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Good leadership can be easy to spot, but deconstructing it can be so challenging. Over the course of the past year or so, through the interviews I’ve done with truly remarkable world-class educators and leaders, I’ve learned that so much of great leadership comes from trust and the deep, intentional practice of gratitude. Nothing makes you feel smaller than a leader who doesn’t see you. When you feel insignificant, or at least your efforts do, nothing is less motivating. In fact, it’s been proven that an ambivalent leader can be as damaging to his/her employees as an outwardly ineffective leader who puts his/her employees down.

I recently learned about the recognition gap, which applies as much to organizational leaders as bosses and managers, as it does to teachers in the classroom or parents in homes.

It turns out that 80% of supervisors claim that they frequently demonstrate outward appreciation for their subordinates, while only 20% of employees report that their supervisors express appreciation more than occasionally.

So, knowing that there is a gap in perception, it’s important that leaders, teachers, and parents find meaningful ways to see and appreciate the people they serve so that these individuals feel motivated, valued, and believe that their work matters.

Here are a handful of easy ways to do this at work:

-Start a Shout-Out Board to encourage employees to recognize one another’s efforts.

-Every day, focus on one employee or student and celebrate something about them in person or in writing.

-When someone goes above and beyond for the organization (picture that student who volunteers to stack chairs at the end of the day, your child who cleans her room without prompting, or the employee who contributes meaningfully at a faculty meeting), go out of your way to show them you see and appreciate their efforts.

-Call someone and tell them specifically what they mean to you.

-Write a quick post-it for 3-5 staff members or students every day specifically thanking them for the way they contribute to the climate in your class or school.

These little things don’t seem like a huge effort on your part, but they sure go a long way in building trust, rapport, and positive morale.

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