In our Admin meetings, we discuss talk about what’s happening on campus, upcoming events, calendar items, policy changes, etc. We also include an agenda item called, Iron Sharpens Iron. We take turns sharing articles or videos or mini-lessons that deal with school leadership.
This last Iron Sharpens Iron, our assistant principal shared a chapter of John C. Maxwell’s book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader.
It spoke about Servant Leadership, how we as leaders can have a greater effect on our school if we lead by creating positive relationships instead of by the my-way-or-the-highway approach.
One example that my principal gave was something that he was told by one of his mentors:
Teachers need to be seen in the same light as volunteers at a church.
This hit home with me, because growing up in church, I saw first-hand how this works. My uncle is a Pastor, my dad was an Assistant Pastor, and I’ve served in church leadership in several positions over the years. Currently, I’m a member of the church Board of Deacons, so I see certain aspects of a church organization that most members won’t see.
To grow a church, you need people who are willing to donate their time, talent, and energy to follow the vision of the church. The church leadership needs to be able to inspire and motivate these members on a continual basis or else, sadly, they won’t help out. There is no monetary incentive, so there has to be other reasons for giving to the church. Many successful church leaders understand this, and will begin building positive relationships with their members. These positive relationships are what keep the church growing and moving forward. Members will continue to give of their time and talent because they feel connected to the church leader. Those church leaders who run their ministries from a more dictatorial position, separating the leadership from the membership, will find it very difficult to maintain any kind of growth. People won’t find it difficult to leave the church, should other opportunities arise, because those positive relationships haven’t been built.
School administrators have to understand this concept of building positive relationships as well.
Although teachers get a salary, most will tell you it’s not enough. In fact, the economic times have caused many teachers to take pay cuts. In corporate America, you can offer bonuses and other monetary incentives to employees to do a better job. In education, there are no other monetary incentives, so the objective of administrators is to get the best work out of teachers without the luxury of monetary incentives. How do you do this?
You treat them like a minister treats his/her church volunteers. You build positive and caring relationships with them.
Here are a few suggestions to building positive relationships with your staff, based on what I’m seeing at my current school and what I’ve learned over the 24 years I’ve been in education. I’ve noticed that much of what I’ve listed is what I’ve seen successful church leaders do to grow their ministries.
You demonstrate publicly your appreciation for a job well done.
You show sincere interest in their feelings about issues.
You listen to their suggestions and incorporate them in your decision making if applicable, giving them credit for their contribution.
You learn about their families.
You ask if there is anything they need.
You involve them in staff meetings.
You allow them to be creative and take risks.
You value their expertise in a particular area.
You say hi to them before they see you as they pass you on campus.
You treat them to a staff lunch.
You celebrate their birthdays.
You recognize significant events in their lives: births, deaths, weddings, etc.
Did I miss anything?
The bottom line is you show them that you appreciate and value them. The positive relationships have to be sincere, because most people will see through phony praise or insincere actions.
I know there were times when I would go above and beyond the requirements of the teacher contract only because I felt a connection with my principal. I didn’t want to disappoint him/her. I wanted their approval, and was rewarded with a kind word or a pat on the back. Other times, I didn’t feel the desire to work extra hours, because there wasn’t any positive relationship with the administration.
I hope that when I become principal that I will be that leader can create those positive relationships with my staff. I am learning that this is not only an effective leadership strategy, but a great way to create a happy working environment for everybody. Imagine if this idea of giving value to others spread to the entire staff. Am I being too optimistic? Naïve? Pie in the sky?
I don’t think so.
Any school administrators out there have suggestions or testimonials of how positive relationships have been helpful? I would love to hear about them.