“Almost all of the work of the world is done through relationships with people and in organizations. But what is communication like when there is no trust? It’s impossible. It’s like walking through a minefield. What if your communication is clear and precise, yet there is no trust? You’ll always be looking for hidden meanings and the hidden agenda. A lack of trust is the very definition of a bad relationship.”
-Stephen Covey | The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness
Consider Covey’s concept of the Emotional Bank Account, a bank governing one’s relationships. A person can make withdrawals or deposits into that account which will either build up relationships or cause them to deteriorate. Read Covey’s list of deposits and withdrawals, and contemplate the impact they have on our work in schools:
|Seek first to understand||Seek first to be understood|
|Keeping promises||Breaking promises|
|Honesty, openness||Smooth manipulation|
|Kindnesses, courtesies||Unkindnesses, discourtesies|
|Win-win or No Deal thinking||Win-Lose or Lose-Win thinking|
|Clarifying expectations||Violating expectations|
|Loyalty to the absent||Disloyalty, duplicity|
|Apologies||Pride, conceit, arrogance|
|Receiving feedback and giving “I messages”||Not receiving feedback and giving “You” messages|
These ten deposits share a number of characteristics. First, they require initiative. One must make a concerted effort to listen for understanding, show kindness to others, apologize, and forgive. These acts require personal strength from within. When a leader demonstrates he is capable of these influences, trust is built in relationships. Another shared trait of the deposits is that they require a person to look at the big picture and examine life from outside the realm of “me.” This leads to an appreciation of the value of everyone within the system and a realization of how the decisions we make impact their lives. Third, following through with deposits requires a certain amount of sacrifice. Covey defines a sacrifice as “giving up something, even if it’s something good, for something better.”
We have all personally developed ineffective habits in relation to the way we interact with others in our schools and our lives. By creating an awareness of how our influences and actions can strengthen trust in our organizations, thus leading to improved learning opportunities for our students, we can begin to replace our ineffective personal habits with actions that will build relationships, not strain them.
“Trust becomes a verb when you communicate to others their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.”
As leaders, how do we inspire others to recognize their potential and worth in our schools? What steps do we take to ensure trust is being built at all levels? Parent-teacher? Teacher-student? Community-school? Administrator-teacher? Administrator-student? What can we do to repair trust that has been weakened?
Even the smallest deposits- looking someone in the eye and smiling when speaking with them, having an open-door policy for parents to drop in and have conversations about their children, asking teachers to take the lead on new initiatives, reading to a child, celebrating staff successes, saying “thank you” to someone who has helped you, making a positive phone call home, playing kickball at recess – can impact someone’s life in a positive way and help build the foundation of trust every learning organization needs.