Culture Building Resources

The Silent Servant Award

The Peter R, Marsh Foundation recognizes that students who unselfishly provide voluntary service in their communities possess above average social/emotional intelligence, are more empathetic towards others, live more-peaceful lives, achieve greater-than-average academic success, graduate HS and typically attend college.  In adult life these students often become competent parents and valuable members of their communities.

The objective of the Student Silent Servant Award (“SSSA”) initiative is to support high schools in their efforts to embed emotional/social intelligence in all their students.  The SSSA initiative:

  • Identifies, acknowledges and awards students who currently serve.
  • Examples and affirms the personal rewards of public service.
  • Inspires all students to participate in public service.

Nominate a student at:

Brain-Based Strategies to Build Trust in Your School Culture

In my book, The Chemistry of Culture, I explore these essential questions: Why do people trust each other? And when they do, exactly what happens inside the brain? As Neuroscientists learn more about the chemical nature of human behavior, they are learning that trust is a drug. Or rather, a cocktail of drugs in our brain. Their studies show that the relationship between the amount of certain brain chemicals and trustworthiness is so exact, it can be used to predict the level of trust in any relationship. Neuroscientists are unlocking the links between our brain and our relationships. They are learning that there really is a “Chemistry of Culture”.

Former ICLE Senior Advisor, Jim Warford, has led change at the school, district, and state level. He has inspired and helped guide many Model Schools. He has been studying the brain-based strategies that Model Schools have used to create a positive culture. The Chemistry of Culture is available on Amazon and direct from the publisher, Rowman and Littlefield.

Jim Warford Blog Post – If Your Culture is Broken, You Can’t Fix Anything Else:

Administrator Trust Self-Reflection Guide

I regularly look for ways to release control to my staff… Seldom Sometimes Often Very Often
I find ways to be vulnerable with staff… Seldom Sometimes Often Very Often
I find ways to show my staff I trust them… Seldom Sometimes Often Very Often
I practice Active Listening strategies… Seldom Sometimes Often Very Often
I am empathetic with staff… Seldom Sometimes Often Very Often
Staff has influence over things that impact them directly… Seldom Sometimes Often Very Often
I encourage staff to take risks… Seldom Sometimes Often Very Often
I find specific ways to show staff I believe they are capable… Seldom Sometimes Often Very Often
I find ways to show staff I am confident in their skills… Seldom Sometimes Often Very Often
I am transparent when sharing information… Seldom Sometimes Often Very Often
I find ways to show my staff I care about their welfare… Seldom Sometimes Often Very Often

Excellent Empathy Video

Empathy is on the decline:

Dr. Saki – 5 exercises to help you build more empathy | (

How to Create Empathy at School:

5 Exercises to Improve Empathy:

Exercise #1: Strengthen your internal resources

For this exercise, think about something you’re struggling with and how it makes you feel. Then imagine a friend coming to you with that same problem and how you’d respond to them. Doing this can highlight the chasm between the kindness we give to the people in our lives and the kindness (or lack of) that we show ourselves. You’ll probably find a significant difference in how you’d treat your friend — most likely with patience, generosity and forgiveness — versus how you’d react to yourself — perhaps with blame, harshness and self-criticism. High-achieving people like Dr. Zaki’s students, he says, often struggle to do this exercise.

What does this have to do with empathy? “Empathy has to start at home,” points out Dr. Zaki. “You can’t just give of yourself emotionally until there’s nothing left.” By building self-compassion, we are increasing our capacity for empathy.

Exercise #2: Feeling spent? Spend kindness on others

At some point in your day, especially when you’re stressed or feel like you don’t have any spare bandwidth, spend in some small way — whether it’s in time, energy or money — on someone in your life. Send a text message of support to someone who’s having a hard time. When you’re running errands, pick up your partner’s favorite coffee. Carry an older neighbor’s groceries upstairs. “Building empathy isn’t necessarily about donating half of your salary to charity. It’s about the little things that we do each day,” says Dr. Zaki. “It’s about habits of mind.”

In an attempt to conserve energy for ourselves, we tend to turn inwards when under pressure. While it may seem counterintuitive, Dr. Zaki has seen that performing these tiny acts — especially at moments when we feel like we can’t — can be energizing and enlivening. “Students are happily surprised to find that when they give to others, they don’t end up depleting themselves,” he says. “Happiness and well-being are not a zero-sum situation.”

Exercise #3: Disagree without debating

Have a conversation with someone you disagree with. But rather than debating or discussing the contentious issue, share your story of how you came to form your opinion and then listen to how they arrived at theirs.

This is likely to be the most uncomfortable of the exercises, but it’s worth doing given our current social climate in which a person’s ideology can be equated with their personality.

Note: Do not do this exercise with someone who harms or denigrates you or the group you belong to.

This exercise is based on what’s called “deep canvassing,” a strategy that’s used by some activists where they have 10-15-minute, two-way, emotionally-engaged conversations with the people they’re trying to persuade. Although deep canvassing has the intention of trying to change someone else’s mind, that’s not the aim of doing this exercise. Its point is to show us that it’s possible to disagree with another person without disliking them or seeing them as the enemy. “Empathy does not mean condoning — but it can mean understanding,” says Dr. Zaki. When his students do this exercise, he reports, “They’re often surprised at how respectful and human conversation across difference can be.”

