We can do it with our students. Why not with our colleagues?

We can do it with our students, so why can’t we do it with our colleagues? I’m referring to being able to lead with confidence. We can take charge in our classrooms, even exert our authority. We can create great rapport with our students because we make a point of getting to know them, their needs, their challenges, so we can teach them better. In our classrooms, we feel confident, in control and we know where we are taking our students; we have a clear vision and a plan, but more importantly, we’ve developed solid relationships with our students. We’ve worked hard to create a safe place for them and for us, so we can be ourselves and so can they.

Somehow the picture is a little different when we are charged with leading colleagues. Why is it that we are not as confident in the way we communicate? Our vision is less clear and our plans are a little foggy, or at least, they come out that way when we are trying to explain them to others with whom we feel less comfortable. Aren’t our colleagues just upsized students? Don’t we all, as educators, have the same ultimate goal; to help our students achieve their best? So why are we less confident with our colleagues? This plays out in many ways. We are less willing to have colleagues visit our classrooms or observe part of our classes. We are reluctant to lead a professional learning workshop, even if it is only to lead a small 10-minute group discussion. We are hesitant to ‘tweet’ about insights from our teaching or successes in our classrooms and definitely less comfortable to tackle a challenging conversation or deal with conflict. Why is this? It’s because the relationship focus is different. With the students, the focus is on ‘them’ and their progress. As teachers we lose ourselves in meeting ‘their’ needs. With our colleagues, the focus shifts to ‘us’. How are ‘we’ together. How am I being perceived by you? Do I provide value to you? Can you see what I bring to my work and to this team?  Do you know what I want and need? Have we got a healthy working relationship where we can work things out together?

So what’s missing here?

We haven’t worked enough at the relationship and creating that safe place, so we can be all be ourselves.

Fundamentally, we haven’t made enough of a point of getting to know each other, our respective needs and challenges, and we haven’t worked out how we need to behave with each other and communicate to each other, to work better together.

Did you know? 45% of people don’t like dealing with conflict. 8% of people would prefer not to deal with other people at all. 29% of people need to know that you like them and need to be given some indication of this in every interaction and 18% of people have no regard for how you are going to get something done, only that you have got it done or will have done it by the set deadline.

These figures are based on research into behavioural styles, how people behave and communicate. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know who falls into what category? This insight would be helpful, for example, if you know there is a challenging conversation ahead with a colleague who is in the group that doesn’t like conflict. Your conversation would be slower, more sensitively worded, and taking into consideration the feelings about conflict of each person. Compare this to the challenging conversation with the colleague that just wants to get the job done. First the conversation will need to be much shorter, but in this conversation, there is not as much need to focus on letting the person know they are valued and ‘liked’ because, in fact, they won’t be caring as much about that as getting the job or the issue of the conversation completed. But what if you are the type that fundamentally needs to know you are ‘liked and valued’ and you are working with a colleague, or several, who don’t feel the same need. They don’t give feedback often, or compliment or acknowledge the work you do. They think you already know that they feel you are doing a good job. They told you last year, remember. Whose wrong and whose right? Doesn’t everyone want to be told they are liked, valued and doing a good job often. Actually, No!

Getting to know your colleagues from this perspective is fundamental to understanding how they think, how they behave, what are their priorities and how you need to behave and communicate with them. I challenge you to spend some time observing your colleagues. Are they task-focused or people-focused? How do they spend their time? Are they quiet or more talkative? Do they communicate mainly in person or through email? Do they comfortably make eye-contact with you and exchange a greeting when you pass in the corridor?

The program, Leveraging Your Leadership Style, running on Wednesday 14 March, explores behavioural preferences in depth. Apart from finding out your own behavioural style, you will start to understand the characteristics of the other behavioural preferences and how they can show up in conversation, through the structure of their email, even by observing a colleague’s desk or office or how they dress. It’s fascinating! Once you know what to look for, you can then identify a person’s style quite quickly and the process of getting to know them and developing a working relationship is so much easier.

You need to know your colleagues if you are going to have a healthy working relationship. Once you know each other better, you can more easily be yourself. Then watch your confidence soar.

Written by Janine Stratford, Executive Coach, former Deputy Principal, Founder of Coaching Focus.

To learn more about the program, Leveraging Your Leadership Style, the brochure can be found here.