Essentially, trust is a belief–it’s a social and organizational contract, built on a faith in positive regard for self and others. Trust gives us confidence that the people in our lives will do the right thing, especially in the absence of oversight or direction. And even though one of the best ways to build trust is to extend trust, most people don’t offer trust until they feel that it has been earned. That’s the biggest problem with trust. It’s paradoxical. On one hand, it must be gained over time in the creation of a bond; on the other hand, it needs to be demonstrated at the onset of a relationship.
The absence of trust in a school or on a team is detrimental. In the business world, it equates to the loss of revenue. In education, it means that relationships are torn and both achievement and wellbeing suffer for students. But in an altruistic environment like education, why do we suffer from diminished trust when we all came into this profession to help people, when all of us started with the same why. The answer lives within our leadership capacity to confront a culture of distrust and the 7 ways that leaders can build and restore trust in their schools.
The bottom line about the following 7 aspects of trust in schools is that each of them takes courage, candor, and compassion to execute well. To get good at being candid takes practice, and you can’t hesitate in an effort to begin if you want to transform your school into a place where people love to work and kids love to learn. That’s why we wrote Candid and Compassionate Feedback, because we know that leaders need a guide for being candid regarding teacher performance, shared decisions, and teacher leadership. For the following 7 trust scenarios to be at their best, you need candor and compassion.
With Self: The first, and most important, layer of trust is the trust that we place in ourselves to be effective in any given scenario. It’s the power of self-efficacy, and the strength to push yourself to meet your own and even higher expectations. When people say, “that took guts,” what they’re really saying is, “that took a ton of self-trust.” An extreme form of physical and mental self-trust is depicted in the picture below. That took guts!
With Others: The second place where leaders must learn to build trust is with others. This is the trust that a leader is able to garner with each individual person on the team. We earn trust with people by exhibiting an outward integrity–we mean what we say and we say what we mean. Our words and actions must be aligned for others to see us as honest and consistent. We must keep commitments–even the promises that others perceive us to make. The biggest fault of a leader who struggles to establish a trusting relationship with others is that they say one thing and then do something that doesn’t entirely match their words.
Restored With Others: This is where trust is paramount. Leaders are put in a position that often requires a decision to be made that others disagree with or might not have anticipated. Trust restoration is the layer of trust-building that effective leaders do well in order to move an organization past status quo. Whenever we have a relationship with someone, especially if that relationship is typically predictable or transactional, and we want to make a change within the organization, we put a strain on what the other person perceives as honesty. All aspects of trust require vulnerability, and, in this case, it takes a great deal of humility to restore trust once it has been strained or lost. This happens when a leader pushes a person past their level of comfort or makes an unwelcome decision that, at first, harms the relationship they have with that person, but then the leader repairs that relationship through a stronger sense of purpose, an explanation of the motives, and an understanding about the decision. Sometimes this is intentional from the outset, other times it’s brought on by a mistake. In any case, the leader restores the social contract, which strengthens the trust beyond its original form. With that said, leaders who know how to restore trust can build even greater bonds with the people they serve, even more so than leaders who create solid relationships but never put them to a test.
Between Others: Great leaders don’t just know how to develop a strong rapport with other people; they know how to create connections between other people. You can probably think of a leader who has a great relationship with almost everyone in the organization, but those people don’t necessarily have great relationships with one another. It’s for this reason that we built the Passionate Culture Dichotomy model in our Passionate Leadership book. It shows the distinction between high functioning schools with a dynamic work culture (high trust) from those that suffer from isolation (low trust).
This layer of trust-building creates true team spirit. When leaders don’t have this skill, they often don’t understand why the team isn’t functioning well despite their positive rapport with each individual. The most effective way to build relationships between others is to use active affirmations. We can create collective efficacy by communicating the mastery experiences that we observe the members of our team having and verbally recognizing them in front of others (especially when they’re not around to hear our praise).
