4 Practices to Build Trust

Building trust can be particularly difficult this time of year, especially as people wonder about placement, hiring, budgets, contracts, and what is in store for next year.  Last week, you reflected on actions that can bust trust.  This week, try to practice the four actions that can build and restore trust identified by Julie Peterson Combs, Sandra Harris, and Stacey Edmonson (2015).    

·       “Build trust by understanding trust. Trusted leaders demonstrate care, character, and competence in their interaction.” 

o   Of these, competence may be the most difficult characteristic to demonstrate.  If you are continuously learning and improving your practice, you can gain competency in handling difficult situations, managing change, and supporting struggling teachers.  When there are areas for which you lack competence, how can you simultaneously gain competence while leveraging resources and people to provide the skills or knowledge that are needed? 

·       “Build trust by monitoring your reactions. Leaders' reactions to challenging situations affect others' views of the situation and the leader. It's important for leaders to monitor their moods and not react impulsively or in anger.”

o   You’ve heard, “It’s like water off a duck’s back.”  React to changing moods and challenging situations like you’ve handled them smoothly before.  Let a trusted colleague know that you are working to control your reactions.  Have that person talk with you whenever you seemed overwhelmed or upset so that you get clear feedback when it is happening.  

·       “Build trust by addressing concerns. Leaders should handle difficult situations among staff quietly and directly, instead of reprimanding an entire faculty for the actions of a few. When working with struggling teachers, leaders observe their work with care and offer honest and specific feedback.”

o   Good teachers leave principals who do not address concerns.  They want to know that there are high expectations and that you know how to manage staff who are not meeting the expectations.  They are looking for you to show the persistence and commitment required to increase someone’s competence or leave the role.  

·       “Build trust by saying ‘thank you.’ Sincere and frequent expressions of appreciation built trust. Look over your calendar or walk through the building looking for people who have been helpful and deserve thanks. Verbal and e-mails of thanks are valuable, but hand-written notes can be especially encouraging.”

o   Consider systems that could help you make this a regular practice.  Could your secretary bring you 5 blank thank you notes each week?  Could the opening to each professional development be a ritual where you start with a thank you that speaks to the school vision?

Consider the possibilities of the work you and your staff could accomplish in a high-trust environment and make the effort to focus on building trust.  

Combs, J, Harris, S, and Edmonson, S.  Four Essential Practices for Building Trust:  Are you communicating in a way that inspires trust?[Abstract].  Educational Leadership.  72(7).  18-22.