Back in the day before microwaves, iPhones, and Wordle there were the “Three Rs.”
I was taught that a “sound” education comprised of these “Three Rs” which were:
● And Arithmetic.
Now, I’m not arguing that those “Three Rs” aren’t important or relevant anymore.
I am arguing that they are not the starting point.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Truer words may never have been spoken.
Education is a service industry.
We serve our community. We serve our staff. We serve our students.
In order to effectively serve all stakeholders, you must know the “Real Three Rs …”
Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.
So if you agree with this point, then why don’t we teach school leaders how to build healthy, trusting relationships in school?
How do the most effective leaders build trust?
Zenker and Folkman (2019) studied this concept of trust and how effective leaders built it with their teams.
They concluded that trust was made up of three components:
● Building positive relationships
● Good judgment
When it comes to building positive relationships there are an abundance of resources available.
So instead of telling you how to do it, I’ll ask you to reflect on two tough questions:
● Question #1: How much time would you say you allocate each week to building positive relationships?
● Questions #2: If I looked at your calendar, would I see any blocks of time earmarked for building relationships?
It is a fallacy that our staff will believe, trust, and then act on our vision if relationships and trust are not prioritized.
Now when it comes to good judgment, don’t worry.
That doesn’t mean you always make the right decision. That is clearly impossible.
But on average, do people believe that you are making sound decisions and have their best interests at heart?
In order to do this, it helps that you explain your rationale for decision making.
Additionally, be curious! Listen intently and unearth your staff’s hopes and dreams, as well as their fears and challenges.
If they believe you understand them, they will believe that you have good judgment.
Finally, when it comes to consistency, do what you say you’ll do.
This is a big challenge for classroom teachers turned principals. That’s because we have BIG hearts. Our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness.
What is one of the most difficult things for someone with a big heart to do?
So you over commit.
And then lose trust with your people.
Do what you say you will do.
Done consistently over time this modus operandi will earn you more trust than you’ll know what to do with!
Life is a highway. I want to drive it (all night long).
Now that I have gotten that song stuck in your head (you’re welcome)…
Imagine your commute to work.
On your way to school there are two routes available to you.
Option #1: is guaranteed to have bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Option #2: is a wide open road. Even better, there are no police on the road and since you are the only one in a car, you can drive as fast as your heart desires.
The answer is clear.
What is less clear is that many leaders opt to drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic. That is because they don’t prioritize relationships and building trust.
It’s easy to get caught up in data and discipline.
By the time you look up at the clock it’s past 5 pm (and you haven’t even had lunch yet).
If you want an easier time as a school leader, an investment in building trusting relationships is the fastest way to get you there.
Ready to Level Up?
Trust is the foundation of effective school leadership and a key component of creating more belonging in your school.
If you are ready to take your leadership and your school to the next level, check out my latest book, Mastermind: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader co-published by Corwin and AASA.