Growing a Company Montessori-Style

I’ve been looking at schools for my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and I was floored by the quality of education available today.  

One school, Near North Montessori, really stood out from the rest. It’s fostering a science and culture of learning that is unbelievable.  The days I remember of mindless memorization and hours of sitting bored and frustrated listening to lectures are no more. While I wish I could relive my school years, I realize, especially after my recent Montessori school visit, that I’m reliving those years every day alongside our Company’s 200+employees. I discovered that what we’ve been fostering for the past 14 years within the Company’s culture is based heavily on the Montessori method. Here are six common philosophies we share to develop the human potential:
Management Style: “With freedom comes responsibility,” that’s the principle I heard students and teachers state many times. Students are expected to behave in a proper manner in order to continue to have the freedom they love.  Rising employees have freedom, but with that comes responsibility. We foster an objective-based leadership model rather than a task-based management style.  We define the top corporate goals, the unit chooses their top goals (aligned to corporate goals) and the individual can set their own goals (aligned to team goals).  By defining KPIs (key performance indicators), the teams and individual can find and execute quality improvement projects to improve their KPIs.
Focus on Strengths:  Montessori encourages children to pursue their interests.  They have freedom in sports, art, music and even learning topics.  Equally impressive was that classes are divided by learning style.  Similarly, Rising is a strengths-based culture. When a new employee arrives, the first thing we do is give them the Strength Finder and Predictive Index assessments to determine their top five strengths and a book to reinforce those strengths. We then design a “flight plan” for each employee to help them find what they love to do and have an aptitude for so everyone can achieve their life goals.

Huddles: Montessori calls it something different, but ultimately the end goal is the same. Kids get together themselves on a daily or weekly basis.  They can talk about what is going on, where they are stuck and ask each other for guidance.  The team helps each other and holds each other accountable. At Rising, we get together at the same time every morning in our teams, discuss our daily happenings, gain support if needed, and keep one another on task. 

Variable Roles:  The kids are put in positions where they need to be comfortable stretching themselves and leaning on others, and in situations where they are leaders, helping other children. Much like life, Rising’s Situational Leadership training and mentor program also mirror this reality. After all, a person must be comfortable helping others and/or asking for help in order to achieve their maximum potential.

Support: I noticed many systems in place for positive validation.  The children look out and root for each other.  They are trying to climb mountains together, not play King of the Hill. Similarly, we have Company “High Fives,” “Rising Rock Stars” and “Catches of the Month” to recognize employees for their professional achievements and milestones.

Ownership: I had the privilege to see some of the 6th–8th grade presentations to prospective parents; they were impressive and spoke volumes about their education. All you had to do was look at the children delivering these presentations to know this method of education is stellar.  This is why I’ve always been an advocate for exposing our team to clients, with each unit being responsible for providing their own client tour.   People don’t need the CEO or sales person telling them how good we are, they can see it with their own eyes.

Rising has an amazing team and dynamic culture, one that has been written about in business publications and case studies. Over the years, I’ve been a dedicated student to the art of building a thriving Company culture.  Yet who knew all I had to do was go to a different kind of school to get what I needed. Had I attended a Montessori school, I would have saved a lot of time, avoided a lot of mistakes, and honed my skills earlier on in life. At least now I can say I recognize the difference and want better for my daughter and for every employee at Rising.