A recent editorial in our local paper lamented how the city has several elementary schools where nearly three out of four students qualify for free or reduced lunches and questioned whether the school district could do more for low-income schools. It caused me to wonder: when did schools become all-encompassing social services?

When I went to school, I was there to receive instruction. We brought our own lunches, made our own fun at home after school hours and received medical care from the doctor. Today, schools are expected to provide resources for health, wellness, mental health and recreation. The districts manage transportation, meals that accommodate a host of allergies and meet nutritional guidelines and post-school child care options. Schools are asked to address a wide range of social issues: bullying, vaping, teen pregnancy, drug education and now, apparently, even poverty.

I think about organizations like the school district and the role that communication plays in their organization. Consider what is required to keep the legislators, taxpayers and other influencers aware of the significant mission creep that the districts face – and the resources that are needed to effectively support them. Similar communication challenges happen in other centralized organizations that take on more and more over time – if they don’t effectively communicate how the scope has grown it’s likely that their tasks outweigh the human and financial assets required to provide all that is expected.

When you think of schools you think of classrooms, but they have become so much more. Is your organization in a similar situation – providing resources well beyond your original charge? If so, start today to repeatedly communicate what you really do so others understand the complexity and depth of what appears straightforward on the surface, and be prepared to draw the line if the scope creeps beyond your ability to provide it.

Editorial: “Data shows Dubuque’s ‘walk’ far from over, April 5, 2019, Telegraph Herald, p. 4A

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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