Exercise #4: Use technology to connect, not just to click and comment

For this exercise, think of how you currently use your phone and rethink how you might use it differently. “Try to be intentional about technology as a medium in which human connection can exist and which you can try to pursue that connection,” says Dr. Zaki.

Many of us pick up our phones only to look up an hour later to realize we’ve spent the time doing a whole lot of aimless scrolling and clicking and not much else. For a few days, do an internal audit each time you catch yourself looking up from your phone. Take notice of how you feel, what (if anything) you’ve gained, and what you’ve retained. By asking yourself basic questions — “What am I thinking? Is this what I want to be doing? What do I feel right now?” — you have the chance to look at its impact on you and your well-being.

This exercise is not designed to build empathy itself but rather to help us bring kindness and humanity to the online platforms where we spend much of our time. When you can, try to use your digital interactions as a chance to better connect with others. This could mean having more real-time interactions and conversations. Instead of just leaving an emoji on a friend’s Instagram post, why not directly text or call them? “The worst thing you can do for your sense of human connection,” Zaki says, “Is to just lurk on various platforms and let anger and other negative feelings seep into you like a young Darth Vader.”

Exercise #5: Praise empathy in others

Just like we’re conditioned to compliment other people on a great style choice or work accomplishment, let’s make it a habit to shout out empathic behavior when we see it, says Dr. Zaki. For this exercise, take a moment in your meetings — whether online or in person — to recognize the people on your team whenever they help others achieve their goals. “A lot of our attention tends to go towards the loudest voices, which are not necessarily the kindest voices,” he points out. “When we notice the good around us, it balances our attention a little bit.”

Feel free to do these exercises in any order you’d like and for as long as you’d like. In fact, why not turn them into a lifelong practice? The more that we can cultivate our own empathy and encourage it in others, the more we’ll be contributing to an overall culture of kindness. “There’s a fair amount of research on kindness contagion — the idea that when we see it, we’re more likely to engage in it ourselves,” adds Dr. Zaki. “By calling kindness out, we’re more likely to make it magnetic through that social force.”

Can you trust your eyes?

Trust Article + Videos

Elements of Trust:

More Videos:
Heider-Simmel Test on Vimeo:

Interpreting Heider-Simmel Results:

The Five Levels of Effective Listening:

Two Active Empathy Exercises:

Exercise #1 – Our judgments are not facts
Our thoughts and judgments can have a strong influence on how we feel and what we do. Often thoughts and judgments are automatically. It is possible to take distance from your thoughts and judgments when you are conscious about them in your head and then move the focus on the breathing and your experiences in the current moment (Beuningen, 2011).
Through this you can experience that you can think something else than your previous
thought or judgment. This can help free you from old patterns of how you were thinking and those who come automatically.
Most important is that we realize that: Thoughts are merely events in our head; thoughts are not facts, and that we are more than our thoughts.
We can get a grip on our thoughts by focusing our attention on it. This can help to reduce our identification with it. “I am not my thought/judgment”. There are some automatically not-helping thought patterns who can bring our mood down. Knowledge about it can help noticing thought patterns and to practice in more correct and effective thoughts.

Exercise #2:
Try to get comfortable and close your eyes. Slowly breath in and out three times. Take some time to notice the thoughts or judgments which are in your head right at this moment. Try to imagine that you are in a movie theater and looking at a white screen. Wait until thoughts are coming up. What kind of thoughts are these? What happens with them?
We are looking at our thoughts and suddenly we are caught in the middle of it. When we are caught in it, we forget that they are just an appearance! It is astonishing to notice how much control unwishful thoughts may have.
The influence thoughts have on our life depends on how much control we give them. If we succeed in keeping distance to our thoughts and judgments, the control will be less. The challenge is to be aware of our thoughts and judgments, to see them clear. At that moment we have the choice: We act or we don’t. (Beuningen, 2011).
Closure: To end this last exercise of this module you can ask the following questions: To what extent did you succeed in keeping distance from your unpleasant thoughts and judgments? –
What do you personally need, to find distance? To what extent do you think you will be better in it by practicing?

Bill Dagget White Paper: Success Beyond State Tests

Bill Daggett White Paper: Innovating for Impact

Dr. Richard Jones White Paper: Quad D Leadership:

Growth Mindset Checkup:

Paul J. Zak, The Neuroscience of Trust, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2017
Joshua O. S. Goh, Eric D. Leshikar, Bradley P. Sutton, Jiat Chow Tan, Sam K. Y. Si3, Andrew C. Hebrank and Denise C. Park,Culture Differences in Neural Processing, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, June 2010

Paul J. Zak, The Neuroscience of Trust, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2017

Christopher Bergland, The Neuroscience of Savoring Positive Emotions: Sustained ventral striatum activation is linked to savoring positive emotions, Psychology Today, 2015

Your brain on culture – American Psychological Association, November 2010

Monitor on Psychology Chinese, English Speakers Do Math Differently, Yiyuan Tang of Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China. Associated Press, 6/26/2006

Nalini Ambady, Culture shapes a mesolimbic response to signals of dominance and
subordination that associates with behavior, NeuroImage, Vol. #47, 1 August 2009