According Mr. Rando (that's what I will call him because I have no idea what his actual name is), said that a successful coach needs to give his players three things:
When it comes to responsibility, Mr. Rando said all players need to be given a clear and explicit description of what their jobs are. This should include a list of all the things that the player is expected to do as part of his/her job.
Once the responsibility piece is given to the player, the coach needs to give the player the authority to function. This includes a very clear list of what he/she is allowed to do and what he/she is not allowed to do. Authority gives players the parameters for them to function in their roles and/or environments.
After a player is given a clear description of what his/her job is, and what he/she is and isn't allowed to do, the coach then holds players accountable to that. This is where the coach can hone in on how well the player does his or her job and acts in accordance with what is expected of him/her. Without those first two pieces, it makes it hard for quality coaching to happen afterwards.
School Level Application
As I think about this, I think it fits with how schools and school districts function. A good principal provides clear descriptions of what teachers' job descriptions are. This usually comes through instructional leadership and proper teacher supervision over the course of the school year. When a principal is able to get out into classrooms and observe teacher practice, the principal is able to provide direction and support with regards to the extent to which a teacher is meeting the Teaching Quality Standard (TQS).
With regards to authority, giving teachers what they are and aren't allowed to do, this often comes through policy and administrative procedure. In my experience, and I have worked for three different districts now, each district is unique in the way it approaches policy and procedure. Some districts are district driven and are heavy on district policy and procedure; some districts, on the other hand, provide less centralized direction and allow for schools to have their own policies and procedures - a more decentralized model. In this case, it is imperative that principals set those policies and procedures in place, working with all staff to ensure that they are what they need to be to meet the unique context of the school. But once those policies and procedures are in place, and are well developed and implemented, teachers have clarity in terms of what they are and are not to do in their jobs to ensure the proper functioning of the school. An example of this might be the extent to which a teacher is required to call home and make contact with parents when a student is missing and/or not completing work or misbehaving in class.
District Level Application
In the same way that it applies to schools in a micro view, these principles apply to how a district functions in a macro view. In most districts, a superintendent is the CEO and primary educational leader in the system. He/she often has a team that helps him/her with the day-to-day operation of the district. Often times, these members of a senior leadership team hold portfolios that they are responsible for, such as Student Services, Learning Services, or Technology Services. These senior leaders then work as a collaborative team to help the superintendent run the district, while also individually managing their portfolios, thus successfully managing that aspect of how the district functions as well.
The application is the same at the district level. A good superintendent provides clear job descriptions to each of his senior leaders, usually unique to the portfolio that he/she holds. Authority is given by having processes in place that provide clarity in terms of what they are and are not allowed to do within their respective jobs. Another piece that provides clarity for this level of leadership is the organizational chart. Having people fit into the hierarchy of authority also provides guidance in terms of where people fit in the pecking order and who they may or may have influence over in terms of their portfolio-based work.
Additionally, the superintendent provides the same responsibility, authority and accountability to school leaders, the principals. Just like how a principal demonstrates instructional leadership by being present in classrooms and observing professional practice, a good superintendent is present in schools and observes the professional practice of principals. This is sometimes delegated to other members of the senior leadership team, depending on how the team/organizational chart/job descriptions of senior leaders are set up. He, she or they then provides clarity as to what the principals job is and what authority they have to do things at the school level. In Alberta, this is a process that is currently being guided by the Principal Quality Practice Guideline (PQPG).
At this time, the accountability piece is an interesting one in Alberta. Alberta Education is currently working with education stakeholders at all levels to redo the TQS and the PQPG as well as introduce a new system/school authority leader standard as well. These documents are currently in draft form, but they will eventually establish the standard for what good practice is at all levels in education in this province. This will certainly be a good thing from this perspective as it will provide additional responsibility and authority for all professionals at all levels, and then allow people in leadership positions to provide the necessary accountability to be effective.
As I consider this, it certainly provides some insight into the work that I do as the Director of Instructional Services and as a Literacy Coach in the district. As a member of the Learning Team, the senior leadership team for the district, I am now reflecting on the extent to which there is clarity at district and school levels when it comes to these three things. Now that I have explored it a bit, mostly through writing this post, I see more clearly the need to have all three to be a high functioning team. So yes, these things certainly have application to all team sports; but in education, we are all members of teams and can certainly benefit by having clarity in these three areas as well.
Anyone interested in this idea/concept, and would be interested in exploring it further as it relates to our district, don't hesitate to drop me a line. I am by no means an authority on this stuff and am only looking for ways to further my own understanding of how good teams and systems function. So... I hope I hear from someone.