Have you ever experienced this in your school? Your office is heavy with goals, analysis, strategy, goals, and plenty of meetings. You are very heavy on the “head” part of the equation, but not so high on the heart.
If you haven’t experienced this yet, there’s an excellent chance that you will. Research indicated that nearly sixty percent of respondents in a sizable global study believe that upper management in both large and small organizations is sorely lacking in promoting policies that encourage health and well-being, not to mention an emotionally connected culture. And this is negatively impacting the bottom line.
The solution seems obvious. Making your school more successful has everything to do with driving emotional connections. This is what the leaders of the highest-performing organizations do. The key then is to tangibly provide the emotional connections that your teachers and therapists, whether they provide mental health therapy face to face or are online school psychologists, want most.
Here are some of the ABCs to do just that.
It is critical to be who you are. School Principals and other leaders are humans just like the rest of us, with their own stories. Being authentic builds trust amongst those you lead. In turn, they feel comfortable being genuine as well.
While maintaining the honor and due respect to your position, don’t project yourself as high and mighty. When you make mistakes, admit them, and ask those whom you have wronged for forgiveness.
Vulnerability is also part of authenticity. When you dare to expose your weakness, when appropriate, you foster a stronger bond with those you lead. This means being open to criticism as well.
Authentic people live with integrity. Integrity means being honest, even when there is a price to pay. Integrity also means keeping your commitments without exception. Keeping those commitments, even when there is a price to pay, profoundly demonstrates your integrity.
Everyone has a story. Where possible, it is essential to learn the stories of those you lead, whether they are teachers or those providing therapy, whether face to face or via telepractice. When you hear their stories, you will gain invaluable insight into who they are and why they are that way. When you have compassion for their stories, you will be able to see them as individuals.
Compassion isn’t only about feeling the pain for the stories laden with pain; it’s about getting a sense of what makes your subordinates tick, and what have been some of their ups and downs. You don’t need to feel compelled to fix anything; just listening with compassion is enough.
Not only listen, but listen to what they tell you about their lives. Show an interest in their children. Such an interest is practically guaranteed to forge a bond. By expressing such tenderness, you will motivate them to be their best, which is in everyone’s best interest. You will have created a Social Emotional Learning laboratory in your school.
And when things go wrong, which they invariably will, stand by the side of those whom you lead and offer some empathy. Unless the offense is cause for dismissal, empathize even as you must make the necessary correction or mete out the appropriate consequence. Your compassion doesn’t create the solution, but it does validate another as a human being, which is invaluable.
There is an old expression, “Enthusiasm is contagious.” Those principals who lead with their hearts possess a consistent and infectious enthusiasm that profoundly impacts others. Such enthusiasm often serves as the fuel that will keep teachers and staff being effective during those “tough times.”
Invariably, either a teacher or a staff member will have a problem and need some help. Do you remember what it felt like when someone took the initiative to help you with a problem that seemed overwhelming? Chances are you didn’t forget that person so quickly. Guess what? They won’t forget you either!
Perhaps nothing says, “I don’t care about you” more clearly or effectively than blatantly disrespecting someone else’s time. Be as sensitive to your teachers’ and staffs’ time as you are towards your own. When you go out of your way to be on time, every time (when it is humanly possible), you are doing far more than respecting someone’s time. You are saying, “I respect you as a person.”
While we’re discussing time, another sensitivity is worthy of mention. That is, take from your own time, especially when you don’t have it, to reach out and help. Often, when it is intense for you it is intense for them as well. It’s probably at times like these that your people need you most, and it will be most noted that you made time despite not having much to give.
Display your warmth and a genuine interest in their well-being. Your desire to connect will resonate. Showing warmth and kindness in your interactions will create a culture around you that is both respectful and considerate. A warm smile conveying the sense that you care has transformed corporate cultures. Your school should be no different.
Lead With Your Heart
Focusing on the emotional dimension of your interactions with teachers and staff is not meant to replace your goals, strategy, nor policies. Without the principal’s mind and all it has to offer, not much will be accomplished besides having a warm and fuzzy environment, which is no school’s primary objective.
Instead, the goal is to create the optimal school culture where all the best-laid plans can flourish to everyone’s benefit. Creating such a culture begins with recognizing that your school is comprised of human beings who need to be treated as such. You will know that you are succeeding when no one is afraid to approach you, and those whom you lead look forward to the few words they exchange with you periodically.
Just remember the bottom line. Being a remarkable principal isn’t only about achieving results. It’s about delivering those results with heart!