Having been an educational leader with my own classes of up to 30 students or more, I did not always have huge amounts of time across a day to spend with my team of teachers. I often worked in demanding roles in very challenging circumstances, and I could not simply drop what I was doing to help solve minor issues as they arose. When emergencies occurred, as they often did, it was part of my role to intervene, to help to resolve these situations. A knock-on effect unfortunately also meant disruption to my own class and their learning. 

I needed to find a way I could track and resolve minor issues and where possible, prevent them from becoming major issues, earmarking any problems that did arise for resolution; before things escalated. I needed to increase time spent on teaching and learning, and problem prevention was one way to do so.

So, I started to do something that at that time I did not know had a name: Short Interval Leadership. This is periodic, regular contact by a team leader with each member of their team, at least twice a day. It can be used to:

  • check on the status of key parameters
  • provide an opportunity for each employee to get support or report problems or issues, in real time, without being a ‘pest’ or of having to leave their work area
  • ensure that ‘little’ problems or issues are highlighted
  • determine if prior problems have been resolved

I would briefly visit my team before the beginning of the school day and then at times that had been identified through data collection as being tricky points in the day. By visiting my team in their workspace, their work was able to continue. I would talk with teachers, and students (the latter, after all, being key customers of our processes), we would together identify issues, prioritise and record, and resolve then and there if we could.

My visits meant we would all get a real-time sense of what was going on in the classroom, and I would ‘catch the vibe’ amongst students which proved critical at times in uncovering and preventing some major planned events which were completely unknown to teachers. Yes, most teachers double as detectives! Things are not always as they seem in the wonderful world of teaching.

Through these visits I found that being available to my team in their workspace, at regular intervals for the purpose of joint pre-emptive problem-solving and providing necessary support, cemented our team spirit. It also meant I could evaluate the situation in real time through the lens of my own experience rather than as in the past, relying on what had been relayed to me some time after the event. 

Early on Short Interval Leadership was thought of negatively, as being all about ‘checking up’ on people. But once your team see you are serious about engaging with them, listening to them, they’ll understand you’re not ‘checking up’ to monitor, but ‘checking in’ to support.

Short Interval Leadership is a productive and pragmatic approach to leadership – indeed, a Lean approach. Short Interval Leadership is a part of Daily Lean. There are several aspects that make up Daily Lean and they are all practical and effective actions that can be applied in your daily work to help improve team morale, boost job satisfaction, and empower problem-solving capability.

Like anything in the world of Lean, Short Interval Leadership works across a wide range of sectors. If you are interested in finding out about how Lean can become second nature in your organisation, get in touch with me. I really look forward to hearing from you.

Kim