your staff.

Then, make a plan. Set some goals for improvement in the areas where you need the most growth, and after some time has passed, ask for input again. Getting feedback is rarely pain-free. Neither is growth. Want a ready-made survey? I have a great one in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Click here to take a look. Categories: Leadership , Working Together.

Tags: school administration. Hi Jennifer!

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I took your challenge! It was an amazing experience! You have no idea how excited I am to hear this! Thanks so much for sharing this! Jennifer — I would love to see a regularly occurring evaluation where people did sign their names. We sign our names to student assessments. Principals sign their names to teacher assessments. For me, the days of anonymous evaluations after people have pent-up frustrations should be over. Rather, we could seek feedback often.

After staff meetings: 1 what went particularly well? What else could I do to support your work? And so on. There are so many ways to build relationship and trust and provide feedback you can own. It changes the culture of the school. Please remember that even in there are bully principals still in power. The most important things for me is to let teachers know that their feedback has been heard and that you have reflected and taken note.

Evaluations such as these are no good when the teachers are ditzy… And in 40 years of administration I find most teacher school climate evaluations are based on teacher perceptions and not school reality… Teachers just do not see the big picture. Their big picture is Me…. Me Me? I really wonder what your turnover rate is with these type of demeaning comments. You must really get off on your power trip. I would not work for you. Jennifer, I like these ideas, as well as the concise nature of the questions.

I feel they really convey important areas for teachers, as opposed to areas that might be highlighted as important to administrators for Board, District or State — though they are not necessarily exclusive. I am a secondary school principal and just attempted my first survey after 4 years of procrastinating cowardice!

On reflection, I should have used some of the survey questions you shared and binned some of my own. Keep writing and creating! I am a high school principal and just sent out your survey to my teachers. One of my teachers responded immediately saying how wonderful she thought the survey was and did I know of any for teachers to use with their students. She acknowledged the fact that she could simply modify the one I had sent, but was just curious if I knew of one that already existed for teachers. So, now I am passing that question on to you.

Do you happen to know of a similar survey for teachers to use with their students? Thank you. Hey Abby!


Thanks for writing in and — and Yes! There they can read about the benefits of getting student feedback, learn how to create a great survey, and they can even access a ready-made form to use for gathering student feedback. Have fun! Thanks Abby, and thanks Debbie for the answer! Hi Jennifer, I stumbled across these questions a while back and never saved the bookmark.

I am so glad I have found them again. I have converted into a Google Form. Hope this is not a problem. This style of questioning encourages conversation and helps to address issues without the conflicts. Really appreciated and very empathetic to the needs of principals and their teams.

How to say Goodbye to Toxic Relationships

Hello, Jennifer! It is the great challenge to collect the feedback from staff. But it is also necessary to know the point of view of staff. Thanks for sharing and keep posting such nice blogs. Jennifer, I enjoyed reading your post. My wife is an educator and suggested that I look into your site. I am a high principal and am always looking for ways to improve school culture and connect with my students and staff. I got some good ideas from your post and plan on creating a survey to use in the near future. Thanks for the information.

After many years as an AP, I am now in a new district as a high school principal.