Executive Insights

Executive Insights

Executive Insights

Working relationships key to school boards
Kentucky School Advocate
April 2016

By Mike Armstrong
KSBA Executive Director 
“We can improve our relationships with others by leaps and bounds if we become encouragers instead of critics.” – Joyce Meyer

Over the course of these last several months, a couple of specific events have underscored for me the incredibly important value of working relationships.

Starting on Jan. 5, the Kentucky General Assembly has been meeting and will continue until its 60-day session ends April 12. Throughout this period, working as a “legislative agent” for KSBA, I have had the unique opportunity to see, firsthand, how the legislative process works. One of the constants I observed as I have reflected on this experience was the value of the working relationship.

Whether it was meeting with a single legislator in his or her office, or a “walking and talking” meeting in the Capitol Annex hallway, or an unanticipated one-on-one conversation in the Annex cafeteria line, the value of cultivating and developing these working relationships took on new meaning for me.

To that point, I soon learned that for the most part, our legislators also found value in these working relationships – relying on people to share with them real-time facts, figures, data and opinions about an infinite number of issues. An underlying component of these working relationships was the ability of the players to trust one another. I observed that this trust was not an instant quality granted by time, place or happenstance. It was instead a quality that matured, over time, into a working relationship.

The other specific event that reinforced for me the value of the working relationship was the 2016 KSBA Annual Conference – our 80th. From the Friday morning pre-conference workshops through Sunday’s newly added Clinic Session E, I observed local board of education members, superintendents, KSBA staff, vendors and any number of other attendees greeting, meeting, talking, listening, planning, organizing, developing, celebrating, proposing, scheduling, envisioning – and the list could go on and on. But my point here is obvious: The positive and constructive working relationships among all involved is one of the foundational pillars of the conference and for our ongoing work even weeks and months afterward.

I found an online article about working relationships, published in a 2006 medical magazine, that is, I believe, very relevant to even our education-based working relationships. In it, Tallia, Lanham, McDaniel, and Crabtree offer “Seven Characteristics of Successful Work Relationships.” In describing “what makes work relationships work,” they share the following characteristics:

• Trust – the foundation of any successful collaboration.

• Diversity – that is, being not only tolerant but encouraging the differences in the way we all see the world.

• Mindfulness – open to new ideas.

• Interrelatedness – when people are sensitive to the task at hand and understand how their work affects others.

• Respect – modeling consideration, honesty and tactfulness.

• Varied interaction – acknowledging both the work and social (non-work) importance of working relationships.

• Effective communication – emphasizing both face-to-face and written or technology-driven communication, and the need for both avenues in order to effectively function.

Local boards of education, working in partnership with their superintendent, are constantly and consistently fostering their working relationships. Into this mix come the district staff, the community at large, the students and a variety of others who are also important parts of these working relationships. The value of these working relationships cannot be emphasized too much. They are essential to the development and, ultimately, the success of the district!

“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”– Anthony Robbins
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