As organizations look to hire – and keep – the best and brightest amidst the Great Resignation, we know proactively addressing staff recruitment and retention is top of mind for many leaders. We’ve highlighted some impactful resources we hope will help leaders future-proof their organizations by building a strong culture, battling burnout and staying focused on the long game.
Everywhere you turn, there’s talk of burnout. We know it’s a real and pervasive phenomenon—including for educators. But beyond self-care, it can be hard to know how to proactively address it in an effective and evidence-based way. This resource, based on research from the University of Pennsylvania and applied work with the U.S. military, provides a practical framework for addressing (and preventing) burnout. The basic idea is that you can’t yoga or bubble bath your way out of burnout. Instead, leaders must focus on increasing job resources (things like support, autonomy, and feedback) and decreasing (as much as possible) demands like conflict, workload, etc. In short, leaders must address the causes of burnout and not just the symptoms.
According to this podcast’s own description, the episodes “explore the science of making work not suck.” Host Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist who brings a curious mind to each guest and topic, asking questions that yield many ‘aha’ moments for me. Some of my favorite episodes include “Your Insecurities Aren’t What You Think They Are,” “How Science Can Fix Remote Work,” and “Authenticity Is a Double-Edged Sword.” If you start tuning in now, Grant is working on new episodes around the Great Resignation.
– Dr. Lindsay Whorton, President, The Holdsworth Center
Chess, not Checkers: Elevate your Leadership Game by Mark Miller
For leaders trying to unpack this new reality we’re in, the first job is to create an appetite to think differently and have the courage to act. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is trying to push innovative ideas through the same old systems and structures, which causes them to disintegrate. In the game of checkers, there’s only a few specific moves you can make. But in chess, even the pawn can checkmate the king. In this moment, leaders should be playing chess. With many organizations experiencing a shortage of staff, there’s no time or resources to waste asking people to do things that are not getting results. This book can help leaders adopt a more strategic mindset and cultivate the courage to do the right work and abandon the wrong work.
The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey
Many leaders rise through the ranks because they are good at solving problems. When they get to the corner office, they become the fixer-in-chief. The problem with this is that solving problems isn’t the leader’s job anymore. The leader’s job is to empower others to fix the problems so they can focus on strategy, culture, taking care of people and building relationships. This book reminds us that the only way to mobilize people toward a common purpose is through the bond of trust. The more time a leader spends “in the field” or “on the floor” talking to people, remembering their names and listening to their concerns, insights and ideas, the more people will be willing to commit to staying the course with that leader, even when challenges begin to mount.
– Dr. Art Cavazos, Holdsworth Superintendent-in-Residence
The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
When the pressure is on, it can be tempting for leaders to revert to short-sighted thinking. What spaghetti can we throw at the wall to get us through today’s crisis? This book is about taking your hand off the panic button and shifting your focus to the long game. As a superintendent, that means making decisions I know in my heart are good for the district in the long run, even if I don’t see any impact in the short term. It doesn’t matter if I win, it only matters if staff and students win. When it comes to recruitment and retention, that means focusing on strategies that may not pay off immediately but will set us up for success in the future. We are working hard in Lockhart ISD to create a culture that is positive and supportive, and to create opportunities for growth, development and promotion. This work takes time and continuous effort, but we’ve already seen it pay off in our retention numbers. Does that mean people will grow here and go on to bigger roles elsewhere? Sure. But in public education we are all on the same team, and that’s the “Infinite Game” mentality. It never ends, so we are always trying to advance to the future.
When I was 17 years old, my sister and three of her friends were murdered by someone we knew. As a kid, he was always in trouble at school – he had no one who cared, no positive role models to follow. One of the reasons I became an educator was because I thought if I could give other kids what this boy didn’t have – a supportive environment with adults who cared – then I could stop tragedy at its source. It’s taken me a long time to be able to articulate this, even to myself, and the book “Upstream” by Dan Heath helped me unpack it. For me, it’s an anchor text I will probably read once a year. It offers an approach to solving problems before they happen, which is helpful when thinking about not just today’s crisis but on “future-proofing” our organizations for the next one.
– Mark Estrada, Superintendent, Lockhart ISD