The 3 step process to unleashing your employees potential from our first ever “Refuel Workshop”.
This time of year, everyone is tired. Teachers, students, staff, parents, everyone is exhausted. Some blame it on the long hours of dark and cold associated with winter. Others associate it with the long weeks – between New Year’s and Spring Break there are only two days off, which for the sanity of students and teachers can be extremely trying. Add to that the quickly approaching and high pressure standardized testing season and it can lead to rapid teacher burnout. Teacher burnout is not good for anyone.
Burnout is Avoidable
In order to help our teachers, and subsequently our students and communities, we held a morale boosting workshop. The goal was to unpack some of the difficulties teachers were facing at this time of year, refresh and encourage them, and inevitably inspire them to go back into the battlefield with energy and enthusiasm.
The workshop started with small talk, allowing the attendees to discuss things on their mind. It gave a chance to listen organically to what was happening in their world. In that 10 minute window I was able to glean numerous insights into some of their character traits and personal struggles, which would be very useful in the conversations to come.
When we finally got started, we brainstormed a list of issues. Everything was on the table. Students leaving class, lack of follow through on consequences, disrespect, inconsistencies from the administration, and much more, were all rattled off as concerns. Eventually the discussion started to spiral inward and, without me coercing the direction, the group began to focus on one topic of concern. This was my goal from the start, to winnow down the issues to a manageable one or two.
The main concern? During meetings there is no time for any discussion on individual teacher problems or questions. Almost as if, they were running on an agenda-driven treadmill and there was no time to hop off and process.
We discussed how we might address this issue by owning the issue itself. That’s where we began the refueling process.
Relationships are essential. If we don’t take time to build relationships – with students, parents, peers, other professionals – our energy levels will lessen and before long we’ll find ourselves empty. It’s not long after until we are fully burnt out. Refueling is done in community. I’m not saying our community has to be massive. For some a community could be a friend or two whom with a cup of coffee is shared. We need not over-complicate the matter.
Our workshop was only five people but that’s all we needed. We spoke of spending time with each other, building trust, and how that trust leads to a refueling process. I believe that the biggest depletion of our energy comes from trying to look like we have it all together. It’s exhausting. We spend copious amounts of time and energy trying to look like life isn’t kicking our butt. We spend that energy because we are afraid of others’ opinions and thoughts. We do not trust their motives. We believe them to be judgmental, and unkind, and unloving. Sadly, many times this is true.
But what if we were to build relationships to where trust was strong. Trust allows for us to be open and vulnerable with each other and speak plainly our needs without fear of repercussion and judgment. How do we get there? TIME.
Throughout the workshop we focused on how WE could own the problems we were facing as a group and meeting each other’s needs. It was apparent that there was nothing good that could come from blaming the people who were running the meetings. It did no good to say “Well, if they did this.” or “If they just…”. In the end, it just wouldn’t solve the problem.
We began to take ownership of the issues at hand. If we owned the problem, then we also owned the solution, we could meet our own needs as a group. The problem as it turned out wasn’t that the meetings didn’t allow us to voice our concerns, the problem was that we expected the meetings to refill us. It was a failed thought. The “meetings” were never supposed to… it just wasn’t on the agenda.
As we realized this, the power began flowing to ourselves once again and the refueling began. I started to sense workshop members’ energy levels rise. Heads began to nod in agreement more fiercely. Spines started to straighten. And although it was 4:15 in the afternoon on a school day, a time many teachers were ready for a nap, for those here it was as if the day had just begun.
Now that the energy levels had started to rise, we needed direction. This is where I have to be brutally honest – I felt like I failed the group. What I pictured happening was this. I gave my end of workshop speech and everyone marched out of the room with a zeal for life. They had palpable action steps, a 5-point-plan if you will, that would lead to a life changing moment. They were unleashed on the world as if driven by the Holy Spirit itself ready to change their school and the world.
Instead, what happened was that, after my speech ended, everyone sat for a few moments in silence. Then, very thoughtfully, someone asked, ‘so how do we build a culture of ownership here?’. In reflection, that reaction was far greater than my previous thought.
“How do WE build a culture…”
Isn’t that what my role was in this? To inspire a greater “we”? If they run out of the room inspired, then really their energy levels are based on ME. I revved them up and I did good but that isn’t community. Community is not about one member, but about ALL. If we are to be unleashed we should be let go as a unit. A classroom. A school. A staff body. A group. An organization. It is not the “ME” mentality that builds a culture of community ownership… it is the “WE”.
In the follow up reflections of those who attended the workshop, they voiced that the strengths of the workshop was that they had time to share their concerns and work through them as a group. As teachers, they rarely get the opportunity.
They also enjoyed the process set forth in Unpack->Refuel->Unleash. It helps to clarify a process to strengthening, a process designed to reverse the process of burnout and refuel on of our most precious commodities… teachers.
Finally, attendees addressed two areas where the training could be better. First, they wanted more people there. More participants meant greater perspective and more opportunities to grow as a unit. Second, they want the meeting to be a regular occurrence. It’s a great day when people leave a workshop saying they want to do it again and to bring others with them.
Want to have a Refuel Workshop at your school or organization?
Send us an email and one of our team members will be in touch to help refuel your community.