In Leadership, Our Partners, Quality, Reward and Recognition

We promote creating a process to manage up other people. We teach that managing up is a specific type of recognition that positions people well with others. It promotes people recognizing other people for good work.

We recommend that leaders manage up people when they do things well. Why? Managing up helps everyone know “what right looks like.” Also, we know that what is recognized gets repeated, and so it creates the habit of focusing on the positive. Our goal as leaders is to build a manage-up culture.

We teach that when someone is managed up to leaders, a leader then manages up that person to senior leadership by giving credit to both people. Here’s an example of teachers managing up students to the high school administration, who in turn manage up each student to his or her parent. This example is from Milton High School, led by 2015 finalist for Florida’s Principal of the Year, Michael Thorpe:

Some high schools may be reluctant to consider positive phone calls to parents, but Milton High School, Santa Rosa County, Florida, uses positive phone calls to improve the connection with their parents, that is, the connection between school and home. Each week all teachers at the school send the name of a stand-out student to the school administrator assigned to that teacher for evaluation purposes. On the Stand Out Student form the teacher explains why the student was chosen. “Stand out” students may receive recognition for their manners, positive attitude, or learning improvement.

The administrator calls the stand-out student to the office and recognizes and compliments the student. After the student realizes that he/she is not in trouble, the student enjoys the moment of recognition. The administrator also calls the parent of the stand-out student. Though some parents immediately think there is a problem, which again requires an explanation, the administrator goes on to explain the purpose of the call to the parent and recognizes and complements the parent’s child during the phone call. The administrator also recognizes the teacher who recommended the child as a stand-out student. All four administrators at Milton High School value the goodwill that has come from recognizing and rewarding stand-out students to their parents through a weekly phone call.

Identifying stand-out students creates 4 winners at Milton High School: the student, the parent, the teacher, and the administrator.  Each is recognized by the other 3 individuals as special people who care about others. Important to our goal of developing relationships with our students and parents, the parent is pleased with the administrator, the teacher and most of all his/her child.

It is sometimes helpful to train leaders on a process for applying and validating recognition; this is sometimes the only way to change an attitude. Make recognition descriptive and contextual so that the individual receiving the praise and others know “what right looks like.” And remember, it takes three compliments to one criticism to yield a positive outcome.


At What’s Right in Education #WRIE, engage with ed leaders who have developed systems for rewarding and recognizing employees in their district. Tweet @KKOwen_Coach for more information.

Maximize Performance: Creating a Culture for Educational Excellence by Quint Studer and Janet Pilcher will help education leaders engage in systematic reviews to diagnose, apply, assess, and validate the execution of strategies across school, department, and school system levels. Learn more about Maximize Performance at http://www.studereducation.com/MP. Follow the authors on Twitter using @quint_studer and @janetpilcher.

Our mission at Studer Education is to help education systems achieve measurable results that produce positive outcomes in student achievement, employee engagement, support services, and financial efficiencies and productivity. Our goal is to help school systems provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Follow us on Twitter at @StuderEducation and visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the seventh straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

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