All good leaders are full of great ideas. The key is knowing which ideas to develop and when. Some may never go beyond the idea phase. Others may be able to be brought to fruition fairly easily. Others take study, strategizing, collaboration, and mindset shifts. Regardless of the idea and how it develops, all success revolves around the culture of the organization. It might be something that you pursue just for yourself. So, the organization is essentially you. You still have to have that “culture” established that allows you to step out in courage to make the change, or go for the new idea that’s forming. True change cannot happen unless there is a healthy culture first, and this takes time to build and foster.
The culture of a school or district is developed over time and reflects the stakeholders’ values and beliefs. One author equates the culture to the personality, and the climate to the attitude of an organization (Gruenert, 2008). By achieving a positive educational climate, one can build a healthy culture.
Five ways to build a healthy culture:
- Conduct a culture audit. By giving the stakeholders a survey, the leader can find strengths and potential weaknesses. This will aid in prioritizing needs and finding the right place to begin. Effective communication is always a key component to successful operation. At times, we can gather information informally, other times, a needs assessment is the best place to start. Not only will an audit give the leadership team pertinent information, but it increases employee engagement by giving them a voice.
- Involve stakeholders in decision-making processes. If teachers and staff feel like they have a voice in the school’s happenings they will trust their leaders more, work harder for the benefit of the team, and take more ownership in development. A healthy culture is one of the largest components of employee retention. Involving them in the processes and procedures of daily operations shows them that they are a valued and necessary part of the district.
- Make the culture visible. The vision, mission, and goals of any school district need to be well-known, consistently communicated and modeled by leadership. When all stakeholders are aware of these foundational values, the culture becomes visible and buy-in is higher. These can be communicated in a variety of ways, from social media posts to physical posters within the workspace. The Forbes Coaches Council said it best, “Your company culture is a reflection of what your organization stands for, and as the voice of your business, your employees are key to ensuring that it succeeds.” When employees enjoy where they work, they will help make that culture more visible through their own communications with others.
- Build community within the school among staff members. This can be accomplished by holding social gatherings outside of the workday. These could be for mini-celebrations, for holidays, or strictly for the sake of socializing. Staff will be more willing to take risks, and more willing to work together if they care about one another as people first.
- Choose teams wisely. It is the leader’s responsibility to seek employee-input, to form teams, and get people in the right places to utilize talents and passions to better the organization. Culture is healthier when employees are involved in various processes and systems. The best teams are comprised of people who bring different gifts and viewpoints to the table but share a common goal and mindset.
I think all leaders would admit that a healthy culture is imperative to success. I’m wondering how many consciously work to build it though. How do you build/promote/foster a positive culture in your schools or districts? I enjoy partnering with leaders at any stage in this development, from leadership coaching to whole-staff workshops. Let’s find a solution to laying the foundation for a positive culture to promote overall well-being.
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