Building Relationships with Staff Online

Jennifer AppelBlog, Connect Better


  • Build relationships with staff by maintaining a consistent connection, having fun, removing obligations, and engaging everyone.
  • Having a game morning meeting, using social media, and having office hours to chat, brainstorm, or ask questions are just some ways to strengthen relationships with colleagues.
  • Thinking of your colleagues as a family can help foster successful relationships.

“Education is understanding relationships” – George Washington Carver.

Where do your people reside?  For most of us, we aren’t lucky enough to have all of our closest family and friends within 30 minutes of where we live.  Generally, we have to come up with increasingly creative ways to maintain strong relationships with our loved ones because they live all over the country, and in some cases, all over the world.  

How do we stay connected to the important people in our lives?  What do we do to ensure our relationships overcome the adversity of distance?

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on how educators can use these skills and experiences to build healthy virtual relationships with our colleagues.

If you leave people feeling important, you eliminate the perceived obligation. And doesn’t the best professional development leave you feeling connected, supported, and inspired to BE BETTER? Click To Tweet

Building Relationships with Staff: Consistent Connection

A few things came to mind on the frequency of contact with my close friends and family.  I think that the one key factor is consistency.  We are constantly in communication with those we love by either text, calling, FaceTime, social media, Zoom, letters, cards, etc. 

We can do the same with staff at our schools by staying consistent.  Intentionally sending an email to just check in once a week has the power to make a big difference.  How are you doing?  What can I help you with?  It’s critical to let our staff know that we are here for them and willing to help in any way that they need.

Additionally, we must have a set meeting once a week/month/quarter.  Having consistent office hours for those that need to talk, brainstorm, vent, or ask specific questions is a huge way to show others that we care about them.  I’ve freely given staff members my cell phone number so that they can ask me questions when they are stuck. 

Furthermore, we can follow our staff on social media and have them do the same with us.  This helps us stay up to date on things happening in their world.  Making our social media account public is a great first step, as this transparency lets people in and shows authentic vulnerability.  Providing a window to our world outside of school humanizes us—in all the BEST WAYS! 

“True educational storytelling through media must be a part of the everyday educational process” – Hans Appel, author of Award Winning Culture.

Building Relationships with Staff: Have Fun

Another way that we positively communicate with our loved ones is we have fun with them. It’s not always about business.  Having fun with our peers shouldn’t be such a novel workplace experience!  Education can be fun!  Work can be fun! LIFE SHOULD BE FILLED…WITH FUN!

We share something silly, funny, or personal.  Maybe, we play a little game on the video with our learners.  Fun breeds shared positivity.  And sharing positivity with others leads directly to relationship building.  I’m committed to supporting others and having fun. 

I think this is missing when we get together with colleagues because we often narrowly focus on the work and forget about the humans that are right in front of us.  We need to loosen up when we get together as a staff or when you check in with staff members.

Sometimes it is okay to just have a conversation about your dogs (maybe it is just me that loves talking about my dog), the crazy thing that happened over the weekend, or about something that brings you joy.  Educators are multifaceted human beings capable of so much more than just talking shop.     

Building Relationships with Staff: Mindset Matters

The last thing that comes to mind is obligations!  Some of you have a certain night you call your loved ones, and you do it because you feel an obligation, not because you WANT to call them.  We don’t want our staff to feel like it is an obligation to have a meeting or to have to talk with us. 

This shouldn’t be just another thing that they have to do to check the box.  This needs to be something that is going to help them in some way. 

Bringing value to someone can make them feel connected to something bigger than themselves.  Educational leaders need to make it meaningful for each staff member.  We can’t just have open meetings that are fulfilling the needs of a few staff members and the rest are feeling bored, disconnected, and waiting for the meeting to be done. 

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Building Relationships with Staff: Engage Everyone

Accomplishing this may mean that we have to change our way of thinking, personalize activities for individuals, or maybe offer a few different meetings on varied topics.  For example, activities might include: a brief training on a specific platform, a game morning meeting (where you play a game together), or an office hours meeting where people feel they can just stop by, say hi, and talk about whatever is on their mind. 

If you leave people feeling important, you eliminate the perceived obligation.  And doesn’t the best professional development leave you feeling connected, supported, and inspired to BE BETTER?

“My challenge to educators is to learn our colleagues’ strengths, skills, and needs so that we can effectively support the educational ecosystem” – Hans Appel, author of Award Winning Culture.

I love that Teach Better now has a line of clothing that says Teach Better Family”. This is how we should think of our colleagues; they are family.  

When planning to communicate with staff online, imagine the consistent connections, FUN, and removal of obligations that foster your most successful relationships.

Relationship Better.  Teach Better.

About Jennifer Appel

Jennifer Appel is an educator, coach, speaker, and writer who wants to create an environment where all students are able to learn and become passionate about serving others. She is the author of, Award Winning Dog. Additionally, she’s the Chief Heart Officer for the Teach Better Team, co-host of the Award Winning Culture podcast, and the Co-Creator of Award Winning Culture.

Jennifer is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.