Diminisher or Multiplier? Finding Staff Strengths

I had a great opportunity to speak on the Bam Radio Network to discuss how we can empower those that we work with.  This was a great opportunity for myself to not only share my views, but it was a fantastic opportunity to learn from others.  Check out the show:


Here are some of the talking points that were discussed:

  • Although we often empower many, we diminish several by making wrong assumptions about their strengths and passions.
  • We need to challenge people to do their best in practice, yet allowing them ownership over the process.
  • Focus on strengths first to empower those that work with you.
  • It is important that we continue to get our staff in on conversations on what works with students. This work is never personal but about the idea and implementation of these practices.
  • Best ideas are the only ones that are needed.
  • None of this works unless you build a culture of trust.  Everything depends on that.

Some questions that I have after listening to this:

Do schools encourage debate amongst staff?  How does your staff come to the “best ideas”?  I would love your thoughts.



  1. Loved the interview George! Due to union policies, we have 1 staff meeting per month. Each staff meeting I present an educational issue that has not one right answer. We have some fantastic, professional debates around things like rewards, homework, technology, boys in school, assessment, etc. From this, we come out with common agreements and a few outliers. We promote the common agreements/practices with parents and students and then keep the conversations going. We have had some great decisions around assessment, awards, and homework come out of these great debates (in the last year). We start individually, then move to small groups and then to large group discussions. We don't always come to consensus but we do question certain pedagogical methods. We are by no means to the point where people do not get frustrated but I think that this is due to the fact that the teachers care so much and passionately believe what they are doing is the best way. We are definitely moving in the right direction and it is through asking the questions rather than providing the answers.

  2. Excellent question. Before encouraging debate on staff, I personally feel that it is important to set norms with the group so that there is a common level of courtesy both given and expected. I want people to feel safe in making comments: this underscores your point of trust being a cornerstone to these sorts of discussions.

    I also believe that in order to come up with the best ideas, it is important to have the best data that is available–as an example, we are looking at the effectiveness of some mechanisms that we use at our school to provide additional time and support to our "promising learners". But before we make any decisions, I am getting data from our staff and student body so that we can make informed decisions. Pretty common sense I am sure, but I think too often decisions can be made on gut instincts which often have varying levels of accuracy.

    Just one person's thoughts.

    Cale Birk

    Principal, South Kamloops Secondary

    Kamloops, BC

  3. Outstanding interview. I see this in a lot of schools, staff that isn't appreciated for their unique strengths and as a result those gifts are diminished.

    Debate within a staff can't really happen effectively until a camaraderie and trust has been built up within the staff. Without that, just like in the classroom, feelings will be hurt and people will be hesitant to engage in meaningful discussion. Build a community of learners instead of a community of experts and all involved will begin to understand that the debate is part of the learning process, all are better by entering into the debate.

  4. I think that our oft inability to have respectful debates on pedagogy hampers our ability to innovate. It's a shame that debates are sometimes only used as a means to passively resist an I itiativ or change.

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