“How do you work to build trust starting in a new place?”
Challenged by George Couros’ question above and by the same question posed by one of my mentees in #SAVMP, I am going to address my experiences as a leader building trust in a “new-to-me” school. When I was preparing to be a school leader in my principal preparation program, the importance of building trust and community was emphasized; I was blessed to get the beginning understanding of that. However, until I lived it as a new school leader, I wasn’t prepared for the marathon that I discovered building trust to be.
Some of the following are behaviors that I’ve either seen school leaders demonstrate or methods I’ve used in developing trust in a new place.
1) Be visible. Greet students, teachers and staff members as they enter. Notice their affect and comment appropriately as you learn personalities.
2) Ask about and talk to students, teachers and staff members about their interests, and remember what they said for the next discussion.
3) Work hard. Harder than you’ve ever worked in your life. Work harder than your teachers, if that’s possible. Do what you expect others to do in the best interest of children.
4) When you can’t remember that a task is associated with the good of the students in your school, leave the office and go interact with some of them. That will be a reminder.
5) Listen, listen, listen. People will know that you’ve listened when you grant requests as you’re able to and as appropriate for the good of students.
6) As a new leader, observe a lot. Dole out the praise for everything you see that’s worthy of it.
7) Demonstrate to everyone that you are trustworthy. Follow through on everything you say you are going to do. Make decisions that positively impact the learning environment of each child.
Over time, completing these actions over and over, as if putting one foot in front of the other in a marathon, will build the long-lasting brand of trust that impacts school climate positively over time.