The Principal as Leader of Challenging Conversations


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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Introduction to the Leading Student Achievement Series

    The Leading Student Achievement series is a joint publication of the Ontario Principals' Council (OPC) and Corwin as part of an active commitment to support and develop excellent school leadership. One of the roles of OPC is to identify, design, develop, and deliver workshops that meet the learning needs of school leaders. Most of the handbooks in this series were originally developed as one-day workshops by their authors to share their expertise in key areas of school leadership. The six handbooks in this series are

    The Principal as Professional Learning Community Leader,

    The Principal as Data Driven Leader,

    The Principal as Early Literacy Leader,

    The Principal as Literacy Leader,

    The Principal as Mathematics Leader, and

    The Principal as Leader of Challenging Conversations.

    Each handbook in the Leading Student Achievement series is grounded in action and is designed as a hands-on, practical guide to support school leaders in their roles as instructional leaders. From novice principals who are assuming the principalship to experienced principals who are committed to continuous learning, readers from all levels of experience will benefit from the accessible blend of theory and practice presented in these handbooks. The provision of practical strategies that principals can use immediately in their schools makes this series a valuable resource to all who are committed to improving student achievement.


    View Copyright Page


    What capacity do we need as leaders to demonstrate authenticity and build credibility and trust? One of the most critical is our ability and willingness to engage in challenging, difficult, sensitive—in a word, courageous—conversations. … Open, authentic, truthful dialogue, in an atmosphere of trust and respect, are the key ingredients that make meaningful change possible.

    —Ontario Ministry of Education (2009)

    Our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time.

    —Scott (2004)

    Courageous conversations, fierce conversations (Scott, 2004), crucial conversations (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2002), difficult conversations (Stone, Patton, & Heen, 1999), hard conversations (Abrams, 2009), and the term that we will use in this book, challenging conversations—however they are described, the ability of school leaders to manage well the challenging conversations in their daily lives is a core leadership capacity. In managing conversations well, school leaders provide an accessible model of best practices and establish a clear standard for interpersonal interaction for others in the school community to follow. Further, school leaders who manage challenging conversations well enhance their personal credibility and viability within the school community. As noted by Susan Scott,

    For a leader, there is no trivial comment. Something you might not even remember saying may have had a devastating impact on someone looking to you for guidance and approval. By the same token, something you said years ago may have encouraged and inspired someone who is grateful to you to this day. (Scott, 2004)

    Who is a school leader? School leader, as the term is used throughout this book, refers to any of the following: principals, vice and assistant principals, teacher leaders, and community leaders within the school community.

    The Goal—Meeting the Challenge

    Virtues are not mere thoughts, they are habits.


    The purpose of this book is to provide insights and skill development opportunities that will improve the ability of school leaders to facilitate effectively the challenging conversations that they encounter regularly. This book will enhance the ability of all school leaders to develop and manage effective relationships that will support ongoing school improvement initiatives. Ultimately this will have a significant impact on student learning and achievement.

    The concepts and skills presented in this book will increase the school leader's confidence and competence in the face of challenge. School leaders are often highly skilled communicators who have effective conflict management skills. Many would suggest that school leaders already have the skills required to respond effectively to challenging conversations. Regrettably, there is no shortage of examples in public life of highly skilled individuals who have behaved poorly and spoken unwisely when under pressure. In this respect this book encourages school leaders, however skilled and experienced, to develop the required habits of mind that permit access to necessary skills and processes when it matters most. It is not only having skills and knowledge but accessing skills and knowledge when they are needed most that concerns us here. Think of how emergency personnel are trained—firefighters, paramedics, and lifeguards, for example. Their training focuses on developing almost automatic responses that are effective in the face of emergencies. Ideally school leaders will have the same kind of ingrained, effective response to challenging conversations.

    For the most part the orientation of this book is toward difficult situations and potential or actual conflicts. It is about conversations that are uncomfortable and at times troubling. This is deliberate. If the school leader's daily life were only about the easy decisions and celebrations, life would be good indeed. Hopefully there are more celebrations than challenges, but in many regards it is the darker moments that define school leaders and their value to the school community.

