As a leader, how do you build trust within your school?
Trust in schools comes down to one thing: psychological safety By this I mean safety to speak one’s mind, to discuss with openness and honesty what is and isn’t working, to make collective decisions, to take risks, to fail—all things researchers tell us are required for deep organizational change and transformation.
We are all very aware of the fact that trust and collegiality form the basis of a healthy school culture. Research tells us that teachers who report high levels of trust with their colleagues also express a greater openness to innovations. As leaders, whether a principal, DP, AP, Team Leader, curriculum leader, any type of leader in fact, one of your roles is to build trust so that respectful relationships, rich conversations, collaboration and new practices thrive.
Good schools depend heavily on cooperative endeavors. Relational trust is the connective tissue that binds individuals together to advance the education and welfare of students. Improving schools requires us to think harder about how best to organize the work of adults and students so that this connective tissue remains healthy and strong.
(Bryk & Shneider, 2003)
Your colleagues have every right to feel safe and supported as you lead them to examine their practice, consider new practice and bring about change to improve outcomes for your students. Research also points that the growth of trust is correlated to gains in school productivity or increased student achievement.
How do you build trust over time and ensure it is embedded in the “way of being” at your school?
We can all start by looking at our own leadership practice.
Hallam et al. 2015, define the five facets of trust as benevolence, honesty, openness, reliability, and competence. They define each facet based on the experiences of teachers in their study. Together the facets offer insight into the leadership behaviours that engender trust.
Be brave and use the tool below to rate your ability, as a leader, to build trust!
Hopefully the rating exercise will make you more aware of trust building behaviours and highlight areas that you can improve.
One more point to consider:
Do you as a leader ensure all new leaders, no matter how small the initiative, understand organisational change before they begin leading?
Do you as a leader ensure all new leaders have the tools and strategies for driving change before they begin leading?
If your answer is no, why not?
Allowing new leaders study time to read an Andy Hargreaves or Michael Fullan text on organisational change is the least we should be doing.
The bottom line is:
Investing in professional learning for new leaders is invaluable and will ensure successful change and growth of your school.