What comes first: great environment or being outstanding?

To be honest, this is a bit chicken and egg (ok, I know the answer is egg, but you know what I mean). The two work together, they are symbiotic and symbolic. Let me explain:


When I walk into an outstanding school, and I walk into a lot, the environment demands more of me.

I walk that bit taller and straighter because there’s an air of motivation, even excitement, in the school.

If I see litter I will pick it up – because it’s out of place.

I even feel more alert and sharper in my thoughts.

The environment tells me I need to be on my top game, because everyone and everything else is. If I’m not, I’m an anomaly.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t walk into an RI school and slouch, litter or slack off. The change is small, but it’s significant. And the environment helps create it.


The environment is symbolic of the team that exist within it. They create it. And it says so much about them.

It’s the same when we walk down a street. On some streets we feel safe and welcome (even if we don’t meet anyone), on others don’t, we hold onto our bags a little tighter and want to leave. It’s because we are great at reading environments and what they mean.

What doesn’t work

You keeping it all tidy. It’s not possible to maintain an outstanding environment if one or two people are the ones doing it all. It’s a cultural piece, a reflection of you and your team, and it reflects how high performing, outstanding, your team is.

Whilst the clothes don’t make the man, they certainly create an impression.