What’s good for the goose….
I ran across a great little video from Edutopia of “words kids love to hear” reflecting the Whole Child SEL mantra that we know to be so important to our children’s mental health, always, but especially after the year they just had. But what about the Whole Staff Member approach? How do you go beyond words and build practices that reflect and nurture the climate and culture that you want (and need)?
Educators are facing another tough year with potential conflict, health issues, and interruptions reflecting our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world. Ed leaders are responsible for their school climate and culture. In the whitepaper, Ever-Ready Leadership: Dealing with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, practices are considered one of the 5 P’s of Ever-Ready Leadership. Practices – how things are done-are often at the heart of a district’s climate and culture. Practices can both contribute to and create climate- and be evidence of that climate.
Looking at your practices through a cultural lens can be enlightening:
- What are people learning from how your district does things?
- What does your district communicate with its actions towards employees, students, staff, parents, and other stakeholders?
- Do people know that they matter—that their input, involvement, and work is valued? “(Ever-Ready Leadership: Dealing with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity)
Is good for the gander: What educators would love to see
Here is the education leaders’ version of “what kids would love to hear”
- “I love having you in my class” translates to “I love having you on my staff – I could use your help/input/opinion- “The white paper states: Seeking others’ input has multiple benefits—it is another way that we demonstrate that people matter to us. Involving others sends important signals about our value for others and their ideas, our trust in their judgments, and our belief in what they can contribute and accomplish. Plus, it practically guarantees better solutions and decisions than we would otherwise have. The collective judgment of many people is-almost always better than the opinions of just a few— even experts-and involvement increases others’ commitment to solutions which is critical for successful implementation.
- “It was hard for me too”– translates to “Am I understanding your situation?” – Empathy is a channel of understanding, communication, and connection– trying to understand and demonstrate a genuine interest starts by asking the right questions. Building understanding and then offering support can help nurture relationships crucial to building a healthy, caring culture.
- “You got this!” Translates to “I have confidence that you can do this well” – Providing your staff members with the skills and resources that they need to succeed gives them a foolproof framework to approach a complex problem with confidence and clarity. Building capacity and skills of staff members makes it possible for them to be ready for anything.
- “I believe in you” translates to “I have trust in you” – Building trust, communication and collaboration is a must for effective organizations; districts have to be aware of perceptions, both internal and external when communicating. Understanding and trust in the practices and processes you follow increases when decisions and solutions are supported with data, clear rationale and an explanation of why some options where not chosen.
- “Wow, you have worked hard at” translates to “I appreciate….” Letting staff members know that you appreciate their time and expertise does not “go without saying.” Showing gratitude can range from a simple comment “I appreciate you coming in” to incentives for perfect attendance – staff members respond positively to appreciation and recognition for a job well done.
- “Oops, I made a mistake: – needs no translation – If you have made a mistake own it – the best way to own your mistakes is to share lessons learned and move on.
- “Need to talk?” Translates to “I am listening” –. It is so important that stakeholders are heard and involved in meaningful ways. Providing multiple ways for stakeholders to communicate with you using a well-structured and familiar problem-solving process gets staff members used to hearing different perspectives and builds trust that people can speak openly and honestly.
- “You matter”– needs no translation. Investing in people and their success by Investing in peoples’ skill and career development, is one way to show people that they matter. Director of American Management Association, Eric Rolfe Greenberg, said “investing in employees’ futures is more important than immediate compensation. Programs that improve work skills and future career development are seen as particularly effective.” An IBM study found that employees are two times more likely to leave if they do not feel they’re growing in their job. Providing high quality professional development will not only increase effectiveness of individual teachers and leaders, but it is also likely to bring value to the entire organization.
When district practices are driven by collaborative work, open communication, solid skills and tools, district climate and culture is one of trust and meaningful participation, supporting physical and mental health. Staff members who are given the tools and support to be successful feel valued and ready for anything. Building a culture based on shared problem solving will make your district ready to navigate this VUCA world with improved outcomes and confidence.