Restored Between Others: Disagreement, strife, and discord will inevitably occur between two or more people on your team. If it’s not addressed quickly and directly, a minor dissension can easily grow into a deep animosity and the inability to work well together. The key to rebuilding trust is by having what we call Empathy-Centered Conversations (ECCs). ECCs are facilitated by the leader when two people aren’t getting along. The basis of the argument is likely a lack of perspective so the conversation is meant for the leader to reveal to each party the other person’s outlook about the situation that occurred. Leaders are reluctant to engage in this way for fear that they’ll make the situation worse. They either hope that the situation will resolve itself or they believe it to be a function of human resources. But that’s not helpful. ECCs are designed to get at the heart of a problem for everyone involved to see and hear a point-of-view other than their own. Leaders who are skilled at ECCs and employ the tenets of C.A.L.M. are good listeners and use effective techniques to restore relationships.
On A Team: Team dynamics can be intense, especially among A-players. School leadership teams are typically composed of the best and most senior teachers. These folks are both highly effective in their classrooms and socially powerful in the school. It can be tricky to congeal a team of diverse tough-minded people, but that’s exactly what you want surrounding you when things get tough or when you’re trying to change a culture. We like Blanchard’s model for the ABCDs of trust on a team (depicted below). It’s a good test for if the right people are on your leadership team or if you need to replace one or two people like we learned from Katherine in Lencioni’s fable about teamwork. If any of your people are consistently unable to serve with competence, lacking in believability or integrity, seeming to not care about people, or unreliable in their role, you need to switch out that team member. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary, and we see it all the time where school leaders hang on to steering committee members who fail at one of these four pivotal characteristics of trust.
Restored On A Team: Because your leadership team members are all dominant in one way or another outside of the team meeting, they can be unintentionally off-putting to one another when the team gathers. For teams, trust is almost never static. It’s either strengthening or weakening, flowing in one direction or another at all times. Scientists have demonstrated that trust is biological. Having it or not stems from a chemical reaction in the brain that prompts or diminishes trust. If your team’s trust is low, it’s likely because there’s either too much testosterone pumping in the veins of your teammates during a meeting or not enough oxytocin. Sparing you the actual science, theory of mind is one activity that supports team empathy when trust is fragile. It’s simple but effective. One team member poses a problem that they’re having with their department (or the leader exposes one), and you go around the table whereby each person starts with this sentence stem: “If I were going to tackle that, I would do it this way…” Not only does this harmonize our intentions as a group, it also coordinates our behaviors over time. The impact is that we all start to react similarly to problems. It’s far better to work on group-think than group distrust.
In his typical way, Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers unravels the inherent human problems that we have with trust and with judging others by their actions. He points to truth-default theory as the presumption we make that others are telling the truth (when we don’t really have evidence of the real truth or not). At the end of the book (spoiler alert), he says that we have guilt about it, and we shouldn’t. We drive against our own default, because of that guilt, and we suspect the worst in others as a defense against assuming the best. This seems to be exacerbated in schools these days. Instead of trusting one another to have the best intentions for each other and our students, we fight our human default, which produces skepticism and even paranoia. The reason that leaders are constantly restoring trust rather than building upon it is because we default to something other than the truth.
But we’re not strangers. We’re educators. We’re colleagues. We’re friends. And friends can default to truth, to trust, especially in a world where Gladwell is asking us to do that with people we don’t even know. The problem with trust is not that we don’t have it within us as a natural predisposition. It’s that we rage against that disposition. And when we do so for long periods of time, we build a habit of distrust that only a skilled leader can break. It’s the job of a leader to confront and alter a culture that lacks trust, a culture that needs restoration. Because collective efficacy and teacher credibility are two of the highest effect sizes for any single strategy that impacts learning, trust in schools is a moral imperative. It’s more important now than ever before, and we know that our readers are poised to make the first, next, best move to lead better and grow faster.
Stay tuned for more nuggets of wisdom, podcasts, books to read, reflection sessions, and the best resources for leading better and growing faster in schools. Follow us at theschoolhouse302.com to join thousands of leaders who get our content each month. Send this to a friend.
