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A Culture Perspective

I was listening to a podcast this morning and it made me reflect on something. If you are a regular follower of the blog, you know that organizational culture is an important topic for me. This particular podcast was done with a professional speaker who focuses on customer service in the business space. She was talking about how we don’t always look at the decisions we make from the perspective of our customers. As well, I recently interviewed a guest for my podcast, the Leaning into Leadership podcast, and he talked in depth about the customer experience being paramount over the actual sale.

Ok, so here was my takeaway, my wondering if you will. Do we think about the culture of our classrooms and schools from the perspective of our customers, our clients? In other words, do we consider how parents and students perceive the environment of our spaces as the primary user? I am not certain that I always did, but I know we were intentional about getting the student perspective. Often, we talking about school culture, our team would look at it from the perspective of our staff.

  1. It’s more than just the lobby: I have written and talked about this several times, but the entry to your school, office, or place of business tells a lot about what you value, what’s important to you, and who you are striving to be as an organization. When I was a high school principal, we completely gutted the boring tan brick look in our main entry hall to be filled with student-planned murals that told the story of our high school, its history, and who we were and wanted to be. (here is a link to the post I wrote back in 2015 about this work
  2. It’s more than just how you treat them: The behaviors that we exhibit as leaders and as coworkers toward our customers (students and parents) tells a lot of the story behind our culture. That should go without saying, but there you go…I just said it. Likewise, the way we treat each other as coworkers also says a lot about our culture. This can actually be a more telling sign of an eroding culture if we are not able to treat each other (everyone, not just some) with love, care, and respect. Backbiting, blaming, and finger pointing are things that our students and their parents pick up on and do see, no matter how hard we try to hide it. It is in these moments when strong staff culture will become evident, as someone steps up, calls out the offender, and says ‘hey, we don’t do that here’.
  3. The mystery shopper: when I was in college, I worked at a large department store. To ensure positive customer interactions and to increase training opportunities, the store used an outside firm to ‘mystery shop’ our store. In essence, someone would come to the store and shop for a specific item. Their purpose was not to purchase but rather to gather intel on the performance of the sales staff. Having been mystery shopped a few times, I learned not to take it personal but for what it was intended, a training tool. While I am not suggesting we hire mystery shoppers to come into our schools, I do think that the potential exists for gathering outside feedback on the culture of the school from an outsider perspective. This might be through information gained from experiences on the phone with staff, the look and cleanliness of the school to a visitor, or even getting student input from an informal survey (I did this often with conversations in the hallways). We can always improve and using the information others provide to us is a great way to gain momentum.

So, take this one for what it is worth. Consider your culture from the perspective of others. It may well make a strong impact on the decisions and steps your taking in that all important area.

Have a great week

Darrin – #RoadToAwesome

PS – dates are beginning to fill for back to school professional development and speaking. I would love the opportunity to speak at your school and/or work with your leaders! Reach out, let’s have a conversation. Email me at  or go to for more information and to sign up for our newsletter.


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