Posts Tagged ‘developing relationships’

Maximising Relationships with … #1: Your Senior Leadership Team

April 23, 2012
  • How strong is your relationship with your SLT?
  • Could it be even better?

 

Successful leadership and management of a school (or other organisation/business) relies in part on a leadership team which is strong individually and collectively.

The size of the SLT will usually depend on the size of the school and how staffing is structured (and the budget!) I’ve worked with SLTs ranging in size from 1 (the Head of a small school) to a team of 8, in a larger city school. As with any team, the larger it is the greater the potential for a richness of ideas, strengths and experiences … as well as a greater risk of conflict and power struggles.

A range of factors contribute to an effective team, one of which is a positive and productive working relationship. Heads new to a post can come into a school with an already established SLT, which can create its own challenges.

To build and maintain effective relationships with the SLT, there are several things that I’ve found in development work with Heads…

1: Clear vision – shared with (or developed alongside) the SLT

It’s important that each member of the SLT knows how they contribute to the vision. Teaching staff can lose sight of the big picture (which the Head tends to hold), as they deal with the day-to-day tasks. This is why the vision needs to be revisited and reviewed on a regular basis.

2: Role clarity

It’s also important that each member of the SLT knows his/her role in the leadership and management of the school.

– Which parts of their role are leadership and which management? 

– Do their combined leadership roles (I’m including the Head here too) provide appropriate coverage of all development areas within the school or are there gaps?

– How do you know?

– Are tasks appropriately distributed and is there fair delegation?

Lack of role clarity can lead to staff losing focus and direction, resulting in feeling demotivated. Staff who are externally motivated will need more direction and feedback on how they are doing, otherwise relationships could break down.

3: Building rapport

Building rapport is easiest with people who are similar to ourselves; it’s a subconscious thing. There’s a saying: People like people like themselves. This is fine when choosing your friends but can be limiting when choosing staff to be part of a multi-skilled and dynamic team, where complementary expertise and experiences are key.

Having common values helps build rapport, as does speaking the same language. (A focus for a forthcoming blog!)

4. Maximising strengths

As a Head / leader, how well do you know your SLT’s individual strengths (and your own!)? Not just curriculum strengths or a wide range of experience; I would also include here leadership and emotional intelligence strengths (e.g. optimism, initiative, building bonds, conflict management).

This is not an exhaustive list – so what would you add to it? 

How do you maximise relationships with (and within) your team?

(Photo credit: renjith krishnan)

Practising the art of leadership

August 19, 2010

Last week I suggested the top 3 features of an emerging leader were the three I‘s of Influencing, Inspiring and Ideas.

This week I’m looking at the next stage of leading from the middle, where practising leaders develop their skills.

Firstly, I think it’s worth saying you don’t stop influencing, inspiring and having ideas. You continue to build on these while you develop other skills / qualities.

So where is “the middle”? Roles such as team leader, manager, key stage leader …. could all fit into this category. With these positions come demands from at least 3 areas:

  • your team members
  • your line managers
  • other team leaders

The nature of your relationships change, especially if you’ve been promoted from within the organization, and you are now leading and managing staff who were previously on an equal level.

Effective leaders at this level will therefore be developing and honing their relationship skills, as well as showing they can continue to manage day-to-day activities, projects, etc. Several leadership features linked to developing relationships come to mind here, but I’ll give you my top 3….

1. Communication

Seems an obvious one, but I am including here the ability to communicate clarity of thought, which means you need to have clear focus and direction for your particular leadership role, as well as be able to effectively communicate your ideas.

When communicating with others, it has greater impact if you can do it in a way which suits their preferred learning style, as it builds rapport well.

If they are more visual – use visual language… “you’ll see what I mean when I show you how this works in practice”.

If they are more auditory, try phrases such as, “when you hear my idea and listen to how I think it could work ….”.

More on these 2 here

Similarly with people who are more kinaesthetic, try ….”you’ll be able to get to grips with it when you use the resources like this….”

To know what preferred learning styles people have, extend your listening skills to include listening out for specific visual, auditory or kinaesthetic phrases they use when talking.

2. Empathizing

The ability to put yourself in someone else’s position is highly valuable when suggesting changes or considering how a new policy or procedure will impact on the current working environment. Knowledge of other’s roles is naturally helpful here, so talking to them about their work (including successes and issues) on an informal basis is a good strategy.

If you can empathize with your team members, peers and line managers, it gives you a head start so you can consider their reactions in advance and think about how to address any issues and minimize potential conflict.

3. Building “followers”

Being a leader implies that you have followers, and I believe you can develop a following in several ways, including:

a) leading by example – I seem to remember having respect for leaders who weren’t afraid to “get their hands dirty” when necessary, and could walk the talk!

b) empowering others – knowing when to give others the space and time to develop their skills, thus building a more effective team. This is often about taking a step back, even when you think you can do the job faster / better, etc. yourself. It’s also about showing you trust them.

c) delivering on your promises – I think this is also linked to building trust. When you say you’re going to do something for someone, ensure you do it. There will be instances when circumstances beyond your control get in the way, but if you are consistently delivering on your promises, those rare times when you can’t shouldn’t be an issue.

So what are your top 3 features of relationship development for practising leaders?

Think about middle managers who’ve inspired you. What was it about them?

I welcome your comments and experiences on this topic.

(Images courtesy of Feelart & digitalart /FreeDigitalPhotos.net)