Monday, July 25, 2022

Is your school's culture one of Peak Performance?

"Hire good people and get out of their way."

Many school leaders believe in the quote above, and they do a good job of vetting candidates, checking references, and asking tough interview questions, all to find "peak performers" to fill openings.


What happens with the rest of the staff? Is the same diligence and care used to develop the entire staff as a team and create a caring, productive, and effective culture?

Creating an exceptional culture means leading with integrity and with a team-focused mindset. It's understanding the characteristics of peak performers and tapping into their strengths to grow a "peak performance culture."

After over 20 years of study, Charles Garfield found 6 unique characteristics of peak performers. Interestingly, he did not find that peak performers had unusually high IQs; he found that they had something else that led them to create exceptional results.



Garfield found that peak performers are internally motivated, with a sense of purpose that is not tied to an external sense of purpose. Given a task, peak performers will complete it while always looking for a way to contribute to a greater purpose. 


The peak performers in Garfield's study took action each day to get closer to their goals. They created intentional habits that would lead to the results that they sought. 


Peak performers are critical thinkers and analyzers. They are able to determine what's working, what's not working, and how to make changes to get results. They work independently, are self-motivated, and seek progress on a consistent basis. 

"We must develop processes based on the deep-rooted belief that we are all in this together.
-Charles Garfield


Peak performers appreciate and desire a team, because they know that they can achieve more with a team than individually. They put the mission of the team and organization ahead of their own personal egos. While they are self-motivated and industrious, they understand how they can best serve a team or build a team to achieve results. 


Peak performers understand what it means to "fail forward," and when faced with negative outcomes or results, they will analyze the situation, their contributions, and correct their course. They are also able to take their teams in new directions to achieve the desired outcome.


Peak performers are not afraid of change, understanding that it is crucial to iterations and advances. They don't take change or failure personally, and they are able to adapt to changes with intentional redirection of efforts.

As you think about the culture in your school...

   -Do you know who your "peak performers" are? 

   -Are you a peak performer? 

   -Do you know how to create a culture of peak performance?

   -Are your mission and goals clearly defined?

   -What values guide the team as it works to achieve the mission?

   -What is one step you (or the team) can take to move toward a peak performance culture?


Garfield, Charles A. Peak Performers: The New Heroes of American Business. New York: W. Morrow, 1986.

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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Onboarding New Teachers: Building Strong Relationships from the Beginning


You've interviewed and hired your new teachers, and now you're thinking about how to "onboard" your new staff members so that they immediately feel like an important part of the school culture and family. Why is it important, and what are some ideas for how to do it successfully?Quote by Brene Brown

Reflection questions for leaders:

-Why do new connections need to be made as quickly as possible?

-How can I be intentional about building relationships at new teacher orientation/onboarding?

-What are some ways to make new teachers' first experiences at school very positive?

-How do I ensure that new teachers are seen, heard, and valued at orientation as well as through their first year?

-Who needs to be involved with the planning and implementation of new teacher onboarding?

-What opportunities can I create for new teachers to immediately contribute and share their strengths?

-How can we celebrate our new teachers?

-What will I do to get to know the new teachers well?

-How can we show we care for our new teachers?

Quote by Jennifer Hogan

New Teacher Onboarding/Orientation will look different at every school, because every school culture is different. There are some key elements that should in all of them. 

1) Celebration 

Create a special occasion for your new teachers. I wrote about how we had a "New Teacher Signing Day" at our school a few years ago. It was such a big hit, it has become a tradition!

Other ideas to celebrate your new teachers: 

-Provide lunch, complete with a special dessert

-Hang a welcome sign or banner on their classroom doors 

-Purchase "Welcome to _____ School" yard signs and place in each new teacher's yard 

-Put together a low-cost, cute basket of basic supplies from Target Dollar Spot, Dollar Tree, or a school supply store.

-Leave a note or card in his/her staff mailbox, etc.

2) Relationship Building

Not everyone enjoys ice breakers, but there are some that are not too painful and can be fun! Find activities that give new teachers an opportunity to share a little bit about themselves, their strengths, and experiences. 

Ideas for relationship building:

-I like to ask new teachers, "What drives your engine? What motivates you?"

-Taking a free and online strengths test is a good way to discover more about one's own strengths and each other's strengths.  

-Invite other staff members, such as mentors, department chairs, administrators, and/or counselors, to have lunch with the new teachers during orientation. Ask them to sit among the new teachers so that they will have an opportunity to chat and get to know each other.

3) Introduction to the school culture

     It's important for new employees to learn about and get a sense of the school's norms, both formal and informal. New employees should learn about the organization's core values and goals, as well as how team members are expected to contribute to the success of their students and the school in general. New employees need to know the chain of command and how leadership works with the different teams in the building. Take time to explain the why behind specific actions and policies, as well as the "non-negotiables."

Quote by Jennifer Hogan

Culture Resources: 

Culturize, by Jimmy Casas - This is a great book for a book study!

Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Hazelden Foundation

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