    Organization of the Book and Special Features

    Many of the skills presented in this book are rooted in the field of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as it is widely practiced in the legal and broader community. ADR is sometimes referred to as a principled approach to problem solving and conflict management and is based on the application of superb interpersonal skills within the safety of a consistently applied process. Historically, ADR is rooted in the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project (now the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program) as developed initially by Roger Fisher and his colleagues at Harvard. The publication of Getting to Yes (Fisher & Ury, 1983) represented the best popular iteration of ADR concepts and practices in its time and remains, along with many companion volumes by other Harvard-affiliated ADR experts, an essential resource for the ADR practitioner. Harvard remains a mainstay of ADR thought and practice to this day. Public school boards and community agencies throughout North America have also supported ADR-based programs such as Peer Mediators (Community Board Program, San Francisco) (Sadalla, Henriquez, & Holmberg, 1987) and made ADR a viable framework for developing peaceful and collaborative school communities. There are several key elements of ADR that are central to this book:

    • The need to balance maintaining our relationships with others with pursuing our personal interests
    • A focus on specific, substantive issues or problems defined by the interests and needs of everyone involved in a conversation rather than the personal failings of an individual—in other words, blame is of dubious value in both building and sustaining relationships and problem solving
    • A reliance on a safe process that is principled and balances relationship needs with personal interests
    • A goal of achieving mutual understanding, resolution of a problem, or consensus within a group

    Since its inception, the Ontario Principals' Council (OPC, Toronto, Ontario, Canada) has offered workshops on ADR practices as they apply to school leaders, and recently OPC has supported a popular workshop, Challenging Conversations. This workshop, while informed by the principles and practices of ADR, is adapted to address the needs of school leaders in their daily work. This book is organized in much the same way that the Challenging Conversation workshop is organized. It is designed to promote personal reflection, to encourage the consideration of best practices in building trusting relationships within a school community, and to further develop the skills of school leaders in meeting the challenges of daily school life. Tools that will assist school leaders in developing effective skills in facilitating challenging conversations are presented. Chapters 1 and 2 of this book will consider the dimensions of challenging conversations such as the difference between a chat, a challenge, and a crisis and the effects of power and influence on challenging conversations. The book proposes an effective framework and process for addressing challenges. Chapters 3 through 7 will examine the essential skills required to respond effectively to challenges. Skills such as active listening, assertive communication, provision of effective feedback, and anger management are considered. These chapters review skills that many school leaders know well and often practice. Here they are placed in the context of a challenging conversation where they are absolutely necessary for success. The final chapter will focus on the potential role of the school leader as a third party to the challenging conversations experienced by others in the school community.

    There are a number of special features that enhance the value of this book:

    • Case studies are used throughout the book to illustrate specific concepts and skills. Each chapter will also conclude with a case study for the reader to consider on his own or with colleagues. In the Resources section of the book suggested approaches for these case studies will be provided. As the reader compares his response to the case study to the suggested approach, it will feel like being coached through a challenging conversation.
    • In Chapter 1 the reader will have an opportunity to develop a personal case study that will be revisited for reflection purposes at the end of each chapter. This will permit the reader to personalize the reading experience within her own context and reflect on her skill development and learning as she reads through the book.
    • Suggested questions for book study will be provided at the conclusion of each chapter.
    • The Resources section will include useful checklists and other instruments designed to further understanding of key concepts and skills.
    Who Will Benefit?

    The material in this book will be of immediate value to practicing school leaders, regardless of their skill level or experience. For the beginning school leader the book will provide an opportunity to consider and develop essential leadership and interpersonal skills. For the experienced school leader this book will confirm considerable skill development and promote reflection on best practices.

    Note on the case studies: The case studies used in this book are based on real incidents and represent the consolidation of the experiences of the author and the generous input of many school leaders who have participated in the OPC workshops. Their candor and commitment are much appreciated.


    The Ontario Principals' Council gratefully acknowledges Tim Kearns, the author of The Principal as Leader of Challenging Conversations.

