Administration & Leadership

How a Morning Huddle Can Organize a Principal’s Day

A brief morning ‘non-meeting’ of the school leadership team will ensure that everyone knows the priorities for the day.

January 26, 2023
Otto Steininger / Ikon

Have you ever considered that when trying to do it all, you really get nothing done well? Principals must be able to multitask, but in doing so, you might be wearing yourself out, making mistakes, and wasting time. Busy principals are always searching for more effective ways to restructure the workday.

If you’re constantly bombarded with phone calls,interrupted by staff members stopping by your office, distracted by new emails dinging in your inbox, buried under multiple piles of work with approaching deadlines, or frequently called away to deal with a student behavioral issue, you’re likely moving rapidly between active and passive switch-tasking.

You determine your active switches; passive switches are initiated by someone else. The consequences for constantly switching your focus and attention are less attention to details and increased potential for mistakes.

If you’re switching between activities at a rapid rate, chances are your office staff is, too. Everyone has a full to-do list, but when passive switches undermine the tasks at hand, everyone can feel stressed and overburdened. No one feels the weight of the multitasking office staff more than the secretary.   

The morning huddle

The need to multitask will never end. But you can take action to reduce the stress and dysfunction that it causes. One strategy is to develop a morning huddle for your team: your assistant principal, secretary, lead custodian, managing cook, nurse, social worker—anyone in your office or staff who works closely with the office to create smooth daily operations within the school. And don’t overlook the coordinators of your before and after school staff and your transportation services. Their contribution to the success of your school operation should never be minimized.  

The purpose of the team huddle is to check in with team members about what your day will look like. It’s not to plan for the week or projects—that’s what other meetings are for. An effective morning huddle gives your closest team members the opportunity to connect with you each day, disseminate information, and create alignment of their schedules and prioritization of goals for your mutual work. The practice will increase morale and productivity for everyone.

How a morning huddle works

1. When and where. Your team gathers in a circle at a designated place and the same time each day. An early morning time before the students arrive is recommended. Participants stand. Standing will help keep meetings short and to the point.

2. How long? Huddles can and should vary in length, but if they become 45-minute discussions, they’ll likely fail. Keep them at 15 minutes or less most of the time.

3. Who speaks? Everyone speaks and shares something about what they’re working on. Vocalizing work priorities and status updates in front of others will lead to greater commitment and task accountability. As the leader, you’ll likely speak first, but be sure to hear from everyone. Participants can speak in order by going around the circle in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. Keep it simple.

4. Stay on topic. If someone tends to talk too much, assign a timekeeper. Everyone must keep their update short and crisp—a minute or two, depending on the number of people in the huddle.

5. What should be said? Participants should state their priorities for the day, provide status updates, share roadblocks and concerns, and celebrate wins. Identify pressing issues and problems but tackle them after the huddle. Recognize the accomplishments of your team.

The benefits

1. More efficient office operations. Once your secretary knows your priorities for the day, he or she can align their own work in a more effective manner. Your right-hand person can better determine when you’re free to be seen or interrupted by staff, students, or parents. Visitors can be more effectively greeted when there’s advance notice of their expected time of arrival.   

2. Clarification of your open-door policy. There are times when it becomes essential, such as with a pressing deadline for a report, that you close your door. When your team knows that you must not be interrupted, they’ll waste less time trying to find out if you’re available and respect your need for privacy.

3. Awareness/sharing. Not only will your team know your priorities for the day, but they’ll learn about each other’s as well. Communication will become free and open.  

4. Team building. You’ll strengthen and solidify your school’s culture with constant attention devoted to envisioning and realizing the values and habits necessary for an effective school operation. You can’t create a culture alone or in isolation. Share the responsibility for success.  

5. Morale. When team members learn each other’s priorities for the day, feel they’re free to be heard and contribute, and receive adequate direction from their leader, they’ll be energized by their connections. When people feel good about their work and appreciated for their contribution, morale soars.  

Dedicating just 15 minutes at the start of your day to support those you need most to ensure that your school operates efficiently shouldn’t add to your already full plate. Instead, the morning huddle has great potential to empower others, solidify your structures, and prevent disruptions and distractions the rest of the workday. It may be the best meeting you’ll ever have.

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