In one of our most popular posts, Do We Really Need a PLC Agenda? Really? I unpack the actual, precise reasons why: Yes! You do need to use an agenda if you want to have a well-run, action-oriented meeting with your peers!
In 5 Practices to Improve Team Facilitation, I share that my very first practice to grow facilitative leaders is to Establish a Building Leadership Team (for your PLC leaders).
In this post, I'm going to dive a bit further into the rabbit hole question of Do We Really Need a Building PLC Leadership Team? Really? and offer you some exact steps to take to create this learning environment for your leaders. (Spoiler: Yes! You do need to hold a building PLC leadership meeting each month! And yes, there is a simple agenda you can use for that, too!)
In addition to training your PLC leaders each summer, and providing teams weekly feedback on their progress, there is another support that we're finding is more of a non-negotiable than a nice suggestion: Monthly Building Leadership Team Meetings.
When we work with districts, it's not uncommon to hear that some building principals have created these monthly meetings while others have not. The most common reason for the lack of alignment is that central office leaders have not required these teams to meet. While an additional meeting outside of the school day does not come without a contract, cost or stipend, what we're finding is that for building leaders to help their PLC leaders continue to grow and learn from one another, a monthly gathering of this particular group is needed.
What's more? This meeting should be more like a PLC or learning session and less like a general house-keeping meeting about upcoming dates, requirements, events, etc. A meaningful building leadership team meeting includes learning and sharing for the leaders--and that's one of the main differences we need to emphasize. If the information you typically share in a building leadership meeting can be communicated in an email...communicate it in an email. Don't waste your precious gathered time going over dates. Use this time to grow and learn together.
Some teams tend to hold these building leadership team meetings more sporadically--calling them when they are needed, but without consistently all year long. I strongly caution against this. Most likely, your leaders already feel a bit stretched, so the more you can create a routine of consistency and predictability around these meetings--the more you're actually respecting your leaders' time.
Once a month seems to be the "sweet spot" of frequency for building leadership team meetings. Through a big picture lens, that means you'll have 8-9 leadership meetings a year (so really, it's not that many). As an administrator or coach, then, you want to ask yourself: what is the general focus or flow of these meetings going to be?
While I do not think you need to fully flush out all 8-9 meetings for your entire year, I do think the meetings should be clearly connected to PLC leadership. I also know that your leadership team will appreciate seeing a broad focus, theme, or goal--so they know what skills they are working to strengthen as a team.
For example, you may ask your teams to use a self-reflection protocol or tool at the end of a school year. Through their feedback and data, you determine that as a whole, your PLCs could stand to improve their ability to gather and analyze data in a timely manner. So, with this knowledge, you start your next school year with this as a focus. Then at your first building leadership team meeting, you show your team the results from the spring, explain that the leaders' focus will be on growing data analysis skills, and away you go. Each of your meetings (and remember you may only have 8 or 9) will connect and build on the focus of better strategies to gather and analyze data.
Another area of focus for a building leadership team (or instructional leadership team/ILT) is strengthening facilitation skills. Often our teacher leaders feel okay about how to start their PLC conversations, it's when tensions or disagreements arise in their teams that they start to feel anxious. As a principal or coach, you could determine that the improving facilitation skills is the focus for the year--ensuring that your leadership will get at least 8-9 learning sessions on how to strengthen those leadership muscles.
You don't need to determine the focus all by yourself. You can use your first meeting to ask your leaders to set the focus (but be prepared to guide them if needed).
The other item of note is to use some type of simple rolling agenda. You may use a shared Google Doc like our Building PLC Leadership Agenda, or you may want to keep this is sheets (using a new tab for each meeting). Put your newest agenda at the top of the document, and this will keep the scrolling to a minimum.
If you want to grow your building leaders (and I can't think of a principal or coach who does not want to do that) then you have to set at least monthly meetings for this team to gather and learn together. Set your dates at the start of the year; get them on your calendars; create some consistency. It's also important that this is a learning and sharing meeting--not a nuts and bolts meeting. Finally, use a simple agenda format that gathers all meetings together in one resource.
If you want ensure that your building leadership team meetings connect to your staff meetings (as well as what you see in PLCs) consider using our Admin PLC Dashboard as a tool to gather all of these items together in one space.
Remember: You don't have to have all of the details planned out in July or August. You do need to set your dates, create a predictable agenda format, and then work with your leaders to set a focus for what you'll grow in regarding PLCs. The rest will take care of itself!