A week ago, while talking to a fellow educator, we started to discuss the challenges of school leadership. During the discussion, my friend, Bill, mentioned a struggle he was having with his current situation.
Bill described how he had a new supervisor, who got there a month after he was hired, and the situation was going well. He is enjoying the new relationship and felt he was learning, however he is noticing some opportunities for improvement. For example, after the last professional development on professional learning communities(PLC), Bill noticed that teachers were still resistant to setting aside time to meet as a PLC. Bill felt the team could have focused on “Why” teachers need to meet as a PLC, and this was a missed opportunity. He wants to share his thoughts on next steps with his supervisor, so the next professional development session can shift teacher thinking.
So, Bill wondered, “How can I give feedback to my supervisor, without getting in trouble?”
Does this situation sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. We all want to make a positive impact, so why do we hesitate to provide feedback to our supervisor?
Why Don’t We Provide Feedback?
I think one main reason why we hesitate to provide feedback can be explained by an idea called Psychological Contracts.
Denise Rousseau, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, found schools/companies all have unwritten agreements, which she calls psychological contracts. In the agreement, the supervisor gives the directions, while the employee follows the directions (Top Down Communication).
The unwritten agreement highlights the “standard” flow of communication, which can cause employees to hesitate when making suggestions to the supervisor. The belief is fear can be one explanation for the pause. I think we all felt the fear of being incorrectly labeled as a trouble maker or a complainer, so we decide not to say anything.
So, how can we provide the necessary feedback to improve our schools?
One suggestion is to use a script to frame the conversation. An example of a script I have used is called the DESC (Desk) script. I learned this from a communication coach, named Dan O’Conner. Each letter represents the following:
D– Describe the problem
E– Effects of the problem
S– Say what you want
C– Consequences (Positive for your supervisor)
In my experience, there are two keys to a successful DESC script:
- Create one sentence for each letter/phrase (if you can’t, then delay the conversation until you can).
- Practice, practice, practice (with a friend, colleague, and/or spouse)
Here is an example of what I would do from Bill’s example:
(D) During our professional development last week, I noticed teachers were confused on why to use professional learning communities . (E) Because of this, teachers may be hesitant to make the time to get together for the meeting. (S) In our next session, I would like to lead the discussion around why professional learning communities are important. (C) By allowing me to take the lead, you can focus on other priorities, and just review the work I create. Would that work for you?
Do you have strategies or scripts, that you want to share? If so, I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Finally, I invite you to join my exclusive Facebook group Get Better At Educational Leadership to get access to additional resources and collaborate with other school leaders just like you!
Remember, each of you have a special talent to support your school and I am here to support your goals as a school leader.
O’Conner, D (2017, August 7). Crucial Conversations: How to Correct Employee Behavior. Retrieved from:
Rousseau, D (2018, February 20). 5 Pages. The Psychological Contract. Retrieved from: