Byron's Babbles

Leaders Listen

In Lesson #48 of The Disciplined Leader, John Manning (2015) taught us to “Listen To Your Customers.” As an educational leader, I have been in more than my share of discussions about whether the students and parents are customers of our schools and the educational system. This post is not about answering that question – it’s just too complex. I’ll tackle that topic in a future post. Although, I have to give a shout out to Dr. David Burkus, author of Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business As Usual and Associate Professor at Oral Roberts Universty. He and I recently had an in depth conversation about about this during the launch of his book – which, by the way, every leader should read. 

Dr. Burkus and I discussed how students are much too precious and complex to just be considered as customers. He suggested that society is the customer of education. The success of our society relies on the quality of individuals, we in education produce. I tend to agree with that, but also know that we must listen to our students and families as if they were customers in the context that Manning (2015) spoke of. I also understand the complexity of educating a child and all the factors involved – parents, family, health, socio-economic factors, emotional, learning style. Thus, all the more reason to listen as if our families and students are customers, because regardless, as Dr. Burkus pointed out, society will ultimately be a customer. Failure to establish a home-school-community collaboration aimed at increasing student success puts our children’s and nation’s futures at stake.

This loyalty comes from genuine relationships—those that are carefully cultivated between the customers and your organization. This comes from interactions in which the customer feels that he or she matters personally, not financially, to a business.” ~ John Manning 

As Manning (2015) pointed out. It is all about relationships. Effective communication, which includes listening, is essential for building school-family partnerships. It constitutes the foundation for all other forms of family involvement in education. Good two-way communication between families and schools is necessary for our students’ success. Not surprisingly, research shows that the more parents and teachers share relevant information with each other about a student, the better equipped both will be to help that student achieve academically. The good news is that many are beginning to realize the value of connecting parents and community members to what is happening in the classroom. Still, there are too many families and community members who do not feel equipped to partner with schools to create the best teaching and learning environments for children. It is not surprising that these people tend to avoid substantive involvement in critical issues such as daily attendance, teacher quality, student retention, and other areas that impact student success.

Bottom-line: we need to listen and get feedback from our teachers, students and families; we must talk to our students and families and build meaningful relationships; and, we must find out why students come to our schools and why they leave our schools. Just as we ask our students to do their homework, we must do our homework, as leaders, to understand what he or she needs to be successful.  We must design environments for families to access key information to make their engagement with their children’s school more productive, enjoyable and beneficial. We must invite, engage, enable, and empower our families to become more engaged in their child’s educational experience.
As leaders we must listen to the needs of our students and families.


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  1. […] about whether we should consider students and parents as customers or society is the customer in Leaders Listen, but regardless we need to listen to our families and engage their […]


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