Monday, May 30, 2011

Who motivates the motivator?

Aren’t leaders supposed to motivate the team, have the staff firing? Who motivates the motivator? As a principal, you are it, so who or what gets your juices flowing?

I reckon its important to think this one through.

I have a few theories, some ideas and possible answers but I wouldn’t mind your 50c worth, please contribute.

So before you can answer who or what motivates you, you may have to understand where your staff are coming from. The lowest level for staff could be survival mode, they have a job but lots of things are going on, stress comes from every side, they worry about everything, the kids are hard work, they aren’t well organised, the rent is hard to pay, negative mind set, “leadership is doing things to me”. Next comes safety mode, you are a solid teacher, you have job security, no risks, the boss is ok - a bit fickle but ok, mindset steady, leadership is mixed, things are steady. Then you have belonging mode, teamwork, mostly motivated but needing someone to motivate you, enjoying being at school and appreciative but on their own terms, part of a team but sometimes a click, sometimes even teaming up against the boss, but usually this mode is a very positive environment. Probably strolling. After this is achievement mode, I reckon this is the time when you move out of that stoll and fink “strolling” mode, people are motivated to move past and really achieve, teamwork and self motivation, ownership and belonging are inherent, staff are celebrating achievement, genuinely happy for others, collaborative.

You can be achieving at survival mode, and indeed in all of them, but if you want to get results back you must get to achievement mode.

You may ask what this has to do with the motivating the motivator, but it is actually the staff that motivates you. They are the people who get you rocking, they are the ones who boost those around them. I know that I feed off staff who get on a roll, staff who go that extra mile. I pick up their vibe, I love it when they achieve. I love it when they celebrate kids learning, celebrate discoveries they have made. Those stories of kids achieving just keep you bouncing. Yes I am motivated by wanting to do things really well, to turn out the best possible performance. I love working things out and doing a great job of it, seeing it through, but these things pale in comparison to when a staff member nails it. When a staff member gets it, when a staff member makes everyone proud.

So the key for me is to make sure you know what mode your staff are at, and help them get to achieving mode, there may have to be some challenges, some awkward conversations and some uphill battles but if you aren’t motivated then it all goes flat.

So it seems that if you want to be motivated you have to do the motivating, and get staff through those modes and over to achieving.

Most good leaders who stay in their schools are motivated from within their school.

The other muppets who stay (too long) have staff in safety mode, they are in safety mode.


janedanielson said...

As a new principal creating a new school culture, my ultimate aim is to create a collaborative environment for our teachers and for our kids. I think the key will be in the mix of teachers and the culture of creativity and adaptability that we create together with the students and community. Utopia perhaps, but we have to aim to be up there …
So, we have to be moving, but all moving with a collaborative vision, not necessarily all at the same pace but in the same direction.

Podgorani said...

yeah that sounds like a money ball jane. i think its very true that the same pace isn't necessary but moving in the same direction is. i think too its important to note that we do shift through the modes, move from one to the other and back again.
Utopia is more goalposts me thinks.

Podgorani said...

@traintheteacher asked this through twitter

@sumich Yes you did nail it with a sledge hammer. As an outsider how do you find out what mode a school's leadership is operating in?

i reckon its really hard to walk in anywhere and get an assessment on leadership teams and indeed teachers without working with them. its really hard to judge without seeing and hearing things from both sides. Often staff have complex issues and leadership teams similar, so the best way to make a judgement is to work there and look from all angles, perhaps from parents, teachers, leaders angles and you might get your answer. However a muppet is easy to spot, green and useless (no offense Pricey), often in a tweed jacket.

teacher trainee said...

Thanks for your answer. Was thinking about it from the perspective of finding schools to work next year and what might signal a red flag as environments for BTs to avoid. However in this market any school that hires is a good a school for a BT.

Allanah King said...

I would watch out for a school where the good conversations happen on duty or on the photocopy room with the door shut or in the carpark.

A willingness to have conversations openly and honestly, without putdowns, is a goodie. And I totally agree with Luke's celebrate success thing.

And watch out for principals who know it all. I like it when Greg Carroll said his job was to lead the staff to being the best teachers that they can be, not to be best teacher himself.

I have worked with some brilliant principals and some hopeless ones. It's luck of the draw pretty much!

timesnewroman said...

Great topic for debate Luke. Once you have been teaching for a while, you encounter many different styles of leadership. In fact, having worked in several industries before teaching, I would have to say this is pretty much the norm anywhere. Having said that, teaching is something different and really so much more than a career or job to most of us. As a teacher, what I find different as an 'employee' in a school, compared to the other 'jobs' I have done, is that we give so much of our soul to this job too. Maybe that sounds a bit twee but it really is a job like no other. What I see that lacks quite often in leadership are a couple of key factors:
1. Lately in some schools, management has lost the balls to allow teachers to innovate, inspire, think outside the box themselves. We are so damned busy ticking boxes, there is no freedom, trust and confidence in the teaching staff to be amazing and to allow the kids the benefit of that
2. The workload has become horrendous - there are three pieces of paper for every one thing done. Much worse than it used to be. Heaven forbid that the Ministry will enforce some ridiculous template for teachers to show 'evidence' of their OTJs - clearly we aren't trusted to be professional. Some principal's are running scared of the big black cross against their schools when ERO pops in for a chat and a tim tam - and it's the teachers who are wearing it.
3. Actually, funnily enough, teachers are people and we have lives. Of course, you could always hire single men and women with no kids and no lives to deliver the curriculum. That way schools could do away with the other human beings who dare to have kids, partners, their own lives to live too.

Bitter much? Not really. There are great principals who do great things and are natural motivators. You, Luke, are one of those. For me, I would love to sit in a staff room again that is full of teachers actually having a break, where there is laughter, innovation and a bit of compassion when your kid is sick and needs you.

Podgorani said...

Thanks times new, I think there will always be times when people sit in the staffroom and bitch.
But some pet hates though : if you havent got time for innovation then its time to pack up your bat and ball, teachers, leaders, everyone.
Paperwork is another pet hate, i cant stand principals who add more and more, i cant stand teachers who bitch about it and say nothing to the principal. I cant stand principals who have a new digital way and make everyone do it, i cant stand teachers who moan but do nothing about it, compliance sometimes is stupid.
People must have a life, no life no joy, work is not your life but you can enjoy it.