Healthy Toolkit are delighted to welcome our very first guest blogger, our very dear friend Maria Brosnan, co-founder of Striver, part of the 2Simple range of wellbeing resources, wellbeing coach and trainer,and a thoroughly lovely person too! Find Maria on Twitter @MariaBrosnan
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An unhealthy atmosphere at school can have a dramatic impact on our personal wellbeing. A toxic culture of gossip, bullying, complaining, competing and criticising in the team can utterly drain us.
What is a school’s ‘culture’? I like the simple definition that culture is just ‘behaviour over time’.
Google had been searching for years to find the secret behind a high performing team. They researched whether gender, ethnicity, education level or location made a difference. They didn’t. Eventually, after two years of research, in 2012 they found it. Psychological safety is the number one predictor of the best performing teams.
Psychological safety is where you feel safe and comfortable to speak and be heard; to be yourself. It is knowing you have the freedom to succeed and the grace to fail. It is a shared belief that you won’t be punished if you make a mistake.
And it’s essential for individual and team growth.
Make it Personal
Psychological safety is not nearly as complicated as it might sound. Since culture is ‘individual behaviour over time’, your behaviour counts!
Ghandi famously said ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.
So how can you contribute to ‘Psychological safety’ and building a healthy culture in your school?
The more you bring your open-heartedness to your school – your compassion, your kindness, your willingness to listen and take another person’s perspective into consideration – the more your school culture will thrive and flourish.
Your personal, positive contribution will help build trust, respect and emotional connection in your team whether you’re a Head Teacher, teacher or member of the support staff. It will help create more effective collaboration, greater engagement and improve individual wellbeing.
There’s a big ‘watch-out’ here though! Make sure you have good, clear boundaries in place. I work in schools every week and there can be a tendency to take on more responsibility than belongs to you. I’m not suggesting that at all. I am suggesting though, that as an individual you can have an enormous impact in the culture.
And the added bonus is that rather than drain you, your contribution will boost your personal wellbeing.
Try this…Triple H Activity
This is a powerful exercise used by elite sporting teams, including the Atlanta Falcons and the Richmond Tigers. Both team’s coaches identified this exercise as the most powerful tool they’d used in getting them from the bottom of the league to the top. It hinges on building psychological safety and trust.
Share the Triple H as a team. Start by reflecting on your life, consider these 3H’s and write down your answers to:
A Hero. Who has been a positive influence in your life, as you were growing up or recently? It could be someone personal like a family member, a favourite teacher or someone you don’t know personally that inspires you.
A Hardship. What is something you’ve gone through that has been very difficult – an illness, a difficult relationship or breakup, a housing crisis, a safe guarding issue – that has had an impact on who you are today?
A Highlight. And what about a time where you’ve experienced a moment of grace, a beautiful experience, a great personal time in your life?
You could start with one or two people voluntarily sharing each week at a staff meeting. Listening to your colleagues speak about something personal can help create trust and deeper connections.
It will take courage to be the first. Will it be you?