Some stuff you need to know as a leader — you learn quickly. Others, you just learn over the years. As I travel and speak at schools, corporations, non-profit organizations, and churches, I see adults trying too hard to connect with young people. And there is a gap. Teachers and parents become frustrated at the lack of connection and good communication they experience with students.
Allow me to share with you 3 simple, but profound secrets we must understand if we are to build healthy, productive relationships with students we teach, parent and lead.
If a relationship with them is to work…
1. Mutual trust must exist.
If those young people you care about don’t trust you — they won’t open up and be transparent. They may be nice to you, but they won’t be fully honest with you. We must demonstrate full disclosure; that we are laying our cards on the table, and we are safe and worthy of their disclosure as well. This only happens over time. But understand — leadership operates on the basis of trust.
2. Mutual value must exist.
Let’s get honest. All relationships that really bloom do so because both parties feel they receive value from the other. In fact, there should be a sense of equal value. By this I don’t mean both you and the young person contribute the same thing; you don’t. But both of you should bring something to the table that the other deems important. Marriages, business partnerships, teams — you name it. All healthy, lasting relationships bring mutual value.
3. Mutual chemistry must exist.
This one cannot be programmed or forced. You have to wait and see if it comes as you begin relating to your young people. The mentoring or employee relationships that work well are always preceded by mutual chemistry. Both parties feel akin to the other; they sense mutual interests, mutual values and mutual goals. Chemistry lubricates the friction of our human imperfections.
Think about the young people you parent, lead, mentor, teach, or coach. To what degree do the 3 elements above exist? What can you do to foster them?