Leaders often disagree on the subject of building relationships with their team: some want to keep relationships entirely professional and others, me included, think making friends with your team is beneficial for everyone involved.
This blog is part of Ambition:Feed's school developing others challenge. Find more tips and discussion on the Ambition:Feed homepage.
I’ve considered the
counter-argument. I’ve listened to people say it’s not good for work-life
balance and that it’s inappropriate, but I still believe that getting to know
your team on a personal level – going for dinner and drinks outside of work and
on weekends – can create a positive atmosphere where staff can have a greater
impact on pupils.
So here are my five reasons why it’s good to get to know your staff more:
1. You’ll understand them better
Finding common ground through regular conversations about non-work matters means you’ll understand more about your team as people. This goes beyond just asking about their week, it means finding something you have in common and speaking about it regularly.
This strategy works especially well with new or more reserved members of your team. I bonded with a new member of staff by talking to her and finding common interests.
Then, once you know your staff better, you can develop them better because you’ll understand more about their personality traits and drivers.
2. They’ll trust and confide in you
In my experience, if you have a good relationship with a team member, they’ll be more honest with you. If staff feel that you are approachable, they will come to you with a problem instead of bottling it up or soldiering on. This means you can tackle issues as soon as they arise, rather than waiting for them to get progressively worse.
If there is a professional distance between you and your staff, they are much less likely to confide their professional and personal problems in you.
3. Difficult conversations are less difficult
When you have a good relationship with a team member, difficult conversations can be more uncomfortable as you care about upsetting them as you would with a friend.
Regardless of who it is, holding someone to account is never a nice thing to do, but when you know someone well and they know you, they’ll understand that you aren’t being malicious, you’re just doing your job.
It’s important to keep the way you deliver your news in mind and make sure you remind them that everything you’re saying is in the best interests of the pupils.
They’ll understand that you’re not trying to make work for them or catch them out, and they’re less likely to feel like you’re watching and judging them.
4. Their motivation will improve
In my experience, getting to know team members better makes them more likely to volunteer in new projects and chip in in meetings. They are more motivated to help you because you’re on their side.
I also use positive messages to motivate my team – including emails to SLT that praise the fantastic work they’ve been doing as a department.
5. You’ll bond as a team and have a greater impact
By going out for meals together and getting to know one another, you’ll bond as a team and become a single unit.
Always bring it back to why: you’re collaborating in order to improve the lives of pupils, so getting on better on a personal and therefore a professional level has an impact not only in the staffroom, but across school.
Ashleigh is a current participant on our 2017 Teaching Leaders secondary programme. Teaching Leaders is a leadership development programme for high-potential middle leaders looking to improve pupil outcomes and increase their impact as a leader.