Last week I began writing a series of articles for the teacher that is stepping into a new role. This is the second in that series of articles designed to help you smoothly transition into your new role and start kicking goals quickly. Last week the article So you got yourself a new job. Congratulations! Now what? focused on your expectations, helping you get clarity about what was expected of you by your manager and ensuring you understand what are the priorities for your role and how your performance is going to be measured or evaluated.

You may be hearing more about performance evaluation in schools than previously. I want you to be aware that it is not just on paper that you need to be performing but in the minds of your manager and those in the school who have influence. So this week’s article focuses on ensuring you have your relationships right. Last week, I wrote about setting up a meeting with your manager and gave you a good set of guiding questions to help clarify that the direction of your work is aligned with the direction of the organisation. Now let’s think about who you need to bring along with you to support you in achieving those goals and prevent any potential de-railing of your good work and efforts to move things forward.

In his book, The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins writes ‘Leadership ultimately is about influence and leverage. You are, after all, only one person. To be successful, you need to mobilize the energy of many others in your organization’.

Let’s do a 360 and see who is in your sphere of influence.

Your Team.

The obvious first look is your team, those that report to you. You have the responsibility to lead, inspire, manage and develop each member of your team. Within any team, there will be the following characters and you need to identify them and start developing the relationship.

The leaders – a focus on others before self and display a natural talent and passion to lead

The disruptors – a focus on self before others and may block the change if it is not moving in their favour

The gossipers – gather social credibility by being the go-to person for all news- whether true or ‘alternate’ ( this new US term is catching on!)

The naysayers – have a belief that nothing is ever going to work or change for the better, so they shoot down new ideas quickly

A good leader does not play favourites, so even if you are not so keen about these team members, there is a professional working relationship that needs to be forged regardless. They are a part of your team and they matter. After all, remember, you have the responsibility to lead, inspire, manage and develop everyone in your team and a relationship of trust and comfortable open communication will stem the tide of trouble.

Your Manager.

Do you know how they want to receive communication? Have you had that meeting yet to set this straight, as I suggested last week? Have you worked out their behavioural preference? Do you know your own behavioural preference? For example, are you energetic and lively and bounce into a room when your manager is more reserved and reflective? If this is the case, you need to be doing the adjusting, not them. They will find this level of energy too much. Another example, are they fact driven and specific and you are more comfortable to talk things through and work in generalities? You will need to look closely at how your manager operates, what is their behavioural preference and match yourself closely to theirs, otherwise the way you communicate will be at cross purposes, as your behaviour will hinder the quality of the communication. They will want more and more specifics and you will not understand why. I recommend you getting yourself profiled using the DISC. I can help you with this. It involves a 20 minute on-line questionnaire that produces a very detailed 40-page report outlining how you behave, how you communicate and what motivates you to action. During the personal de-brief of your report, not only will you have a far greater understanding of your own behavioural preference and communication style, you will also have more insight into the types of behavioural preferences of others and how you can adapt and therefore improve your communication with them. I highly recommend that all new leaders be profiled. It is money well spent and in fact, it’s not very expensive.

Now look sideways.

So far we have considered your team and your manager; the relationships below and above you. What many people forget is the people who are on the same level as you and disregarding them can be your undoing.

The higher you go in an organization, the way you engage with others changes. It is far less about authority and more about influence. Decision making becomes more political and having good work relationships and alliances with those that you need to influence is key. People will support those they trust and who know that they have their best interests in mind and know their opinions and concerns have been heard.

Look closely at those around you in the organization and identify the following people:

  • Those who influence the mood of the team and the mood of the organization
  • Those who have strong relationships across the group and can spread messages quickly
  • Those who have been the longest serving and others look to for wisdom and stability
  • The disruptors, those people who can undo good plans in an instant through negative chat
  • Those who are wanting to get ahead in their careers and will be keen to step in and help in order to broaden their own resume

These are people worth spending some time with to create a healthy collegiate relationship. I’m not talking about best buddies, here, or having lunch dates, although that’s up to you. Relationships are built one conversation at a time by quality interactions where you invest your time getting to know others a little more. What you share about you is less important.  as you are showing them that you want to get to know them better.

At your level, developing relationships will help you find colleagues that can keep you informed, help you understand the culture and politics, you can share your thoughts and eventually share your concerns. One conversation at a time you will develop alliances and people you can go to for advice, support, and sounding boards. If these are not developed early, when the time comes and you need some help and it may be too late and that ship may have already sailed.

It is important even as a colleague to remember your professional image in all conversations. Too often, I’ve seen staff wanting to develop relationships using the best buddy approach and sharing too personal or private stories that only work to damage their professional image and lessen respect. My advice, it to be mindful of not ‘over-sharing’ in favour of maintaining your professional impressions. Perception is reality remember and it is very hard to change perception once it has been formed in the minds of others.

So you have got a lot of talking to do. It doesn’t need to be long conversations, it can start with a greeting in the corridor and a smile. Enjoy making the connections and getting to know your colleagues from a new perspective.

Let me know how you are getting on. I’m interested! I would love feedback about how helpful this has been and if you have any other advice to share with people like you starting out on their new leadership role. See you next week.


About the author: Janine Stratford is an Executive Coach working with school leaders. She provides leadership coaching developing greater clarity, consistency and confidence in leadership, direction and workplace relationships. If you would like to receive a behavioral profile, Janine can be contacted at