Saturday, January 21, 2023

5 Actions to Engage Employees when Building Culture

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Leaders shape the culture

Now more than ever in education, positive workplace relationships are important. Teachers are leaving the profession in greater numbers, and fewer people are choosing education as a career. Positive relationships between administrators and teachers as well as all adults in a school are imperative in creating a positive culture. 

When building a positive culture in an organization, it becomes a result of a collective effort by everyone in the organization; however, the leader plays a key role in shaping the culture. 

Leaders can build up the confidence of staff members, creating safe spaces where curiosity is rewarded and employees challenge the status quo. Leaders can delegate equitably and demonstrate fairness and empathy, and they must model their expectations and hold others as well as themselves accountable. 

To shape a culture and achieve the collective effort of everyone in the organization, the leader must be intentional about engaging employees in the vision. 

5 actions to engage employees:

     1. Get to know them
     2. Look for strengths
     3. Create opportunities for employees to contribute, lead, and use
         their strengths
     4. Celebrate and recognize them
     5. Show you care

1. Get to know them

Ben Brearley, the host of the Thoughtful Leader Podcast, wrote a great article titled, Don’t Know Your Employees? Here’s Why You Should, and he shares 3 reasons why leaders should get to know their employees and 4 ways to get to know them. 

Here's what Ben says:
"People are more likely to do the right thing by you and the team if they are personally invested in the workplace and its relationships."

"Most people are creatures of habit and routine. Knowing your employees helps you to spot any changes which may highlight a problem that could impact the team."

One overlooked way to get to know others is by being observant. Ben gives the following questions to use as a starting point:
  • How do your people react under pressure?
  • How about when something unexpected happens?
  • What about when there is uncertainty?
  • How does your team member react when you praise them in front of the rest of the team? Do they love it, or shy away from the attention?
  • Does your team member seem confident, or tentative in their actions?
  • How do your team members respond to team conflict?

*You can read all of Ben's article here: Don’t Know Your Employees? Here’s Why You Should

2. Look for strengths

In a post by Scott Cochrane, he asks, What are the qualifications and qualities of the people you want sitting around your leadership table?

He then goes on to share the obvious strengths, such as results oriented, high achiever, and driven to perform. 

Additionally, he reminds us that there are less celebrated strengths that should also be valued, such as

     1. They are seated, and ready to engage, before the stated starting time of 
         the meeting.
     2. In every conversation they focus on you, not their phone.
     3. They are “thanking machines”- Gratitude oozes from them.
     4. They respond promptly to emails and voicemails.
     5. They stand up for their teammates.

3. Create opportunities for employees to contribute, lead, and use their strengths

Not sure where to start on this one? Try the actions below, which are based on the work of Marcus Buckingham, Researcher, NYT Best-Selling Author, and Founder of the Strengths Revolution.

     1. Know where your own strengths are, as well as your employees. 
Try using a "Love It / Loathe It" list. (Click for FREE download) How it works: for a few days, every time you have a task to do, write it in on the "Love it" column or the "Loathe it" column. At the end of the designated time, review your lists to determine your strengths (the tasks in the "Love it" column).

     2. Meet with employees individually or in teams, and ask employees to fill in
         the blanks about themselves: 

"This is where I'm at for the team: ______" 
"Here's where you can rely on me the most: ____________"

     3. Have frequent check-ins about work + strengths. 

4. Celebrate and recognize them

In their book, Corporate Celebration: Play, Purpose, and Profit at Work, Terrence Deal and M. K. Key note different types of celebration at work:
-Cyclical celebrations: seasonal themes, key milestones, corporate anniversaries
-Recognition ceremonies: public acknowledgement for a job well done
-Celebrations of triumph: special occasions for accentuating collective accomplishments (e.g., in a school, ACT scores or meeting other benchmarks)
-Personal transitions: entrances and exits
-Workplace altruism: doing good for others and promoting social change
-Play: games and events, fun 

5. Show you care

Author and Leadership Coach Kate Nasser reminds us how the world of work has evolved, and how necessary it is for leaders to honor feelings. In her post, "Leaders, Honor Feelings to Engage Employees," she states 5 ways that leaders can honor feelings.

