Thursday, July 16, 2015

The "Right" Relationships Matter

There's so much out there about the importance of relationships.  Relationships are essential for us to grow.  They build trust, and trust is essential to basically everything that has to do with school culture.  But today I'd like to push back on that thought.

Relationships matter because they make us feel valued as members of the organization, but if all we do is establish great relationships between leaders and teachers, teachers and students, and the school and community, does that by default get us the result that we truly want: more kids learning at high levels?

I would contend that liking one another really doesn't change who we are.  It just makes us more comfortable and more congenial with one another.  Building relationships is imperative to improve a a school culture.  If we believe that building relationships helps improve school culture, we must remember that warm and fuzzies are nice, but they aren't the goal of a school.  Guaranteeing that all kids learn is the goal, and we should leverage relationships to make it happen.

The Right Relationships Matter
Relationships are a means to an end, not the end in and of itself.  Making others feel good is important, but if our efforts to build strong relationships supercedes our efforts to ensure that all kids learn, then I would argue that we have the created the wrong relationships in our organization.  After all, if we really cared about having meaningful relationships with people, we would have the courage to be brutally honest with them and care enough about them to tell them our truths about what needs to occur to reach the goal.  In short, you can't build authentic relationships with people, if you avoid giving them the cold hard truth about improving the organization.

Like I said earlier, warm and fuzzy is great, and that's helpful to building relationships, but the right relationships are not forged through kindness alone.  They are forged through the fires of adversity and overcoming it together.  Trust is not built simply with friendly words and happy smiles.  Congeniality is.  Trust is built when 2 or more people come together to confront a difficulty that is either between them or in front of them, and they work together to overcome it as well as grow from it.  Real relationships come from confronting reality.

Relationships matter, but the RIGHT relationships matter most.  When you have the right relationship with someone, you don't just make them FEEL good about themselves.  You hold them to a higher standard, but you do it in a trusting and supportive way that challenges them to GIVE their best.

This week, challenge yourself this week to examine your relationships in all facets of your organization, and ask yourself if you have established good relationships or the RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS.

1 comment:

  1. Agree John! One of the key factors in developing relationships of trust and care is that all parties are treated as able to contribute to the solution, are empowered to bring their best to the table and able to use their talents and abilities to the fullest. In The Multiplier Effect, Liz Wiseman explores how great leaders get the very best from the people around them and empower them to do great things. My experience is, often in schools, relationships do not empower people to be innovative and bring their best and perform at their best. As leaders are we empowering others and supporting relationships that help them to become their best? Do we trust the people around us to be great without unnecessary constraints that limit what that might look like?
    "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do." Steve Jobs. How are the relationships in the school a reflection of smart people doing great things?