Celebrating and Appreciating Your Leadership Team: A Plan for Success

Without admitting to anything, this blog is for you if:

  • You are not naturally warm and fuzzy
  • You dread the next baby shower, kid’s birthday, anniversary, retirement party, graduation… (you get the picture)
  • You forget birthdays
  • You think a smile or thank you is enough said
  • You believe that continued employment and a paycheck is appreciation
  • You do not like to be celebrated or made a big deal of
  • You are too busy with other things to take time or remember to celebrate
  • You are looking for ways to motivate your team
  • You want your team to experience joy in their work


Why This Matters?

If you have continued on this far, it is possible that you have a supervisor with similar traits to those listed above and are curious about what they can do to change. It may be more likely, however, that you see yourself described in the list and need to know that, whether you like it or not: As a leader it is not about you.  It is about leading a team to be the most productive it can be. If you want to lead well and be a boss that people enjoy working for, you need to get over yourself and come up with some systems that will help you overcome your natural “disinclinations” and get on a path to being a kinder, gentler you.

It can be hard to challenge your true self, but no one said being a leader was easy. Challenging yourself, your beliefs, your biases, and your practices is part of the process of developing your leadership chops. Learning to be the best leader you can be is a process, and it may take some time to get comfortable in all aspects of your role. This article might help you in the team motivation part of your job and, hopefully, in becoming a more thoughtful and considerate leader.


Going It Alone?

Being the decision-maker, the bearer of the responsibilities and consequences of those decisions, can make a leadership role a difficult and lonely place to be. Luckily, the journey to creating a culture of celebration and appreciation is one that you can embark upon achieve? with the help of key members of your team. Having trusted people by your side as you navigate the transition, from perhaps being perceived as a hardass to being seen as an openly caring and humanistic leader, can be a boost, allowing the team to share the work, and to keep the momentum of the movement going once you have begun. If you are lucky and a member of your leadership team demonstrates the qualities you aim to emulate, bring them along for the ride. You may have an office manager or assistant that can support you as well. If not, however, you may end up doing this work alone.

It’s OK, though. You can do this. You will see that once you start on the path to a more caring and humanistic approach to leadership, the work is infectious and self-reinforcing as it starts being shared among your team members, teachers, students and the whole school community. People like being celebrated and appreciated, and the effects of continued and reinforced recognitions are contagious.

What Next? More Work?

Change takes time and intention. It is a process. School leaders have so many things on their to-do lists daily, we are going to make this change process easy on you.

The goal is clear: Become a more caring and humanistic leader by showing your team appreciation and celebrating the good work you are doing in order to motivate them and bring more joy to your/their work.

As with any other process that you want to improve on, intentional, dedicated, and organized practice is key. The change agent for this work is you (and possibly a team member or two) and it will not get done if you do not get celebration/appreciation events scheduled into your work calendar along with all of your other to-dos. School has just begun for many of you, and now is a perfect opportunity to begin organizing how you are going to be celebrating and appreciating your team throughout the rest of the year, clear through until the end of summer 2020.

Now, this is where you are going to have to spend some time being thoughtful and working with your work calendar. Don’t worry, though. Once you have the celebration/appreciation events in your calendar, and your start completing the tasks, celebrating/appreciating your leadership team will become habit and maybe even second nature if you work at it enough.


What To Consider?

As you set reminders and dates for celebration/appreciation events in your calendar, think of ways to go beyond the birthday, celebratory, or condolence emails. While theses emails may show that you are aware of the current events that occur in your team’s lives, they are also a bit expected in this age of social media where personal information readily available.

A brief moment of personal sharing during team meetings around a weekly topic designed to allow team members to get to know one another and gives you the opportunity to take note of themes you can use for personalizing your proactive, positive interactions with them. You may have several sports fans, an avid movie-goer and a foodie on your team. This information arms you to hit each individual with appropriately targeted, timely messages and recognitions. Schedule events to celebrate work and personal milestones, but also set dates that you will focus only on the work that your team is doing on that day and recognize those efforts.

Schedule several celebration/appreciation events each week for different members of your team. Change things up weekly, so that you do not get bored, and so your team does not anticipate your actions, perhaps seeing them as disingenuous. Be sure to take note on how your team likes to be celebrated and appreciated. You don’t want to send the choir to sing happy birthday at lunchtime in front of the lunch room for your AP that does not want attention focused on her.

Is That It?

Once you have your celebration/appreciation events in your calendar, you need to be mindful of those dates and follow through with the planned action. Take into consideration events that require you to do things that are outside of the norm (like getting the choir to sing for the AP), so that you have time to prepare. Stay on schedule and look for other opportunities to spontaneously celebrate/appreciate your team.

As you know, school leaders spend their days on their feet running from class to class, from meeting to class, from class to supervision, and back to class. Finding a time to eat can be tough. Ensuring that your team eats regularly is one easy, almost failsafe, way to ensure that they feel both celebrated and appreciated. It is not your job to feed them on a daily basis,but insisting that they take time to nourish and care for themselves is. Remind your team to take their breaks, and to eat lunch. You and the school need them healthy and strong. The surprise pizza, cake or donuts after supervision, however, can do wonders to show that you have their backs. Snacks during your leadership meetings and treats from Starbucks on your way back from the District office can engender a sense of community. Change it up, don’t break the bank on this, however, a little goes a long way and the thought really does count.


Give It Some Time

It is important to remember that change is a process. You now have celebration/recognition events in your calendar for the year. As you move forward with this work, it is important that you reflect on your progress every couple of months. Some questions you might ask yourself are: Have you stuck to your event calendar? Are you changing things up on a regular basis? Have you been noticing more things to celebrate since you started?  What needs to change or continue? Ask your team how they are feeling about the changes you have implemented. They are the reason you are doing this after all, and you should be seeking regular feedback from them about how they feel things are going in all areas of the school.


Please feel free to share your journey to a culture of celebration and recognition in the comment section below. It would be great to hear your stories.


James Waller is a principal coach with Ensemble Learning. You can continue the conversation with him at jwaller@ensemblelearning.org. If you’re curious how your school can partner with Ensemble Learning to create strong leadership teams, email Ensemble Learning CEO, Elise Darwish at edarwish@ensemblelearning.org.

Related post

SHARE this