One of the many benefits of working in education and service organizations is the ability to see there is a deeper meaning, beyond profits, for our organization’s existence. It’s likely many of our employees draw a connection to the impact on children and communities. People who find purpose in their work feel a sense of pride and are more likely to be engaged.

While there is a distinct connection to meaningful work in our industries, it is still beneficial to employees when leaders commit to communicating the organization’s purpose as often as sales goals and profits. Research concludes that a 10% improvement in employee connection with the mission or purpose of their organization would result in increased profitability and a decrease in turnover and safety incidents.


Leaders can also use the organization’s purpose to ground employees during periods of change or disruption. Our partner, Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Lowery and Curriculum Director Dr. Tonia Warzecha, lead in a growing a young district outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Tea Area School District’s vision is to educate and empower each student for success in a global society. To continue to focus on their vision despite disruption last spring, Jennifer explained in podcast interview #77: Avoiding the Chaos that their team has communicated the purpose and why at the beginning of every message.

Jennifer and Tea Area School District also recognize that their responsibility in the community extends beyond care and concern for students and learning.

We’re the largest employer in the community. So, we’re not only a hub for our employees but also the voice of the community in many respects. – Dr. Jennifer Lowery

Leaders at Tea Area School District heard a strong and clear communication and instructional plan from day one. This authentic, personable approach to communicate daily with teachers, students and community members helped Tea Area build the trust necessary for people to withstand disruption and focus on their organization’s purpose.


We developed a district communication plan with specific timelines, development of keywords and purposeful timing. We did this for our employees and our community. Then we told them the purpose, the timing, what they can expect and when they can expect it from us. – Dr. Jennifer Lowery

Weekly Feedback Cycles

Effective communication within our organizations and community can only be achieved by activating two-way communication channels. Employees and community members have questions and valuable insights for leaders to hear. To help leaders in Tea Area School District make the best decisions and adjustments for their community, Jennifer and Tonia enabled Google forms and 7-day feedback cycles for all employees to submit questions and receive timely answers. Students, parents and community members respond to surveys on a regular basis to help the district make the right adjustments.

Transparent Leader Communication

Employees and communities feel valued by organizations when they are included in the process and kept up to date on decisions and changes. After district leadership meetings in Tea Area, detailed meeting notes are sent to the entire administration team, and when appropriate all employees and the broader community. This ensures the most accurate information is received and understood. People are more likely to support or work for an organization when they understand what the organization values, what its plans are and how it operates.

Start and End with Purpose

Inspiring a sense of unity can help us reach our goals as an organization. When we help people focus on our purpose or the outcome we are trying to achieve together, they are more likely to understand why decisions are made and changes are taking place. A focus on purpose unites people to find solutions for the common goal and situation presented. When employees understand why the work is so important, they are more likely to be motivated to do their best.

Leader Rounding

Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work according to a Salesforce report. Employees want input on decisions that affect their jobs and they want to know their leaders are listening. Leaders can accomplish this through the practice of leader rounding. Even while working virtually Jennifer, Tonia and Tea Area’s leadership team were able to cascade rounding throughout their entire district:

So our second week of instruction, Dr. Warzecha and I and our Principals, had teams of teachers either based on their grade levels or content areas and we used the leader rounding structure of: ‘What’s going well?,’ ‘What’s not going well?’ and ‘What support do you need from us?’. We followed that two weeks later with an open Q&A session, all on Google Meet, so that we are personally meeting with each other and making it live that I answer any questions that the staff may have following the board meeting. – Dr. Jennifer Lowery

Rounding didn’t stop at the employee level either Tonia pointed out:

Teachers are scheduling Google Meets with all of the students so that they can provide instruction. And quite frankly just so they can touch base and maintain the social interaction to keep the social and emotional learning and development on par with what we want it to be.

Jennifer and Tonia have successfully led their team through intense change with a focus on purpose, care and concern for students, employees and their whole community. You can learn more about Tea Area School District’s success at What’s Right in Education 2020 (WRIE) our virtual Leadership Conference. Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Lowery discuss how to have a laser focus on what matters to generate the best outcomes for children.

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