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5 Ways to Make Meaningful Connections

On a walk last summer, I crossed a bridge built over a slow-moving creek and spied a snake slipping through the water. As a mother of three boys, I instinctively wanted to point it out to them and start guessing what kind of snake it was. Alas, my teenage boys were at work or gymnastics practice. They were missing out on my moment with the snake, and I wanted to share this sighting. Just up the path, I saw a dad with two toddler sons coming my way. I was thrilled to have someone to share this moment with.

When the dad was within earshot, I said, “Your boys might like to see the snake in the water back there.” The man looked right past me and kept walking. I carried on toward my house, not bothering to repeat myself. However, in just a few steps, I heard the dad say, “Hey boys! There’s that snake the nice lady told us about.” The boys squealed, and I smiled, knowing that I’d opened up their world just a little bit that day.

Administrators don’t have the luxury to just walk on by when their message appears to have gone unheard. You must ensure that your team not only hears and understands your idea but that they also buy into your idea. You have to make sure your plans have been heard and that the team is willing to implement them with fidelity. By intentionally connecting with your team, you will see your plans move off the PowerPoint slide into practice.

In his book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell offers 5 proactive ways to use energy for connecting. As you are gearing up for a new school year, don’t communicate the same way that I did with the dad on the path. You might not get as lucky as I did! The new academic, school culture, or parent engagement initiatives that you are focused on are way too important to just rush through them during a pre-service presentation.

Instead, communicate these 5 ways to ensure that your vision is understood, implemented, and effects meaningful change.

  1. Connecting requires initiative…Go first. Be the first one to smile and ask how you can help or how their day is going. Don’t wait for the other person to come to you. As the leader, your time and energy must be focused on taking care of your teachers and support staff. That commitment to caring will translate into a commitment to caring from your staff to care for your students.
  2. Connecting requires clarity…Prepare. Build awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses, and grow from where you are. Hall of Fame golf coach, Harvey Pinick, once said, “If a player was prepared for the little things, that player would be ready for the major challenges.” As a school leader, I spent so much time tackling the big challenges that I missed the small ones. This proved to create even more challenges. Find out what your people care about and connect with them on that level.
  3. Connecting requires patience…Slow down. One of my favorite parts of a school day is eating lunch with students, but I’d fall into a pattern of eating in my office instead of with the most important people in the school–the students. I was trying to move too quickly. I needed to slow down and attend to my students. That way, I’d get the pulse of how all of our plans, projects, and initiatives were impacting the very students whose lives we were trying to change. I couldn’t get that from my office, and neither can you. Slow down, and be with your people.
  4. Connecting requires selflessness…Give. If you want to connect with people, give them your everything. That means that you must give them your eyes, your face, your brain, and your personality when you are present with them. Don’t hold back. You know how it feels when someone holds back. It’s similar to waking up on your birthday and seeing your brother holding a present behind his back, refusing to give it to you. The same is true when you are simply tolerating someone speaking to you instead of really listening. Fully attend, and you will fully connect; the present will no longer be just for you.
  5. Connecting Requires Stamina…Recharge. Creating and maintaining relationships uses a lot of energy, so figure out what charges your batteries so that you are able to come to work ready to inspire, relate, and lead. For some people, it’s a round of golf, attending a religious service, or talking with their mother or best friend. For me, I need my quiet time in the morning. Sometimes I read; other times, I meditate or write. My agenda is my own in the early morning hours, and I handle that time with care because I know that for the rest of the day, other people will shape my agenda.

Expend your energy to improve the lives of the people on your team, and you will move the whole organization forward, intentionally shaping the direction and success of everyone involved.

This blog was written by Katy Ridnouer, Leadership Coach, Speaker and Trainer with Leaders Building Leaders. If you found this content valuable, please share it.

If you want to explore the benefits of a leadership coach, then reach out to Katy at [email protected] for a complimentary discovery session. You create the agenda; together, we’ll forge a path forward together.

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