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This blog post is sponsored by Principals’ Seminar. Many schools struggle as a new principal works through the learning curve, and our hearts break for new principals who are overwhelmed with information and noise, frustrated by not having the time to build relationships with staff and walking around in a constant state of fear that they are missing something.TheThree in Three Principals’ Seminar is designed for new and aspiring principals and assistant principals who would like to gain 3 years of experience in 3 weeks, without the pain, risks, and time it would take otherwise. Follow the content at your own pace as you learn with others who are just like you. Click here for details. Register today to save.
This is TheSchoolHouse302’s monthly #reviewandreflect, wrapping up our focus on moving from where you are and where you want to be. This month we introduced the concept of the H-Gap and how it can transform your practices to lead more effectively and achieve key goals within your classroom, school, and district.
Our review and reflect series embraces the powerful sentiment from Soren Kierkegaard: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
This month we are excited to feature Nick Hoover, Principal of Meredith Middle School, as he digs into our latest content on TheSchoolHouse302.com.
Nick provides great insight into how he uses the H-Gap to reduce the detractors that limit or thwart his success.
Don’t miss what he says about analyzing the things that we have to stop doing if we want to be successful.
Dr. Catlin Tucker is a bestselling author, international trainer, and keynote speaker. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2010 in Sonoma County, where she taught for 16 years. Catlin earned her doctorate in learning technologies at Pepperdine University. Currently, Catlin is working as a blended learning coach and education consultant. Catlin has written a series of bestselling books on blended learning, which include Balance With Blended Learning, Blended Learning In Action, Power Up Blended Learning, and Blended Learning In Grades 4-12. She is active on Twitter @Catlin_Tucker and writes an internationally ranked blog at CatlinTucker.com.
Thank you to our sponsor, Principals’ Seminar. Many schools struggle as a new principal works through the learning curve, and our hearts break for new principals who are overwhelmed with information and noise, frustrated by not having the time to build relationships with staff and walking around in a constant state of fear that they are missing something.TheThree in Three Principals’ Seminar is designed for new, existing, and aspiring principals and assistant principals who would like to gain 3 years of experience in 3 weeks, without the pain, risks, and time it would take otherwise. Follow the content at your own pace as you learn with others who are just like you. Click here for details. Register today to save. Also, coming soon: MasterClass — Request info here.
PS — If you have a topic you want us to cover or need recommendations on books to read in a particular area of leadership, just send us a tweet or an email.
Our #ReadThisSeries is sponsored by Principals’ Seminar. Many schools struggle as a new principal works through the learning curve, and our hearts break for new principals who are overwhelmed with information and noise, frustrated by not having the time to build relationships with staff and walking around in a constant state of fear that they are missing something.TheThree in Three Principals’ Seminar is designed for new, existing, and aspiring principals and assistant principals who would like to gain 3 years of experience in 3 weeks, without the pain, risks, and time it would take otherwise. Follow the content at your own pace as you learn with others who are just like you. Go to principalsseminar.com for details. Register today to save.
Ask me to play, I’ll play, ask me to shoot, I’ll shoot. Ask me to pass, I’ll pass, Ask me to steal, block out, sacrifice, lead, dominate, anything. But it’s not just what you ask of me. It’s what I ask of myself.
Success, achievement, and fulfillment, whether in your personal or professional life, demand an honest and thorough evaluation of where you are and where you want to go. The standards we set for ourselves impact everything that we do from our relationship with our family to our level of fitness. We often begin this journey of self-development with goal-setting, and although goals are important, we want to introduce an introspective process that should precede goal-setting, called the H-Gap Activity.
Turning goals into reality requires a level of commitment and dedication that include specific phases, which must be established and planned. Our four-part model below is proven effective as a critical aspect for getting from where you are now to where you want to be in the future. But it’s only the first step to success. Follow the model and then use the H-Gap Activity as well.
Phase 1: Set One Big Important Goal. Identify one goal that you are deeply passionate about. This can be personal or professional or one for both.
Phase 2: Bring It to Life. Write it down and visualize it.