    Tim Kearns is a consultant for Education Leadership Canada and the coordinator of the Experienced Principal's Development Course. During his career in public education, Tim was a teacher, consultant, and principal with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and a number of other rural and suburban boards in Ontario. Tim holds an MEd in educational theory from the University of Toronto and earned an advanced mediation certificate from the University of Windsor. During his school-based career Tim also maintained a parallel career in leadership and organizational development, first with a variety of Ontario government ministries and subsequently, since 1998, with the Ontario Principals' Council. From 1991 to 1997, as a consultant with TDSB, Tim provided conflict resolution training and crisis intervention training to staff and students as part of a broad-based initiative to introduce alternative dispute resolution skills into the elementary and secondary schools within the board. At that time he participated in a variety of writing and film projects both in and out of TDSB designed to promote a principled approach to conflict. Tim has presented alternative dispute resolution skills and challenging conversations workshops at many conferences in Canada and the United States. As a consultant, Tim continues to develop and present materials and programs that support both the new and the experienced school leader in developing trust and relationships within a collaborative school culture.

    The Ontario Principals' Council also wishes to acknowledge the commitment and participation of the participants in the many alternative dispute resolution and Experienced Principal's Development Course workshops over the past decade. Without their candor and open dialogue about some of the most difficult aspects of the school leader's life this book would not have been possible. As well, the efforts of Linda Massey of the Ontario Principals' Council in coordinating this joint Ontario Principals' Council/Corwin project are gratefully acknowledged.

    Corwin would like to thank the following individuals for their editorial insight and guidance:

    David Derpak


    Vancouver Technical Secondary

    Vancouver, BC


    Beth Madison


    George Middle School

    Portland, Oregon

    Catherine Alaimo Stickney

    Curriculum Coordinator

    Ashland Public Schools

    Ashland, MA

  • Afterword

    As a summary of the material in this book, we can consider two common questions that often arise in regard to challenging conversations:

    • What can we do about people who don't seem to want to have a principle-based, collaborative conversation? Regrettably, some people just want to be right and get what they want.
    • If your approach to challenging conversations were summarized into several key concepts, what would they be?

    It must be acknowledged that there definitely are individuals who at times resist a collaborative approach to challenging conversations. Sometimes these individuals can be so focused on their own needs and agenda that they would rather risk losing all to “win” a conversation in which the stakes are high for them. At other times, perhaps when they believe that the stakes are not so high, they can be quite agreeable. Unfortunately this does not provide a consistent base for ongoing conversations that can enrich relationships and move organizations forward. Here are some insights into working with these individuals:

    • In the end we can be responsible only for our own conversations. If, despite our best intentions and efforts to assist, some individuals refuse to cooperate, then they must live with the consequences, and we will do what we feel we have to do to meet our own goals.
    • Engaging in challenging conversations with a principle-based, collaborative approach is often one of several choices that school leaders can make. It is often the preferred choice, but there are usually other ways to work through a situation if that is required. For example, school leaders have authority in many circumstances that they may prefer not to exercise in favor of more consensual processes. But if need be, clear direction can be provided.
    • The school leader's good example and insistence on using excellent interpersonal skills based on mutual respect and trust can encourage others to work in a collaborative way. The skilled school leader provides an example for others, perhaps less skilled, to follow. It is hard to resist the leadership of someone who is so clearly working diligently with you to make things better.
    • It is the school leader's responsibility to make having a challenging conversation safe for all participants (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2002). If others are reluctant to join us in a productive process, then we need to figure out why and adjust our approach as best we can. One of the school leader's most important functions is to provide a safe forum that encourages a school community to consider the whole picture and is inclusive of all stakeholders.
    • Success and failure in challenging conversations are relevant terms. Sometimes we may not achieve all of our intended goals in a conversation but nonetheless remain on good terms with the other person. Relationships count! Perhaps the key question is, When can we talk again?
    Summary—Key Concepts to Remember

    By way of summary, following are the key concepts for the school leader to remember:

