Nearly six years ago, I wrote a piece for the Teach For Australia blog which was titled Can you change your workplace with four words?
These were the four words.
“How can I help?”
I chose to discuss these words all those years ago because I found that having this question in my vocabulary caused colleagues and school leaders to respond favourably to me.
I found that it was one of the most effective ways to show genuine care for the people I was working alongside.
The words that I said in that article ring true for me today:
“If we invest in people and show genuine care for them, over time, they are far more likely to support us when we need it.”
In the nearly seven years that I have been in education, I have seen outstanding examples of these words in practice. I have also seen times where there has been an absence of this question being asked.
Having now worked as a teacher, middle manager and a school leader, this approach means even more to me.
Asking this question as a leader shows that you care about your team.
Being asked this question by your team shows that they have got your back, too.
Being a school leader, you are sometimes required to respond to situations as if you were multiple people simultaneously. People prepared to ask you how they can help serve as invaluable in times like these.
In the time since I wrote this first article, I have read the book Winning With People by John C. Maxwell.
Maxwell talks about ‘The Foxhole Principle’. He gives the advice that when you are in a situation of challenge or danger, you don’t go it alone.
Just as you have friends in your foxholes when you are in trouble, you also do the same for them when they need it.
These friends are extremely valuable.
As in the analogy of war, this also applies in a workplace setting such as a school.
Maxwell says that ‘foxhole friends’ are made before the battle. They have a friendship which predates the challenge they are facing together. If we invest in people and show genuine care for them, over time, they are far more likely to support us when we need it.
The success of a school can be taken to a new level if people jumped into our challenges with us and help us fight through them.
After all, if we stop to think about it, we are all fighting the same battle.
We are improving the educational outcomes for our students.
In your workplace, who are your ‘foxhole friends’? Who is someone you can stop and ask, ‘how can I help?’ Who needs your help the most?