Frank Spillers wants you to create a classroom environment where people (children, administrators, educators) can be engaged: Be WUCA to yourself and the people you work with.
Read below for a full transcript.
Hi, I’m Ron Spreeuwenberg, co-founder and CEO of HiMama. Welcome to our podcast about all things “early-childhood education”.
Hi, Frank, welcome to the Preschool Podcast.
Well thank you, Ron, it’s good to be here.
So Frank, you’re a cultural transition and relationship economic development expert, and you’ve started your own organization called Global Horizons. Tell us a little bit about why you started Global Horizons and what it is.
Global Horizons is a company that my wife and I run from our home, actually, in rural Iowa in the United States. And it’s based upon, “How do we create civility around the world?” My background is, for more than 30 years I’ve been in the rural community and economic development, helping rural communities survive. And based upon that it’s, “How do we create a great workforce? How do we create great citizens? And how do we create great employees that actually get along with your neighbor? Who’s your neighbor?” And that’s everybody from around the world.
And the reason why relationships are so important to us is that… I was a single father – I raised two children. I had a very domineering mother who, back in the 50’s and 60’s her mainstay of keeping me in line was, “I don’t care if you love me or not, but by God you will respect me.” And [there] was very much of a, I would say, heavy-handed parental guidance on there. And so that’s how I parented with my two girls.
And to some events on there: my oldest daughter went off to college, got married and lives in the state that her husband grew up in. My younger daughter wanted to go out there and live with the oldest daughter and the oldest daughter didn’t want [that], so I got in between the sibling rivalry. And at the time my youngest daughter was being treated for some mental issues very heavily. And finally when I just put my foot down and became the authoritarian parent and said, “No, you’re not going out there, I forbid it,” at the time my youngest daughter was 21. She said, “You can’t tell me what to do,” and she hung the phone up on me and then swore to everybody and the rest of the family not to contact me; don’t tell me where she was.
And so for nine years I didn’t know where she was or how he was doing, until one time later I got a call from my oldest daughter. And she said, “Dad, I’ve got something to tell you.” And I said, “Well, what’s that?” And she said, “Erin passed away today.” And that was quite a shock because then in the week during the funeral we went down to where the funeral was. And the next time I saw Erin she was in a cardboard box, wrapped in a sheet, and just her face and arms were showing because she had an autopsy done on her.
And so as I look back upon that, we were treating her for mental illness. But what we found out too late was that she had Lymes disease. But the point of that is it gave me my “Why” of, “Why do we need to create great relationships? And what happens to children – specifically in the 0-6 range – when we don’t have great relationships and we don’t create a good environment for them to grow up with?” We do more harm than we do good. I take that passion of what happened to me and I turn that forward to say, “Because it happened to me I really don’t want it to ever happen to anybody else. Nobody should have to go through that. And here are some strategies on how not to have to go through that.”
Now, this is your “Why”. Can you tell us a little bit about the “What”? What is the strategy or the philosophy that you try to tell people about and help them to learn based on your experiences in life?
Sure. We have a process and we call it the “Be WUCA way.” And WUCA stands to “Welcome, Understand, Comfort and Appreciate yourself and others.” It’s about creating an environment to where people can be engaged in. And so we work with early care and education providers, the centers, home providers; we work with families; we work with businesses and communities on how we create those engaged environments, and specifically where you set that environment where people are passionate about what they do.
When we look at a workforce… Gallup has come out with a lot of numbers. But the startling numbers [are] for the engagement factor in the workplace that only 30% of America’s workforce – and I believe around the world that’s 12 percent of the global workforce – are fully engaged in what they’re doing. In other words, they’re passionate. And so when I talk to early care and education providers, that’s the first question that I asked them: “Are you passionate about kids?” And if they answer, “No, I’m not really passionate about what I’m doing. I’m just kind of here doing a job,” I request that they get out of the business as soon as possible, because they’re doing more damage to a child than they are helping. And specifically with their brain, they’re not they’re not fully engaged in what they’re doing. And so when we have those engaged people in what they’re, doing they actually wake up in the morning and they say, “I get to go to work,” and then not wake up and say, “I have to go to work.”
