Add one person to triple social connectedness

Devin Vodicka

Relationships are foundational for leadership. Trust and connectedness are associated with positive outcomes, including improvements in student achievement. According to Bryk and Schneider, “Strong relational trust also makes it more likely that reform initiatives will diffuse broadly across the school because trust reduces the sense of risk associated with change.” Trust is so critical that their studies alarmingly revealed that “schools with chronically weak trust reports throughout the period of the study had virtually no chance of improving in either reading or mathematics.”

Strong relationships create connections that generate social capital. Social capital creates opportunity for exchange of resources and expertise. Validating the research on trust, high levels of social capital are also associated with organizational effectiveness, including educational studies such as this study by Leana and Pil: “Results indicate that both internal social capital (relations among teachers) and external social capital (relations between the principal and external stakeholders) predict student achievement in mathematics and reading.” 

I’ve previously shared my research on relational trust and the four elements of consistency, compassion, competence, and communication.  This framework can be a helpful guide for leaders to reflect on their role in creating the conditions for social connectedness.  

Unfortunately, even with the best of intentions, leaders are often challenged with an overwhelming workload that makes it difficult to create and sustain meaningful relationships.  Contributing to these challenges is the de facto assumption that many of our meetings must be done individually through 1:1 interactions.  While there are definitely benefits of the 1:1 model, it also can run the risk of inadvertently developing a “centralized” network where all communications flow through the leader.  These centralized networks are not very efficient nor are they adaptable.  

Add one person to your 1:1 meetings and triple your social connections.

So here is a simple shift that is more time-efficient, it promotes more of a distributed network, and it actually tripes the number of social connections.  Simply add one person to your 1:1 meetings. Moving from dyads (1:1) to triads (3 people) is a subtle and powerful change that will lead to profound improvements in outcomes over time.  

Left: Dyad has one social connection for two people. Right: Triad has three social connections.

Try it! Start small by trying it once or twice.  Consider rotating from 1:1 check ins to triads every other week if you are concerned about losing the quality of the 1:1 conversations.  You can use the Check-In Checklist for both dyad and triad meetings.  

In addition to more efficient interactions, triads promote a decentralized social network over time, reducing reliance on a centralized agent. 

What type of leader do you want to be? If you believe that distributed networks promote agility, adaptability, and flexibility, you can do your part by reducing your own centrality.  A simple, elegant, and powerful way to adjust and improve is to shift from dyads to triads.  

Check out the book Learner-Centered Leadership: A Blueprint for Transformational Change in learning Communities for more insights, reflections, and suggestions.

Use #LCLeadership to share your ideas

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