Relationships are critical to school improvement.  Relationships between teacher and student is not the only place to focus our school improvement energy.  In other blogs, I discussed how education is uniquely a human industry.

As a principal, I was conducting a meeting and one of the instructional coaches was not participating.  But how could she.  I had not set the team for success.  I had not differentiated my meeting.  What do I mean?! In my meeting design, I had not considered relationships.  In this instance, I had not created the necessary challenging environment that fosters success.  

Congenial or Collegial Relationships…there is a difference!

How is this relationships?  And no, there was no bad blood between us.  In fact, it was the exact opposite.  In the congenial relationship spectrum we were great.  But that positive congenial relationship did not get the best from her in that meeting.  Another jean day or waffle house breakfast was not going to help us fulfill our potential.  We also had a collegial relationship where we could offer and receive feedback.  The next level of collegial relationship is what was needed.  

Well what do I mean?  What is that next level of collegiality?  As an administrator we have to know our people.  We have to build and train effective teams.  I learned the hard way.  But fortunately, I had a coach that observed and facilitated a reflection process that revealed the error in my ways. I did not incorporate that person into my planning.  I did not consider how that person processes things.  From that moment forward, I planned meetings with my team in mind.  Who is in the room?  How do they think, not just what they are thinking?  How do they feel, not merely what are they feeling?  How do they learn?  What are their natural motivations?  What do they need in order for this meeting/initiative/professional learning committee to be successful?

Situational Leadership is predicated on relationship understanding.

The crazy thing about it is, is that administrators like teachers have to do this every day, all day.  We have to be situational and servant leaders at the same time, all the time.  Without this focus on relationships the instruction falls or at least falters. 

How many times have we, as administrators, put our foot in our mouths because we weren’t situational?  Or had a regret because in our laser focus on teaching and learning that we forgot about the relationship aspect of running a school.  In our noble effort to help children master content and skills, we pushed relationships to the side as if we could do one without the other.  

One author stated give me an employee with good character any day because I can teach you the skills needed for the job but I can’t train character.

By no means am I trivializing instruction.  Heaven’s sake no.  I am saying that we have to train our school leaders to truly understand relationships, how to build and use them to improve student achievement; while genuinely caring for our people.  Mastering relationships, as if that is even possible, but at least attempting to master relationships is actually investing in people in a real way.  It is not lip service.  But rather my daily actions show I care and, more importantly, value you and what you as an individual bring to the team.  YOU are so important that as I plan, I have you, each of you not just the instructional goal, truly in mind.

Relationships are critical to school improvement.

I am all about concrete steps not just theory.  So how do we do this?   It is more than a jean day.  On a serious note, we do what we expect teachers to do for our kids. We want teachers to learn the students’ interests and learning styles.  Then, they are to plan differentiated lessons with this information in mind.  We must do the same.

But what does that mean for administrators?!  It means find out who they are, what do they value, and then plan and act accordingly.

  1. Find out the following:  What is their personality?  What is their Myers-Briggs and Compass? How do they handle change?  Are they new or veterans and everything in between?  What are their strengths (see Gallops Strengths Finder)?
  2. Then learn what are their personal/career aspirations and what do they care about.
  3. Plan and be a situational leader.  For example, plan your meetings with the variety of people in mind so that it is meaningful to them and provides a way for them to successfully participate.  
  4. Every meeting should begin with taking care of your people.

Now we can see who is on the bus, are they in the right seat on the bus, how you can best support them, and help them fulfill their potential.  Now this is collegial and makes your daily work building people who build children.  It shows that you value them each and every day.  There is so much more to say.  But we would then be writing an encyclopedia rather than a blog.  Better yet, let’s write that together.  What are some other strategies to build positive collegial relationships?