Add Value


“Strong cultures exist when employees are intensely committed to a shared set of values and norms… If you’re going to build a strong culture, it’s paramount to make diversity one of your core values….If you hire people who fit your culture, you’ll end up with people who reinforce rather than challenge one another’s perspectives.” ~ Adam Grant Originals

The idea of employee development is one that has been around for quite some time but is being newly resurrected in terms of the educational community. There used to be a school of thought that said to be an education leader and make a real impact, a person had to follow the typical trajectory of classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal. There are a few stops in between such as after school coordinator or summer school director but typically the idea had been that leadership happened at the building and district level. With non profit and business investments, social media superstars, and Amazon self publishing available, education leadership looks very different and so should your leadership. Adam Grant has an entire book devoted to identifying and developing people in your organization who think outside of the box. He calls them Originals. I believe that originality can be sparked in all teams under the right conditions. When thinking about how to develop the capacity of the children in your classroom, teachers in your building, principals in your district, or central office staff consider the following:

  1. The Goal
    • What exactly do you want to accomplish? This goal needs to be broad and meaningful enough to inspire real commitment. An example of this at the classroom level could look like: I want my students to design and carry out a service project that will provide ongoing services to the homeless for years to come. Now if homelessness is a something your kids and community see as problematic, they can get behind that idea and invest themselves deeply. The same is true at the building and district level. The goal has to be broad and far reaching. It cannot be something you can do alone.
  2. The Why
    • What is important to you while you go about getting this done? Is it important that your teachers collaborate across content areas and grade levels? Is it important that parents are more present in your building? What are your nonnegotiables and how will those be communicated to everyone? This is often the place where leadership falls down. Either the values are non-existent or they are poorly communicated. Be sure everyone knows what the core values driving the goal are and what it means to live them out.
  3. The Alternative
    • Create teams of people who disagree. I don’t mean people who are deliberately obtuse, abusive, or checked out, I mean teams comprised of people from different perspectives and work/life experiences. When people are forced to work with those unlike them on a task they all find meaningful growth occurs. It is a great way to determine employee strengths and value add. In his article for Harvard Business Review, Robert Glazer writes, “Fit between employee and company is not a one-time check on a list of hiring criteria; it’s a constantly evolving relationship that changes to meet the needs of the time.” He also recommends giving employees (or students, or teachers, or principals) personality tests to help determine where their best fit may be and help you have a starting point for fostering their development.

As the leader of your organization, classroom, school, or district, it is your job to present your team with challenges that will help them grow. In order to do so effectively, you have to set a goal, be very clear on your nonnegotiables, and recruit alternative perspectives to collaborate and get the work done. This sounds easy but the work is intense. Remember to lead is to constantly learn, and while others may not tell you the truth I always will. You have to provide growth opportunities or your stars will either burn out or move on. The key is giving them work that is meaningful with a team that is diverse. ~Dr. Kia