Last week I was asked to lead a session with the three Kings’ schools in Dubai on relationships. This was partly about teacher-student relationships but also about adults’ relationships and their importance in the organisation. Here are some of the slides I used and the issues we discussed:
- Organisations are complex and dynamic; relationships are not confined or defined by hierarchies and job-roles. We engage in multiple interactions every day so the quality of the relationships we form with each other is going to play a major part in shaping our experience of work, our well-being, our effectiveness, commitment…
2. Some provocations. Just to get the discussions started:
3. Why relationships matter: Alignment. If we’re more aligned in our values and attitudes, then the school will be more effective. Creating alignment is forged through forging positive relationships in teams. However well we articulate our vision and values in words, we have to enact them day to day – and relationships are the key to that going well.
4. Why relationships matter: Managing Change. In order to move schools forward we need to communicate well about what is needed in order to succeed. Communication is a central element of relationship – so that messages are listened to, understood and different perspectives given value.
5. Why relationships matter: Feedback. It’s hard to improve as a teacher or leader without feedback. But we only really listen to feedback that we trust. We’re more likely to trust feedback from someone if we have a positive professional relationship with them.
6. What do we mean by ‘positive relationships’? Here are some suggestions. Clarity of roles is important in a work context. Often tensions arise where it’s not clear who is meant to do what and sometimes where people forget or fail to consider what it’s like to be on one side or other of a hierarchical relationship – the manager/leader; the one being managed.
7. Trust. I found this from a writer called Hannah Price. I like it. Self-orientation is about tending to see things from our own perspectives and prioritising getting our own needs met.
8. Emotional Intelligence is useful concept in my view – as long as we don’t think of it as an actual ‘intelligence’. For me ‘EQ’ is pretty much nonsense – nothing like IQ in terms of measurability. EI is a construct; a framework for thinking about how we manage our emotions and the emotions of others – and is all the better for being that: something we can all construct define in our organisations. Can we approach relationships and situations in a more or less emotionally intelligent manner? Yes we can.
9. More provocations to discuss. Do we allow for cultural relativism – or is that just a cop-out? Do we accept is when people give us the silent shut-down when they’re clearly not happy. Anything wrong, you seem upset? No, I’m fine. Don’t mind me… Do we allow people to create MAXIMUM DRAMA sucking everyone into their bad day? Does everyone find the banter funny? It’s just a bit of fun…. Is it?
10. The principle of charity…. it helps!
11. It’s not personal. Building on an idea from Oliver Caviglioli, I think this helps. Personal relations – your family, partner, close friends – are about you and them as people. That demands close, intense examination of personalities, character, emotions – at a level that is simply unsustainable and often unhealthy with work colleagues:
At work… we mediate our inter-personal relationships through having a common goal or task. The purpose of investing in our professional relationship – which has a personal dimension – is so that we can get the task done and reach our goal. That has a huge diffusing effect in terms of managing emotions and exploring our more deep-seated personality traits. We work together; we don’t have to live together – so let’s keep focused on how we operate, communicate and interact so that our work gets done as well as we can – together.
12. Teams work best when we extend the task focus to include everyone. Team dynamics are complex and need consideration. People can be dominant, passive, passive-aggressive. Team cultures can be defensive, resistant to change; closed. OR – open to change, dynamic and creative. Being explicit about the ground-rules, ethos and goals for team behaviours can help to shift a culture that’s inhibiting performance or making people feel dissatisfied.
I must admit I wasn’t sure how well this session would go but after I delivered it, someone came up to me to ask if I did personal life-coaching sessions. I’m really the last person to put themselves forward for that.. but I guess it meant the ideas came across ok!