Why ‘Pie in the Sky’ Values Are a Great Thing
We recently completed our annual retreat with our Collaborative Leadership Council, the WASC governing body where students and adults have equal say and voting power. We spend time team building, strategizing, laughing, and getting to know each other. This year’s group did an outstanding job of working together, creating a plan for upcoming programs, and even speaking up to have their voice heard. But one part of the weekend stuck out more than others:
the incredible (and immediate) level of respect that was present.
The WASC Leadership Standard for October is Value and Ethics. Our leadership benchmark states “student(s) take(s) responsibility for personal actions and acts ethically (i.e. demonstrating honesty, fairness, etc)”. As teachers, advisors, and anyone who has managed a team knows, values and ethics are important, necessary, and very difficult to instill. Organizations spends myriad hours and significant amounts of money trying to instill values in their people and setting up rules to guide ethical behavior. After almost 20 years in public education and corporate industry, I can tell you how difficult it is to achieve high levels of values and ethics in a team. But during last weekend’s student leadership retreat, fairness, respect, and genuine care for others was present right away.
How is it possible these 40 students were able to achieve this so quickly?
The answer is simple: trust. As the visual above captures, love and care and connection and empathy and respect all revolve around one thing: trust. By creating an inviting, warm, and safe environment, people are more likely to let their guard down, shed fear, and begin walking towards others. As leaders it is imperative that such an environment is created from Day 1, and if it is done properly, the results can be incredible. Our WASC advisors and leaders have done a phenomenal job making it clear that the student voice is important, is valued, and is encouraged.
But with values, actions are everything.
Students came into our retreat seeing this in action: The LEAD, The Impact, Leadership360, our newly formed WASC young alumni group – all new ways the organization has created to trumpet the student voice. The WASC’s mission to help student leaders grow, and we are not only talking the talk but walking the walk too. By living our values, we hold ourselves accountable to our mission and we gain credibility and confidence with our students.
When students see that their voice matters and there is a place where their voice can be heard, self-confidence expands, connections are formed, and leadership is born.
As you enter October and begin to settle into a routine of the year – classes, meeting schedules, and programs – take time to instill in your students the confidence that their voice matters and to create an environment where those voices are celebrated. The subsequent trust that is built will become a powerful tool in helping students grow and accomplishing great things in your school.
And once that happens with your student leaders…start looking up. Because the sky is the limit.