Positive and upbeat Principals create a “ripple effect” leading to positive and happy communities. The happiness of individual Principals has a far reaching affect. According to author Andy Cope, “Your happiness reaches three degrees of people removed from you, so if you’re really happy and positive, then every single person you meet during that day is going to be a minimum of 16 per cent happier, just because they met you.”
The Principal sets the tone. The Principal’s attitude is contagious. If you are positive and upbeat, staff, parents and students will be positively impacted. If you are negative, short tempered and gloomy, don’t be surprised if those around you are too.
Being positive and upbeat in February is easy when you are well rested and recharged after the Christmas break. It’s more challenging to also finish the term well. Students (and for that matter staff) need positive role models in their life. As school leaders we have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives each and every day. According to Cope, “Your job is not to inspire other people, your job is to be inspired. If you can be inspired and become a people person, then your school magically will be inspired too.”
1 Fake it ‘til you make it! – Even if you aren’t feeling excited by the year ahead, put on a brave face. The fastest way to do this is to change your automatic response to the inevitable social inquiry of “How are you?” from “Not bad!” to “Fantastic!”
2 Use the Pareto Principle (more commonly known as the 80/20 rule) – Pareto proposes that there are a small number of critical tasks or times during the day where we get we achieve most of our results. Pareto calls them our critical few as opposed to the trivial many. He says 80% of our results are achieved through 20% of our tasks. Knowing which are your critical few is the first step. As a Principal I believe my critical few for setting the tone in the school included…
- being available and visible to staff in the hour before school formally started each day
- being visible in the playground at the start or end of breaks
- being at the school gate at the end of the day as parents collected their children and
- staff meetings – starting and finishing on time, sticking to the agenda, valuing people’s time and recording decisions made
3 Praise often – Both public and private praise are important. The praise needs to be genuine and as specific as possible. Saying to an individual staff member, “I really appreciate the way that you calmly managed Johnny’s behaviour during his meltdown” is far more powerful than the broad statement, “Thank you everyone for a great term”. Don’t stop doing the broad but look for more opportunities to give individual praise.
4 Snipper instead of shotgun – Where the behaviour of some staff has not met your expectations have a quiet word to the individuals concerned (snipper) rather than raising the issue with the whole staff at a staff meeting (shot-gunning).
5 Feed them at after school meetings and professional development – We all know how draining a day in front of students can be. To increase staff morale and the effectiveness of after school meetings and PD sessions, provide some food to reenergise the staff. This small investment will reap big rewards.
Whilst these five strategies are sure to help, one of the best things that you can do to boost staff morale is to find out what is annoying or frustrating the staff and take action to fix the aspects that you can change. Even if you can’t fix it, asking the question and taking a genuine interest in their responses is powerful. This is a key step in becoming a School Employer of Choice.
What are your strategies for boosting staff morale this year?