I have discussed the importance of relationships in education and see them as the core of excellent teaching and learning. It is not that I choose relationships over teaching and learning (relationships are not enough), but I know you can get more done with them than you can do without that relationship in place. I know that in my experience, whether as a student or as a colleague, when I felt people didn’t care if they connected or made you feel valued, I cared less about what I could have learned from them, or checked out thoroughly. David Pysyk, one of the best principals I knew told me that “a teacher that is good with relationships and bad with curriculum can last a lot longer than the one who is the opposite. Both are important, but one is more valuable.”
But this is not only for students but adults as well. In the article, “Why Engagement Happens In Employees’ Hearts, Not Their Minds” they make the connection between the importance of “love” and engagement in work.
While it used to be that people derived their greatest sense of happiness from time spent with family and hobbies, how satisfied workers feel in their jobs now determines their overall happiness with life. This monumental shift means that job fulfillment has become essential to people everywhere.
The decision to be engaged is made in worker’s hearts–not minds. We now know that feelings and emotions drive human behavior–what people care most about and commit themselves to in their lives. Consequently, how leaders and organizations make people feel in their jobs has the greatest impact on their performance by far.
For centuries, most people went to work to get a paycheck, in order to put a roof over their heads and food on their table. But as a driver of engagement, pay now ranks no higher than fifth in importance to people–in every industrialized country. What truly inspires worker engagement in the 21st century can best be described as “emotional currency.” Here’s what that means:
Having a supervisor that cares about us, our well-being, and personal growth
Without exception, bosses predominantly concerned about their own needs create the lowest levels of employee engagement. Going forward, having an authentic advocacy for the development and success of others should be prerequisite for selection into all leadership roles.
Doing work that we enjoy and have the talents to perform
Selecting people who display passion for the work they’ll be doing is perhaps the most important step toward building a highly engaged team. People can’t ever be fully engaged if their hearts aren’t in the work.
Routinely feeling valued, appreciated, and having a deep belief that the work we do matters.
It’s highly destructive to people to have them strive and achieve, and to then have those contributions go unrecognized. Any company focused exclusively on driving profits–without a compelling mission–will inherently neuter engagement.
Having strong bonds with other people on the team, especially with our supervisors.
Feeling connected with and genuinely supported by others at work is a surprisingly significant driver of engagement and loyalty.
There is so much more I could share from the article (I encourage you to read the whole thing). The two big things I take from what is shared is the importance of feeling “valued” and inspiring a “purpose.” The best administrator I have ever had, who has had such an impact on me personally and professionally, was masterful at inspiring both. At one point in my career, I had an emotional breakdown after some life events and my dad passing away. I needed a break, and I felt lost as a person. Work was not a top priority for me, and I thought I was mostly getting by in the moment. She encouraged me to take my time and do what I needed to get better, and when I came back, she gave me a tremendous opportunity that I was surprised I had received. Sometimes when people put you in situations where they expect more from you than you expect from yourself, you rise to those expectations. She helped me find a purpose when I felt I had none.
A few questions I thought about when I read this:
- Does your work or your daily interactions, online or offline, lift people up or push them to do less?
- Although feeling valued and having a purpose is something that an administrator should try to create for all staff in the building, do we go out of our way to do the same for our peers or those in supervisory positions? If we saw this as something that was focused on from all directions, how much better would the work environment be for all staff? Administrators, like teachers, need to feel value and purpose in their work.
- How do we help students find value and purpose in our classrooms?
Again, relationships are not everything in education but how much further can we go in schools and classrooms, both students and adults, if we always remembered that people feeling valued and having purpose was at the core of what we do in all facets of our work? The journey would not only more engaging but more fulfilling as well.