    • Listen for meaning
      • It is perhaps ironic that the key skill most necessary in a challenging conversation is listening, not speaking. Listening well for both substantive details and emotional content is absolutely essential for success.
    • Lead with your heart—finish with your head
      • Good intentions well demonstrated will initiate success in engaging in challenging conversations. But our good intentions must be supported with well-chosen strategies (the frameworks and the critical path) and processes that will direct and focus a conversation in the right direction.
    • Build on agreements and facts
      • Despite our focus in a challenging conversation on how we may disagree, agreements prevail. Identify and build on the agreements that exist. As much as possible, base discussion on whatever objective criteria are available. It is not useful to have long, difficult conversations about things we don't really control, are not possible, or about which we may not care that much.
    • Develop clear goals—stay on track
      • It is worth the time to reflect on, even for a brief moment, what you would like to see result from a conversation. What are your goals? Once you have clear goals try to engage only in aspects of a challenging conversation that focus on your goals while maintaining a positive relationship with the other person.
    • Have faith in a process
      • Challenging conversations are safest and most productive when they unfold along the critical path. Following a process or script allows the conversation to focus on items that matter most for everyone and, more important, avoids excursions into unproductive areas of conversation. This is discouraging and possibly damaging.

    There are no guarantees in the world of challenging conversations. That said, following these five key concepts can support the success of the school leader as she negotiates the challenging conversations that are woven into the fabric of all effective schools:

    A thousand things are unspoken in schools every day, and the lack of truth telling enforces an ineffective status quo. Change—personal and institutional—requires that we speak out loud about what we know and believe. We need to be liberated from those of our beliefs that limit us. We need to find our voice around what matters most. (Abrams, 2009)


    Your Personal Case Study: Resource A

    Describe the situation (who, what, when, where):

    Barriers I must address:

    Desired outcome:

    Reflections—Use the space below to record your personal reflections on how the content of each chapter affects your approach to your personal case study.

    How Do You Respond? Conversational/Conflict Style Inventory: Resource B

    Consider the statements below. If a statement describes

    • a response you usually make to challenges …
    put a 3 beside it.
    • a response you occasionally make to challenges …
    put a 2 beside it.
    • a response you rarely or never make to challenges …
    put a 1 beside it.
    When in a Challenging Conversation, I …
    • ___ try to show the other person the logic and benefits of my position.
    • ___ try to make everyone feel at ease.
    • ___ try to work out a compromise.
    • ___ try not to hurt the other person's feelings.
    • ___ try to find someone else to handle the problem.
    • ___ try to get my way.
    • ___ try to find out what the real problem is.
    • ___ try to find a fair combination of wins and losses for both of us.
    • ___ try to meet the other person's wishes if it seems very important to her.
    • ___ try to postpone the issue until I have had time to think it over.
    • ___ want the other person to apologize to me.
    • ___ try to identify lots of solutions before deciding what to do.
    • ___ will let the other person have something if he lets me have something.
    • ___ sacrifice my wishes for the wishes of the other person.
    • ___ try to do what is necessary to avoid tensions.
    • ___ tell the other person that if she doesn't agree I'll get someone who will back me up.
    • ___ share the problem with the other person so that we can work it out.
    • ___ try to make everyone feel comfortable.
    • ___ try to soothe the other person's feelings so we can keep our relationship.
    • ___ try to change the subject.
    (adapted by Kearns & Harris, 1996)
    Tally Your Scores

    Moving from left to right, transfer your scores from the inventory to the spaces below:

    Which is the style you most often use?

    Which two styles do you most often use?

    Case Study Practice: Resource C

    Some suggested approaches for each of the practice case studies are provided here. These are suggestions and not meant to be the final word on each of these cases. You will have an opportunity to consider what an experienced person might address and to discuss with colleagues which issues and processes you might choose if faced with the situation in the case study. For each case study some possible goals and supporting actions are presented.

