A few years ago, I had great difficulty in managing my class. There were two students in particular who were very resistant to my instruction and feedback, and I found myself growing more and more frustrated working with them.
Finally, at one point, through indirect channels, I learned that both students had gotten the impression that didn’t like them on a personal level, and this perception undermined any influence I might have had with them.
In order to create successful outcomes for them and for me, I had to put forth great effort to connect with them individually. This included apologizing for giving the impression – intentional or not – that I didn’t value them as individuals. It also entailed listening to their perspectives and understanding where they were coming from. Further, I had to be quite explicit in stating what I saw as their strengths and their bright future prospects. Because of my efforts and their responsiveness, both were able to successfully complete the program and go on to further personal and professional accomplishments.
I have the great fortune to teach in a program with small class sizes, typically working with ten students at a time. Of those ten, eight or nine will be naturally drawn to my personality and teaching style. John Maxwell’s Law of Magnetism states that “who you are is who you attract.” This creates a connection with most of my students without much effort on my part.
Of course, over the years I have also learned to do a few things to encourage this connection, especially talking about what I consider “parallel experiences”; while I may not relate to each student’s situation, from day one, I emphasize stories of my own language learning and overseas life experience, things I share in common with all of my students.
However, what about those who don’t naturally connect?
I am learning to be more intentional about meeting those students where they are – understanding their perspective and motivations, their goals and aspirations. In past years, I would do this as a response to a crisis. Sometimes I find students don’t relate to my personality, and other times they have different leadership experience and skills that make them resistant to my feedback.
Whatever the reason for the disconnect, as the instructor, and therefore leader, I have to be intentional about connecting with all students. I do this by focusing on the student and his/ her goals as well as explicitly expressing what I see as his/her strengths. I also paint a picture for each of my students of what I see them achieving.
If you feel like you don’t have the influence in your life that you need, it may be time to learn to connect at a higher level. This has been the case for me. I have found the connecting principles and practices described by John Maxwell in his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect to be powerful tools for connecting with not only my students but also with others in my life.
John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increase your influence with them.” Next week, I will start leading a “mastermind group”* through this book with the aim of helping people grow in their connecting skills. I would love to include you in the group!
More information on the Everyone Communicates Few Connect mastermind group
* “Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills.” (quote from The Success Alliance)