Building School Morale

Morale isn’t built in isolation…and neither is it something tangible that we can point to and say, “There it is!”  Rather, it is a force that builds and rises out of the ashes of our daily actions and interactions.

As educators and educational leaders, words such as data, accountability and achievement have been ingrained into our daily vocabulary.  We look for the tangible…the visible, those things that we can monitor and measure.  As educators, very seldom have we been able to avoid the words of W. Edwards Deming famous quote, “In God we trust; all others must bring data.

And yet…

There is another side, you might even say a “softer” side to what Deming is saying…a side that is necessary and needed if we are to build a “whole” culture.  Albert Einstein does an eloquent job of summing that up with…”Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

As educators and leaders, it is imperative we acknowledge that some of the most important pieces for building a “whole” culture are often those pieces we can’t necessarily measure through data…they are the intangibles.  Those things we know exist…but we can’t touch it, we can’t put our finger on it, we can’t even see it.  But we know it is there…and we know it is important because it affects our schools and organizations as a whole, as well as everyone within it.

And neither is it something we can produce or manufacture…

It is value.  Self-worth.  Morale is a by-product of it…as is a positive and authentic culture.  And when a culture is founded in value, where people feel valued and appreciated…for who they are, what they do, and the talents and gifts they add…it creates a “whole” organization or school.

To do this, leaders need to intentionally create opportunities for connection and relationship to occur, to flourish, to strengthen, and build…otherwise, that authentic community and culture will fail to exist.

For all of this to occur, leaders need to intentionally and purposefully attend to the 5C’s in their school and organization…

  • Culture
  • Climate
  • Community
  • Connection
  • (Capacity)

You can’t set the tone and climate of your organization without first attending to the culture.  For most schools and organizations, culture is not a thing, as much as it is a deeply-embedded mindset.  “The way we do things around here…”  Which is why connection and relationship remain paramount to building a strong school culture, climate and morale.  Until people feel valued for who they are and what they do…it will remain difficult to break down the structures, barriers and obstacles that inhibit growth, progress and change.

When we build a culture and climate where the “whole” feel valued…we create the conditions for authentic community to exist.  Community where connection and relationship strengthen the “whole”…for it is in this environment where everyone feels a part of something bigger than themselves.

With culture, climate, community and connection in place…a school or organization has now created the conditions, as well as the environment, where leaders at all levels have the opportunity to invest deeply in building and expanding the capacity of those within.

In a time when leadership knowledge and best practices are no longer hidden commodities to be held close to the chest…the 5C’s provide rare advantage to create organizational momentum and flow.  As well as creating an environment where all people feel valued…and morale can flourish and grow.

Which is why it remains vital for leaders to understand…

“Creating culture, climate, community, connection and (capacity) are intentional acts…where leaders need not only understand how to create them, but the kind they are trying to create.”

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8 thoughts on “Building School Morale

  1. Thoughtful post-thanks for sharing!

    Culture can indeed nurture and promote organizational growth or shut it down. And yet, at times “culture” can feel too big, daunting or amorphous for leaders. So instead, they focus, naturally on what is concrete and feels clearer, easier to assess and correct. Judith Glaser offers a way to ground culture, by framing it in another “c”, one that is less abstract. Something that we all need, and engage in every day- “Conversations”.

    In her recent book, “Conversational Intelligence
    (http://www.conversationalintelligence.com), Judith Glaser helps leaders develop and cultivate healthy conversations across their organizations. As with her previous books Creating WE and The DNA of leadership, the book is grounded in 30 years of successful, transformative work with clients as well as emerging developments in neuroscience.

    According to Glaser, “To get to the next level of greatness, depends on the quality of the organization’s culture, which depends on the quality of relationships, which depends on the quality of conversations. Everything happens through conversations”.

  2. I am not an educator yet am passionate about education and am a parent. I enjoy your blog with this post being among the top in my book! We left a district due to the culture so it’s a palpable issue, indeed. I wonder what you would say is the tipping point for a school district with this issue? Often by the time a district realizes there is a problem it’s a longer route to course correct because it wasn’t being paid attention to in the first place. And, it’s been my experience as a parent that the foundation for the culture often begins with administration. Is that an accurate assessment?

  3. Pingback: From the Desk of the Superintendent- February 2, 2014 » Superintendent's Blog

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