I recently had the opportunity to serve as an alumni coachee at the Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute during the in-person institute held at Berkeley. When I took the certification course, it was completely online and I saw the talented and skilled faculty through my Zoom screen. When I arrived at the Berkeley Faculty Club on this very hot day in October, I saw some of the incredible faculty that taught me during my course. Benjamin was playing the piano. Jennie came over to give me a hug. I saw Doy and Praew in the distance. It felt like celebrity sightings! These were the skilled and thoughtful people who taught me so much and I was actually seeing them in real life. I was surprised by my reaction. I am an adult and know that these are real human beings even though I saw them only on Zoom.
Tag: relationship building
Part 1: Building Relationships
Have you accepted a new leadership opportunity? There are probably many feelings running through you right now: excitement, worry, joy, overwhelm and so much more on any given day and even in any given minute. Having been a new leader and new to school communities many times over, I have learned from my mistakes and from the things that worked well. The way you enter a community and begin your journey as a leader is important. This should be intentional work that is thoughtfully carried out with the purpose of learning about the community you are entering and making connections.
Building Relationships is at the core of introducing yourself to a community and a key way for you to get to know a community. This is time well spent even if it takes the entire year. Meeting one on one with your direct reports as you enter your school community is an essential first step.
When I was an administrator at a school and I had concerns about a direct report’s performance, I looked for past notes and documentation regarding observations, conversations, and other feedback. I found nothing. This was a person that had many complaints from all different constituents in the school over many years and yet there was nothing in writing. This could mean that someone might not have received clear and timely feedback about their performance and at the very least if they did, there was no follow-up to clarify goals and expectations. This does not serve anyone well: the person struggling in the job, the supervisor, and ultimately if you are in a school, the students. Documentation is a form of feedback. It leads to clarity and direct communication. There are likely few surprises when you document in a timely and clear manner.
Building trust is an intentional practice. Building trust is an essential practice of an effective leader. You need to create a plan to accomplish this ongoing task of building, earning, and gaining trust with individuals and with groups in your community. It’s never too late to start!
Consider some of these actionable items:
- Meet one on one with all your direct reports. This can be an annual goal meeting or it can be a non-agenda meetup that is time for your direct report to share who they are. Everyone should get the same opportunity in your team.
- Follow through when you say you will. If you say you will do something, do it. This is a huge trust builder. Alternatively, if you say you will do something and you don’t, it is a huge trust breaker.
Are you experiencing stress? Why should you care? It may mean that something or someone you care about is involved. According to Dan Harris in the Ten Percent Happier Stress Better Meditation Challenge Series, stress can be a signal that something matters to you. Professor Modupe Akinola of Columbia University suggests that when you realize you are stressed try to find out why you care. She calls this a ‘reappraisal’ of the stress and states that one way to NOT feel as much stress is to figure out the underlying reason why you care. Rather than focusing on the cause of the stress, focus on why you care about what’s causing the stress.
Here are some steps they suggest from the Ten Percent Happier Stress Better Challenge:
- Tune in to your feeling of stress: Know when your body feels stressed, be aware of when it is happening, and notice.
As a young child, my father had a phrase, I might even say it was a mantra, that he often communicated to my sisters and to me, ‘Think before you talk.” Even as I type it out now, I feel the eye roll of an adolescent child begin to take over. As a young female in a South Asian immigrant family, I interpreted this phrase as ‘be quiet’ or ‘speak when spoken to’ and I did just that. I was an introverted, quiet child who spoke rarely in the school setting. I often kept a long and winding inner narrative alive in my head but rarely shared my thoughts with others. I did not think my words mattered to others. Now as many years have passed, I actually find myself thinking of this phrase with new meaning.
As an adult, a leader, an educator, and a parent I have learned through many small and big moments that this was not the full interpretation of the phrase.
When I was teaching, each child in the classroom acted differently. Their behaviors were a way of communicating: of sharing thoughts, feelings, and needs that were maybe not being met. As leaders, we can look at our teams similarly to how children act in classrooms. Look closely at your team and think of their behaviors. A close exploration of their actions can help you understand their beliefs and so much more. Elena Aguilar talks about transformational coaching and the 3B’s, behaviors, beliefs, and being. She talks about behaviors (instructional practices and skills) leading to effective practice, exploring the beliefs (about teaching, learning, children, and families) that you operate from, and ways of being, “the ways in which our sense of self and identity impact our experience”. What is your team telling you, both as individuals and as a group through their behaviors?
Questions to ask as you observe your team:
- What is the need behind their behavior?
What’s in a name? When I was growing up, I can’t tell you the number of times people either mispronounced my name or just didn’t say it at all. In ninth grade, I switched schools and somehow a classmate assigned me a shortened version of my name. It stuck. This made life infinitely easier. As time went by, I felt a loss for my full given name. Who was I making it easier for? Me or others? I realized I was just trying to avoid microaggressions and awkward, challenging moments that others created because they couldn’t be bothered to take the time and effort to attempt an unfamiliar name.
Names are a big part of a person’s identity and probably one of the first things that you learn about a person. It’s natural to sometimes mispronounce an unfamiliar name. Most of the time, there are no bad intentions involved. Still, the impact of mispronouncing a name, not taking the time to learn the correct pronunciation, or using ‘nicknames’ can be harmful.
How can you develop a sense of belonging this year? As you prepare for students, families, faculty, and staff to return to campus, there is much to think about: maintaining health and safety, preparing facilities, gathering supplies, and so much more. When you welcome your community back to campus, remember an important part of your preparation: How will you develop a sense of belonging?
Belonging, One of Our Basic Needs:
According to psychiatrist William Glasser, Belonging is one of our basic needs. He defines love and belonging as one of our essential psychological needs for seeking relationships, making connections, giving and receiving affection and feeling part of a group. Sebene Selassie, mindfulness expert and author of You Belong, describes belonging as coming from within a person and states that difference does not mean ‘not belonging.’ Selassie writes, “Difference” does not equal “not belonging,” but as many of us live farther away from our families and as we connect to multiple communities and cultures, our sense of belonging feels tenuous.”
As the school year comes to an end, a gratitude practice can intentionally direct hearts and minds to name and offer thanks for little things. It can focus our thoughts on positive aspects of our life and our work. It can help turn a deficit mindset of feeling, that nothing is ever enough, into a plentiful mindset of feeling fulfilled. Our capacity to feel generous is increased when we feel we have enough. When we practice gratitude, we focus less on wanting/grasping and resisting/pushing away. Practicing gratitude as a team is an opportunity to see our interdependence and feel a connection.
Gratitude practices, over time, can have an impact on physical and mental health and the brain. “… simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain,” noted Joshua Brown and Joel Wong in their research on gratitude. Research has shown connections between gratitude practices and physical and mental health.