Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Impact of Praise on Morale and Engagement

The Importance of Praise

When I was a young teacher, I didn’t want to reward my students for doing the things that were basic expectations, such as putting their names on their papers or turning in their work on time. 

As I got more experienced, and especially after I had children, I was asked the question, "When your kids make up their bed or clean their room (or other household chore), do you praise them for that?" When I answered yes, the wise person who was coaching me through my beliefs said, "Does that make them want to do it again?" I had to admit (to myself) that I used praise with my daughters because I knew it made them feel good and because I wanted them to do it again when asked. 

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may make a commission at no cost to you. 

That conversation helped me to realize that praising my students for doing something I had asked them to do made them want to do more of it.

I began to celebrate students for the small and big accomplishments. Little did I know that it would create a more positive, productive, and fun environment in our classroom.

As I moved into a school leader position, I carried my beliefs with me and applied it to my relationships with staff members. It's not only students who want to work in an environment that’s positive, productive, and fun. Adults do, too! 

"Praise, like sunlight, helps all things to grow." - Croft M. Pentz

Gallup finds that praise, although it has great impact, is not used that often. From the Gallup site, "Only one in three workers in the U.S. and Germany strongly agree that they received recognition or praise in the past seven days for doing good work -- and those who disagree are twice as likely to say they'll quit in the next year. Praise is that powerful."


Here's more information from Gallup on the power of praising teams:

  • When teams are praised, they feel that their work is meaningful. 
  • Teams who don't receive praise don't trust their colleagues. 
  • Teams who receive praise make quality a top priority in their work.
  • Teams who receive praise "openly share information, knowledge, and ideas with one another." (Isn't this a dream environment for schools, PLCs, and other teams within schools and districts?)

How much praise should be given compared to negative feedback? From Harvard Business Review: The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio 

“The factor that made the greatest difference between the most and least successful teams was the ratio of positive comments to negative comments…
The average ratio for the highest-performing teams was 5.6… The medium-performance teams averaged 1.9… But the average for the low-performing teams, at 0.36 to 1, was almost three negative comments for every positive one.”

From Fast Company, here are 5 ideas to regularly recognize and praise a team:

1. Keep a running list of successes. (Provide time at faculty meetings or other department/PLC meetings to share out the "wins and wows.")

2. Share kudos on social media. (This emphasizes the importance of Telling Your School's Story!)

3. Validate positive actions. (Don't let dissatisfaction be the only time an employee hears from you! The "no news is good news" saying doesn't apply here. Give good news, too!)

4. Be specific. (Let someone know exactly what you liked about their work.)

5. Be authentic and consistent. (Praise should not be given as a way to manipulate. Others can read through false praise, so be sure to keep it real!)

From your experiences, what would you add about the impact of praise? I would love for you to leave your thoughts in the comments below! 

Pin now, share later >>

The Impact of Praise

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Achieve Excellence with the Salt Shaker Theory

Have you heard about Danny Meyer’s “Saltshaker Theory” of leadership? The successful restauranteur describes his leadership style as one of applying constant, gentle pressure to achieve excellence.
leadership theory
This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may make a commission at no cost to you. 

Meyer learned a lesson about leading people from Pat Cetta, the owner of Sparks, a steakhouse located in New York. Cetta came to visit Meyer at his restaurant, and Meyer was bemoaning the fact that he wasn’t delivering consistent messages to his staff and, as a consequence, they were pushing back and testing limits.

Instead of telling Meyer what to do, Cetta first showed him. Cetta had Meyer to take everything off a dining table except for a saltshaker in the middle of the table. Cetta asked him if that was exactly where Meyer wanted it. Meyer checked it, and moved it about a quarter of an inch to the middle of the table.

Immediately, Cetta moved the salt shaker several inches off center, and asked Meyer to return it to the center of the table. Meyer moved it, and Cetta explained the analogy. He said, “Your staff and your guests are always moving your saltshaker off center. That's their job. It is the job of life. It's the law of entropy!”

Cetta warned Meyer that until he understood that relationships, then he would continue to get upset when someone moved the saltshaker off center.

Cetta said, “It’s not your job to get upset. You just need to understand: That's what they do. Your job is just to move the shaker back each time and let them know exactly what you stand for. Let them know what excellence looks like. And if you're ever willing to let them decide where the center is, then I want you to give them the keys to the store.”

