FISH! for Your School District’s Good Health

Fish is often viewed as good “brain food” because of the nutrients it packs. However, I’ve relied on another kind of fish that has had an equally beneficial impact on our school district.

To help create a healthy working environment in the superintendent’s office, we have adopted a work philosophy called FISH!, which was created by John Christensen and is detailed in the book FISH! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results, co-authored by Christensen, Stephen C. Lundin and Harry Paul.

The philosophy was derived from Christensen’s observations of employees at Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market. The job of fishmonger can be a nasty, smelly one, but the workers at Pike Place make it enjoyable — for themselves and their customers — by flinging fish to each other to fill orders and providing laughs along with top-notch customer service. They make a job that might otherwise seem like drudgery look like more fun than work. That fun translates into big profits for the unassuming fish market.

Four Dosages
I believe the four key concepts found in FISH! translate nicely into the world of school administration.

Play. I want my staff to enjoy their jobs and have fun. One way we play is by holding frequent themed luncheons, featuring delicious, healthy eating choices, as part of our regular office meetings.

Make their day. There’s no better way I know to make my staff’s day than by shutting down the office! That’s what we do once every six weeks (though we still answer the phones), to give employees a chance to recharge their batteries with outdoor activities, unwind with other relaxation techniques or enjoy a theme luncheon. We also provide $400 in discretionary funds to everyone on my staff to spend on a personal health- or fitness-related expense of their choice.

Be there. Around the office, I’m known as the M.D. — master delegator. While I do entrust a great deal of responsibility to my staff, they know I am always available to give guidance or just bounce around ideas. Being there for them also helps keep me in the loop when things get hectic.

Choose your attitude. Every day we have a choice about what attitude we bring to the office. We can focus exclusively on our problems, or we can take a positive approach to life. At the Maranacook Area Schools, we opt for the latter. So amidst all the daily fires we put out, we incorporate plenty of joking and laughter into our routine. It is the best medicine, after all!

While we may not be tossing around big, slippery fish to the delight of onlookers, we love what we do. And we have found a healthy dose of FISH! is good not only for our brains but for our schools as well.

— Rich Abramson