Friday, June 29, 2012

Take That Positive to the Bank!

Education is a relational business. In order to get the very best from our students and our fellow staff members, we must have positive relationships established. Schools that excel know that positive and supportive teams focused on reaching a common goal are key. The most successful leaders, teachers and organizations take that idea to the extreme by making positive relationships the first priority because they know that learning cannot occur without a trusting relationship. Think of the relationship as a bank account. When you have a healthy balance in the account, surprise withdrawals can be easily overcome. If you have a low balance or even a deficit balance, you will definitely go bankrupt. So what can we do to build and keep healthy balances in our relationship accounts?

  1. Build Deposits into your Routine - Relationship millionaires are always looking for ways to make the dollar, so they are making deposits left and right with every interaction that they have. You will have a negative interaction with most people that you work with (students, parents & staff) at some point, so you may want to start building your relationship accounts as soon as possible. With every handshake, high 5, unsolicited polite word and positive feedback, you are building the balance. The more frequently you show your positive actions and encouragement in front of others, the more you build positive balances in their accounts as well.
  2. Identify High Withdrawal Relationships - Some relationships are harder than others to maintain a healthy balance. Some people can be negative or irrational, but that doesn't give you a pass on building a positive relationship with them. Stay frequent and consistent in your positive support and encouragement, but most importantly look beyond their words and tone for the message that they are trying to convey. If you can see what they are trying to communicate, you can build a positive account balance.
  3. Listening is an Easy Deposit - Many times I speak when I should be listening. I have to realize that if I want to make a deposit, I just need to be quiet and listen. Listening gives value to the other person and builds trust. Remember that effective listening also requires eye contact and no distractions.
  4. Restate What They are Saying - So what you're saying is... If you are actively listening, you can definitely get this right. Restating not what you hear, but what they said clarifies what the other person is feeling and strengthens the relationship because you are validating this person's feelings.
  5. Turn Conflict into a Deposit - This takes a lot of time and has the most risk, but it is important to keep in mind that you can't leave conflict unresolved. Most times you can resolve conflict right then and there (especially if you have a high balance in your account), but if not, you must commit to working with the person to resolve the conflict at some point. Keep in mind that the longer you wait to resolve conflict, the more value you lose in your bank account.
  6. Deposit Your Faults - So many people get this backwards. They think that they must prove that they are right, so they cannot or will not acknowledge their mistakes or shortcomings. If you want to build the strongest relationship, you must commit to developing trust, and there is no bigger deposit than saying that you are wrong and acknowledge when you have messed up. 'I was wrong' and 'I'm sorry' are the 5 most important words.
Imagine if every leader, teacher, staff member, student and parent committed to following these 6 little rules of thumb. Our relationship bank accounts would be so high that we could solve problems of national proportion. Student achievement cannot occur without positive relationships with our students, parents and colleagues, so before learning can begin, we must commit to building our relationship bank accounts.

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