Advice for principals: The importance of building trust with your staff
Monday, November 04, 2019
If there is one thing I have learned after nearly 15 years as an administrator in my New Hampshire school, it is this: There is no greater return on investment for a school principal than the steps he or she takes to build trust with the staff in their school.
After all, it is not the principal but the staff members, including teachers, support staff, office staff, custodians, bus drivers, and food service providers, who act as the boots on the ground to make a school function successfully. Without trust between the principal and his or her staff, a principal will never be truly effective in his or her role.
I know I am in a fortunate and in a desirable situation, having stayed the course in the same school for so long. I have hired, or helped hire, 80% or more of my current staff. We have “grown” together as a team, in good times and bad, and through many challenging situations.
Longevity makes developing trust a much easier task for any leader. I am an anomaly, as the principal turnover rate continues to rise. In this recent MultiBriefs Exclusive, I reported that I am in a category with just 11% of school principals who have lasted for more than a decade in their schools.
This article is not written for that 11%. It is written for the hundreds of thousands of school principals who are early in their tenure looking for strategies to start the process of building trust with their staff.
Here are some tips and tricks that I use that can be universally applied by principals with any amount of tenure in a school:
New staff always like a little swag
For the longest time, I kept a small “stock” of school-branded polo shirts in my office so that each summer, when hired, I could give one to new staff members so they would have their first official piece of swag to wear to work (which they proudly would wear on the first day).
In recent years, with the increase in the apparel offerings at our student-run school store, I now offer new staff a small “gift certificate” to use towards the purchase of an item of their choosing. The swag serves as a reminder to new staff that they are a valued and welcomed addition to the “team.”
Staff like to hear about your personal life, too
If you can find a common interest or like to share with individual staff members, look for opportunities to engage in those. It can be something simple like a book or movie title recommendation. It might be sharing a recipe, a restaurant suggestion, or a life-hack tip.
When you get to know them better, it may be sharing a more personal story about friends and family. These “little conversations” can go a long way towards developing positive relations that will last.
Find ways to recognize staff for their efforts
I do this in many ways, both formal and informal. For example, several years ago, I purchased two “staff member of the month” signs that I placed prominently in the two most desirable parking spots in the staff lot.
Each month, I allow staff to nominate their colleagues for the award and I work with a small group of staff members to select two winners. In addition to the best parking spots, they also get a free professional headshot from one of our staff members (who is also a professional photographer on the side). Little efforts like this go a long way towards developing respect and trust with staff!
Need additional ideas? Education Week last month ran an entire series of articles on this topic. One article in particular from this series talked about things principals could do specifically for teachers to develop respect and trust.
On the “do” list were these four items: Do consider what’s already working well; do prioritize building relationships with teachers; do tap teacher-leaders to pilot a new initiative before rolling it out to the rest of the staff; and do get out of your office.
On the “don’t” list were these four items: Don’t come to a new school and immediately make changes; don’t ignore teachers’ suggestions and input; don’t get too cocky; and don’t ignore the veteran teachers.
I hope all of these tips help you in your effort to develop trust. It is the first step towards fostering a collaborative professional culture in your school. As I remind my staff all the time — teamwork makes the dream work!
- The importance of guided practice in the classroom
- Grouping students: Heterogeneous, homogeneous and random structures
- ELL reading development: Modified guided reading, interventions, support
- The importance of hands-on learning and movement for English learners
- 10 common mistakes band directors make during rehearsals
- Working memory in English language development
- School districts weigh pros, cons of later start times for high schools
- Fostering STEM vocabulary development in ESL students
- Why Agile is outperforming traditional project management models
- A look at the ways virtual and augmented reality can improve patients’ outcomes
- How do you recover from an upsetting interaction?
- Building authenticity in the B2B marketing world
- Fax elimination or evolution?
See your work in future editions
Your content, Your Expertise,
Your Industry Needs YOUR Expert Voice & We've got the platform you needFind Out How