Remember the last time you felt that pain--the embarrassment of hearing news through the grapevine that should have been shared with you directly. That's a feeling that doesn't go away easily.
These lyrics from the hit classic, "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," were part of the inspiration for my research that identified and documented, The Laws of the Grapevine.
(I still enjoy the Claymation California Raisins version.)
The song is about a guy who learns through the grapevine, that informal network of communication, that his girlfriend was planning to break up with him in pursuit of someone else. He was surprised and heartbroken that he had to hear this news from others instead of from her.
I remember that same thing happening to me back in middle school. It was gut-wrenching to learn that the girl I had set my young heart on had rejected me in favor of another. Hearing that news through peers made it even worse!
My career path has taken a few detours along the way. The first decade I started in education technology research, then transitioned into education entrepreneurship. That was followed by 14 years in teaching and school administration, and the last 10 years I returned to building a business as a school designer, author, speaker, and relational asset advisor.
Shortly after taking on the challenge of being a head of school 20+ years ago, I realized a critical truth: success in this role requires managing a complex network of relationships (or grapevine) that includes board members, donors, key partners, administrators, teachers, parents, students, and community influencers.
Here is just one of the many, many real-life stories that illustrates this truth about the grapevine of relationships and the importance of communication skills.
Once upon a time the middle school football team enjoyed a dream season. The script was perfect for a movie. They battled through each encounter with their opponent of the week, achieving victory every time for an undefeated season. The fervor of coaches, students, and parents crescendoed ever higher with each triumph.
Finally it was the last game of the season--the playoff championship. Though the other team put up a fierce contest on that beautiful Saturday morn, they nonetheless were vanquished in the end. After the customary handshakes, the exuberant celebration began!
Hugs and shouts of glee were joyfully shared among the jumping faithful legion. Even those parents who had been vehemently upset about the limited playing time given to their son--even they were embracing the coaches and singing their praises.
In all of the excitement, the coaches made an unexpected pronouncement. To make sure the whole school had the opportunity to celebrate with the team, the players and the cheerleaders were given permission by the coaches to wear their game uniforms to school on Monday instead of the normally required school attire.
Upon hearing these glad tidings, the crowd erupted even louder and began the parade back to the parking lot. This was certainly a day to be remembered!
If only they (and I) knew the unexpected battle that awaited ahead ...