According to Stephen Covey, “the first job of any leader is to inspire trust.”
Trust means that you rely on another person’s integrity to do what is right and provide a sense of safety. It is the foundation for every positive relationship—and inversely, a lack of trust negatively impacts relationships. At the core of every organization, there are relationships that positively or negatively affect the culture—and schools are no exception. To build a positive school culture, it’s all hands on deck! Every individual plays a key part in helping to shape the culture of a school. To ensure that they share a common vision and mission, bonds that are built upon trust is non-negotiable, and the very best leaders know how to do this.
Mean what you say and say what you mean. The biggest complaint staff members have about leaders who they do not trust is that they say one thing, but do another. Honor your word, and if for some reason you cannot, communicate with the individuals in a timely way. Explain what happened and how you will attempt to resolve the situation.
Be transparent. Of course, not everything can be disclosed, and some things are on a need to know basis, but when possible, share as much information as you can. It goes a long way when people feel like they are being kept in the loop and they are more likely to pitch in to help or offer suggestions that assist you with making the best decisions.
Invite stakeholders in. Do not make unilateral decisions assuming that the stakeholders will just put up an opposition. Sure, they very well may, but they may also uncover good reasons for you to not go through with your decision— or better yet, they may offer alternate ideas on how to deal with issues that you are facing.
Be part of the team. Nothing says trust more than being part of the team and pitching in. Roll up your sleeves and work alongside your staff to assist where you can. The more genuine experiences that you share with your staff, the more comfortable they will feel with you and trust that you are part of the team.
Don’t play the blame game. In every workplace, mistakes happen and people become disappointed in others. It’s easy to finger point and place the blame on an individual or group of people who made the blunder, but that is rarely productive. It sets a foundation for dishonesty. People want to avoid getting into trouble or being humiliated, so they may not be as forthright about owning up to their mistake. Create a culture where people know that if they make an error or failed to complete an action, that you will work through it together. You are a team!
Trust is a two-way street. Great leaders trust their staff to do the right thing and lead from behind. After all, you either hired them—or inherited them and set the expectations loud and clear about working together to achieve greatness. If you can’t trust your staff, it’s time to have “The Eating the Frog” conversation to get everyone on board. Don’t micro-manage every aspect or they will come to believe that you do not trust them to do their job well–and in return, you may be tasked with more work.
Paul J. Berardelli is a proud principal of Delsea Regional High School. Paul has challenged himself to be a true educational leader by inspiring his staff and students to excel. More recently, Paul has been featured in ASCD Journal for his article “Road Tested / Getting Up to Speed with Speed PD” and “Why Every Administrator Should Team Teach” and “Our Teachers Deserve More Praise”, and numerous blog posts in ASCD Inservice. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBerardelli
Michele Hill is a passionate educator who serves as a coordinator of admissions and communications at Burlington County Institute of Technology. Throughout her career as an educator, Michele has been a champion for struggling and impoverished students. Michele has been a guest blogger for ASCD Inservice, McGraw Hill, Principal Leadership, Teacher Tool Kit UK, Edweek and ASCD Road Tested. Michele is the host of DisrupteEdTv Teacher Sparks and producer of DisruptEdTV School Spotlight. You can follow Michele on Twitter @HillMrispo or visit her blog: spiritededucator.blogspot.com
This article is part of a monthly series from Michele Hill and Paul Berardelli where they share their advice and expertise as a classroom teacher and school administrator who demonstrate the importance of working together to help create a school culture of excellence. You can read more from them by clicking on the ‘Dynamic Synergy’ tag or by clicking here.