The moment came that I was dreading.
Earlier that day I had sent out an all-staff email requesting attendance for a quick after school meeting because I had an important announcement.
My fingers trembled as I typed the message and then hit, “Send.” The rest of the day I tried to treat as normal; 3:45 pm couldn’t come quick enough.
The bell rang for school dismissal. The last few buses pulled off campus.
Now it was time to share the news I was dreading.
“I want to thank everyone for coming,” I said to the staff.
“I have some important news. At the end of the year, I won’t be returning as your principal. It is time for me to move on …”
As I looked out into the staff’s faces I saw tears. Sure, some were tears of joy (thank God he’s finally leaving!), but I’d like to think that the majority of tears were due to sadness and loss. Over the following weeks, the cards, gifts, and one-on-one conversations I had told me the latter reason for all the tears were more true than the former.
They were sad to see me go because of the relationships we had built. We had made a heart connection.
Help others get what they want
Jim Rohn said, “If you help enough people get what they want, you can have everything you want.”
That’s my approach to winning over others through relational influence. My priority is to care about people and I can show that I care by helping them get what they want. As a principal, this might mean making sure they have the resources they need to be successful or that I’m flexible with some kind of request. The best way to help others get what they want is to know them deeply and help them accomplish their dreams.
I guarantee if you help others get what they want, you will win their hearts.
Differentiate your approach
But everyone doesn’t want or need the same thing.
You can’t be cookie-cutter in your approach. One-size-fits-all does not work. I find it ironic that we challenge teachers to offer personalized learning, yet leaders struggle to differentiate their approach to serving the faculty. The struggle is real because it’s hard. Actually, hard is the wrong word. It takes effort. I challenge you to dig in and really understand your staff. What motivates one person will demotivate another. What Loretta finds helpful will cause harm for Jean because they have different needs.
You can win people’s hearts by personalizing your approach — this communicates “I see and hear you. I understand what you need.”
Play the long game
You can’t speed up people caring.
Take your time. Don’t rush the process. Be intentional in your approach and be consistent. I regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings and office hours to connect with staff. I took tons of notes. I wrote down what people said their dreams were. I wrote down birthdays, anniversaries, the names of children. This was all intentional. I cared about who my staff was outside of the building because school wasn’t the only part of their lives — and probably not the most important!
The long game is an investment, but if you commit to the process and show a deep interest in getting to know your staff, eventually you’ll get to know their hearts as well.