Sunday, September 24, 2017

Recruit/ Retain/ Support Highly Effective People: Support- The Shout Out

In another post I’ll explain my basic tenet for building culture: get out of their way and let them work.  For this post though, I’d like to talk about one simple action I’ve used that I think builds culture.  As with anything presented in this blog I don’t pretend to be an expert, and my intent is to simply share some of the stuff from my practice that I think works.  This is a part of the ongoing series I’m working on: Recruit/Retain/Support Highly Effective People; specifically in the realm of supporting folks. 

I am not a fan of manufactured events to improve school culture.  I don’t think people come to work to receive manufactured praise.  I think they come to work for fulfillment in their job, and to get paid.  I think people want to work in a school where they know honesty and trust are cornerstones of the work.  If the praise they receive isn’t honest, then how are going to take critical feedback later on?  Disingenuous cultures don’t last, and I believe folks flee them at the first chance they get.

I think culture is created and maintained by the adherence to two ideas:

With the hope that this will translate to a simple vision that does not change My School is a good place to work.  A huge part of supporting highly effective folks is recognizing them when they are doing the right thing. 

The culture I want in our school is one where folks know where they stand, where good work is celebrated and reinforced, where they understand that they will be treated fairly and ethically, and have an understanding of what is happening on campus.  One of the things we do to build culture, speaking directly to celebrating and reinforcing good work is how we do shout outs.  It’s pretty simple, and I think authentic. 

Praise is important when it’s genuine, and just like feedback to a student, “Good Job” doesn’t go very far.  Folks want to know why they are doing a good job, and I think people appreciate being recognized for their work when they go above and beyond, and as equally important; when they are consistently performing at a high level.   Each week I send out a ‘shout out’ link where staff can highlight both students and staff.  I think it’s important that I send it out, not a clerk, or an AP, but the principal.  If it comes from the principal’s office it’s more likely to be read, and it clearly communicates what the office values.

I think our shout outs does a decent job of promoting a positive culture.  I’ve never heard any bad feedback about the shout outs, and folks seem to enjoy highlighting their peers.  I may have rose colored glasses on, but I figure if people have a ritual of celebrating their peers- good work is reinforced, and folks appreciate kind words from their colleagues.

I have no expectation of anyone filling them out weekly, and there are no parameters to shout out a coworker.  If it was mandated, I think it wouldn’t be genuine.  We usually have between 35-45 people that celebrate someone.  It can be for anything they wish to celebrate.  I’d love to see everyone celebrate someone each week, but if it doesn’t happen authentically, it doesn’t happen.  I do highlight when we have weeks with exceptional responses.  One week we had over 70 people send in a shout out.  That was really cool to see.  I enjoy reading them each week and seeing our people value each other.  If we ever had a week that every staff member sent in a shout out to a peer, I’d probably do a backflip down the hall.

At the end of each week I compile them off the spreadsheet generated by the google form, use the snipping tool and cut and paste them into my Monday report unedited, and folks can see them at the bottom of each report.  This takes up about 20 minutes of my weekend, and I think it’s time well spent.  Using the google form makes it pretty seamless.  I’m still playing with the format that it comes out in, but for now I used the snipping tool and cut and paste it directly.  I am sure there is a better way to do it, and make it look better; but style is not my forte.  Any ideas out there, I’ll happily listen.

I try and do my own shout outs each week in conjunction with the staff shout outs.  Admittedly I’m spotty on numbers, sometimes its 3-4, and sometimes its 20 people.  It’s based off what I have seen during the week, and limited to what I encounter.  So if I have a week full of meetings, odds are I’m not going to have a lot of people to celebrate. 

In the past I kept a list to make sure I highlighted people at least twice a year.  I stopped doing that in 15-16 because it’s not genuine.  If I don’t celebrate someone, it’s not because I don’t like them, or don’t find value in them, it’s because I haven’t seen something face to face to shout out.  This ties back to genuine praise.  I don’t feel that I am honest if I have a check off list that I keep.  I’ll praise and reinforce what I see.  I think being genuine about this upholds the value of the process, and peoples work.  Praise that’s not authentic, or boilerplate isn’t honest.  It makes people feel like that they are on a list to check off. 

Will a weekly shout out change the building over night?  No.  Culture is a facet of many things, and for us, this is one component.  Hope you found the post worthwhile and it spurred some thinking on how you celebrate authentically in your school.

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