There are many approaches to leadership. Leadership is an art in that leaders must constantly approach a variety of scenarios applying a myriad of leadership techniques. This often requires extreme flexibility and self-awareness. However, more importantly, this requires a deep understanding of the importance of relationships. Few would argue against the fact that leading through influence as opposed to authority is far more effective for creating healthy environments and sustaining trusting relationships. Still, it can be difficult to find the balance between these approaches when difficult situations arise. Building and encouraging strong, positive relationships is vital for a district to achieve shared goals. Regardless, when leaders focus on building relationships, they show their staff that they are focused not on themselves, but on how they can continue to support their teams succeed and blossom under their leadership.
Here are four simple actions that nurture positive relationships:
1. Align Actions to Values
District and school leaders have to make decisions that impact a variety of stakeholders. Leaders and organizations have individual and collective values that help others understand who they are and what they aspire their organizations to be. While the decisions that we make change along with the impact that comes along with them, our values, often, do not. Therefore, it is important for leaders to ensure that their actions align with these values so that all stakeholders can easily see where decisions stem from and continue to support the shared values of the organization. One way to do this is by taking time to reflect on the decision-making process. Taking stock of scenarios, perspectives, and ethical responsibilities creates an opportunity to ensure that decisions are value-aligned. This not only instills confidence in stakeholders, but it also builds trust with stakeholders as they see leaders consistently acting toward a common goal and purpose.
It is important for leaders to ensure that their actions align with the organization values so that all stakeholders can easily see where decisions stem from. (Tweet this)
2. Communicate Effectively
Communication is a two-way street. Oftentimes, listening is more important than sharing. It is important for leaders to be conscious about taking time to listen to understand as opposed to listening to respond. This is often more challenging than it sounds. Leaders are inherently problem-solvers. Sometimes the instinct to solve problems can get in the way of truly understanding what someone is trying to say. One way to ensure that you understand what others are saying is to give feedback on what you hear them saying. Look for confirmation from them that you understood what they were telling you. If not, provide them with a chance to explain again. Something this simple can go a long way when it comes to building relationships. People who feel heard by their leaders are more likely to develop trust in them.
3. Incorporate Teamwork and Collaborative Problem-Solving
Collaboration and teamwork are essential for organizations, especially school districts to thrive. In fact, research shows that organizations who focus on collaboration are five-times more likely to be high-performing as opposed to those who do not. Focusing on collaborative efforts throughout your district sends a message to stakeholders that they have something positive to contribute toward a collective purpose. It also helps build capacity within the organization to make for a more efficient and effective system that works toward achieving goals faster and better.
There are a number of ways to ensure collaborative structures exist throughout a district. One way to achieve this is to develop, facilitate, and encourage networks. Setting up systems where groups of individuals can come together in-person or online to share ideas and resources that contribute to the greater goals of an organization increases productivity and fosters relationships across time and space.
Organizations who focus on collaboration are five-times more likely to be high-performing as opposed to those who do not. (Tweet this)
4. Develop and Practice Cultural Competence
All people come from different backgrounds and have different experiences. As a leader, it can feel challenging to understand and embrace how these differences play out across a system. However, one thing is certain, we are never done working on ourselves or learning about others. Diversity is an asset and developing and practicing cultural competence takes on-going work and a willingness to be vulnerable and reflective. Perhaps the most important thing you can do as a leader to build relationships is to work on this piece. Take time to learn about yourself, different cultures, and interact with different cultures. Partner with organizations to bring training to your school system that not only your staff can learn from, but that you can learn from as well. Modeling what it means to be vulnerable and reflective around this practice will nurture and grow relationships within your district.
Overall, relationship skills are important for all leaders. In order to build relationships, leaders must focus on modeling the actions that build trust. This trust allows for a true partnership to develop that benefits all members within a system.
Click here to download a free guide on the 4 actions that nurture positive relationships, to use in your district and share with your colleagues.