6 Back-to-School Lessons for Leaders

There’s something special about the start of a new school year.  How can leaders take advantage of the back-to-school spirit?

6 Back-to-School Lessons for Leaders

Here are six ideas to consider:

1. Step back to focus on change and growth.

Remember how there were always a few kids who came back after summer break and seemed like different people? Maybe they’d grown six inches, or their voice had changed, or their taste in clothes had completely shifted. None of those changes would have been nearly as noticeable if you’d been watching them gradually happen every day. You may not be able to take three months away, but try to look at the people and things around you with a fresh perspective. When you see that someone has excelled, be sure to encourage them.

2. Get a new box of crayons.

You can’t buy productivity or inspiration, but sometimes having something clean and new to work with—or to wear, or to carry—can be invigorating. If you’ve been in a rut or you need a burst of confidence, buy something new for your desk, even a small purchase like a new notebook can provide a helpful lift.

3. Try a different routine.

Part of the excitement of a new school year was in changing up how you’d done things in the past. It may be as simple as moving a weekly meeting to a different day or time, or as complex as changing the arrangement of the office. Even taking a new route to work or changing your lunch routine could be refreshing.

4. Recommit to good habits.

Over time, things like sleep deprivation, procrastination, and disorganization sap your energy and creativity. You may not be able to give yourself a slate as clean as starting a new grade at school would provide, but you can always start being disciplined with a new productive schedule.

5. Monitor your progress.

The structure of grading periods and exams helps students know when and how to focus their energy, and keeps them in touch with how well they’re doing. Think about evaluation and a framework to grade yourself on progress toward your professional goals.

6. Keep learning.

Thankfully most of us have left the need to practice long division behind, but we all have some areas that need refinement, or even some basics we need to review. Keeping your knowledge and skills current helps your entire team and positions you for advancement.


There are virtually endless options for professional development, many of them with minimal or no expense. Encourage cross-functional understanding by having team members present seminars in their area of expertise. Start a lunchtime reading group with a focus on professionally relevant books. Set aside a time every couple of weeks for a group to watch and discuss a TED talk, or plan a team-building trip. Encourage staff members to sign up for online discussion boards in their field. Pair older employees with those who are just starting out in mentoring teams. There are also very valuable short courses you can take online.


Whatever you can do to help you and your team stay professionally engaged and relevant, it’s worth it.


Above all, remember that growth and renewal are possible at any season, and always be on the lookout for ways to encourage them for yourself and others. (And don’t forget your lunch money.)


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