So those engagement numbers are very important that we look at. And if you take it a little bit further: if we have 12 to 30% that are fully engaged, 50% of the employees are disengaged. In other words, they tend to show up for work. Then we have the scary factor of the 20% [that] are fully disengaged doing what they’re doing. In other words, they are actively trying to disengage the engaged. So they will make comments such as, “Why are you working so hard? You’re making us all look bad. How can you show up early and you stay late?” And that’s just kind of takes the motivation out of the atmosphere.
Now your point makes a lot of sense for early-childhood educators who don’t like working with children and their families. What if I’m an early-childhood educator and I love working with children and families, but I don’t feel engaged at work? What can I do as an educator, or perhaps I’m an administrator listening to the podcast, what can I do to get my workforce more engaged if I know that they love working with children and families?
Well, we have a four-step process, and that is – if you follow the WUCA process along – “Welcome” means to create a welcoming atmosphere. In other words, words matter. The words that we use create the environment. So instead of saying things like, “I hate this,” or “I’m so impatient,” or, “You make me so irritated,” look and start changing your verbiage to say, “I prefer something.” Or instead of “impatient,” “I anticipate. I’m anticipating this happening.” Don’t say, “You’re lazy.” Just say, “You’re storing energy.” “You’re not stressed, you’re blessed.” It’s those types of words that create the energy in the environment.
And the other one is to choose to be happy. We say that happiness is a choice, but so is being a “crap magnet”. And the crap magnets are the people that wake up in the morning, and they ask themselves, “Am I happy?” And they say, “No.” And then they ask themselves, “Do I want to be happy? And the answer to that is, “No.” And so they go into work as a crap magnet. And because happiness attracts happiness we also know that crap attracts crap. And that’s why you walk into a room and you can feel the negative energy just kind of weighing down on you. And those are because of the words that people use and the choices that they make.
And the drama, specifically, that you’re handling – that drama within the center or within you or in in your business – it’s that choice that that person makes. In other words, you can’t make another person feel anything, just like somebody can’t make you mad. You allow them to make me mad. And so the drama is created by people allowing that drama to go.
The second step [“Understand”] is to really understand where a person is coming from, and that is to actively listen. A lot of people just listen to respond to somebody. They don’t listen to understand. And as you talk to a person, you ask them more questions about them than you tell about yourself. And people will open up. People’s perceptions of how they grew up and people’s perceptions of the culture that they grew in becomes of a part of them.
And this is where we explain how that child really becomes who they become, is because people are just like computers – you program them. And with a child they don’t have that age of ability to reason until about the age of four or six. And as you ask people, “What’s your first memory? What do you first remember and how old were you when you remember that?”, it’s usually around three or four. And then we ask, “If that is your first memory, who was programming you in the early years between zero and three?” And as you’re programming those folks then they are becoming the world that they see and the world that they understand. And that’s the world they bring into to the workforce.
The “C” of that [WUCA] is comfort: “Are you in your comfort? Are you comfortable in your own skin? In other words, are you working your passion? Doing you know your purpose? Do you have a vision for your life, and goals to get to there?” And it’s really an employer’s responsibility to help guide their employees to where they’re passionate about.
And then the “A” [in WUCA] is, of course, “Appreciate.” And that is, “Do you express gratitude? Are you appreciative for what you have and for where you are and who’s in front of you? And do you appreciate the employees?” Employees want appreciation more than they do raises.
Yes, this is true. And we ourselves at HiMama, we did a bit of analysis on that and found the exact same conclusion. Specifically in childcare workforce is that it was actually the culture and engagement that employees were seeking more than compensation, even though compensation is still an issue in the field.
