I got to thinking the other day about 'genuine connections.' As we move from job to job over the course of our careers and colleagues have come and gone, my reflections were on whether I really connected with others enough to sustain the relationships over time. Years ago, I questioned my ability to build those relationships and make those deeper connections with my staff. It was a difficult balance: connect but don't love your staff so much that the relationships get in the way of doing the right thing, making the necessary decisions, and reducing levels of accountability.
One of the best ways to really connect is to really give yourself to others. As a principal, it is the partnership with teachers and support staff on a school campus that results in getting to know each other much deeper that just 'hi' in the staff lounge. Really strong high school athletic coaches are experts in this. Those who are more successful in building really teams of players who care about each other and are interested in each others' success are those that really gel and can function more successfully, often translating into more wins.
Being vulnerable also comes with the connections. Displaying realness and authenticity helps deepen the connections. Listening to others, sharing, and empathizing is a great start. It's easy with surface relationships to stay at that level and walk away at the end of the day, but the deeper discussions and learning about families, goals, and more are what leads to genuine connections.
Genuine connections are also about laughing, joking, and being enthusiastically positive. It doesn't mean its necessary to make small talk or force conversations. Real relationships take time but they start with laughing and connecting. Frequently.
As I reflect back on the genuine connections, I can see a lot of evidence in my personal life where I've been successful in relationships that have withstood the times. The true testament to those connections are when the contacts are there years and years later.....like my former middle school students with whom I still connect. And teachers I hired fifteen and twenty years ago who celebrate the successes of my daughters as much as I do. And my secretaries and support staff going back as far as I remember. Granted, its a two way street. It takes two, but looking back, those connections were real!