Summer Elixir

Published: July 31, 2013

The healing powers of summer are providing the annual elixir to teachers and school administrators everywhere. No matter how awful the internal politics of their workplaces last spring, August will usher a renewed sense of hope for the fall return to the classroom. Like a bad case of amnesia, the break will successfully numb these professionals from the unresolved violations of healthy organizational culture that exhausted them a few short months ago. 

Schools are great symbols for the cycles of growth occurring in all workplaces. Everyone has the biorhythms of the academic year imprinted in their souls rooted in the first two decades of their lives. Hope springs eternal in the fall as Mother Nature is wrapping up her fiscal year while the world downshifts into neutral in the end of spring and starts planning vacations. Cycles spiral either positively or negatively as we either invest in solving challenges or sanction the continuation of struggle.

The Gallup organization recently published their latest data about dissatisfaction in the workplace illuminating record numbers of disengaged employees wanting to change jobs. This also means the number of passionately engaged employees has shrunk. As one teacher confided last spring, “I will not acknowledge, accept, or embrace the changes that have happened on my team. I am unhappy and all of my energy is going to be spent broadcasting my displeasure until everyone knows how I feel because they now feel the same way.” Unfortunately, this same energy would otherwise be spent on building effective professional learning communities for kids.

Elixirs, by their nature, are panaceas. They cure all ills. They provide remedies for broken relationships and dysfunctional teams. They begin by anchoring an appreciation for difference as a norm. Next, they sponsor respectful conflict so that all voices are managed with dignity. With this as a foundation, they empower ambitious goals and hold everyone accountable for follow-through. Elixirs then promise a better world through exploration, innovation, experimentation, curiosity, and smart risk-taking. Of course, this creates change. Effective elixirs enable teams to manage this change with poise and resilience so that their members can embrace the new circumstances and possibilities that lie ahead.

So, use what remains of your summer wisely. Finish recharging your batteries so you can come into the fall energized and engaged. It’s almost time to evolve the workplace culture to the next level. Will you be ready?

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.