Effective school leaders know that it’s the team that drives great results.

And how does one build a great team?

As Jim Collin’s famously stated you want “the right people on the bus.”

Just as important as the right players is the type of culture that nourishes the spirit and development of each team member.

Showing staff appreciation in both small and big ways consistently is a good choice to build culture. This post shares strategies used by principals to appreciate their staff.

Today I want to drill into one specific strategy, most likely never considered by you: the bucket list.

Our lives are short. The spirit of the bucket list is to identify those things we want to experience or accomplish before we kick the bucket.

In the context of culture-building, the bucket list offers a distinct advantage — it builds relationships and helps teams really know each other.

Click here for your bucket list template and start building a world-class culture today!

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Think about it. 

You’ve worked with “Sally” for the last 5 years at Remarkable Middle School. But do you really know what makes her tick? What dreams and desires lurk below the surface that she shows you at work?

Where are the places she wants to travel? 

What are the milestones she wants to achieve? 

What goals does she have (most importantly — outside of work!)?

You have worked with Sally for 5 years, but do you really know her?

By creating a bucket list as a staff and then creating a space where staff can share with each other, you will be on your way to building an amazing culture.

It’s a simple 6 step process:

  1. Dream. As leader, create your own bucket list.
  2. Model. Share your bucket list with the staff.
  3. Provide. Create the time and space during a staff meeting where your people can work on their individual bucket lists.
  4. Listen. Create the time and space during a staff meeting for staff to share their bucket lists.
  5. Collect. Ask your staff to give you their bucket lists.
  6. Act. Now that you know something new about your staff — make their dreams come true.

This last point is the most important of the post.

You need to act on your staff’s dreams and make them come true.

Click here for your bucket list template and start building a world-class culture today!

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You may not be in a financial position to send Sally to Bali for 3 months, but I bet you can take action on something on her bucket list.

Here are 2 quick stories from my life:

In the mastermind, I asked members a few years ago to create bucket lists and turn them into me.

Jess had a dream to mentor a novice principal. 

Guess who sends an email to over 2,000 school leaders each week?

I figured at least a few of those 2,000 were first-year principals. So I quickly created an application, wrote an email, and asked novice principals if they would like to be coached by a veteran in the field.

Responses flew in. I handed those off to Jess. She picked a principal to work with. Voila — Bucket list item complete!

Mark wanted to run a half-marathon. 

I save a percentage of my revenue each month earmarked for gifts. 

(This is something you should absolutely do as a leader as well)

I looked at how much I had saved up and sent Mark a Garmin GPS running watch with a handwritten note encouraging him to start running.

I wouldn’t have been able to serve Jess or Mark in this way unless I knew what they dreamed to do. 

I knew those dreams because of the bucket list activity. That is exactly how you use a bucket list to build a better school culture.

Those stories illustrate how relationships and culture were nurtured between me, the leader, and those I serve.

But imagine what would happen if you encouraged your staff and made a game of making each other’s dreams come true. 

What positive energy might you unleash on your organization if you had the courage to do that?

Might it be a better investment of time for your next staff meeting?

If you take action on this idea, I’d love to hear the results. Feel free to email me: daniel@betterleadersbetterschools.com.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll make a podcast from your story ?

Creating a bucket list is an act in self-awareness. By looking inside and getting in touch with your dreams and desires you build emotional intelligence.

By taking the steps of creating the space, sharing among staff, and taking action on the bucket lists you improve your social awareness and relational management.

Research shows that top leaders have strong emotional intelligence.

If you enjoyed this post, here are three books on culture that have been favorites in my leadership community:

Click here for your bucket list template and start building a world-class culture today!

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