    Issues and Concerns

    • How is Stacey right now? What is her current experience with her fellow students, and how is she feeling about life at school?
    • Is a school meeting required to discuss details further?
    • What do the faculty members know about Stacey's situation?
    • What antibullying initiatives exist in the school?
    Possible GoalsAction
    Explore Stacey's experience. Ensure that she is okay.
    • Meet with mother and student at school. Acknowledge the fears and concerns of Stacey's mother.
    • Listen attentively no matter how hard that might be.
    • Gather as many details from the mother as possible about what she believes is happening at the school and with Stacey's classmates.
    Find out what staff members know about Stacey's situation.
    • Meet and discuss Stacey's situation with key staff members.
    Reassure Stacey and her mother that this situation will be taken seriously. Develop a plan to ensure Stacey's safety.
    • State and clarify your concerns about such behavior and how the school will not tolerate bullying. Be clear about zero tolerance for this kind of behavior.
    Gather details that can inform a plan.
    • Meet with identified bullies and their parents, and listen to their experience.
    Develop a plan that will ensure Stacey's safety and help others—students and staff—in the school to understand about bullying and how it will not be tolerated.
    • Meet with staff members and parents to discuss antibullying initiatives.

    Issues and Concerns

    • How dirty is dirty? Is there an objective standard that can be applied or a third party expert who can be consulted?
    • What is the frequency of reports about the washroom?
    • What were the previous discussions with Frankie like? What were their nature and outcome?
    • What is Frankie's history on the job? Is this a new behavior or part of a pattern?
    • How difficult is Frankie's character?
    • What is the effect of recent staffing changes?
    Goals—Short and Long TermAction
    Find out Frankie's perspective.
    • Meet with Frankie for a respectful, open conversation about the washroom and new routines. Be prepared to learn how the new routines have affected Frankie's job.
    Establish clear standards and routines.
    • Work with Frankie to establish a clear standard and routine for cleanup. Invite others, such as acknowledged experts, to assist as required.
    Ensure that new standards are met and that routines are followed.
    • Consistently monitor progress with Frankie's assistance. Check in with him regularly.
    Ensure that Frankie feels respected and supported in his work.
    • Include Frankie in conversations about the job, and listen well to his concerns.

    Issues and Concerns

    • Review Jason's grades to assess how he is struggling. What does Jason need?
    • Has there been any behavioral shift for Jason?
    • What have Jason's teachers noticed?
    • Which accommodations does Jason currently receive?
    • For which accommodations is Jason eligible?
    • What can the school realistically provide?
    • Which other resources beyond the school are available?
    • What are the parents' concerns for Jason? How do they feel?
    • What is the history of school-parent interaction?
    Goals—Short and Long TermAction
    • Assure the family that you are working hard to provide the best that is possible for Jason.
    • Secure the cooperation of the family for developing a plan together.
    • Meet with the parents and Jason. Be clear about the school's responsibility to provide the best possible program.
    • Establish a timetable of meetings that will provide time for research and then a report of findings as they are available.
    Develop a current profile for Jason.
    • Review relevant data and meet with Jason's teachers and other support staff.
    • Review Jason's current accommodations and eligibility.
    Establish school-based resources.
    • Work with staff to develop a comprehensive inventory of school-based resources.
    Establish an inventory of other resources available.
    • Work with school and other school board personnel to develop a comprehensive inventory of resources.

    Issues and Concerns

    • What are the differences between staff and student expectations with regard to dress?
    • What does business casual mean?
    • What is the staff commitment to the dress code in the school?
    • How have the dress code expectations been communicated to the staff? When was this accomplished?
    • Were the faculty and community involved in establishing the dress policy?
    • Can the school leader legitimately demand that students and faculty members meet dress policy requirements? Are there existing external standards that can be applied, for example, district expectations?
    • How prevalent among staff and students is disregard for dress for success?
    Goals—Short and Long TermAction
    Gather data about general adherence to the dress policy. Prepare for an informed conversation based on accurate observations.
    • Observe the faculty over several days to get a sense of staff commitment and also to establish some sense of where the line is drawn between acceptable and nonacceptable. Are more faculty members than Regan involved? How many? In what way?
    Ensure that Regan comes to school in appropriate clothing.
    • Meet with Regan and review the substance and spirit of the dress for success policy. Clearly outline expectations and timelines for returning to school in appropriate dress.
    Ensure that this is a tenable policy—is this worth pursuing? Ensure that the faculty is aware of and committed to the current dress policy.
    • Meet with faculty (or a subcommittee) and community members to clarify the expectations and secure their commitment to a workable dress policy.
    • Consult colleagues and review any district regulations that may apply.

