Some of you may have seen the recent video of Gary Morgan, the assistant principal in Arkansas who greets his students every morning in a completely unique way. If you haven’t, I highly recommend you start here:
Aside from the feel-goodness of the story, what struck me most was how applicable it is to leaders in any organization. We’d all do well to take a close look at Morgan’s example and learn a few things.
- Embrace creativity and innovation
Morning commutes are no fun — and school drop offs can be like war zones. Recognizing the negative situation created in these first interactions every morning, Morgan stepped in and reframed the situation entirely. He came up with an unexpected solution that created entirely different outcomes for everyone involved. Instead of grumpy, frustrated, unhappy kids and parents, he has smiling, excited (Dare I say happy?) people showing up every day.
We’re often afraid of change and taking risks because we can’t guarantee what will happen. But the truth is we can’t expect different outcomes if we don’t take risks and try new things. Morgan perfectly exemplifies how embracing change and being innovative in your approach can turn frustration into elation.
- Hear what people are saying
According to Morgan, the kids request the “whip and nae nae” song every day. While he doesn’t play it all the time, he plays it enough to keep the children excited and dancing and singing right along with him. I’m sure his bursting out into a song from Frozen was at the request of the kids as well. Morgan balances what he thinks will be good for the kids right along with what they’re asking for.
By listening to what people around us are asking for, and what they’re telling us, we can create the same kind of engagement Morgan creates every day with the children at his school. You don’t have to cater to every request to let people know you’re listening and you care. A little can go a long way to making people feel valued.
- Your mindset matters
Morgan couldn’t have said it better: “I don’t do bad days… Every day’s a good day”. Studies show us again and again that mindset and mindfulness make a difference in all aspects of our lives and have an impact on our success. Imagine the possibilities if we all started our days with Morgan’s attitude that every day is a good day and faced our lives with that in mind.
If we change our mindset to one where we start each day in a positive frame of mind, we’re more likely to find solutions and be innovative in our approach to things. With that mindset we’re expecting positive outcomes, which means we’re looking for possibilities — not limitations.
- Model the behaviour
Every morning Morgan is out on the curb with his loudspeaker and his music, shaking what his mama gave him. He jokes with parents, he smiles, he sings — and he dances pretty much non-stop. His students don’t hesitate to join in; they see the joy and happiness he exudes and it inspires them to participate.
It’s such a simple lesson, yet one that’s often overlooked. If we model the behaviour we expect from those around us, we’re more likely to see that behaviour reflected back to us. We often hear leaders talk about the values or expectations they have of people in their organizations (such as being transparent and communicating openly) but leaders rarely exemplify those ideals personally. It’s really quite simple: be like Morgan and embody the behaviours you want in those around you.
- Soft skills are what makes you stand out
None of what Morgan does every morning requires any particular technical or intellectual ability. What makes Morgan such an exceptional assistant principal, and as a result such an exceptional leader at his school, are his soft skills. His personality, his listening, his communication skills, his interpersonal skills, his ability to manage people (in one interview he talks about how he calls parents out for being late and how they’re on time from then on) and his ability to lead the kids are why this is such an incredible story.
The best leaders out there, the most memorable ones, are the leaders that have high emotional intelligence (EI) — the soft skills that aren’t quantifiable. Developing your emotional intelligence is a process, it’s ongoing and it’s never-ending. The stronger our soft skills, the more we stand out as a leader and as Morgan proves, the more likely people are to follow you.