“It's my job, and consequently the job of every other leader in my company, to teach everyone who works for us to distinguish center from off center and always to set things right.”  - Danny Meyer

Where are the parallels for me?
  • When I coached and taught, I believed that I should not get mad at the players/students. I felt that I could be disappointed, but never angry with them. It is important for school leaders to withhold judgment for staff and students, understanding that their "moving the salt shaker" comes with the territory. 
  • I believe that students are looking for boundaries. They want consistency and enforcement of expectations. They don't want anger or judgment, just reinforcement. 
  • Staff members need and depend on consistent messages from leadership. It's a fine line between micromanaging and consistently enforcing expectations. (School leaders, I would love for you to leave a comment on how you manage it.)

If you want to read more about Danny Meyer and what he learned from the hospitality business about leadership (and find the many analogies to education), check out his book below:

You can click the picture above, or click this Amazon link.

How does this leadership style relate to you and/or your school or district?

Pin now, Share later >>

Monday, June 7, 2021

Finding My Way With No Map or Compass

Finding My Way

I didn't always know I wanted to be an educator. I went to college and started out majoring in Engineering. After midnight stays in the Engineering lab during volleyball season, all while not getting the computer language to output what I needed it to, I changed my major to Biology. I was going to go into cancer or AIDS research, hoping that my contributions would be able to help save lives. (I didn't realize that my passion for helping others would manifest itself in my coaching and mentoring young people for almost 30 years!)

1992 Berry High School Lady Buccaneers Softball

In the spring of 1989, I was asked to volunteer coach the softball team at my high school alma mater, Berry High School. It was then, in that opportunity, that I found my life's purpose. I transferred from the University of Alabama-Birmingham that summer to Samford University to play softball, and I began taking education classes. 

I graduated from Samford University in December 1991, and I got a long-term sub position at Simmons Middle School, in the Hoover City Schools district. I was the assistant softball coach with Jim Brown at Berry High School. Little did I know that I would be coaching again with him again, 18 years later!

In the fall of 1992, I started teaching and coaching at Pelham High School. I stayed there for 4 years, but in 1996 I left education to work with my husband. We opened a gym and were personal trainers and gym owners. It was during that time away from education that I learned that my calling was to be an educator. 

In 1998, I got a teaching and coaching position at Vestavia Hills High, a cross-town rival of my alma mater, Berry High School. (Berry High School had closed a few years before I started working at Vestavia due to the city building a new, large high school to replace Berry. It was called Hoover High School.) During my time at Vestavia, I learned an incredible amount about tradition, excellence, and leadership. After teaching there for 6 years, I entered my first role in administration as one of the assistant principals, and I stayed in that role for 3 years. My commitment to mentoring new and aspiring school leaders is because I still remember what it was like to go from being one of a hundred people in the building who all did the same thing (teach) to being one of 3 people in the building who were administrators. As the AP of Curriculum, I was the only one who did my job at the school, and this was before social media was in the picture. It was very challenging, but I'm grateful for the experiences that have shaped me as a leadership coach and school leader.

From 2007-2009 I was at Hewitt-Trussville High as Principal. I met some incredible students and educators during that short time, but it was the transition God knew I needed to get me to Hoover High. (I went back to the classroom at Hoover High for two years, 2009-2011, and was assistant softball coach.) While in the classroom 2011, I had an experience where I literally was the person to save a student's life. God put me in the exact place He needed me to be. Since that day, there has never been a day that I've gone to work and questioned it. I know that even today, as I finish out my last days as a school administrator, I'm doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. There are no countdowns, no wishing the days away. It's purpose-driven and faith-led. Only confidence. Have you ever felt that way?

Since the summer of 2011, I've had the privilege to serve as Assistant Principal for the awesome students and staff at Hoover. It's been a long run and a wonderful one, full of ups and downs, but always a lot of joy. 2011 was also the year I began to connect with educators all over the world via twitter. Finding other educators who were doing awesome work in their schools and learning from them while also getting to share our school's story is something that profoundly impacted me personally and professionally.

This summer I will be retiring from public education. I'm not sure yet what God has planned for me, whether it will be education-related or not... but I know that it will be for His purpose. I love this quote, Man makes a plan and God laughs. There are so many times that I've made plans then prayed about them. Now I pray, then I make plans. 

While my plans are to retire from the school administrator role, I've been having negative messages play in my mind about how I will now "fit" in the persona that I've created for myself through work, connections, imagery, and writing. Am I still compelled? Will I be able to contribute? Am I enough? Will I find purpose?

|RELATED POST: Be Your Own Champion 

I've slowed down my activity on social media and on this blog these last few months while I've been introspective and listening. I've been searching to find out what is the next destination and where the next trailhead will be. As time has passed (it's now been about 4 months since I first shared the words with our principal... "I'm retiring in July."), I've come full circle in my thinking and actions. 

What has bubbled up and through the negative thoughts is the mantra that I've shared with my husband and daughters repeatedly over the years: It's not about the destination, it's about the journey. I fully embrace those words, and I'm excited about the next steps of this journey. 

