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How Can You Make the Biggest Difference?

I believe that our smallest actions, words, gestures and behaviors often lead to our greatest long-term rewards and outcomes. In short, our kindness, willingness to help, attention to detail, attitude, desire to offer a positive word, or simple “please” and “thank you” responses will make all the difference in building strong personal and team relations. Clear and consistent communication is key, too.

Team members tend to work harder when they know co-workers and leaders care about them and want the best for them. As a result, our smallest actions and gestures often have the largest impact on our personal relationships and long-term team successes.

Last month, we celebrated Employee Appreciation Day. As a surprise, I sent the STN team a gift card to DoorDash. Everyone was so excited. The team shared what they were going to eat on our Microsoft Teams chat. It made me smile that everyone felt appreciated. Did you do something impactful to recognize your team?

Many school transportation professionals over the years have told me that it’s a thankless job but they do it for the kids. Do you ever find yourself feeling unappreciated by school administration, management or the parents? I’m sure we all feel this way at some time or another, but it’s an amazing feeling when you impact a student’s life or help out your team in a positive way. It helps reaffirm why you do what you do every day.

Workplace recognition motivates, provides a sense of accomplishment, and it helps employees feel valued for their work. It not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it has been found to improve productivity and loyalty to the organization, leading to higher retention rates. That’s one idea to help keep those school bus drivers, mechanics and other staff happy.

Bottom line: Consistency in behaviors and leadership is where the power is. Recognition is also an essential component of organizational culture. Leaders try to drive that message with consistent communication, but sometimes the message is not always clear and can cause frustration internally within teams.

Have you ever been in a meeting where your boss thought their vision was clearly communicated, but you walk out wondering if the task is even possible to accomplish? Then, to come back the following week to the same meeting and find out that nothing has happened to achieve that goal? According to leadership and trust expert David Horsager, ask these three questions consistently at every meeting:

How? How? How?

Asking these three questions will lead to clarity, then hope and then action. This question has transformed some of Horsager’s biggest clients, the likes of which include FedEx, Toyota, Verizon and the New York Yankees. It has helped these organizations identify a clear path to achieve a desired outcome. You need to remove the ambiguity and cut through the fear until the answer is crystal clear, actionable and achievable.

Horsager added that co-leadership is a disaster, but collaborative leadership is transformational. Be sure to remember this during your next meeting. In addition to “how?” ask “why?” to motivate and unify people and “who?” to be sure the right team members are on board with the task at hand.

I work hard for my team every day, and I believe that it’s the little things done consistently that make the biggest difference. If you ever want to take your ideas and turn them into actions, change the way you think and ask your team “how?” until you can pinpoint something. specific that you would do differently to achieve your goals. And don’t forget to provide some recognition along the way. Who doesn’t like to feel appreciated?

Editor’s Note: As reprinted in the April 2021 issue of School Transportation News. 

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Do you feel your superintendent values the student transportation department?
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