A couple of weeks ago, my friend Sarah messaged on Facebook early in the morning.
It was a LONG couple of messages (LOL) about observations she recently made about how she is raising her two girls, and how that relates to corporate leadership. Really good observations!
I asked if she’d like to share her insights and draw out the comparison between what children learn in kindergarten and corporate leadership.
Here are those killer insights:
Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten: Leadership Observations from the Early Years
Elementary learning can be divided into two categories: basic academics and life skills.
A good portion of the day in an early elementary classroom is taken up by discussing, modelling, and revisiting social scripts, which are the expectations regarding behaviour. In the best cases, the “why” underlying the rules is also discussed.
The foundations of emotional intelligence or “soft skills” in the labour force are built in most kindergarten morning circles.
There are surprising similarities between what an elementary teacher does in this regard and aspects of corporate leadership. When overseen properly, classroom management is really the cultivation of each student as an individual and as a contributing member of a team.
Cornerstones of this kind of management include:
- Establishing rules in a collaborative way, seeking out input from all students regarding what they consider important and why. This encompasses rules for appropriate verbal and physical interaction, safety/environmental regulations, and daily procedures.
- Publication/distribution of agreed-upon regulations so that students can regularly review them.
- Use of meaningful praise and correction offered in an affirming way. Approaches focusing on punishment are avoided as they fail to support target outcomes.
- Seeking to understand each individual’s natural talents and struggles through ongoing formative assessment: encouragement, modelling, and guidance offered in both areas.
- Fostering a constructionist model, which means focusing on peer communication and collaboration. This also involves empowering individuals by delegating and establishing peer mentoring (in the field of education, the “Zone of Proximal Development” is a powerful concept).
Engaging in continuing development.
These principles are equally as effective when applied to adults as to children. Obviously, the language will change to suit the audience, but the underlying logic is the same:
All human beings, regardless of age, perform best when their essential ability to grow and their right to be purposefully involved in decision-making processes are recognized.
Even a brief examination of elementary education makes it very clear (very quickly) that rigidly hierarchical, authoritarian structures tend not to encourage long-term compliance. This is a euphemistic way of saying that if you’d like to understand why your business may not be benefiting fully from an established and well-guarded pecking order, all you need to do is tell two-dozen five-year-olds that they can’t do something simply because you don’t want them to.
It really is true that much of what we need to know, we learned in kindergarten, and most of it still applies.
💥 How can you further involve your people?
💥 What can you do to ensure your teams are heard?
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