The rule of 3Ps

A number of recent events -- both professional and personal -- have forced me to think about the importance of relationships. We all occupy different leadership frames, but the lens I wear most frequently is the one of “relational leader.”

Relational leaders are those who lead -- and regularly learn -- through relationships that grow, sustain or fall apart. Those of us who tend to live in this leadership region regularly spend most of our time focused on how leadership moves will impact people -- how they do their work and how they relate with others.

For me, relationships are the foundation of the work I do, and regardless of whether I lead well or poorly (and goodness knows I’ve done both), it boils down to how decisions impact the relationships that are the lifeblood of what makes me tick.

As I’ve been thinking about the value of relationships, I’ve started to wonder about a frame to help me focus constantly on the connections that exist between people. While I think I do this pretty well, since I try to live by the mantra of "it’s all about the relationships,” it would be helpful to have a quick “rule” or a “how-to” to keep my thinking focused.

So, I’ve devised a simple rule, a rule I call “The Rule of 3Ps.” It’s a pretty basic idea, and like most basic ideas, it has helped me tremendously over the last few months to keep the focus on people.

The rule works like this:

People > Process > Product

Put into words, the “Rule of 3Ps” states that people are more important than the process, and the process is more important than the product that results.

Stated another way, if people are the foundation of all that we do, then the processes we design in working with those people should come only after we’ve considered who those people are, and how they tick. And the outcomes? Only after we’ve validated the people, and deeply considered the process, should we be concerned with the product.

This tiered approach is one that has allowed me to stop and reflect regularly, with the posing of a simple question: “What, exactly, is most important here?” And from there, how do I make sure that the people, and the relationships, are always the answer I arrive at.

As a leader who works best when he can bounce ideas, questions and thoughts off of others, it only stands to reason that I want to make sure my relationships are operating at full strength at all times. And when those relationships are humming along, the proper process, and the most appropriate product, become easier to mold.

In no way am I a “master of relationships.” In fact, I fall far short of that title. And yet, I feel that a simple rule, such as “The Rule of 3Ps” is a great way to keep me growing as a relational leader, and the perfect guideline to help me turn a way of thinking into a way of living.

Fred Ende (@fredende) is the assistant director of Curriculum and Instructional Services for Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.. Fred blogs at www.fredende.blogspot.com, Edutopia, ASCD EDge and SmartBrief Education. His book, Professional Development That Sticks is available from ASCD. Visit his website: www.fredende.com.

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