What I also find interesting about these conversations with people who work with a lot of administrators in early-childhood education about how to work with their staff and their employees… it’s almost like you just take a lot of the same philosophies that should be being applied for the educators to work with the children, and then you apply that as an adult. It’s almost like once you become an adult you forget that these things are so important, because I’m sure you would stress welcoming, understanding, and comforting and appreciative attitudes when talking about working with children. So it obviously would make logical sense to apply that to the workforce that you have, as well.
It is, and we actually have a workshop that we do that is for businesses. And it’s [that] employees leave people; they don’t leave companies. And it’s the managers that really chase out their employees. It’s not the company. And when you are in early care and education and you have a center and its turnover, it is the environment that chases people away. It might not be the wages, because we know that people get into early care and education because they can earn those big bucks. I’m just kidding there – I can see everybody faces out there, going, “What?”
And so it is that environment that engages people. People will stay where they’re appreciated, and people will stay where they feel welcome in that environment. And they will give all and loyalty to the people that help them feel that way.
So obviously your strategy – your philosophy, your approach – is, become quite involved if you’re doing a training session or something like that. But given the limited time we have, what is one of the biggest pieces of advice you would give to someone who’s an administrator of a childcare program that has employees and staff? And secondly, what is one of the biggest pieces of advice you would give to a childcare worker, [an] early-childhood professional that’s working in a childcare [or] early-childhood education program?
One is to understand the values of a person, but also to both of those questions: the number one factor in success is a person’s self-concept and self esteem. If you’re an administrator, you have to hold that person’s self-concept. You have to help build those people up. If you’re a childcare worker you have to understand that you are creating the environment where people are building people up and creating their self-concept. And a person really never outperforms their self-image. And you can create your self-esteem, your self-image. We create those environments over a lifetime, and we do that in schools and in classrooms, and we really try to build our students up.
But then in twenty seconds, just by making a little comment to somebody, – it could be a misperceived comment – it can destroy their self-concept. It can destroy that person’s self-concept, who they think they are and how they’re perceived in the world. And that can happen in a matter of twenty seconds. So that’s why we say, probably the bottom line is the words that people use is so important to be uplifting, positive and to create an environment to where people feel welcome.
And the nice thing about words is, it’s not really difficult, right? It’s not it’s not like it’s expensive; it’s not like it’s unattainable. It’s really just, you have to put yourself in the frame of mind to use that uplifting and positive language, right?
Right. And 60 to 70% of the thoughts that go through our brain are negative. And so it really takes a conscious effort and a change of habit to change our voices. Because culturally we have grown up with a negative attitude. We are comfortable with a negative attitude, even though we say we’re very, very positive. But the psychology research today says 60 to 70% is negative that goes through your head. And so you really have to choose your words carefully to create that habit of creating that environment.
Interesting. Excellent. And of course that applies both to administrators and educators, because everybody in a company is part of a culture and part of the team. So that’s an excellent piece of advice.
If I’m listening to this podcast and I want to a little bit learn a little bit more about what you guys are doing over at Global Horizons, where would I go to get more information?
Oh, we’re all over. You can get a hold of us through our website, which is www.BeWUCA.com. We’re on Facebook: you can “friend” me at Frank Spillers, [and] Global Horizons has a Facebook page. I’m @TheWUCADude on Twitter, and www.instagram.com/frank_spillers_the_be_wuca_way. So any one of those ways, but www.BeWUCA.com is our website and you can contact us through there – our phone numbers on there. And we’d love to visit with people; we’d e love to get feedback for what they think about this. And we just want to help change the culture and change the environment that people grow up in, and build civility around the world.
Awesome. It’s been so great having you on the show, Frank. The WUCA Dude; Welcome, Understand, Comfort, Appreciate… I love it when we talk about subjects that come down to stuff that just make so much sense, like being nice to people; choosing your words consciously that are positive and uplifting; and focusing on civility in the workplace, that’s what we need to engage our employees and our peers as early-childhood educators. I think it’s awesome advice. I encourage everybody to check out Frank and Kimberly Spillers at BeWUCA.com. Thanks so much for coming on the show, Frank.
Thanks for having us. We really appreciate it. SPREEUWENBERG: It’s our pleasure.