THANK YOU to all the readers of this blog. You've inspired me over and over with your comments, your messages, and your insights. I apologize for the silence over the last few months, but I'm back and I've got some great things to share from podcasts & books I've devoured recently, and just some plain crazy ideas I want to share with you. Feel free to share a comment below, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter. 

Friday, January 1, 2021

My Three Words for 2021

Who would have thought that back when the clock rolled over to the year 2020 that we would be ending the year like we have! 

As we wind up this crazy year, one practice keeps me grounded and hopeful going forward is the practice of reflecting on the year and choosing three words to guide me throughout the next year. This is a practice I learned from Chris Brogan, and one that has proven to be beneficial to me both personally and professionally.

Since 2014, I select three words at the beginning of the year that will set my intentions, drive my actions, and align my purpose throughout the year. 

Choosing three words is something Chris Brogan has been doing since 2006. He sums it this way: 

“The three words are a shorthand representation of your bigger story. It’s kind of like how an icon isn’t the software program. It’s just a way for you to mentally access all the work you’re doing.”

Before I choose #my3words for the new year, I spend some time reflecting on the past year. (Thankfully, the weather has been pretty nice in Alabama so I have been able to do my reflecting during my outdoor runs - my best thinking time.) 

Here's what Chris writes about choosing your three words:

Choose any three words you feel will guide you forward. I can tell you a few things about this:
  • Don’t make it a phrase. “Publish the book” is a terrible choice. “The” is wasted.
  • Try to make the words actionable. “Expand” is better than “bigger.”
  • The more utilitarian the word can be, the better. These words have to be your compass.
  • Stick with the 3 words all year. Every time I’ve changed one a month or two later, the year mucks up. I can’t explain it. But I can report it.
  • Years where I’ve tried “fancy” words with layers of meaning, I lost the thread. Use plain words, maybe.
  • BUT the words don’t have to mean anything to anyone but you. Don’t worry about explaining them.

In 2020, one of my words was BUDGET. I started in January and learned, studied, and calculated. I'm proud to say that I've learned a great deal and put it into action throughout the entire year. There are so many great people that are in the debt-free community that I've discovered this year. I'm thrilled to go into  new year armed with knowledge and consistent habits that will lead our family forward in a positive way.

INVEST, in its most obvious form, is an extension of the learning I experienced in 2020. Now that I've learned to budget, I want to learn about investing and growing the money that I've learned to budget. 

Other ways I want to invest in the new year:
  • I want to invest in old and new relationships. 
  • I want to invest more time for experiences and travel for our family
  • I want to invest in myself - from exercise to personal growth and learning new skills 

STRETCH is another word with several meanings for me in 2021. Hubs and I plan to start doing yoga together at home in the evenings, which will be entertaining as well as physically helpful. 

STRETCH also applies to my work life. After 15 years in school leadership, I still want to keep learning and adding to my "leadership toolbox." It means having to get outside my comfort zone and continue to try new things. 

There's one other area that will require a stretch, and it has to do with what I've learned about budgeting in 2020. What I've discovered from the frugal, budget, and debt-free communities is that I was not the only one who didn't know how to budget! I turned 52 in 2020, and I felt that everyone else must already know all the things about budgeting. Turns out I was way wrong. Now, I want to give back. I'm a teacher at heart, and I want to teach others what I've learned. I'm stretching myself in 2021 in a new project where I can do just that. (Be on the lookout for it!)

DISCIPLINE was one of my words when I began this journey in 2014. There were so many signs pointing to getting back to having this word as a daily reminder in 2021. 

During 2020, I had participated for 50 days in the #75hard challenge until I had minor surgery that sidelined me. I ran 4-6 days per week in the summer, usually averaging about 20 miles per week. I decluttered many rooms in my house and completed several DIY projects. I saved a lot of money and paid off several credit cards during 2020. Whew! 

I'm not looking for accomplishments, I'm looking for consistency. I'm looking for the action that causes you to "do it even when you don't feel like doing it." While I got a lot done in 2020, there were still times that I wasted time. Times when I procrastinated. Times when I "should have." I plan to change all of that in 2021. 

Jocko Willink fires me up! I love his message, and I hope that I will be able to confidently say at the end of the year that I. am. disciplined.

I hope these words have inspired you to create and share your own words for 2021. If so, please share them in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook

Past #My3Words Choices
2014 - Discipline. Intentional. Balance.
2015 - Rhythm. Bravery. Fitness.
2016 - Focus. Purpose. Do.
2017 - Pivot. Go. Grow.
2018 - Lift. Create. Relentless. 
2019 - Practice. Execute. Be.
2020 - Consistent. Empower. Budget.