In an earlier blog entry in my “The CTO’s Role” series, I explored a few tips for doing first things first. Since I wrote that blog entry, I had a chance to exchange emails with an esteemed colleague in another State about what she did upon first arriving to a school district as a CTO.
When I first started here I scheduled individual conversations with every administrator and technology person, as well as a few teachers who were identified as very interested and “high end” users. I had good conversations and took lots of notes, and I also asked every one of them to identify “2 stars and a wish” – 2 things we were doing really well on and one thing we could do (or do better) that would really impact their school. I mentioned their “stars” when I spoke at School Committee meetings or other events to make sure they heard that I valued their existing successes, even though they might be small, or things I didn’t think were necessarily stars. I managed to find something in them that I could praise. Then, I used the “wish” list so that during that first year I made headway (at least some progress) on every item. This is part of my building relationships strategy – people want to know you care before they care about what you know. So working on their wishes showed I listened and made what they cared about a priority for me, which showed I cared.
People build relationships in different ways – some by chatting and going to lunch and connecting about personal topics, and others tend to work more through shared tasks. I lean more to shared tasks (but not exclusively) – I find I can connect with people faster that way and can let the personal relationship grow over time. That’s just me – you may have a totally different style, but given that’s my approach, the strategy of working on something together with each person gave me the opportunity to start off building relationships through my strong suit.
2 Stars: What are two things the Tech Dept is doing really well?
1 Wish: What is one thing we could do (or do better) that would really impact your work in the school district?
…when you come into a new district you want to leverage other relationships – seek out the teachers who are leading the way with technology and partner with them to bring others along; connect with the library-media people and make sure they are integrating technology and helping to carry some of the technology department water; get to be really friendly with your CFO (or whatever the business officer is called) so that you know when they have extra money or [have] unspent tech money or budgets are going to be frozen soon (etc).
And be sure you are in the same bus going in the same direction with whoever is head of instruction – make sure they see you as a partner from the start and not someone to come to after they buy software that won’t fit their needs or answer their questions.
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