President’s Perspective: Building Relationships Helps You “Make It Happen”

By Nancy Flatt Meador
June 2014, Volume 37, Issue 10

As I’ve traveled across America this year meeting with principals, one question has continually found its way into my conversations: What has been the best thing about being NAESP President? My answer has remained consistent throughout the year: Meeting great people and principals across the nation. Our work is about people.

Realtors have coined the phrase, “Location, Location, Location!” But for principals, I think “Relationships, Relationships, Relationships!” might be the best mantra.

Principals work with people of all ages—from pre-schoolers to parents to teachers to colleagues and community members. Our jobs are truly about interacting and working with people. Principals are committed to building meaningful relationships that will span beyond the scope of the school experience. This requires time, commitment, and a lot of positive energy on a daily basis.

I once heard a speaker once say, “Invest in people.” That’s what we do as principals: We invest in people, even if it is not always easy. Stephen Covey popularized the “emotional bank account” concept, explaining that daily interactions with others can be categorized as either withdrawals or deposits of energy. As leaders of professional learning communities, we must stay aware of conversations that require “withdrawals” and work just as hard to seek out corresponding “deposits.” Striking this balance can pose quite a challenge—especially when making critical decisions about personnel matters. Here are some tips to bolster relationships so that they add to your emotional bank account.

Relationships In the Workplace

Quite often, how we approach a topic can make a difference in the desired outcome. As educational leaders, it is important that we remember “to value the human value” within our workplaces. If leaders model this consistently, trust starts to build over time. Trust is paramount to build and maintain positive, healthy working relationships.

When interviewing teacher candidates, I share with applicants that I am looking for someone with 4 C’s: commitment, competency, caring, and connecting. The last two C’s really hone in on building appropriate relationships with students. Students seem to intuitively know if a teacher or principal really cares about who they are and the dreams they want to achieve. Connecting with students via their individual learning styles can be the pathway to strengthening relationships during the school experience.

As you build relationships within the workplace and beyond, think about the following:

Be approachable. Principals are busy people. In a hectic work pace, remember to slow down and make sure you take care of people. This means being approachable and not seeming hurried.

Be accessible. Make time for people just like you make time for meetings. Be accessible to teachers; they are on a tight schedule.

Be honest. Honesty builds trust and confidence with others.

Build trust. If you say you are going to do something, then do it! Keep confidences when needed or required.

Connect often. Get out of the office. Visit classrooms. Have lunch with a student. These actions make a positive difference.

Invest in others. You cannot go wrong if you put people first .

Relationships Beyond the Workplace

In addition to building positive, healthy relationships in the workplace, it is important for principals to connect with friends and colleagues away from school. In recent NAESP surveys, principals cite “professional networking” as a top member benefit.

Networking with fellow colleagues from across the country and even within your own states is a great way to build and nurture professional relationships. By attending state conferences or the 2014 NAESP Annual Conference “Best Practices for Better Schools” (July 10-12, in Nashville, TN), principals have the opportunity to make contacts and share ideas that are relevant and beneficial. Principals must invest in themselves, as well as others, in order to build leadership capacity and be successful.

NAESP also offers members opportunities to network and build long-distance professional relationships. Visit to find events, webinars, and professional development that will allow you to engage with principals from across the country and build meaningful, long-lasting, professional relationships that will enhance your leadership skills.

In closing, I’d like to thank you all for allowing me to share thoughts with you centered around my central theme this year, as I have served you as NAESP President: “Principals Make it Happen.” To recap perspectives I’ve written about this year:

I leave you with a statement written earlier this year in a previous Communicator article: “How you treat people is the most important thing.” Relationships really do matter most in life.

Hope to see ya’ll in Nashville in July!

Nancy Flatt Meador is president of NAESP and recently served as principal of Madison Middle School in Nashville, Tennessee.

Copyright © 2014. National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP’s reprint policy

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