It doesn’t take being an expert hashtagger on social media in order to use it effectively as a superintendent. All you have to do is to provide your district with a window, a viewing glass, if you will, into the work that you do each day. And be real.
Dr. Joe Sanfelippo, superintendent of the Fall Creek School District in Wisconsin, is a one-minute walk away from his school. On most Saturday mornings, he ventures over to the school to get some work done. And walks are a great time to think and reflect. So one day he decided to take out his phone and began recording his thoughts out loud. Thus, sparking the creation of his #1minwalk2work series.
“It just started taking off and it grew organically,” he says. “People wanted to hear stories about what was happening in the school.”
For him, it was a way to dish out some quick and easily digestible leadership tips for others to learn from, but also to reflect on his own experiences as superintendent.
“How can I learn from some of the mistakes I made and put them out there and be vulnerable,” he says. “Maybe other leaders will be willing to say, ‘Hey, maybe I don’t know everything.’”
Since starting the series, not only has he seen the impact it’s had on other leaders, but he’s grown as a leader himself.
“I think the first thing that I learned was that you don’t have to be right all the time,” he says. “You have to be real. The more that you try to be right, the less you can be real. Me going and doing these walks and being vulnerable enough to say, ‘Man I really screwed this thing up’ and talking about it because I don’t want you to screw it up as a leader in your space, I think is important. I think 90% of those thoughts are things that I messed up, and I’m just trying to figure out ways I can help out other people. The other 10% are things that were just really cool that happened to people in our building or to kids so we can amplify those voices too.”
For him, social media ought to play a substantial role in the lives of every superintendent. It creates transparency, or else your community simply won’t know what it is that you do.
“The idea that people need to keep in mind is when people don’t know what you do as a superintendent, they make up what you do as a superintendent,” he says. “If you are using social media to not only celebrate the great things that are happening in your district, but also give people a window into what you do as a leader in that space, then they’re less likely to start slamming you for things that they don’t know that you do, because you do a lot of things behind closed doors that people don’t hear about.”
What ends up happening in this scenario, he explains, is that you become less of a leader and more of a number.
“People start saying, ‘You know what, for all that money I don’t know what that person does,’” he says. “You’re the highest-paid person in your entire school district. You lose leadership credibility because people are asking what you’re actually doing in the space.”
It’s transparency that you should be able to control, he adds. As a superintendent, you will face scrutiny and critique. So why not let those critiques at least be accurate and reflective of the work that you actually do as shown through social media?
“The more that we can get that out there for people the better chance I think we all have to not only amplify, but also give ourselves some credibility in the work that we do,” he says.
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