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Some Strategies School Leaders Need to Adopt in Relationship Management

By G. Balasubramanian

The impact of pandemic is seen not only in the physical and biological health concerns of the people across the globe. Its impact on the mental health of the people, professional architectures of Institutions, work profile of the human resources, financial structures of individuals and communities, and relationship patterns of people across all organized and unorganized sectors of work is significant. The dysfunctional systems have created stress on the routine life styles and consequently challenges to cope with the crisis and the contemporary chaos. The closure of schools just ahead of the critical time of their functional routine, especially examinations, caused some unprecedented and unanticipated confusion. Newer perspectives of assessment, results and sustenance of the teaching-learning processes have become matters of serious concern. Further, there are also evidences of conceptual clash between the schools and the stakeholders in respect of various issues. To quote a few, questions are being raised whether the parents should pay the fee for their children as the schools are closed, whether there should be online classes as a continuity to learning, whether these changes serve the purpose and the deliverable, what is the impact of such changes on the mental and physical health of the learners and a variety of other related issues. In short, there are some serious problems arising in the relationship profile of the schools with their parents. School leaders are indeed feeling quite stressed in handling these issues which are quite emotional and demanding. Here are a few suggestions to the school leaders which they need to keep in mind when they deal with their stakeholders, especially the parent community.

1. Be Receptive

A large number of parents whose children are studying in their schools are facing problems which they had never anticipated. Apart from the fear of the pandemic due to social exposure, the limitations of the lock-down restricting their movements, they seem to be getting into some mood sways and a few of them might become victims of inexplicable emotional turmoils leading to depression. Hence, they need people who can understand, who can empathize and appreciate their problems. School heads, therefore should be willing to be receptive to their arguments, emotions and challenges which could create a conducive environment for a dialogue and for sorting out the problems in a congenial manner. Unwillingness to listen, lack of empathy and rigidity in communication might only deepen the crisis and lead to unwarranted conflicts.

2. Be Flexible

Changes in the domestic living profiles, non-availability of liquidity for expenditure, cut in their salaries, non-payment of salaries, fear of loss of job and several other things appear to be haunting the minds of parents. Many of those who have held excellent rapport with the schools for several years also feel a sense of discomfort in communicating their inabilities to the school due to the possible fear of loss of reputation, their own low self-esteem and other reasons. The natural human tendency, in such circumstances, is to pass on the buck to others and play a safe victim. It is quire understandable, given the situation in which they are placed. School heads need to understand their difficulties, be flexible with their rules, their demands, their requirements and try to accommodate them for some period of time. Reassuring the services of the institution for the larger welfare of the learners, the school heads should reach out to the parents for short term compromises so that they are able to not only sustain the relationship but strengthen it on humanitarian considerations.

3. Be Compassionate

“If you want others to be happy practice compassion; if you want to be happy practice compassion.” Says Dalai Lama. True, compassion is one’s ability to see other’s pain in one’s own self. Given the current scenario arising out of pandemic, many parents may be suffering pain which is inexplicable. They may not be even willing to share some of them due to personal reasons. Schools, cannot and should not, feel that they cannot take cognizance of such things and continue to stand on their ivory towers and preach systemic perfection. However, it is important while being liberal, they should stand firm but gentle. Compassion, has to be practiced based on the merits of each individual case.

4. Be Informative

A large number of issues, conflicts, misunderstanding between institutions and its stakeholders arise either due to paucity of information, incomplete information, lack of transparency in information or due to selective dissemination of information. All this and more create a sense of doubt, lack of faith, mistrust and some kind of insecurity in the minds of stakeholders. It is therefore important that the institutions should provide full and adequate information to the stakeholders, if possible, through all portals of communication. Transparency creates trust and faith. Even if there are issues which are not in favour of the stakeholders, it is quite possible to convince them when the ethical foundations of the decisions of the institution are strong and is not suggestive of any unfair practices. In a number of cases stakeholders do get convinced when they understand the background of the decision and their ethical foundations.

5. Be Considerate

In any large system, the normal distribution patterns of behaviour are visible and hence should be acceptable. Quite often, perspective differences between various stakeholders in the spectrum of the institutional structure cause challenges to uniformity in the administrative and operative features of the institutions. It is therefore important for institutional leaders to go out an extra mile to understand the differences in perspectives and accommodate the thought patterns of the members of the universe in which they function. Such accommodating features may sometimes be needed for the entire operating universe or may be for a very selective group in the structure or sometimes may be for individuals. Nevertheless, the feeling that the institutional heads are considerate to feelings, emotions, thought and perspectives will go a long way in building trust systems which have a long-term value.

6. Be Friendly

In many cases, the structures of authority in an institutional edifice creates a visible and large gap between the managers and the clients. Client relationship is a significant factor in any system that has a mass client architecture. In institutional structures, it gains further strength because there is a socio-emotional connect in the services provided by the institutions as they are largely engaged in developing human resources. Hence the institutional authorities need to have an excellent rapport with their clients. A number of problems between school heads and the parents could be easily sorted by developing proper attitudes. The catchword “firm, but gentle” works magic many times. Being firm, doesn’t mean being unfriendly. Recognition of others personality, giving them what they are due, appreciation of their concerns and oftentimes sharing a cup of coffee with them will act as catalysts to reduce the prevailing tensions.

7. Be Diplomatic

It is said “Diplomacy is the art of telling the plain Truths without giving offence.” Quite often, leaders of institutions take hard positions and start arguing on legal grounds. Education, being a socio-emotional connect, calls for more liberal and empathetic discussions beyond rules and their artefacts. Heads on Institutions should exercise care and wisdom in their verbal communication and body language to create a conducive environment for the stakeholders to feel at home. The moment their comfort level in the communication zone is positive, the possibility of aggressive communications and emotional adventures in relationship could get minimized.

8. Be Reassuring

As many persons who visit for a conversation or a dialogue come with a sense of insecurity, anxiety, fear and possible internal symptoms of depression, the school leaders need to be positive and outreaching in their dealings. A word of reassurance from the institutional heads would go a long way to the parents about their secured relationships with the institution. This sense of reassurance could help even parents to go for an extra mile to find solutions and be cooperative. Taking the focus to the common welfare of the learners and their future prospects could help the parents to share their concerns and express willingness to work with synergy.

In these times of social disruptions of various kinds and huge magnitudes, relationship management with stakeholders calls for prime attention.