Okay, all my administrators out there, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Your teachers are just like your kids.
Maybe “just like” is a strong phrase, but your teachers often have the same needs. Maslow’s hierarchy applies beyond our students; if our teachers’ needs are not being met, they will be more and more dissatisfied and less and less productive. We all want our teachers to be self-actualized—working to be the best that they can. But a sense of belonging and esteem must come first.
There is actually a lot of research on this out there. Beyond Maslow there was Mayo. Mayo sought to study environmental factors on productivity; working conditions, lighting, temperature, etc.) What he found was that these factors didn’t actually matter much. The number one influence that increased worker satisfaction and productivity was attention from the manager; and this was true no matter what other factors were in place.
Then, of course, there was Skinner and his study of rats that determined that behavior is more likely to be repeated if it is positively reinforced. This is the basis of most PBIS systems in our schools; you’re probably using one with your kids right now. But if you think about it, how much more likely are teachers to follow your initiatives and repeat something new if these reinforcers are present?
Herzberg found that the presence of certain factors (including recognition and relationships) increase job satisfaction. Satisfaction is perhaps the most important factor in productivity and staff retention. Even if someone is discontent with certain factors or aspects of their job, if they remain satisfied they will keep at it, and work to improve it.
I recently read a snippet from Dave Berke, which I really liked. He talked about how open-door policies don’t work, and I have to say I agree with him. Having an open door doesn’t make you approachable. What it does is make your employees have to navigate the chain of command to get to you. Or feel like they’re bothering you. Or feel like they’re tattling or complaining. What you should adopt instead is an empty chair policy. Get out amongst your teachers and staff as much as you can. Connect with your team, build those relationships. Let them know that you’re not just willing to hear their problems, but that you see them and are ready to listen.
What is the easiest way that we can hit all of these factors? One idea is recognition. Everyone enjoys being recognized, even if they don’t feel they “need” it; it feels good to be acknowledged, by peers and by superiors. So why doesn’t everyone do it?
Excuse 1: It’s not a priority. Well, it should be. Have a stack of cards on your desk, delegate, set reminders; whatever you have to do.
Excuse 2: Trying to be fair. Yes, you should recognize everyone; those who are harder to recognize probably need it the most. Make sure your feedback is genuine, and come up with a system for yourself.
Excuse 3: Lack of attention. Maybe you don’t notice everything that your staff is doing well; we know you’re busy, and can’t be everywhere all the time. So get help!
Excuse 4: Personal beliefs. Just because you don’t feel like you need it, doesn’t mean others don’t. You wouldn’t tell a kid they don’t need positive reinforcement because you don’t; adults are really no different.
Excuse 5: Not knowing how to recognize. I’ll help with that! Keep reading.
Excuse 6: We don’t have the money. Recognition does not require money. Again, keep reading.
Now that those are out of the way, clear your excuses and let’s look at some different ways you can recognize.
- Privately—send encouraging emails. Write handwritten notes/cards (this goes a long way!)
- Publicly—have a staff of the month. Facilitate meeting starters. Put kudos in your staff emails or updates. Post it on Twitter!
- Top-down—give certificates of achievement for concrete goals. Write highlights in your school newsletter.
- Peer-to-peer—have peer celebrations in your meetings. Implement raffle tickets.
- Individual—have former students come and visit. Post publicly about how awesome a staff member is.
- Team—hold Friday breakfasts. Do things for appreciation days.
So many of these can be done with little or no money, little or no work for you, and a crazy level of efficacy! Here are some of my favorite examples.
We put together little goodie bags based on the year’s theme. Every week the leadership team nominates people for specific actions/accomplishments, and on Friday afternoon I deliver the bag with a handwritten note to their desk so they’ll find it when they come in on Monday morning. The nomination list we use ensures that everyone will have a chance to receive one, but also that the recognition is authentic; even if I don’t get to see the person at work very often.
At the beginning of every meeting on administrator shows a slide as everyone is settling in. The slide instructs those in attendance to get out their phone and send an email to someone who has impacted them or their team that week. This costs no money, and puts it on everyone’s mind so that time and busyness are not an excuse.
One secretary sends out an email asking for staff kudos every week. On Friday, she shares them with the principal, who copies and pastes them into the newsletter/weekly update. Again, no money and minimal work!
Another campus has a raffle system. Anyone on campus (including students) can fill one out for any staff member. Weekly, three names are drawn for prize choices that include jeans days, get-out early passes, have the principal/AP as an assistant for a period, etc. Absolutely free, and crazy effective!
What are your favorite programs that you’ve participated in? What are you currently doing on your campus? Share the love!
(Note: Portions of this blog are credited to a lecture session presented by Ms. Jasmine Kullar, with Solution Tree)