Good Work: Sweat the Small Stuff

Cultures have boundaries that serve to affirm certain things about life while excluding others.  -Oscar Mink
A young principal I worked with taught me a lot about building a positive and focused culture.  As an elementary school principal, he taught in every meeting and every hallway encounter.  His school entryway was as inviting and warm as a welcoming living room.  He used poetry and stories to touch the heart and engage the mind.
What he really did well was celebrate.  He recognized school successes and student accomplishments in weekly assemblies.  They celebrated school pride by wearing school sweatshirts on Friday.  They celebrated student success in a biweekly newsletter.  And he sent amazing cards (all original of course) for specific recognition.   It was fun to show him that I had learned a few things from him by wrapping his school in a giant blue ribbon after they won a national award for blue ribbon schools.
Culture is the unwritten rules for how things work and how people treat each other. It’s a function of all the little stuff: the stories people tell, how decisions are made and communicated, where people sit and park, and how contribution is recognized.
That young principal is now a superintendent in a nearby district where he’s spending a day as the Not So Undercover Boss in every department and blogging about it—another great example of his culture building leadership.  He tried to teach me that while trying to accomplish big things you need to sweat the small stuff.
Good Work is a Sunday series focused on finding and doing mission-driven work. 

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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