    Issues and Concerns

    • Is the signage easily understood and well publicized?
    • How does this affect safety and security within the school community?
    • What are the needs of the school community in this regard?
    Goals—Short and Long TermAction
    • Ensure that the Crawfords are aware of the school procedures and expectations.
    • Assert that this kind of driving must stop immediately.
    • Meet with the Crawfords and clarify the procedure for student drop-off and pickup. Discuss the need for compliance, and affirm that there can only be zero tolerance for activities that do not support safety and security in the school community.
    Ensure that the signage is accurate and easily understood by all.
    • Observe the parking lot over several days, and speak with parents as they arrive and leave the school.
    • Request advice from support personnel and other experts who may have expertise in this area.
    In the event of noncompliance by the Crawfords or others, have a plan available.
    • Speak with local authorities and district personnel for advice in the case of noncompliance.

    Issues and Concerns

    • Is this the right time for this discussion? Can the discussion be moved into a more private space than the office area?
    • What is the process for assigning roles in the production? Are there objective criteria for role assignment? Which details does Assistant Principal Leslie know about how this situation developed?
    • What is Ms. Redgrave's current state of mind and predisposition toward outbursts of temper?
    • What is happening with Kendra? How is she responding to this situation?
    • What is the specific history and nature of the relationship between Leslie and Ms. Redgrave? What is the broader history of Ms. Redgrave and the school?
    • What does Ms. Redgrave want? We know her position, but what interests underlie her position?
    Goals—Short and Long TermAction
    • Move the discussion into a more private space.
    • Calm Ms. Redgrave down and demonstrate a willingness to explore the situation.
    • Encourage Ms. Redgrave to express her concerns.
    • Invite Ms. Redgrave into Assistant Principal Leslie's office.
    • Remain calm and actively listen to Ms. Redgrave's comments. Processwise, focus on the framework and the critical path.
    • Ignore accusatory or inflammatory comments, and focus on the problem.
    • If necessary, be prepared to defer this meeting until a time when it can proceed in a productive way.
    Clarify Kendra's feelings about this.
    • Meet with Kendra.
    Seek agreements that can be built on.
    • Reframe negative comments.
    • Focus on the best interests of Kendra.
    • Capitalize on the past positive relationship.
    Gather details about how Kendra received this part.
    • Meet with the director and producer of the play to get background information. Seek clarity about any objective criteria and processes that were used.
    Long term, if necessary—Develop a process for role assignment that is based on objective criteria.
    • Work with the Theatre Guild to develop guidelines for role assignment that are objective and transparent.

    Issues and Concerns

    • As a new principal, what does Principal Morris know about the school and its traditions? Can she initiate small, necessary changes?
    • How can the principal develop rapport and relationships with staff, especially the teacher-librarian?
    • How can the principal develop a plan for change that includes gaining information and a commitment from all stakeholders?
    • Which outside expectations with regard to equity and inclusionary practices exist, and how can the principal ensure that they are followed in the school?
    • How can the principal develop clear and viable equity and inclusion goals for the school?
    • How can the principal balance support and gentle pressure on the teacher-librarian to develop a more sensitive program?
    • Which resources are available to support change?
    Goals—Short and Long TermAction
    Clarify expectations for the school in equity and inclusion.
    • Consult central board staff and others to gather information.
    Communicate information and expectations to the staff.
    • Meet with the staff.
    • Create an equity and inclusion committee.
    Develop an equity plan for the school.
    • Work with the equity committee to develop an equity plan. Ensure wide staff representation on the committee, and include the teacher-librarian.
    • Include schoolwide and classroom-based goals.
    Raise the profile of equity and inclusion in the school.
    • Promote regular equity-oriented events in the school community.
    Ensure that effective and inclusive programming is occurring at the classroom level.
    • Meet with individual staff members to discuss their programs.
    • Do equity walkthroughs to observe classroom practices and gather data to support further conversations.

