Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Build a Bridge to Relate


     Throughout my career I have read a lot of information on leadership.  When I was coaching I read.  When I was a classroom teacher I read.  When I become a building, and eventually a district administrator, I still read.  Everything I read was informative and help build my skills to lead in the capacity I was working.  Not all of the material I read would discuss, on what I have come to know, the most important skill to have as a leader.   Don't get me wrong a lot of what I read was very helpful.  The authors and the leaders that lead me gave me some great advice.  Such advice as, be someone people can trust.  Or be competent at your job.  Work hard and show up on time.  I had to work on the last one early on in my career.  Actually it was just the showing up part because I tended to skip class in college.  Put it this way when the instructor handed out the course syllabus and outlined how many times I could skip the class before a grade was dropped to the next level, they gave me exactly what I needed to know.  I can miss five times and still get a "C" in Physics!  What a deal!  

     Hands down the most important skill a leader can have is the relationships in which they have with the people in their lives.  Famous educator Madeline Hunter was quoted in saying, "People don't care about what you know until they know that you care".  Old age philosophy that holds a lot of truth in today's world.  Want to influence people?  Then build a relationship with them.  People have to get to know you and you have to get to know them.  How does this work?  You spend time working with people.  I am not talking about stopping and saying hello every once in while.  Leaders can't expect to keep people at arms length and then turn around and try to influence people.  Keeping people at a distance will do exactly that, keep them away. 

     Not sure?  Let's take a page from Lee Iacocca's experience.  Yes, the same Lee Iacocca former CEO of Chrysler.  After being introduced as the new CEO of Chrysler Mr. Iacocca had wonder what he had gotten himself into.  Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy.  One of the first things he did was go to the floor of his Chrysler plants and spend time with the workers.   The people that show up everyday.  Pay attention Mr. Class Skipper!   Sorry, that was just for me.  These people had put their lives into this business and they sure didn't want to see it go down the tubes.  Mr. Iacocca not only spent time and built a relationship with them but mostly importantly in the relationship he listened.  When you lead you spend time with people.  Leaders with influence get in the trenches and put themselves in other's shoes.  Sure there are things to be done in the office but getting out and getting in touch will put a leader in  perspective with the world around them.  

     Want to know how missionaries have influence in the most ungodly places on this earth?  They live in the same places those people live in.  The eat the same food.  They drink the same drink.  They live in the same conditions with the people they want to influence.  Want to influence and relate to people?  Then get into their environment and build a relationship with them.  Last Sunday we had missionaries from Nepal speak at our church.   Nepal is about the same size of the state of Tennessee.   Even though it's a small country it is one of the most rugged mountainous areas on our planet.  On its northern border between Nepal and China is the Great Himalayan Range.  This range consists of eight of the ten highest mountains on earth.  The highest being Mount Everest.  In order to reach the people in these remote mountain villages they must live in the same area.  Sleeping in a soft hotel bed and eating a continental breakfast isn't going to happen for these missionaries.  They have to pack drinking water from a two hour hike.  I bet they are in shape!  They are influencing the people on their agenda because the people around them see that the missionaries are carrying on through the same circumstances that they are living in.

     Are you wanting to be a leader in which influences the people in your realm?  Build a relationship with them.  Be sure it is an appropriate relationship that doesn't cross any lines.  Do it for the right reasons.  Don't just do it to get something back from them.   Do it because you deeply care about them as a human being.  Do it just because it is the right thing to do.  Is it hard to do?  It doesn't have to be.  Start it by just asking how their day is going or ask the their opinion on helping solve a specific problem.   As leaders of influence if we are present and engaged in the conversations and the activities of the people around us, then it won't be very hard at all to build a relationship.

      We can even do it in this blog.  Have some input?  Post a comment.  Tell me I shouldn't have skipped classes in college.  Post it, and I will give some lame excuses on why it sounded like a good idea at the time.  Playing snooker at the college student center would be my favorite excuse.  It was fun at the time until the moment the instructor walked through the student center after class was over.  Awkward!  Until he said, "So this is where you guys go".  We all would enjoy the feedback from you.  Because through this blog we can build relationship so, I can lead, You can lead, and We can lead together. 


TBird Adviser said...

"People have to get to know you and you have to get to know them."
This statement makes me feel better about the 15 minutes my students and I spent in class Thursday just chatting because I was too tired to start the lesson. They thought they were sidetracking me, but I was really sidetracking them!

Mike Sanders said...

That will be the one the best 15 minute sessions spent on your kids. When you need their attention they will listen because they know that you care about them as a person.