Phase 3: Create a Master Plan. Identify the specific details and deadlines that will guide you to achievement.
Phase 4: Be Accountable. Find a friend, an accountability partner, to help you along the way.
This goal-setting model demonstrates the need for continuous self-improvement, accounting for specificity and accountability. But, prior to goal-setting, we need a different process that crystallizes not only where you are heading but what you need to do to get there. On a psychological level, we have to understand that we are really only ever driven by our why. Without this understanding, we end up chasing goals that leave us empty and unfulfilled. The process for uncovering our why requires time and introspection–a quiet space and place to clarify our thoughts and intentions. Headspace is one of our favorite apps that help us to achieve this state-of-mind.
Within organizations, the process is not much different. The team’s why must define everyone’s attitude, actions, and efforts towards a common goal that is aligned to the vision. This leads to an initial step of self- and organizational-discovery. This is where our Hinderance-Gap Model comes into play. Because life and work can seem complicated, with all of the “things” that either prevent or promote what we are trying to achieve, we need strategies to get past the hindrances. We can’t let bad habits, poorly written rules, and bureaucratic red tape stifle great ideas and a better future for all of us.
The H-Gap Activity requires you to identify where you are and where you want to be. This establishes the pillars of the H. After the pillars are clear, the next critical step is to determine what needs to be done to get from one pillar to the next, which serves as the bridge between the two. The bridge is the action steps, activities, and program of work that support your attempt to make a change. During that process, it’s also important to identify what you need to stop doing. These are the things that are getting in your way from making it from one pillar to the next. They surround the bridge, making the trek from one side to the next see daunting. The visual below illustrates the concept.
To gain a better understanding of how the H-Gap works, let us introduce you to Dr. Jennings, who is in her fifth year at Keystone Academy High School.
Her school has committed resources and energy to PSEL Standard #5: Community of Care and Support for Students. This effort was prompted by the demographics of the school rapidly changing over the last few years and the school determining that it needed to be more culturally responsive in order to best educate the students. Within Standard #5 is Principle F, which reads “Infuse the school’s learning environment with the cultures and languages of the school’s community,” which can be accomplished in a variety of ways.
In this instance, Dr. Jennings and her team decided that the steering committee should take a thorough look at the school’s curriculum, specifically within the English coursework that they offer.
The H-Gap process allows for an individual or group to work collaboratively together to determine the best method to move forward.
Where Are We Now?
Where Do We Want to Be?
What Do We Have To Start Doing?
What Do We Have to Stop Doing?
A responsive curriculum that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards but that has not undergone a thorough review to determine if it is culturally and racially responsive.
A curriculum that is aligned to the standards but that is also culturally and racially representative of the students who are learning from it.
Assume that the staff knows how to be culturally and racially responsive and that they know how to supplement the curriculum as needed.
Once Dr. Jennings employs the H-Gap Activity with her team, they can get to work on their path toward what they set as a goal. Notice that even if her team set clear goals using the model that we previously described, they still might encounter problems in making their change if they didn’t have the H-Gap Activity at the core of their process.
Leading change is always a challenge. Going from goal-setting to goal-getting isn’t easy. That’s why it’s imperative that we use models to guide our process. We hope that you’ll find our H-Gap Activity useful so that your team finds success with the goals that you set this month and beyond.
Stay tuned for challenges, nuggets of wisdom, reflection questions, technical tips, and the best resources for leading better and growing faster. Follow us at theschoolhouse302.com to join thousands of leaders who get our alerts, blogs, podcasts, and more.
Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.
This blog post is sponsored by Principals’ Seminar. Many schools struggle as a new principal works through the learning curve, and our hearts break for new principals who are overwhelmed with information and noise, frustrated by not having the time to build relationships with staff and walking around in a constant state of fear that they are missing something.TheThree in Three Principals’ Seminar is designed for new, existing, and aspiring principals and assistant principals who would like to gain 3 years of experience in 3 weeks, without the pain, risks, and time it would take otherwise. Follow the content at your own pace as you learn with others who are just like you. Click here for details. Register today to save.