When you oversee a big staff of teachers and admins, it’s tough to give everyone the compliments, feedback, or personalized recognition they deserve. But here’s a secret to effective management: your team isn’t looking for big sweeping gestures or constant praise. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that have the biggest effect on teacher morale.
What your team wants is quite simple—to feel respected. You can show them your respect with gestures and tokens that are small but pay off big time in your team’s energy, motivation, and focus. When team members are happy and feeling appreciated, their productivity soars. Here are five tips for better teacher morale that you can implement right away:
1. Create a Home Away From Home
Make your school warm and inviting with little touches for a cozy and creative atmosphere. Adding plants or flowers around the front office or putting some magazines and healthy snacks in the teachers lounge can make a big difference in attitude. “Research has shown that the environment can be more important and more motivating than money,” explains Dr. Nicole Lipkin, organizational psychologist and CEO of Equilibria Leadership Consulting. “When your surroundings are inspiring, your brain is more likely to be inspiring too.”
2. Celebrate Successes
Feeling appreciated is a core emotional concern for all humans. It’s part of our make-up. A simple verbal thank you, a hand-written note, or a pat on the back can incentivize your team to work harder. “Celebrating small wins as a team enhances motivation,” says Lipkin. “It helps teams maintain focus on what they’re working towards while giving everyone a chance to reflect on their successes.”
If you want to give a physical token of appreciation to a particular team member, make sure it’s unique and meaningful. “School mugs and garb are generic and lack thought,” Lipkin says. “Get something that shows you’ve been listening—like a day at the spa, tickets to a favorite band, or restaurant that they keep talking about.”
3. Let Your Team in on the Big Picture
Don’t assume everyone on the team understands and knows the goals and priorities that are top of your mind. Have regular meetings where you clearly spell them out to ensure everyone is on the same page. “When people on a team have a different understanding of the target, it can create frustration, chaos, and a decline in performance,” says Lipkin. And, be sure to involve everyone in the bigger picture. A monthly or quarterly meeting specifically to provide updates on successes and challenges helps all team members feel like they are part of getting there.
4. Show Them They Have Your Trust
If one of your teachers wants to develop new curriculum or a counselor wants to start an after-school program, they’ll take much more pride in their work if you give them autonomy. You can provide a roadmap and offer yourself as a resource and sounding board. But be willing to let go and enable your team to take the wheel. “Tell them they can decide when to accelerate and when to brake—and you’ll be there to support their decisions,” says Greg Moran, president and CEO of OutMatch.
5. Treat Everyone as Individuals
Everyone who reports to you will have a unique set of personality traits. Some may thrive by working independently (sans micro-managing) while others may need constant reassurance that they’re doing a good job. By remembering there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to motivating and improving teacher morale, you can garner better results. “When you impose your preferred work style on others, you risk upsetting people who have different strengths and need different levels of support from you,” Moran explains. “Whenever you can adapt your style to fit the personality of an employee, especially in the moment, you’ll empower your team to do their best work based on their preferred style.”
“When you impose your preferred work style on others, you risk upsetting people who have different strengths and need different levels of support from you,” Moran says. “Whenever you can adapt your style to fit the personality of an employee, especially in the moment, you’ll empower your team to do their best work based on their preferred style.”
Principals, how do you boost teacher morale? Teachers, what’s the kindest thing an administrator has done for you? Tell us in the comments.