Here’s a leadership post by one of my favorite people on the planet. My former personal assistant Marybeth Fortner. Marybeth specializes in making people amazing! As a leaders, there is a lot we can learn from leading youth. You can guest post as well! Read how to here.
Over the years, I have made many changes to my piano studio and to how I teach. Some of those adjustments have come about because of lessons learned from EntreLeadership.
For example, I have started offering incentives. I have a chart for each of my piano students. On each chart are eight categories, ranging from tempo and fingering to practicing the required amount.
Each week, students can earn a sticker for each category that they have done well in or made noticeable improvement from the prior lesson. After 36 stickers, my younger students earn a prize from the dollar store. My older students with longer lessons have a different challenge. They have to earn 120 stickers. They then get to invite a friend to their next piano lesson, where they enjoy ice cream sundaes and give a mini recital.
So, besides giving me the reputation as the cool piano teacher, what does this chart actually DO?
It shows the student what he/she is good or bad at.
I have one particular piano student who plays everything at one volume. Week after week, her chart reflects it. Her fingering, notes and tempo are often perfect. Over several weeks, she can see a pattern emerge of exactly what she does well, poorly or inconsistently.
It shows correlation between effort and improvement.
Students soon learn if the “practiced required amount” box is empty, usually many of the other boxes will be empty, too. When they don’t practice, they don’t improve. When they don’t improve, they don’t get a sticker.
It gives the student a goal.
At first, my students just accepted the stickers as part of the “end of lesson” routine. But soon, most of them started asking, “How many do I have altogether?” or “How many more do I need before I get my prize?” We started a running tally on the side. What I found interesting is that the closer the student was to reaching their goal, the harder they worked for it.
It shows the student that every week is a new week.
You did great this week? Awesome! But that won’t earn stickers for next week. You did poorly this week? Too bad. But next week is a fresh start.
It shows the student that no matter how badly a particular week went, there is still something that was done well.
No one has EVER left without a sticker. I had a 6-year-old who was so incredibly disappointed that she only earned three stickers. She normally earns seven or eight. But, she’s 6. I was able to say, “Look, you did some things well, right?” So, all is not lost. She worked SO much harder the next week.
It allows me to know if the student really gets it.
I will often ask the student “Do you deserve a sticker for …?” Some students are too hard on themselves. If they aren’t perfect, they believe they are undeserving – even if they made immense progress. I try to guide these students to look at the chart in terms of progress, not perfection. Other students believe that they did everything to perfection. That tells me that I need to work with the student on actually listening to what they are playing as they play.
Whether a 6-year-old, an older student or even an adult, I’ve learned that everyone needs recognition. And you don’t have to spend a fortune to do it. By simply letting them know that they are doing a good job or giving them a goal to work towards, the sky’s the limit. You’ll be amazed at their progress and how much more you’ll love your job.
Question: How can you take this type of recognition and use it with your team?