    Issues and Concerns

    • What is the need for a comprehensive school policy on assessment and evaluation based on school needs and any available objective criteria?
    • What is the need to sustain school improvement and the professional learning community (PLC)?
    • What is the role of the cochairs of the PLC group?
    • What are the sources of dissension? Gather accurate data and perform analyses.
    • Is there a possible spread of dissension to the whole faculty?
    • Which examples of possible unprofessional behavior have occurred?
    • How clear are the expectations for faculty interaction and PLC group norms?
    Goals—Short and Long TermAction
    Get current data about the professional learning community (PLC) group and progress on projects.
    • Meet individually with cochairs.
    • Review materials produced by the group to date.
    • Establish and clarify expectations for the PLC organization for allstaff.
    • Affirm support for the PLC group from the administrative team.
    • Build on existing agreements.
    • Work through the topics that seem to be causing dissension in the group and ultimately for the whole faculty.
    • Meet with the PLC group and then the faculty with regard to PLC expectations.
    • Confirm and clarify professional expectations.
    Provide resources and direction to the PLC group
    • Review resources available to the PLC group. In particular look for objective criteria that might apply.
    • Establish a cohesive leadership team for the PLC group.
    • Improve the operation of the group.
    • If necessary, mediate a conversation with the cochairs. The conversation would focus on substantive issues and issues related to the operation of the PLC group.
    Critical Path Worksheet: Resource D

    Use this chart to organize your script for a challenging conversation.

    References and Suggested Readings

    Abrams, J. (2009). Having hard conversations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Bush, R. A., & Folger, J. (2004). The promise of mediation: The transformative approach to conflict (
    Rev. ed.
    ). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Boss.
    Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly successful people. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
    DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (1998). Professional learning communities at work: Best practices for enhancing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Fisher, R., & Brown, S. (1988). Getting together–Building relationships as we negotiate. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
    Fisher, R., & Ertel, D. (1995). Getting ready to negotiate. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
    Fisher, R., & Ury, W. (1983). Getting to yes. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
    Ford, J., & Ford, L. (2009). The four conversations. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koelher.
    Fullan, M., Hill, P., & Crevola, C. (2006). Breakthrough. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Garmston, R., & Wellman, B. (2009). The adaptive school: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.
    Kearns, T., & Harris, K. (1996). Conflict resolution: An introduction. Toronto, Canada: Toronto Board of Education.
    Kosmoski, G., & Pollack, D. (2005). Managing difficult, frustrating, and hostile conversations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Kriedler, W. (1984). Creative conflict resolution. Glenview, IL: Goodyear Books.
    Kriedler, W. (1997). Conflict resolution in the middle school. Cambridge, MA: Educators for Social Responsibility.
    Lewis, M. (2009). Leadership practices that build trust. Principal Connections, 12(4), 18–20.
    Ontario Ministry of Education. (2009, Fall). Ideas into action: Five core capacities of effective leaders.
    Ontario Ministry of Education. (2010, Winter). Ideas into action: Engaging in courageous conversations.
    Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2002). Crucial conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
    Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2005). Crucial confrontations: Tools for resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
    Sadalla, G., Halligan, J., & Holmberg, M. (1990). Conflict resolution: An elementary school curriculum. San Francisco, CA: Community Board Program.
    Sadalla, G., Henriquez, M., & Holmberg, M. (1987). Conflict resolution: A secondary school curriculum. San Francisco, CA: Community Board Program.
    Scott, S. (2004). Fierce conversations. New York, NY: Berkley.
    Stephenson, S. (2009). Leading with trust. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
    Stone, D., Patton, B., & Heen, S. (1999). Difficult conversations. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
    Tavris, C. (1989). Anger: The misunderstood emotion. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
    Thomas, K. (1976). Conflict and conflict management. In M.Dunnette (Ed.), The handbook of industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 889–935). Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.
    Ury, W. (1993). Getting past no–Negotiating your way from confrontation to cooperation. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

    CORWIN: A SAGE Company

    The Corwin logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK-12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”

    The Ontario Principals' Council: Exemplary Leadership in Public Education

    The Ontario Principals' Council (OPC) is a voluntary association for principals and vice-principals in Ontario's public school system. We believe that exemplary leadership results in outstanding schools and improved student achievement. To this end, we foster quality leadership through world-class professional services and supports. As an ISO 9001 registered organization, we are committed to “quality leadership—our principal product.”

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