4 Ways to Build Trust In Schools

trust3Trust is the glue that holds organizations together.  Unfortunately, some leaders don’t grasp this truth and work in ways that destroy, rather than build trust in their schools. They undermine their own goals, many of which may be very worthy.  Goals can only be reached if the support exists to faithfully implement the plans to do so.  It is unlikely this will happen in a culture marked by mistrust.

In this post, I list 4 ways that school leaders can demonstrate that they are worthy of gaining the trust of those they supervise.

FIRST STEPS
If you violate the norms of the school culture and come across like a bull in a china shop, it is unlikely your ideas will gain more than grudging acceptance.  You will be viewed with mistrust because the only person you listened to, was yourself.

  • Listen and learn about the organization before making any changes
  • Learn the culture and history of the school
  • Find out what programs worked and failed in the past
  • Focus on developing positive relationships with staff

CREDIBILITY
If the staff believes that you are not credible in you pronouncements, why should they follow you? 

  • Involve staff in creating school priorities
  • Provide reasoned arguments for the adoption of a new program or technique
  • Demonstrate your concern for students and staff through your comments and actions
  • Demonstrate an excellent knowledge about your program, including research to support your position

RELIABILITY
Think about those people you have worked with who were and were not reliable.  Which ones gained your trust?

  • Can you be counted on to follow through on your commitments?
  • Act in ways that merit confidence in you as a person
  • Be consistent in your demeanor and approach to problems
  • Be visible; show up on time; don’t over commit

FAIRNESS
Is it possible to have trust in a leader who acts unfairly?  Why?

  • Share the credit for school successes
  • Treat all with the respect they deserve
  • When  making decisions get input from those who will be directly affected by the decision
  • Provide staff with specific recommendations for improvement and give time to implement them before taking punitive steps
  • Show that you are willing to assess ideas from others based upon their value, even if different from your own positions

A culture where trust permeates the school allows for genuine collaboration.  It is the medium through which you gain high staff morale and a commitment to excellence.  It is the only path to success for you and your school. 

Advertisements

Here is a Surefire Method to Improve Schools

picture1
Can a school be great without a great principal?  Research indicates that the answer is no.  The undeniable fact is that principals are the most influential figures in driving schools toward greatness, or not.

It is  unlikely that anyone knows the percentage of schools having great principals.  It is certainly not 100% and may be lower than 20%.  And then of course, we have the question as to what constitutes great.  Whatever the percentage, it is a safe bet to assert that all principals can improve their performance, even the great ones.

I’ve worked in a variety of evaluation systems during the 35 years that I served as a principal.  Some systems were better than others.  But all of them lacked one essential ingredient: feedback from staff, students and parents.  My supervisors rarely, if ever, attended meetings that I conducted, observed interactions with my school community or reviewed my written communications.  Unless parents or teachers complained to central administration, it was highly unlikely that a supervisor will learn about a principal’s faults.

One method for remedying this gap in knowledge between how the principal performs and the supervisor’s knowledge of that performance, is to employ a multi-source feedback instrument  . The most common one employed by the business community is the 360 degree feedback survey.  “Studies suggest that over one-third of U.S. companies use some type of multi-source feedback.  Others claim that this estimate is closer to 90% of all Fortune 500 firms.” Wikipedia

INFORMATION ABOUT THE 360 DEGREE SURVEY 

  • Completed by principal and anonymously by school community members: staff, peers, supervisors, students, parents
  • Can be used in conjunction with or replacement for principal evaluation system; or as a developmental tool
  • Used to identify strengths and weaknesses of principal’s performance
  • Feedback given on approximately 10 areas of responsibilities found to impact school achievement (school culture, group dynamics, communication, etc.)

ADVANTAGES OF USING THE 360 DEGREE SURVEY

  • Addresses the fact that principals rarely get valid, specific feedback about  performance on their key responsibilities
  • Studies in the business world indicate improved employee performance after using
    performance based assessments  (J. Folkman)
  • Able to use the results to set goals and create action plans to improve performance
  • Demonstrates to all, a commitment to your own professional growth

The 360 degree survey is a relatively neutral tool.  How the tool is implemented will determine its effectiveness.  “360 data is only helpful to the extent that it gets acted upon and used. The majority of programs we see simply give the feedback and then it gets swiftly forgotten. No plan = no change in behavior.” Forbes

So it is critical that all involved understand that a plan will result from the data collected.  The plan should be closely monitored leading to future surveys that will assess progress.

SUGGESTIONS

  1.  Do not rush into using the survey.  If you are at central administration, you may ask a few principals to volunteer
  2. If you are a principal, initially use it to do a self-assessment without involving others
  3. Review the  literature on using the 360 degree feedback survey in both corporate and education settings.  Modify the contents of the survey to meet your needs.
  4. Jointly develop a process that will increase the likelihood of its benefits and avoid anger and mistrust issues

Finally, and most importantly, I strongly urge that for at least the first two years, that the survey be used as a developmental, rather than as an evaluative tool.  The goal is to improve, not find fault. In the ideal world each principal who uses this instrument would have an external coach who has served with distinction as principal. Short of that ideal, I could see principals in a district join together in a trusting, collaborative relationship to assist each other on those dimensions of the position needing improvement.

A multitude of approaches can be used to improve schools.  But without a strong, effective principal supporting and pushing them, the odds of significant change are slim. For this to occur, the use of the 360 Degree Feedback Survey offers hope.

Note: Email me at stelev@comcast.net if you want a copy of a 360 degree survey that I modified for use with principals.

AND DON’T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR EMAIL POST UPDATES!  THANKS!