Q&A: Connecting with “The Connection Coach”

by EdCircuit Staff

TLS Logo 2Tara Brown will join more than 40 leading presenters for the 2018 Transformative Leadership Summit, an online PD event taking place from July 30 to August 7. The third annual summit will focus on empowerment for administrators, teachers, students, and parents. Educators can attend each day’s sessions online, free of charge, and can also purchase an all-access pass to get exclusive bonuses and archived content. Visit TransformativeLeadershipSummit.com to register.

Q: You go by the moniker of “The Connection Coach.” What made you decide that fostering connections would be the essential piece at the core of your approach to leadership?

Tara Brown: During my years in the classroom, in rural, inner city gang territory and metropolitan, I realized that the greater my connections were with kids, the higher their motivation, engagement and academic achievement; and the less discipline issues, apathy and sporadic attendance.  

We are hard-wired to connect and emotions truly are the fast lane to the brain. We used to think that we were thinking beings that feel and neuroscience has helped make clear that we are instead feeling beings that think. The emotions of an individual and how they feel drive our perceptions, thoughts, and actions. Great leaders, regardless of profession or industry, understand the importance of connecting and helping to positively impact the emotional wellbeing of those they are leading. It is through the power of connections that we are able to help others thrive and unleash their true potential. Classrooms and schools can absolutely be changed for the better… ONE connection at a time.

Q: In the Transformative Leadership Summit, you are presenting on the topic of Teacher Empowerment. When it comes to empowering teachers, what role do connections play, both in the empowerment of teachers to create connections and in the expectations that those around them will focus on connecting?

TB: One of Marriott’s organizational philosophies is ‘If you take great care of your employees, they will take great care of our customers.’ Organizational expectations and culture are created at the top by the intentional actions of the leader.

In a school setting, administrators who model the importance of positive connections set the tone and lay the groundwork for teachers and support staff to follow suit. When leaders are connecting with their team, they are touching them at the heart level and helping to put emotional deposits in the accounts of those they are leading. Adults, just like students, need positive connections in order to feel seen, heard, and validated.

When teachers see and feel the leaders actively and consistently building positive connections, they understand the importance. Instead of thinking they ‘don’t have time’ to build connections, they will feel motivated and empowered to invest the time. The ripple effect from adults intentionally connecting with students and peers is a key to creating an amazing school climate and culture where everyone can thrive.

Q: Sometimes we learn our lessons through success, but sometimes we learn the hard way. What was a situation where you learned, through a mistake, about the importance of finding common ground with others.

TB: I learned a great lesson about finding common ground as a high school athlete playing basketball, which was my first love. One of the best players in the district was a three-sport star and because of her athletic abilities, got A LOT of press. I had been reading about her, her talents and accomplishments since junior high and I had built up an impressive case in my mind of why I couldn’t stand her. I concluded all kinds of things and had never met her! Every time we played against their team, I looked for ways to support my case of her being unlikable.

Ironically, at the end of her senior year, she invited me to her graduation party. I was shocked and baffled as to why she would invite me. But I went…not really knowing why. But I’m glad I did, because she is to this day one of the dearest, most steadfast, supportive friends I have ever had. We have shared 39 years of an amazing friendship that only happened after I stopped judging her and started being willing to find common ground.

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