Leadership Lessons From a 5th Grade Teacher 

My daughters started back at school, yesterday. It was a day filled with excitement and joy. Hearing their stories at dinner was entertaining. My 5th grader already had an assignment from her teacher to write a letter. It’s an introduction letter to the teacher so she can learn about my daughter’s likes and dislikes, hobbies, strengths, concerns and what’s going on in life.

Brilliant. This 5th grade teacher has it all figured out and holds the key to great leadership. Organizations try to over think performance management, leadership, and coaching. We think it has to be filled with formulas, KPI’s, and MBOs. HR tech companies try to build fancy software and applications and totally miss the mark. But great leadership boils down to a few basic principles. Communication, empathy, and caring.

So drop all that you are doing right now. Sit down with your people and ask them these basic questions. Listen. Truly listen. Then take action, if needed. Build a strong relationship of trust and caring.

Here are the questions taking straight from my daughter’s assignment. Replace “school” with “work” and “teacher” with “manager.” Give your employee a space to be open, honest, and vulnerable. If they don’t feel they can, then you have some work to do and this exercise is a good start. Take some time to answer these questions for yourself and share them with your team. Enjoy

  1. What do you like about school?
  2. What don’t you like about school?
  3. What things should I know about the way you learn?
  4. What ways do you expect your teacher to help you succeed?
  5. What do you like to do for fun?
  6. Are there any concerns or worries weighing on your mind?
  7. Is there something a teacher has done in the past that you loved?
  8. Describe your life outside of school.

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