Every year around this time, the back to school spirit takes hold of me. I have not been in a formal classroom setting in a long time, but I find inspiration every August when I see school supplies on sale. I like to take this month to get organized at home and at work. As my children go back to school, I tend to reflect on my own school experience and the valuable lessons I learned along the way.
As a student, I thought Algebra was a waste of my time, yet now I realize I use it every day. The lessons I learned from researching history papers provided me the foundation to research business solutions. The group projects in elementary school helped prepare me to work in a team business setting. My 5th grade year as a safety patrol taught me lessons in leadership, responsibility, and work ethic that contribute to my success today.
I believe that what we learned as children in school should still be applied to our daily lives. I am reminded of the wonderful poem by Robert Fulghum, All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. If we all applied the lessons we learned from our childhood to the workplace, imagine how much kinder our environments would be and what a difference it would make to your corporate culture.
Here are just a few bits of wisdom from Fulghum’s poem applied to the work setting:
Share everything. Imagine what more your business could accomplish if all employees shared a little more. I don’t just mean sharing the coffee creamer or office supplies, but what if teams shared knowledge, processes, and when necessary, workload.
Clean up your own mess. Everyone makes mistakes. When you make a mistake at work, own it by acknowledging the error, apologize if necessary, and then work to resolve it.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Sometimes in a corporate environment, this simple rule can get blurred. However, think back to kindergarten and it will become more clear. If someone tells you a wonderful idea, don’t claim it as your own at the next staff meeting. Don’t use the company postage machine and supply closet for personal use. And if you accidently take a pen from a colleague’s desk, return it with a smile.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Even adults need breaks and workplaces benefit from friendly social gatherings. In the waning days of summer, plan an ice cream social for your team to get everyone in the mood for a productive fall.
Learn some and think some. Learning does not end with school. Encourage employees to constantly acquire new skills and allow them the opportunities to attend seminars, classes, and additional training. It may take time away from the tasks today, but they will be better workers tomorrow.
Whether you are readying your own child for the first day of school or you just love back-to-school supplies, take a moment this month to reflect on the lessons you learned in your formative years. Apply those simple lessons to be a better worker, a better leader, and even a better person.