Knowing Your Voice

Posted By: Quentin Liggins AASPA Blog,

COVID-19 has exposed antiquated systems and structures in our education system. As we accelerate into a new normal that includes a much heavier focus on managing the health and safety of our students and staff, an effective message is more critical than ever. Many Talent leaders in Education move swiftly to drafting the message to their constituency on any strategic pivot. Though reasonable and often admirable, acting quickly can result in a message that fails to resonate with one’s target audience. Moving forward, leaders should ensure their message reflects the best of what our Education system has to offer by: communicating intentions, decisions, and thought processes. Moreover this can be accomplished by Reflection, Assessment, Crafting, and Execution. 


Knowing your voice takes intentional reflection. Beginning this process a leader must ask themselves: “what are my values as an individual?” This question will begin the opening of new understandings on how the leader approaches any work or problem. By extension, the leader should ask themselves: “what are the values of the organization?” If there is a serious misalignment, no message will be effective as the tone will be disingenuous. However, if the leader and the organization are aligned in values, a clear message can begin to take root.


Moving beyond values, the leader tasked with crafting the message must know the district’s unique value proposition to the community. Educating all students effectively should be the commonly understood community contribution, however, each educational institution offers something unique that allows children to flourish. Capturing that essence of the district in a few words moves the writer to a place of strength when crafting the message. Furthermore, this understanding provides a framework for the author to assess prior messages to best understand their effectiveness reflecting the uniqueness of the organization.


            With the clarity of values and contributions to the community, the author can begin crafting the message. The steps prior to the initial draft ensure the tone of the message is authentic. When drafting the author should consider the learnings from their assessment of prior messages to the targeted audience. Which of the prior communications inspired action? Which messages left no confusion? Why? Pushing through to salient points while answering each question helps the author ensure the appropriate composition best practices for their audience. In our current context, brevity and clarity are paramount. Therefore, being clear on what is critical to be shared and with whom limits time needed for clarification.


            Though self explanatory in many ways, the message must be delivered. In an ever evolving context, today’s well crafted message - if not shared in a timely fashion - will be drained of its effectiveness. Executing on the sharing of the communication is critical to advance the understanding of any change. Without clarity from a leader, constituents will undoubtedly create their own story. Failure to move at this stage can be as devastating as any other. Though conditions may change that call for a new message, failure to share the current understanding is rarely ideal.

            Delivering messages internally or externally requires institutional and individual vulnerability. Bringing people into the journey of decision-making is critical to create collective action. Educational institutions are safe havens and beacons in communities across the country. Continuing to foster trust and support is possible. One step is value-aligned clear messaging.