Red Threads

The red threads captured my attention.  During one of my summer morning walks, I heard an interview with Marcus Buckingham. He described his life long obsession with helping others improve the quality of their workplace experience.  The interview held my attention, yet there was nothing extraordinary in the conversation until he brought up the red threads.  I paused the interview and replayed the section.  

I’d recently been thinking about the direction we might want to go with our teacher prep week professional development sessions.  As soon as Buckingham described the red threads as “an activity that you do, especially at work, that gives you energy, excitement, and joy,” the possibilities for our staff work opened up.  I was particularly drawn to his idea of looking for what brings energy and joy, instead of focusing on what’s wrong.  This approach is in line with a practice we’ve had in place for many years with both staff and children—look for the good first.   

Buckingham proposes a practice of spending a week listing what you love and what you loath about your job.  He recommends consciously including more of what you love (red threads) in your weekly schedule.  Furthermore, he suggests seeking out co-workers who have complimentary red threads, and establishing teams based on each others’ strengths.  This way more people are doing things they love in their work.

We spent time as a staff during our prep week identifying our red threads.  Each person illustrated one red thread and shared it with the whole group.  As the week unfolded, there was considerable conversation throughout the building about red threads.  Teachers began making plans for revising spaces, utilizing each others’ strengths and interests.  During individual conferences with each staff member, positive responses to the red thread concept kept coming up.  I could tell it had been time well spent exploring Marcus Buckingham’s body of work.  It set us up to head into a new school year with a fresh outlook on what we do at the Seed.   In his words:  “You can love what you do at work every day. It’s possible in the job that you have, but only if you take responsibility for owning, honoring, and contributing the best of yourself.”  Identifying and celebrating our red threads seems like a step into being further present to our best selves.