     1. Acknowledge the feeling and its impact.
     2. Recognize when an employee is struggling.
     3. Accept different personality types express feelings differently.
     4. Address disrespect between teammates.
     5. Create a culture of respect for feelings and to results.

Gallup surveyed U.S. employees to see if they agreed with the following statements:

1. “My supervisor focuses on my strengths or positive characteristics.”
2. “My supervisor focuses on my weaknesses or negative characteristics.”

Not surprisingly, those who had supervisors who focused on strengths were more engaged than their counterparts whose supervisors focused on the negative. 

Interestingly, those who agreed with neither statement and were considered "ignored" were more than twice as likely to be actively disengaged than those whose supervisor focused on the negative. 

Questions for reflection:
  • How might relationships be strengthened in my school or organization?
  • How would I rank the five actions in order of my own strengths as a leader? From the ranking, how might I increase my role in engaging others at work?
  • What is a celebration we need to add to our workplace calendar?
  • When reviewing my calendar, how have I created time for getting to know others at work? How can I be more intentional about making time to get to know others?

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Tuesday, January 3, 2023

My 3 words for 2023

As each year comes to a close, I reflect on the year with specific questions to help me prepare and build momentum for the next one. 

Here are a few of the reflection questions I ask myself as the end of the year approaches:

What has had the greatest impact and how can I do more to amplify that?

What am I most grateful for?

What am I most proud of and why?

What did I learn this year, and what do I need to dive deeper into?

What challenged me this year?

The method

In preparing for the new year, I use 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. (Last year was an outlier year, and I only chose one word.)

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.” 

As we go through the new year, it can be easy to get off-track from pursuing our goals and dreams, but I've found that having three words to use as a guide throughout the year is helpful. 

While Chris says that we don't need to explain our words to anyone else, I find that posting them helps me with accountability as well as community. I learn a lot by reading about others' words, and over the years I've had others with common stories and goals to reach out to me. 

We are all trying to have our own best lives, so reach out to me if I can help you in any way!


During 2021, I began to have some minor health issues, and they progressed and continued into 2022. This setback has been very hard to deal with emotionally, psychologically, and physically. I continue to be positive and see it as a setback and one that will be overcome. There have been many hours spent reading, researching, and learning what I can do to overcome these issues. It has meant many changes, trials (and errors), as well as pushing back against traditional medicine. I know I can't pour from an empty cup, and 2023 is the year to fill it up!

"The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. 
The challenge is to silence the mind."

- Caroline Myss

As an Enneagram 1, I tend to have extremely high standards for myself (I'm a recovering perfectionist), and my inner critic can be very loud at times. Sometimes, fear can get in the way and shorten my stride or even derail me on the path to my goals. This year, in 2023, LEAP will serve as a reminder to me that sometimes we have to go with faith. Sometimes our plans call for big leaps instead of small steps. Have you ever had a time when you had to take a leap and were met with success? I have, and I've had the opposite as well. I've got regrets from times where I should have leaped and didn't. Can you relate?

“What’s important is that you make the leap. 
Jump high and hard with intention and heart.”

— Cheryl Strayed

According to Miriam-Webster, SOW means 
: to plant seed for growth especially by scattering
: to set something in motion : begin an enterprise

Both of my parents grew up on farms in rural Alabama, and several of my father's relatives are still in the farming business. I have great respect for farmers who understand the climate, soil conditions, and care that is needed to sow seeds that turn into crops. Educators are often compared to gardeners since we "plant seeds" in young people, even when we know that the seeds may not bloom or grow until after the students are long gone from our care. 

I have some seeds to plant in 2023. They will have to be planted in fertile soil and nurtured in order to grow. This year will be about planting and tending to the seeds: seeds of wellness, business, finances, relationships, and more. I plan to "sow seeds" that will produce amazing outcomes during the year. 

“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant” 

-Robert Louis Stevenson

I hope these words have inspired you to create and share your own words for 2023. 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.

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