Little moments make a difference. Simply put, it doesn't have to be the grand gestures that make people feel valued but rather the ongoing small positive actions that cultivate a culture of care.
Say Thank You
Educators put themselves fully into their roles. Whether it's spending long hours making lesson plans or preparing meetings, events and interviews, it is important to stop and acknowledge their great work. A quick thank you shows others you care and appreciate their efforts and the things they do to make your life easier or better. Hearing a thank you from someone helps you feel valued within the school community and you are more likely to offer your assitance again. Say thank you to those who hold the door for you or take on an extra yard duty when someone is sick or share a great idea or book with you. Expressing gratitude shows appreciation towards others and returns their kindness back to them.
Send a Card
One of the things I have done this year is ensure I send a birthday card to each staff member. I add all birthdays into my calendar at the start of each year to ensure I don't miss anyone and then each week spend a few minutes hand-writing a note wishing my colleagues a wonderful year ahead on their birthday. It is something I picked up from a previous principal who used to message staff on their birthdays. It always meant a lot to me that he had taken the time to send a greeting.
We've also distributed cards (and a little treat) to wish our teaching staff good luck at the start of the year. By starting the year on with a positive note (literally and figuratively), it can help to shape the direction of the culture of care.
Get Personal, Ask & Listen
Communities are built on relationships. The stronger the rapport, the strong the relationships. In our professional lives, we need to make time for the 'personal' and remember the human element within our roles. Spend time asking colleagues about their weekends, their children and their interests. Remember to stop and truly engage in the converations by listening rather than feeling obliged to return with an answer. Rather, just listen and appreciate your colleague sharing with you.
Acknowledge a Job Well Done
Whether it's telling someone they've presented an amazing assembly to congratulating someone on completing a c,ourse, telling someone their accomplishments are visible and recognised provides them with the acknowledgement and reassurance of their work. An authentic and honest compliment can go a long way to build rapport and community.
"Use your smile to change the world. Don't let the world change your smile"
A smile is contagious. When others see you smile, it is hard to resist smiling back. The more you smile, the more others around you smile. A smile and a positive attitude can leave a lasting impact on others. It also positively impacts your own life by boosting your mood and reducing stress levels.
Make Things Fun
Just because it's called 'work' doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself while doing it. Find little moments in the day to excite youself amongst the marking and paperwork. Stop and chat to children on the playground and hear about the world through their eyes, visit the early year classes and get down to their levels or find a way to express yourself creatively through an artistic medium.
Explore ways to make certain parts of your job more enjoyable. One way we've done this with our staff meetings is by beginning with five minutes of fun - some kind of simple, yet fun activity to bring laughter and smiles across the room before getting ibto the operational components of the meeting.
Find the Good
Above all, find the positive in every situation. Explore ways to learn and grow. Laugh at your mistakes. Challenge your thinking and celebrate the small wins along the way. Being positive can have a profound impact on those around you. Not every day is going to be perfect, but it positivity can be present.
Fisher’s (2009) work about leadership was a thought-provoking read that allowed me to be reflective of how I lead as well as how others lead me.
One of the clearest things that came out of the article was the need of a clear vision at all times. A leader needs to be able to effectively identify and communicate this to their followers. In order for engagement, the followers need to ‘buy-in’ to the vision and truly understand all aspects of it before they are effectively able to live and breathe it. This is so important for the success of an organization.
Another point that resonated with me was the need to motivate others. There are so many different ways of motivating people but in my opinion, empowering people to take lead in align with the vision and values of the organisation creates the most effective outcomes. This can be scary for a leader as they have to trust in the their followers and release some sense of control. This bottom-up approach allows those involved to gain a sense of self worth and contribution to the organisation.
The importance of managing alone will never be successful. In conjunction to managing, a leader needs to lead using both these skillsets intertwined to eliminate any disconnect. It was also noted of the consistency between these two needed.
I loved that note about leadership being personal. Recently I heard someone say that in leadership sometimes you just have to do something because it has to get done. For me, this is not personal at all. I think if you can’t justify why this is needing to be done and the true purpose and impact of what you are doing then perhaps this isn’t the best route. A leader needs to stay focused on what they are trying to achieve and have a deeper understanding of why they are doing it as it aligns to the vision.
Fisher, J. (2009). The Thoughtful Leader. Review Ontario Leadership Framework, Ontario Ministry of Education. (Dr. Fisher has kindly provided permission to use this resource). Click here to access