Responding to Issues of Concern
Initial Response: Start the Conversation
Seek Out the Person: If you hear a complaint at a public meeting, seek the person out at a break. Find out
who they are and a bit about the context of their issue.
Listen: Show we care by taking the time to listen and acknowledge; something like...I can tell this important
to you. People want to know that they have been heard.
Info: Point them in the right direction starting with the principal or the person closest to the problem if they haven't gone there yet. Like the supermarket clerk...offer to make that connection for them. Send the email linking them to the appropriate person. (Yes, that may mean we need to do more work to be clear on OUR knowing who the appropriate contact is).
Handoff: Inform the appropriate person within the organization and give them the benefit of what you have learned. Do it face to face if possible. Emails can get buried, forgotten or fail to communicate the issues clearly. Make it clear that you are handing the issue off.
Ownership: If there is no clear owner, take the initiative to take it to level two below.
24-48 hours: Respond immediately, even it is only an acknowledgement like...Thank you for your concern, it will take me X days to get back to you. And then make sure that we do what we said we would do!
Level Two...take the lead...if assigned...or closest to the ball
Start the Briefing Paper: What is the background, the key question that needs to be resolved, the emerging
options? Start the BP before you have all the answers then add to it as you learn more. You can then ask questions that add detail and fill in the missing pieces. Share with key stakeholders to get different perspectives.
Call the Meeting 1: Schedule a 1:1 meeting to really hear the issues being raised. If you can, let them know
what we can and cannot do...and what might be possible. Get back to them with more information if we
have promised to do so. Avoid over-promising.
Call the Meeting 2: For many of our complex issues, no one person is in charge. Ask your colleagues to gather together to collect information and develop a more complete response. Use 411 structure or other preexisting structures. AND if you are asked to come to the meeting, DO SO. We can't make good decisions without the key players in the room. If one person is missing we will have to have another meeting.
Respond... to the person bringing the complaint...AND write the response in such a way as to communicate to
the broader audience...quite possibly including the media. Send pdf if there is a potential for being taken out
Keep Others Apprised: Include Public Affairs as needed...but don't automatically wait for them to write a
response...take the lead in drafting the message so Public Affairs has the background...then ask for help.
Only you know the purpose and the context. Copy (as appropriate) colleagues who need to know about the
issue...so they know the background and can reinforce messages.
Level Three...keep the wider audience informed
Inform Others: Let your supervisor, the superintendent and Public Affairs know that the issue is growing larger
and more people are being involved in the issue. Provide concise background information. If it is likely to
become a media topic, ask the superintendent or Public Affairs to inform the board.
Call the Meeting 3: Go to the school, or call an appropriate meeting. Plan ahead with the Qs and As expected.
Give people the opportunity to be heard. Communicate in advance whether the meeting is for input or more. Say back what has been heard. Outline next steps.
Communicate: Summarize the meeting (accurately with good, bad, semi-ugly). Include specifics to let people know they have been heard. Copy messages to broader audience. Prepare talking points for media as needed.