I just had an opportunity to watch an interview with the head coach Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills. He spoke about the turmoil and friction amongst the team and how disconnected they were from one another. He then had an idea. He wanted to end his team meetings by allowing a few players to share their personal stories.

After a first few stories, sharing these stories became the norm at the conclusion of every team meeting. After these meetings, the team began to bond as they started to realize that underneath the millions of dollars, the egos, and the toughness of the game, were humans who have overcome tremendous obstacles to achieve their dreams. Also, they began to realize that outside of the lights, some are still dealing with serious issues and may need additional support from the team. According to coach McDermott, “It was at this point, we became closer, began to trust one another, hold each other accountable, and that translated into wins.”

While watching this I was in awe, as this is exactly what we do at the end of our staff meetings. A representative from each grade level is asked to answer three questions (please see below). As the leader, I go first to begin the sharing. We have a timer to keep the responses to three minutes.

1. Tell me about your family. I’m from a single parent home of eight; six boys, two girls, and I’m the second to the oldest.

2. Who is the most important person to you and why? My mother and kids. I watched my mother struggle her whole life and never once did she complain. Finally, my son and daughter. They inspire me to be an example and someone I want them to be proud of

3. Do you have any personal situations that are going on that can possibly affect you at work (e.g. school, sickness, or family matters…)? My mother had three strokes since November of 2016, she’s in the early stages of dementia, has a fractured C4 & C5, and a hip replacement. I’ve become her primary caregiver. Also, I’ve been diagnosed with a brain tumor, but I’m fine, and I’m sure with the steroids it will shrink. I’m a cancer survivor; therefore, you shouldn’t feel sorry for me because I’m fine.

Vulnerable Picture 1

The last question is where the rubber meets the road as a few things have happened. First, I’ve become vulnerable as the leader and I have shown my staff that I too have personal dilemmas. Secondly and most importantly, by becoming vulnerable the staff begins to view one another through a different set of lenses. They become much more connected as opposed to meetings about data, student achievement, and test scores. It is here that trust, respect, understanding, patience, and empathy begin. These are major ingredients in establishing healthy relationships.