Empowering Staff in the Decision-Making Process

Rob BreyerBlog, Connect Better, Lead Better


  • Empowering staff in the decision-making process means listening to your staff’s needs.
  • Consider the potential barriers before making any big decisions.
  • Be open with staff and solicit feedback to increase buy-in.
  • Be sure to explain the “why” of your decision-making process.

School administrators are continuously looking for new strategies to help their teachers and students in their schools achieve at higher levels.  They take time to read articles, books, blogs, or whatever they can get their hands on.  They attend seminars, conferences, and Edcamps. And they may even watch Ted Talks and YouTube videos in an effort to find fresh new ideas.  And after all of this, school leaders are faced with making tough decisions. They make the tough decisions that will impact the daily routines of those they serve on a regular basis.

After the past 5 years as a school administrator, I have learned that it is not as simple as just rolling out your plan, or making a quick decision. We owe it to the ones we serve to be strategic in our thinking.  It starts with empowering your staff in the decision-making process.  You must give them a voice as vital stakeholders in your school.  It must be a part of your school culture and it can directly impact your school climate.

So how can you prevent your ideas and decisions from being rejected and ensure they are fully implemented with fidelity? Below you will find a list of steps that I take to ensure that I cover all bases before making decisions that will affect my staff.

Communication is the KEY!

It starts with listening! Take time to talk individually with your staff, to see what they need, or what new ideas they want to try in their classrooms. How do they feel about the decision on the table? What are their fears? Are there changes they would make in the plan you proposed? By taking the time to listen, you will have a better idea of the actual wants and needs of your staff. Then you can strategically begin to develop a plan that they will embrace.

By empowering your staff in the decision-making process, you will build the trust and relationships needed to create a positive school culture and climate that will thrive for years to come. Click To Tweet

Where are the BARRIERS?

Where are you going to get pushback? What parts of your plan will people take issues with? You don’t want to look back and wish you had identified possible issues that are now threatening your success. Before making any big decisions, or rolling out any new initiatives, you have to take some time to think through every scenario, identify possible issues, and assess what kind of obstacles are in your way. 

Plant the SEEDS to get buy-in!

Getting buy-in from your staff can resolve almost every barrier that you identify. As teachers pop in and out of my office throughout the day, I will often invite them to sit down and discuss some of the decisions that I am contemplating. I record their questions and remain open-minded about their feedback.

Make time to reflect on the ideas they brought up during your time together. I suggest going to grade-level meetings to share your ideas, answer the questions that were already brought up to you, and solicit more feedback. The more input your staff has in the decision-making process, the more invested they become.

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Explain the WHY!

You are now ready to roll out your decision to your staff! It is not enough to simply just tell them what decision you made.  You need to be prepared to share the “why” behind the decision. Explain how it will impact them. Then reassure them that you heard their concerns. This will not only build trust, but will reassure them that you have done your best to lay the groundwork to ensure it is a smooth transition.

I am not saying that every time you make a decision that you must follow this plan. But if you take the time to follow these steps when big decisions need to be made, your staff will be more understanding when you have to make a quick decision without consulting them first. 

By empowering your staff in the decision-making process, you will build the trust and relationships needed to create a positive school culture and climate that will thrive for years to come.

This past weekend, I spent some time with a friend of mine who emigrated from the country of South Africa 10 years ago. Because we are fairly new acquaintances, I did not have the opportunity to hear his story on why he and his wife decided to uproot their family from their country of origin and move to the United States. “Chris, we wanted a better life for our children” was the answer he gave. It was the typical response that I have heard over the years working with many families that have moved here from places all over the world. But, what he further explained caught my attention.  

  “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front” -Nelson Mandela.

How he described the loss of hope and the loss of his family’s safety resulting from the transfer of power from the great Nelson Mandela truly pained him.  “Mandela brought a broken country together through the empowerment of all and provided the healing and sense of togetherness that we all seek as humans” was how my expatriate friend described his experience under such a great leader. The power of voice invites us to be invested in our outcome. Once leadership loses that perspective, we all look for ways out from under the burden of authoritarianism, much like my friend. – Chris Collins, Director of Networks and Partnerships at the Boone-Winnebago Regional Office of Education, Northern Illinois (@CkCollins67)

See the full Leading by Empowering blog series here!

About Robert Breyer

Robert Breyer is the “proud” principal of Cameron Elementary School in Cameron, NC. He also makes time to coach aspiring leaders who are looking to make the transition from teacher to administration. He is the host of The Guiding Principals Podcast, where he encourages visionary school leaders to share the stories of their own leadership journey, and celebrates their successes along the way. Connect with Robert on his website at www.beyondthedeskleadership.com or via Twitter @rbleads.