Five Ways to Energize Your Team, Michael Hyatt wrote,
"...[a]t the end of the day, everyone is a volunteer. People will only go so far in the performance of a duty. If you want their very best, you have to have their hearts. You can’t demand this or even buy it with a paycheck. You have to earn it.
In my experience, there are five ways to do this:
1. Assume others are smart and working hard.
2. Listen intently and ask thoughtful questions.
3. Acknowledge the sacrifices others have made on your behalf.
4. Express gratitude for their effort and their results.
5. Remind them why their work is so important and the difference they are making.
Think back to a great meeting where you left feeling empowered. What happened to make you feel that way? What happened to your performance?"
These closing questions got me thinking. I clicked "Comment," intending to say something brief. 450+ words later, I'd written a whole new blog post:
The Heart of Motivation
I will never forget a workshop given by a college English department chair. It had an unpromising title, like "What College English Teachers Wish High School English Teachers Did." I attended out of duty and steeled myself to be berated for failing to prepare my students for the rigors of college.
To my surprise -- and utter delight! -- the presenter spent the first ten minutes praising us for our hard work and dedication, empathizing with the myriad hats we wear and paper piles we grade.
She then revealed the one thing college students seem to remember about their high school English teachers: the positive comments we write on papers. She said nothing about all the negative red marks we're famous (infamous?) for leaving on papers; she simply told us that students so appreciate the positive, encouraging comments...the more specific, the better.
With humor, she walked us through a practical Top Ten list of deficits many college freshmen have in the area of writing. She assured us that she knew we taught all ten; she was not blaming us for the fact that students arrived at college not knowing them. She then invited us to guess what was on the list.
I called out, "They have no clue what a thesis statement is," to which she responded, "That's the top problem we see, and yet when I get one of your students, I don't think to myself 'Why didn't Mrs. G teach these kids how to write a thesis statement?' because I know that you did! You all do!" She went through the entire list the same way, assuring us of her belief in our efforts while sharing difficult data we needed to hear.
She ended with just one plea. Since at the college level the consequences of "sloppy" research can be as severe as expulsion, she urged high school English teachers to spend more time on research: validity of sources, note-taking, citing sources, avoiding plagiarism, and doing one's own original thinking.
I left that 50 minute session excited about increasing my effectiveness. I wrote more positive comments on student papers. I found new and better ways to teach thesis statements (and the other 9 items on the list!) And I wove research skills throughout the curriculum for the entire year.
I've wondered why this one presenter had such an immediate and lasting impact on me. The list above makes it very clear, as she intentionally did each one. By the end of her presentation, I felt understood, appreciated, and vitally necessary.
(Following his own advice, Michael Hyatt responded to my comment, "Beautiful. I don’t know if you have your own blog, but if you do, you should make this a post. It is a great example of so many things. I appreciate you sharing it.")