Like most long weekends, I find myself getting my days mixed up and I almost missed the second instalment from the Leadership 2.0 webinar series on Tuesday. I’m sure glad that I made the session as Jeff Delp took us through the leadership dimension of fostering effective relationships.
We started our conversation around what Stephen Covey refers to as “Big Rocks”. The name of the town I live in, Okotoks, is derived from the Blackfoot language and makes reference to the magnificent glacial erratic just outside of town, dubbed the Big Rock. Covey refers to big rocks as those very important things that we have to put first in our lives. In the lives of educators, building effective relationships is absolutely essential to creating a valuable educational experience. I am blessed that I get to drive by the amazing big rock pictured above on the way to work each morning as a reminder of these important big rocks in our lives; effective relationships, perhaps being the biggest.
Apart from the notion that building effective relationships is one of the most important things we can do leaders, the other significant take away I gleaned from Jeff’s presentation was that effective relationships are not only a significant step, they are the necessary first step in leadership. This reminded me of a former football coach of mine, and his obsessive compulsion with the importance of the first step in any football play. The success of that first step would more often than not set the stage for the success of the entire block. This is so true of effective relationships. As leaders, we first need to take the time to establish relationships that will lead to the trust required to take risks and move forward as a staff. I stress with my staff at the start of each semester to err on the side of relationships before immersing in curriculum. With students on board, the curriculum will follow. The same holds true with our staffs.
Finally, I am lucky to be a part of a school division that places a heavy emphasis on building effective relationships. Our vision for leading and supporting learning places the development of healthy relationships very near the center of the diagram. The ultimate goal is to improve student learning, but we can’t underestimate the value of positive, effective relationships.