302 Fireside Chat: Why There’s Nothing More Important for a School Leader to Build than Trust

by | Feb 28, 2022 | 0 comments

6 min read

In this episode of 302 Thoughts, Joe and T.J. take a deep dive into how school and district leaders, at all levels, can develop, build, and sustain trust in schools. The tough reality with trust is that it is easily lost and hard to gain, which is why we remember this powerful quote by Sophocles, Trust dies but mistrust blossoms


Joe emphasizes how trust is needed now more than ever, but is definitely in short supply. Not just in schools or education but throughout our country. If there is any doubt to this, just tune into any news channel and listen to the criticism, uncertainty, and mistrust espoused by the commentators. 


One thing to always remember as a leader is that we are not always the cause of the mistrust,  but we still might be the recipient of it. This is critical for leaders because we need to remain steadfast and focused on the success of our students, regardless of the perceived public perception. This means that we can’t be swayed by our emotions and worries, even though it is incredibly challenging at times. 


One way to remain focused as a school leader is to work within the four most powerful domains that yield the greatest student gains:  


  1. Leading for the capacity of the staff
  2. Ensuring quality teaching in every classroom
  3. Establishing goals & expectations through a clear vision
  4. Strategic resourcing for effective implementation 


T.J. takes the time to explain why trust is mostly counterintuitive in the workplace. Although trust is a universal need, we often work to build trust in the wrong ways in schools.  

The 3 Worst Tips about Building Trust in Schools

Trust-Building Tips (GONE WRONG)Why This Doesn’t Work
Build Friendships, First

Professional relationships are not built the same as friendships but rather on the vision, mission, and core values of the school. This eliminates any mystery on what is expected from the employee.

Don’t miss what Robyn Jackson says about trust and predictability.

Only Focus on Strengths Soaring with your strengths is powerful and sage advice. As a leader, we also need to manage people’s weaknesses and make sure that they are not hindering progress. To focus on weaknesses without falling into the trap of a “circle of nice,” learn to give better feedback.
Treat Everyone the SameSimilar to students, treating people equally does not mean the same. We need to differentiate our treatment to fully develop others. This is also a teacher retention strategy because everyone has different needs and brings value in different ways.

As we look to develop trust and lead more effectively, we need tools that can remind us of how we can continually develop trust. Joe featured, Speed of Trust Action Cards, that are great reminders of the principles associated with the best selling book, Speed of Trust. Joe keeps these cards on his desk and periodically visits them to remind himself of the crucial ideas.

T.J. took the opportunity to share our REPSS survey and the specific design regarding measuring trust. School culture thrives when trust is at the center, and the survey is built to get a pulse on how people are feeling. Think about the power of knowing how your staff is doing and feeling, particularly during these challenging times. Granted, this also requires courage. It’s easier to keep “leading” and not checking in with those on the front lines. Don’t be average, lead with greatness. 

Our 302 Thoughts are monthly recordings as part of our OneThingSeries to help school leaders lead better and grow faster. It’s like school leadership training without having to leave the comfort of your office or home. Look for our other leadership interviews and books that we recommend, all part of the same podcast series at TheSchoolHouse302. 

Let us know if there’s a topic you want us to cover by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at contact@dereka206.sg-host.com. And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing on the site. 


We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

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